Mohair and merino transformed into a light and airy cobweb felt scarf

The natural mohair locks that I brought home from the States are a gorgeous mixture of silvery colours and I thought that they would combine beautifully with some more 16 micron merino from Filzrausch, this time a black and white roving perfectly named ‘Zebra’! 

'Zebra' merino and mohair locks

Cobweb felting is not a technique that I have great confidence in never having had a chance to participate in a workshop on the subject.  Instead I’ve learnt from books and practical experience and to be quite honest this latest attempt is by far the best scarf that I have felted to date using this interesting method.  If any of you do have some tips and advice about the topic please leave a comment, all info gratefully recieved and put into practice for future projects!  Anyway, I laid out the roving along the full length of my table and then teased the fibres out as wide as I could possibly get them without breaking the strands or leaving any areas too open and exposed.  Once I was happy with the layout of the merino I teased the mohair locks with my fingers and laid the curls loosly in position.  I decided not to place any merino at right angles across the scarf because the mohair acted well to strengthen the felt and I wanted the black and white of design to run lengthwise and really give a sense of movement to the finished piece. 

Cobweb scarf blowing in the wind

I rubbed, rolled, stretched and re-rolled the scarf for much longer than usual in order to create a super strong and well fulled cobweb felt.  In some early cobweb experiments I don’t think that I rolled for long enough because after the scarves were worn for quite a number of times they almost seemed to continue felting further widthwise with use.  Maybe that is a feature of this type of felt, as I say I really know very little about the subject although I think that this scarf has totally stopped felting and fulling and I hope that it will stand up successfully to many happy seasons of wear!

Picture of the mosaic mat and more with prefelts and reusing old felt!

As promised here is a picture of the completed mosaic mat. 

The completed mosaic mat

Obviously you can tell from the image that snow has arrived at Clasheen but the unfortunate news is that my water has once more stopped running.  Luckily my heat is OK because the outside temperature has never risen above -2 degrees today, unheard of weather conditions for Ireland although everything looks like a beautiful winter wonderland at the moment!!  It struck me when taking this picture that the mosaic method would work very well if you cut out your shapes as if you were going to sew a traditional patchwork quilt.  This may be some research that I will take up at some stage but for the moment it was a really simple way to use some of my left over prefelt.  Following on from this project I decided to experiment with more prefelt, pieces of my first long loved (but finally wrecked!) cobweb scarf and various bits and bobs of embellishing fibres that I have had in my stash.  Due to my lack of water I also wanted to work some more with Icelandic wool (as it needs loads of soap but not too much water) and melted some snow on the range to keep me going for the moment. 

Silk and mohair/romney highlights

Here is an image to whet your appetite and you can check out my Flickr photos for some more teasers of this landscape.  For anyone wanting to experiment with Icelandic wool I am offering the batts that I work with for sale through my Etsy store, please just mail me if you don’t see the colour that you are looking for!

Wool and silk on order, felting kit update!

Following on from my last post, the Icelandic wool that I have ordered is on its way and I am also now waiting for some silk chiffon and ponge silk to get here in preparation for a nuno felting marathon in the run up to December (note how I managed to avoid using the C word!).  I am very excited to see the colour selection as I definitely stepped outside my usual choices in this department, after all if I am going to be selling the fibre I need to make sure that everyone else’s taste will be catered for.  I also stopped off at Threads of Green today (my favourite Kilkenny fabric store) to pick up some more gorgeous printed silk and a small piece of a fun and funky black polyester printed with silver spiders, perfect to do a sample with a Halloween theme!  Thanks to all of you who took the time to leave comments or respond via email when I mentioned that I am planning to sell felting kits.  You definitely all endorsed the idea wholeheartedly and my plan now is to put together a selection of kits both for the total beginner and for more experienced felters.  I did manage to make one cobweb style scarf for myself the other day with brilliant fibre that I bought from Blas at Urban Fauna Studio in San Fransisco and it got many compliments when I wore it to dinner on Wednesday.  The fibre was from one of the artisan producers that Blas and Jamie deal with and was a hand carded deep green wool with flecks of purple and some glitzy bits thrown into the mix as well!  It goes brilliantly with some of my organic cotton clothing from Blue Fish so there you are, I was really flying the American flag in Ireland the other night!

Back in the felting saddle at last!

Horrah!  At last I had an uninterupted day’s  felting with Carmen and it was really great to get back in the saddle at last!!  I seem to have been on the road almost constantly over the last 5 or 6 weeks and now I need to get a couple of proposals together before the middle of next week, do the deadlines never finish?  Carmen was working on some punched felt necklaces and once I had made handles for a gorgeous silk and merino tote (destined for an American swap partner) I was able to try out the beautiful merino from Treetop Colour Harmonies that I got as a gift from friends and members of Feltmakers Ireland.  Thanks again Sheila, Holly, Elizabeth and Maureen for my fantastic pressie, I made a beautiful cobweb scarf and tried out an experimental piece in ‘blimey limey’, one of my new all time favourite colours!  Carmen had prepared some amazing sushi and we gorged ourselves at lunchtime before heading back to her new studio to continue felting for the afternoon.

