Some swap questions answered and a photo of my latest nuno felt shawl

Swap partners are now up for the Flickr Clasheen Crafty Swap so if you are one of the current participants please ENJOY!!!  These swapping events are meant to be fun and I just want to take this opportunity of thanking everybody who has participated to date and welcoming new swappers to the experience, I think you are going to love it!  

Soft and ultra warm felt shawl

Before I write a little about the warm shawl I felted yesterday (could this be nuno felt???) I just want to address some questions which pop up quite regularly about the swap both as comments or private emails here to me at Clasheen.  I hope you don’t mind but I am just going to write the sallient details as bullet points, I know you will get the gist but for anyone needing more info please take a look through previous swaps on the discussion board and in the group pool of pictures to see the type of packages we share around the world.  Here goes …..

  • Everyone is welcome to join wherever you may live in the world
  • We usually swap one main item (hand crafted by you for your partner!) and a selection of other smaller items.
  • Our participants come from all walks of life so all we ask for the hand crafted goody is that you put some thought into it and make sure it is something that you would like to recieve yourself!  Ideas include wearable accessories (scarves are probably our most popular items to swap), a small painting, notebooks, jewellery, hand made cosmetics, bath products etc.
  • The additional items are often lovelies from our own stash, fibre, fabric, buttons, beads, upcycled, recycled, old books, magazines, findings etc., anything that we may personally like but have never managed to find a use for ourself or know that our partner would particularily like.
  • I assign each participant a number and when I do the draw put these numbers into a container and pair them up as the numbers are drawn out.  This does mean that it is a lottery and sometimes a participant is teamed up with the same partner twice although I don’t think that has been a big issiue to date.
  • The swap is not a competition or meant to be in any way stressful but it is nice to check through the discussion board to see exactly what makes your partner tick and try to put together a parcel that will please.   What colours do they like, are they girly or practical (I know that I’m not girly anyway!), do they read English, salty or sweet, tea or coffee, ground or beans, you get the idea.
  • You do need to join our group on Flickr in order to participate, this is just the only way for me to monitor the swap without getting boggged down in paperwork from this end of things!
  • Full names and addresses obviously need to be swapped with me as moderator of the group and with your swap partner.  We do this through Flickr mail and not publically on line so there is no need to worry about private details becoming visable to everyone on the internet.
  • For new or potential participants just take the plunge!  Really we have some good fun and it is fantastic to get to know people from all around the world and share a little of our own hand made goodness and wonderful to get a little something in return!

Now on the that shawl!  I am always on the look out for unusual fabrics to incorporate into my nuno felt and other wearables or to cut up and use as surface decoration for items such as vessels or bags.  A while ago I picked up a very unusual and lightweight mohair/metallic thread shawl that just seemed to be crying out to be felted into a beautiful and warm shawl.  It was like a gossamer piece of cobweb, beautifully soft and warm with a really interesting knitted pattern.  Nuno felt is the process of combining a lot of fabric with a little fibre to create a totally new fabric, in this case although technically the shawl I started with could have been called fabric it was probably machine knitted and not a woven fabric like silk or cotton so can I call the end result nuno felt???  I had been having a bit of a mental block about what colours to use with this piece but for some reason yesterday white and baby blue just jumped to mind and that was what I decided to work with as a backing for the shimmering indigo shawl.  The knitted square had subtle colour variations changing from silvery white in the centre through to deepest indigo at the edges.  The whole piece was also threaded with a silver metallic thread and I am now thinking that there must have been some elastic somewhere in the yarn because the fully felted end shawl almost appears to have a slight ‘give’ or stretch to the fabric.  Because I really wanted to keep the beautiful drape of the knitted shawl I decided to lay only one light layer of short fibred merino on the reverse, I did succeed pretty well although in some places the felt is a little patchier than I would have liked optimally.  Probably that is to do with the fact that I never (well almost never except for bags and vessels!) weigh my wool out in advance and I didn’t realise how little blue I had in stock so ended up using every last scrap no matter how unevenly laid out it was!  For some reason I can’t upload any more photos to the blog today (oh the restrictions of the internet!) but you can have a good look at the close ups on Flickr to see how well the fabric ‘melted’ into the merino backing.  You can also see from a shot of the rear view how different stitches and colours in the base layer result in subtle variations of colour in the finished shawl.

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Beautiful beaded silk felts perfectly!

One very welcome spin off from my recent adventures in freestyle knitting has been discovering some of the amazing natural and man made yarns now available online or in specialist shops.  I felted myself a little clutch bag (purse for our American friends!) on Thursday afternoon and decided to add various yarns from my Blade scarf into the surface layer as an experiment to see how they would felt.  The most amazing revelation was the huge success of some Tilli Tomas beaded silk!  This is a very beautiful but expensive yarn and I had a small bit of discarded knitting with some cut threads which I really didn’t know if it would be possible to incorporate successfully into my felt.    I laid out the bag around a resist as  normal, decorated the surface with the scrap of beaded silk knitting, some artificial sari ribbon and some swirls of a Rowan wool/silk yarn and a silk/cotton combination.  Some of the beaded silk I covered with the finest wisps of fibre and other areas I left uncovered.  I needn’t have worried, the beaded silk felted beautifully and actually needed no covering wisps at all.  

Clockwise from left - sari ribbon, silk-wool, silk-cotton and beaded silk

 

I love the way the knitting has become distorted and the little seed beads gleam and glisten as they catch the light!  The sari ribbon also became incorporated really easily and it was actually the silk/wool and silk/cotton combinations that needed a little extra care while rubbing before they felted fully into the wool.  I love the effect of all the different yarns in the finished bag and know that it will get lots of use over the coming months, green is after all the colour that I am most often to be seen wearing!

