A little about our new book and just a glimpse of some raw materials from yesterday!

Working on our new book has really forced me to write down ideas as they come into my head and document projects on paper more than I would otherwise tend to do, for me a lot of my documentation is through this blog but sketching more is really helping me clarify ideas and leading me to explore them in a more systametic way than I have being doing previously.  Chrissie is brilliant at this anyway and I really look forward to seeing some of her sketches and musings when she comes to stay with me in April for our final efforts to put the book to bed and get it available online.  I don’t want anyone to get the idea our book is going to be the bee all and end all of felting techniques, it’s not!  Rather it is an idea of how we both work as well as a demonstration of how we translate our thoughts and ideas from the inspiration stage into the finished felt item.  

Stunning 50/50 silk merino blend from Cloverleaf Farms

I love gathering up my raw materials at the start of any project, the possibilities seem endless at this stage when all the beautiful fibres and colours are gathered together just waiting to be selected.  Sometimes however, I find that having a wide selection of different fibres to work with can bring on its own worries and often just getting started is challenge enough for one days work alone! 

Yesterday was one of the good days.  In the morning I selected some stunning 50/50 hand dyed silk/merino roving which I bought at the Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool Festival from the wonderful Joan Berner of Cloverleaf Farms, one of my all time favourite suppliers now!!!  I wanted to use it for a very special project and demonstrate how a small amount of luxurious fibre could create the most beautiful scarf imaginable!  Although I am not showing you a photo of the finished article imagine the glistening sheen of clear glass beads against the wonderful and subtle variations of colour in this blue based combination which Joan has called Sapphire.  I based the scarf’s design and colours on the beautiful blues and greens in the clear waters off La Gomera in the Canaries and Kos in Greece.  Wearing this piece (if I keep it for myself!) will bring back happy memories of holidays shared with Alan, the glass beads are NOT sewn in after the scarf is felted, wait for the book to see how I include them in the lay out stage!!!The second piece I felted yesterday is waiting on my table now to be transformed into a sleeveless vest/wrap type of affair, probably NO sewing again but maybe a couple of judicious stitches around the collar region, I’ll have to wait and see how it drapes once I cut out the armholes and put it on my manequin.  Again I loved gathering the supplies for this one, originally I had a big pile of silk fibre and hankies, beautiful Blue Faced Leiscester, linen fibres (all of these hand dyed) and some different colours of silk chiffon fabric.  In the end I felted this piece using ‘Chili Pepper’ BFL roving from Joan, silk hankies, silk fibre (again from Joan!), two colours of silk chiffon and then added a fine layer of orange merino because I wasn’t sure that I had enough BFL to make the vest strong enough.  Chrissie is really the master at the nuno felted jacket, I did however want to include a wearable piece requiring minimal stitching in the book, I know I could have done a bigger seamless project but really that’s not what I do every day, this type of felting is much more suited to my organic kind of style!  Anyway, here is a glimpse of some of the raw materials before I made my final selection.  Technically this wasn’t a nuno piece having more fibre than fabric, today I hope to felt a highly textured nuno wrap, one of my all time favourite projects! 

Hand dyed BFL and silk from Joan teamed with some lightweight silk chiffon

Some more shibori pictures and fabulous new wool arrives!

My second shibori experiment on St. Patrick’s Day was this simple cowl, again felted using merino, cotton gauze and silk. 

Spice shibori cowl

This time my design had a hole at one end through which the cords pull through from the opposite end to close the cowl, hope this makes sense!  I love the combination of cerise, orange and raspberry wool as I think it gives the cowl a lovely warm and spicy feel.  The cords were very easy to incorporate into the body of the felt and this is a design I am planning to play around with a little, possibly make my next cowl a little longer and a little narrower.  Check out my Flickr photos for a full range of images from both sides of this piece.