Sparkly felt corsage

Sparkly felt corsage

This evening I have uploaded a few finished items to my Etsy shop including this unusual coloured corsage and over the next few weeks my goal is to have at least 50 items uploaded to the store.  What I would really like to do is offer a selection of interesting and funky gift ideas with a large percentage of items costing under $20 (approx 15 Euro).  I have also started posting about my last ‘Craft in the Classroom’ sessions on the Drumlea blog so check it out if you are interested in seeing how the wall hanging actually progressed.  The pupils love getting comments especially from far away places so if any of you feel the urge please leave them a message, it means a lot to them!

Felt jewellery, lampwork, felting process/equipment …..

An amazing coincidence happended the other evening (was going to say occurred but not sure that the spelling is correct!).  Just before I checked out my account on Ravelry, an online fibre artist community, I happened to pick up a glass bracelet that I bought myself on Murano two years ago.  My sisters and I took my mother to Venice for her 70th birthday present and we spent a great few days marvelling at the beautiful buildings, art and glass.  Anyway, one day we took the vaporetto to Murano, probably the most famous place in the world for handmade glass.  I treated myself to a lampwork bracelet but strangely enough have only worn it about twice in the last year.  When I picked it up the other evening it immediately hit me that if I took it apart I could then incorporate the glass beads into one of my felted designs, what a revelation!  This is probably what I will do this afternoon, still plotting and planning my series of wallhangings and still a bit unsure how to progress so any diversion is a diversion worth taking!  The coincidence occurred (using the word anyway, spelling or not!!) when I checked out some of my groups on Raverly.  One of the people in a felting forum had actually been in Venice and her husband bought her a glass and felt necklace for a Christmas present, I was absolutely amazed since it was probably only 5 minutes previously that I had thought of my brainwave.  This really goes to show that no idea is a new idea!

Following on from some comments in relation to felting I thought that some of you might be wondering what the difference between felting and fulling is.  Christine White in her book ‘Uniquely Felt’ describes the process of wet felting as a two stage process.  Firstly there is the laying out of the loose wool fibres, the wetting and massaging in order to make a piece of non-woven fabric that holds together and this is called confusingly, felting.  If you were to stop the process now this would be called prefelt.  The second process to get a stable, strong fabric is the fulling.  This process is the rolling and/or throwing in order to toughen the fabric and cause it to shrink.  Combining the two processes is wet felting, sometimes called traditional felting or just felting, confused yet??  Fulling can also be done with knitted wool or crochet, usually be bunging it into the washing machine with the intention of shrinking the piece in order to make it more sturdy and hardwearing.  This is why when you are ordering any books about felting you need to be sure that they are actually about wet felting and not just fulling knitting as this seems to be a craft gaining in popularity all the time, especially in England and the USA.  Another area of felting that appears to vary from region to region is the actual equipment that people use so I am just going to state the basic felting process that I use on a daily basis. 

For 99% of my work I lay out my wool on a piece of bubble wrap, bubbles facing up. 

I lay my wool in thin layers overlapping the fibres like roof slates or shingles.

Using a mixture of grated olive oil soap mixed in warm water I wet out the piece making sure that all the wool is fully wet.

I place another piece of bubble wrap on top and with wet soapy hands massage the package gently all over.  Massaging gently ensures that any surface design you may have laid does not shift, I can’t emphasise enough how much quicker the next stage is if you spend about 5 to 10 minutes massaging.  I NEVER use netting to encase the wool as when I tried it I found that the fibres got caught in the net and I prefer working just with bubble wrap  and later in the process using my hands directly on the felt.  Also, it saves a lot of time that otherwise would be spent sewing the netting together!

I lift up a piece of the bubble wrap to make sure that all the wool is wet and when I am happy that it is I start the rolling process. 

I roll my work in all directions and with both sides facing up, the length of time spent rolling just depends on the actual finish I want to achieve.  For flat felt like cobweb felt scarves it might take 45 minutes, for nuno felt I also throw the work and this process is actually pretty quick once you are sure that the wool fibres are working through your silk or cotton.  Wallhangings take hours or days depending on size and slippers in my experience take about 6 hours! 

This is felting at its simplest, when the piece has shrunk to your desired size just rinse (you may add vinegar to the last rinse), stretch into shape and dry.

Summary The basic equipment that you will need to create a piece of felt is bubble wrap, olive oil soap and water, towels help to mop up any excess water!

Tomorrow I will talk about the Osman technique and the use of prefelts to get a specific shape and a clear outline in your work.  Happy felting!

Amazing Alpaca

Delving through the goodies in my delivery from Germany has sparked so many creative projects it is almost hard to concentrate!  I decided to work my first piece in Alpaca without adding any other fibres and see how it reacted to felting.  The fibres looked absolutely amazing laid out on the bubble wrap, exactly like a long hank of beautiful chestnut hair.  They were really quick to felt and surprisingly I found that they felted particularly well in the opposite direction to how I had laid them out.  Because I wanted to make a long supple scarf I had just laid one layer, almost as fine as cobweb feling.  Anyway, pretty soon I had a really soft but pretty narrow scarf, really luxurious, but a bit plain.  I do like some items to be very unadorned but next time I am going to add a little of the finest merino wook and a few silk strands to see what the difference is.