Rush, rush, rush (and crochet neckpiece)

Crochet neckpiece

Crochet neckpiece

Well, although the snow has kept me off the roads yesterday and today I still have a mountain of things to do ….. paperwork, receipts for Mehmet’s workshops, massive tidy up of studio, prepare application for funding to Carlow Co. Council, get dates sorted for my own workshops, the list goes on! My biggest achievement over these couple of days has been a large nuno shawl/scarf, the completion of some projects for the procrastinators challenge and this soft crochet neckpiece. I bought the wool from Stephanie after the textile taster day on Saturday and I am very happy with how easy and soft it was to work with. The felt ball/button makes a sympathetic closure and I am now inspired to crochet a few more items when I have time on my hands but no way/space to felt, in front of the fire would be a good example! Anyway, will definitely post re. making cords for handles next time, just too tired tonight.

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Felting crazy

Had a great day today on the felting front.  First thing this morning I called over to Carmen and thankfully she was a little better although not fully recovered from her virus or whatever.  As a result we had a spot of breakfast and I was home and ready for action by about 10am.  The first thing that I got stuck into was shaving the rug I made at the Mehmet Girgic workshop and then the felted lariat with the spirally bits that I mentioned in my post yesterday.  I made some more long cords, very thin and then worked further on all the cords to make sure that they were fully compacted before winding them around the metal knitting needles and putting them in the oven of the Rayburn (oil fired range).  A great lunch later I recieved a call from a friend and I decided to go in to Borris for a quick coffee with them and to visit the bank.  About an hour later I suddenly realised that the spirals were still in the oven, boy was I lucky that they were not burnt to cinders!!  Anyway, I finished that lariat, made two more nuno felt neck pieces and then assembled another lariat, this time two thickish cords with flowers on either end.  Tomorrow morning I am going to photograph all the work and then I need to go to Kilkenny and meet with Ann Mulrooney, the curator of Breaking Out.

Stiffening felt and exchanging handmade items.

Many thanks to Nancy in San Francisco who suggested using either dissolvable interfacing or cellulose paste as a stiffener for felt.  It is great to be able to pose a question on this blog and get an answer almost immediately from the other side of the world! 

Speaking of the other side of the world, would anyone be interested in signing up to a craft swap if I organised it, exchanging something simple and hand made possibly with a festive theme?  I thought that we might get a group of us together and make an item or two for a swap buddy (think I am becomming obsessed with swapping) and possibly include a recepie, obviously the idea would be to receive something nice in exchange!  Please reply to this post if you think that it would be a good idea and I will put a challenge together if at least 10 people want to swap.

Continuing the handmade theme, check this out, I have just signed the pledge. I Took The Handmade Pledge! BuyHandmade.org

On the felt side of things I have been doing a few experimental pieces incorporating either cords or tails and will post a couple of images here tomorrow or on Tuesday.  I really need to knuckle down to the felting as Alan and I will be going away for a couple of days soon and I need to complete my work for ‘Breaking Out’.  It is still not sure if my work will be in the exhibition yet and I must say that I am a little worried in case I do not make something that the curator is happy with.  Anyway, I am delighted to have got so far in the process but have to admit that I will be really disappointed if my work is not included. 

Sylvia, my swap buddy from ‘Bag Lady Swaps’ has now received my package and thankfully seems to be happy with the colours and bag, this is despite my dreadful sewing.  Click here to view the images that she has posted to the group forum.

Spiky wet felted neck piece!

'Green Grass"I am just about to set in to 2 full days felting, heaven for me!!  Before I start I just wanted to share this image of a new design that I am playing with, basically a cross between a necklace and a scarf that I am calling a neck piece.  Today I will be expanding on this idea and also making some long cords to use for some necklaces and collars.  Have any of you used a fabric stiffener when shaping felt and if so what is it called?  I would be very grateful to learn the name and also hear what kind of success or otherwise you have found when using it.  Thanks!   Please just leave me a comment or send a personal email.

Making cords the Australian way!