Yesterday morning my latest order of silk arrived from Wollknoll and boy am I EXCITED!  When Lyda Rump was here for our workshops in February she was saying that they now were dying some fantastic wool similar to that which I usually get from Filzrausch, a short fibred19 micron merino.  I asked Sonja Fritz is she would be able to include a kg of various colours with my order for silk and I was blown away by the subtlty of the shades and how beautifully soft and easy this ‘Kap’ wool is to work with.  There was a PERFECT rose shade (I have never got anything quite as beautiful in this colour before) and it just cried out to be felted with one of Lyda’s gorgeous hand dyed silk chiffon scarves. 

Hand dyed silk chiffon with the softest nuno shibori

Again I decided to experiment with a little shibori.  My aim with this scarf was to emphasise the gorgeous colours from Lyda’s dying so I decided just to add wool at either end and not cover the chiffon completely.  This created a fantastic and light scarf which would be an amazing present for someone allergic to wool, only the silk would be touching the skin when you throw the scarf around your neck!  I have uploaded both these shibori pieces and my recent Zebra cobweb felt scarf to my Etsy shop this morning so if you are looking to treat yourself to a little uplifting pressie now is the moment!

Happy Thanksgiving, completed pieces from last Saturday’s workshop, size of my new hearth rug

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  It is brilliant to have readers all around the world and really nice to discover whenever any of you have special days that you like to celebrate, to those of you Stateside I hope that you have a wonderful day. 

I promised you pictures of the completed work from last Saturday’s workshop at Clasheen as soon as I recieved them by email so here are Ann’s and Alisons, I think that Lindsay is still embellishing hers so you will just have to wait another while! 

Ann with her beautiful finished felt

If you look closely at Ann’s work some of the smaller leaves are actually three dimensional and stitched in place after the rest was felted.  This picture probably dosen’t do the colours full justice, the leaves really have loads of silk fibres and silk chiffon as surface decoration which gives a beautiful depth to the felt and the background is a warm creamy white.

Alison's amazing felt landscape

Alison’s landscape really came together as the day progressed.   There is a palpable feeling of motion about the wall hanging, I can just imagine the tree swaying in our local mountain breeze!  The colours really remind me of the Blackstairs mountains which surround my house, at the moment they are a beautiful heathery purple (from the heather!) and a rich golden brown from the dying heather.

In response to some queries about the size of my hearth rug, it  measures just over 1m by just under 1m.  This probably translates to about 4′ X 3′ but I don’t have an imperial tape measure that I can lay my hand on at the moment!

My nuno felt skirt!

I thought it was about time that I uploaded some images of the nuno mosaic skirt that I made during German felter Sigrid Bannier’s visit to Ireland during August.

Felt skirt and wrap outside Kilkenny Castle

Felt skirt and wrap outside Kilkenny Castle

The main body of the skirt is made from four cotton gauze nuno mosaic panels and the cummerbund section around the waist is also nuno felt, this time hand dyed merino felted into hand dyed silk chiffon.  Thanks to Sigrid and her expert sewing skills the panels are stitched to just above knee level and then the bottom of the skirt swishes and swings out beautifully when worn giving a very comfortable and interesting fit! 

Nuno felt wrap

Nuno felt wrap

The nuno neck wrap that I designed earlier in the year to match some of my linen clothes is made from the same silk and merino.  Sigrid liked it thrown around the neck exposing both the silk and wool textures at the same time, I prefer it with just the silk side showing but it is nice to have the option!

Brilliant start to the felting workshops and images of the felt basket!

Today we have completed our first day of Sigrid’s workshops and everyone left extremely happy with the result of all their efforts!  Three of the participants were total beginners and the other three visitors were experienced felters.  The workshop today was ‘mosaic nuno’ and Sigrid had organisied a simple way of ensuring that the beginners also completed a mosaic nuno project but didn’t have such a difficult time laying out the work! 

Anne's silk chiffon and merino ready to get creating!

Anne's silk chiffon and merino ready to get creating!