Before I discuss the new way that we learnt of making cords at the Anita Larkin workshop, I just want to say that all the techniques we tried over the weekend ultimately unite and allow you to create exciting scupltural 3 dimensional pieces of felt!  At first it seems that learning how to make cords is very basic at a workshop for people who have all felted before but you are never too late to learn new techniques.   Most of you are familiar with making cords and probably everyone has their favourite method.  How many can there be you might ask but I certainly learnt a totally different method from Anita than any I had seen used before.  Lay out a long layer of very fine fibres in a diagonal and then lay a second layer on top of these in the opposite direction, also diagonally.  If you want to make a thicker section lay some more layers in that place and then dry felt the fibres by lightly moving your hands over them as with wet felting.  Using your spray bottle VERY lighlty wet along only the edge of the fibres and then roll them gently into a log shape.  If you are going to be attaching this rope to another piece of felt leave the ends dry for the moment.  Using the minimum amount of warm water lightly wet the sausage shaped fibre log and with soapy hands roll it very lightly on your bubble wrap, blind or sushi mat.  As far as I can see the biggest difference is in the way the fibres are laid on the diaganol and the volume of (or lack of) water used.  This seems to make a very solid and strong cord.  Shapes that were started as in the previous post may be added on at any time once the cord starts to hold its shape or the cord itsef may be attached to another piece of felt that you are in the process of making.  Next post I will discuss inserting wire into felt and wrapping a solid object in felt.  I also want to post a few more images of work that I have completed recently to keep the blog a little bit visual!

Using a wire brush while felting! Silk paper workshop.

An amazing tip learnt during the Anita Larkin workshop concerns the use of a wire brush!  People had brought different sized brushes to try, but for fairly small pieces of work a suede shoe brush seemed perfect.  We used these when repairing a seam or depression caused by uneven rolling, attaching an object or closing the hole created when removing the plastic around a resist (explanation re resists Anita’s way to follow in another post).  I hope that I can explain what we did clearly but if it is not obvious enough please let me know.  The type of ridge/depression I am talking about is that created by uneven pressure when rolling a ball or a cord, often a problem for me and I am sure that most of you know what I am talking about.  Once you notice a ridge or depression forming at the pre felt stage use your wire brush gently to fluff up the fibres on either side of the problem area.  Holding the piece of felt lightly in your hands (or on the table if easier) smooth the fibres with your fingers and encourage them to move towards each other.  It is important that if the ridge goes in one direction you make the smoothing action in the opposite direction, ie. at a 90 degree angle to where the ridge is lying.  Keep smoothing very gently for quite a few minutes and you will notice that the ridge or depression magically seals over.  This method of fluffing up the fibres with a wire brush also allows you to attach a prefelted object to another piece of felt, just fluff up the side where you wish to make your join and work the seal very slowly and carefully.  Next time that I write a post I will discuss Anita’s method of making cords and inserting wire into felt. 

I did want to mention today however that on Saturday I attended an excellent one day workshop about silk paper making facilitated by Tunde Toth.  This workshop was organised by the South East Textile Group and took place at our usual venue in the Demense Yard at Castlecomer, Co. Kilkenny.  Tunde is an artist working from the Kozo Gallery in Thomastown and specialises in different types of paper making.  She brought a great range of fibres for us to work with, initially we made a basic silk paper and then got really stuck in using inclusions and dyes as we became more experimental.  I found the whole process really inspiring as depending on the thickness of the paper made I feel it will be possible to insert the silk paper into a piece of felt at the early part of the felting process.  Already I have made a couple of experiments with silk paper that I made on Saturday, more on this subject as soon as I have finished writing about the scupltural feltmaking weekend with Anita.

Felting update

I have just returned from an inspiring weekend workshop (organised by Feltmakers Ireland) with Australian sculptor and feltmaker Anita Larkin.  We were learning several different techniques, making balls, making cords, covering an item and creating pieces with multiple layers (via multiple resists).  If this sounds like work that you may already have done WAIT UNTIL MY NEXT POST!  Because of the need to conserve water in Australia Anita works in a slightly different manner, so obvious once you see it in action and I will explain a bit more tomorrow as soon as I have caught up with some urgent work on the Irish Green Gathering.