We used silk chiffon and merino tops, the beginners were aiming to have the nuno felt block at either end of their scarves and the experienced felters would have the nuno throughout the whole length.  Each participant selected 3 pre-cut lengths of silk chiffon and then cut, overlapped and arranged the silk into a pleasing pattern or random design.  Two very light layers of merino tops were overlaid before the long process of wetting out, rolling and fulling began, longer than usual because the silk was cut into small pieces and sometimes overlapped several times in the one spot. 

Liz, Dee, Linda, Sigrid, Anne and Linda with their great scarves! (from the left)

Liz, Dee, Linda, Sigrid, Anne and Linda with their great scarves! (from the left)

Check out this great picture of some of our participants, beginners Liz, Dee and Linda together with Sigrid and Anne (to the right of Sigrid) wearing the fabulous scarves they created today!  Tomorrow we are felting with found objects, hopefully I will get to post some more pictures in the evening and give you a flavour of all that we are learning.

Just as an aside, if you link through to my Flickr images you will see the trellis felt shopping basket (or string bag!) both as a piece of flat felt with precise cuts and felted further and formed into the finished basket.

Complex felt bag workshop continues

I know that you have already seen an image of my first sample but here is a close up so hopefully you will be able to follow what I am talking about! 

Close up of sample 1

Close up of sample 1Sample 2

Lyda had brought a great selection of glass nuggets with her for us to share (apparantly cheap and easy to get in Ikea, roll on July 27th when the first store opens in Ireland!) so I decided to felt in 4 different colours to see which would work best with my wool selection.  Just by matching the nuggets up beside the raw wool I thought the the green colour would be best but also incorporated black, clear and frosted green.  I also covered one of the nugets with green gauze before covering with more wool thinking that it could prove an interesting contrast in textures when the glass was exposed.  In the close up above you can see how much shinier and visable the green glass was compared to the frosted glass and indeed these were nothing like as good as the black, black was by far the best contrast with clear glass second!  The other thing of note in the close up is how the silk chiffon that I used on top of the merino was almost totally submerged into the top layer of wool, useless for the bag as you would not have had any idea it was there at all!  I also used gorgeous silk hankies and silk twists on the reverse of the piece but again these just blended into the background.  What did stand out brilliantly however were the strips of green gauze (bottom right of image), I had never incorporated gauze into my work before and it was a revelation so off I went back into the traders hall (had to ration myself here!!) to try and get some turquoise gauze.  Unfortunately they did not have it in this colour but luckily I found some gorgeous pongee silk in just the right shade of blue.  Although by this stage everyone else was well underway laying out the wool for their bags I made the decision to make a second sample in order to discover exactly how the pongee would look against the black, blue and green for my backpack. 

Sample 2

Sample 2

With this sample I laid out the wool a lot thinner than in my first piece (everyone else’s work was much thinner than mine in sample 1) so it felted quicker but Lyda said to stick with how I usually worked and to lay it as per my first sample.  I loved the effect of the pongee silk against the merino so with a happy heart started to lay out my backpack!  To be continued …..

Nuno felted tote

Felted tote bag with detatchable corsage
Felted tote bag with detatchable corsage

I am really exhausted this evening as I have had another training session for my tourism course and have been trying to tidy my house in preparation for tomorrow morning’s workshop, obviously it is the tidying up that has worn me out!!  The weather has been really unsettled as well making it difficult to take photos so I thought that I would share my recently made tote bag as I hope the reciepient has recieved it in the post by now.  This bag is the one that I made as part of an exchange organised through Ravelry, a great forum for meeting other fibre minded friends.  I knew the type of bag that my swap buddy would like and also some of her favourite colours.  She also said that she was a casual kind of person but could be persuaded to be funky, hence the felt corsage!  I followed a pattern from one of my books (can’t think of the name at the moment but will add it later) cutting out a resist and a silk lining then laying 6 really fine layers of merino on top of the silk encased plastic.  The surface was then decorated with loads of cut/torn pieces of silk chiffon and I also used quite a bit of gold mulberry silk to add some depth.  With this method there was about 35% shrinkage so you can imagine that I started out with a pretty big package.  I LOVED the result, so much so that I would actually like to have kept the bag for myself if I hadn’t already designed it for my buddy!!  The nuno felted corsage adds a fun touch (I think) and I definitely will make a few of these again and put them up on my Etsy shop.

Quick post …..

Just a really quick post to say that I have been felting mad over the last few days and also writing up the ‘Craft in the Classroom’ blog for Drumlea.  Thanks Deb for leaving a comment for the children, they were absolutely THRILLED!  I know that they would really appreciate any feedback from all around the world, it really excited them that a textile artist from America would take the time to look at their work and leave a comment.  This afternoon I felted the most gorgeous tote bag, my first larger bag project worked in silk chiffon and merino.  Unfortunately it is not for me!  I am going to try to get some images up tomorrow (Dawn, the hat/bowl will be one of them) but I am extremely busy until Monday morning so please bear with me if I don’t get many posted.

Display at party and mosaic nuno.

Today Alan and I will be going to a drinks party at Shankill Castle, Paulstown, Co. Kilkenny, home of Geoffrey and Elizabeth Cope.  Elizabeth is a well known artist and Shankill was actually the place where Alan and I both met, we lived there in the late ’90s and over the Millenium!!  After last weeks open house here at Clasheen, Elizabeth kindly suggested that I put a discrete display of my work on one of her sideboards complete with some business cards in time for tonight’s festivities.  This was a very welcome offer because you never know at Shankill exactly who will be there or who might be interested in the work! 

Anyway, I decided last night to made myself a mosaic nuno neck wrap to wear this evening using some of the gorgeous silk chiffon that arrived at the end of last week from Wollknoll.  I chopped and laid out the silk in apple green and forest green with some warm yellow and soft orange highlights.  Alan arrived into the studio at that point and declared that the layout was just like army fatiques, not the most helpful comment but in a way he was right!  I laid a very fine layer of gold coloured merino over the silk and then laid a layer of a beautiful greeny/gold merino and silk combination at right angles to this.  This top colour was one of the melanges that I carded earlier this winter when I had the use of Carmen’t drum carder and I had just been waiting for the proper opportunity to make use of it.  The whole neck wrap had been laid out on thin plastic bin liners and when I wetted it out I placed another bin liner on the top.  I massaged the package by hand to ensure that all the fibres were fully wet and starting to connect, then I rolled it up and began to roll.  Once the wool was starting to migrate through the silk I then replaced one of the layers of bin liner with a long sheet of bubble wrap, I felt that this would speed up the process and so it did.  Where the silk pieces overlapped by more that two layers it took a bit longer for the wool fibres to work through but after approx 1000 rolls I was able to start throwing the scarf!  This sounds a bit frightening if you have never made nuno felt before but so long as the silk and wool have combined successfully this is the ideal way to full your work.  Dipping it into really hot soapy (olive oil soap) water, squeezing the excess gently and then throwing hard onto the bubble wrap meant that the wrap only took a further five minutes to shrink and felt fully.  The finished item has a really interesting combination of colours now that the merino and silk have worked through from behind and it will be perfect with my olive and apple green linen/organic cotton and hemp outfit that I intend wearing tonight.  Hopefully if I get time in the morning and rain permitting I will take a picutre of it and post it to the blog.

Light as a cobweb

Light as a feather

Here is another image Bernie McCoy took, this time a featherweight scarf and a bangle made from undyed fibres.  This scarf is one of my mother’s favourites, extremely light and amazingly warm!  The wool used is merino and I added quite a lot of mulberry silk which creates a nice sheen when viewed from different angles.  The panel down the centre is a very fine chiffon silk which strengthens the cobweb felt and enables it to drape beautifully.

The bangle is one of my own favourites, very plain and simple in natural undyed fibres. 

Thanks to Joni who left me a comment and to everyone who actually sent me a text about Bernie’s photography of my work.  I am really excited about getting some of the images printed out and into my portfolio, a vital project for July!