Gorgeous gauze for shibori experiment

My felting experiments yesterday were fun, fun, fun.  Amazingly I had decided to experiment with a shibori felt wrap/cowl affair only to discover when Carmen arrived that shibori was also what she had planned to do and neither of us had breathed a word of our intentions beforehand, incredible! 

Working the shibori wrap

Anyway, as part of the ‘Secret Swap Exchange’ I am participating in on Ravelry I needed to make a whimsical cowl for my swap buddy using yellow as the base colour.  Thanks to some shibori tips from Chrissie Day I decided to tackle this project for some St. Patrick’s Day fun and here is what I have come up with!  Using cotton gauze as a base I laid out a layer of short fibred merino which I then embellished with loads of gorgeous gold and maroon coloured mulberry silk.  When the fibres were starting to penetrate the gauze fabric but before the piece was shrinking I tied glass nuggets into the felt securing them with rubber bands.  I continued felting and fulling as usual and when the piece was totally shrunk undid the little bundles and pushed out the glass nuggets.  Some of the resulting bubbles I left as was while others got pushed through to the other side to add contrast and interest to the surface detail.  When I put the wrap on my manequin to take some photos it was interesting to see how reversable it actually is and to play around with the many ways it is possible to style it around the neck.

Nuno neck wrap - merino and silk side out

Hopefully my swap buddy will like her new neck wrap and for more images  and some detailed shots of the gauze side please check out my Flickr photos.

If any of you want my fool proof receipe for English Sherry Triffle (with my secret Irish ingredient instead of sherry!) head on over to Clasheen Uncut  where I am going to post it a little later in the day.

Felting the nuno wrap/mini skirt

For the nuno wrap/mini skirt I decided to lay out my fibre on top of the ‘right side’ of my fabric, because of the obvious semicircular shape and due to the fact that it had been lining from one of my skirts it actually had loads of seams all around the inside. 

The fibre and fabric wet and ready to felt

 

For the bulk of the fibre I used a hot pink merino and then added small circles and a few strips in either apple green or orange.  The fabric that I embellished with was torn strips of the silk/cotton mix and I also added some loose silk fibres to the surface.  Once the fibres were laid out and wet I covered them with a second piece of bubble wrap and rubbed and rolled as normal.  Because this was a nuno project I started the felting process using cool water and soap, if I had used hot water the thin covering of wool fibres might have felted quickly and not migrated through the backing lining fabric at all.  Rolling was more difficult than normal, the shape made the wrapped felt want to go off in all sorts of directions rather than just rolling straight down my kitchen table!  Surprisingly quickly the fibres migrated through the lining fabric.  I did need to rub directly on top of the embellished wool for a bit and this enabled the fibre to migrate through the tightly woven silk/cotton pieces in the top layer as well. 

Front of nuno felt mini skirt

I love the texture of the finished piece but my favourite aspect of the whole project has to be how the seams from the underside become a quirky feature when the piece is worn with the fabric side out!  If you check out my Flickr photos you can see some more shots of the various way this piece may be worn, nuno really is a brilliant technique and I look forward very much to sharing the process with participants at my workshop on Saturday 23rd January. 

Close up of wrap

Cropped felt top, submission for ‘The climate is Changing’ and recommended magazine to buy

My flu appears to have abated somewhat so I am taking this opportunity of posting about the very exciting top that I felted for myself this week while getting fed and minded like a baby at Carmen’s!  I really hate sewing and for a long time have wanted to make some stylish felt wearables for myself but until Sigrid Bannier’s recent trip to Ireland have always resisted the mental thought process that needs to happen before confidently handling such large scale clothing projects.  In tandem with this, for the last 5 months I have been desperately trying to think up my response to the international call for submissions for a juried travelling exhibition portraying the impact of human actions on the environment.  ‘The Climate is Changing’ should be a challenge that I can rise to given the Green Party aspect of my background but until I finally crystallized my thoughts during a recent hike through Lassen Volcanic National Park my brain seemed absolutely dead as to how I could interpret my ideas into a piece of felt.  Without giving too much away I have also been totally inspired by an interview with Thomas Horst (my absolute favourite American felter to date!) and his details of how to make a felted coat, I can’t recommend enough buying the Fall edition of ‘Living Crafts’ to check this out for yourselves.  Thomas uses an electric sander a lot in his work and for the project detailed in the magazine the wool used shrinks by 25%.  This got me to thinking that if I rubbed or sanded my work for a significantly longer period of time than I usually do and coupled this with cooler water and less rolling would I achieve a strong and finished felt garment with less shrinkage than I usually build in?  The answer is YES!  This means that now I have a felting method that achieves a gorgeous surface finish and doesn’t need the gigantic resists that I was always imagining would be required if I needed to allow 50% shrinkage for larger wearable articles.  The unusually styled cropped top that I made for myself during the week is a generous size, has a gorgeous high neck and is made from just over 200g of the softest merino.  I laid it out on a backing of cotton gauze for drape and stability and used some of the gorgeous silk hankies and twists that I got in Denmark as surface decoration, with a little manipulation (read more concentration cutting up the cotton gauze!) this would have made a wonderful reversible nuno top.  Now I have a clear idea of how I am going to proceed to create my submission.  Forgive me if I don’t give a total step by step description or an idea of the shape of my garment but I need to get the application sorted out first and one of the conditions is that no details or images of the work have been talked about or published prior to the juried stage of ‘The Climate is Changing’.

Images from Sculpture in Context and meeting with black bear!

Thanks so much to fellow ‘Sculpture in Context’ exhibitor Elaine Prunty for including my felt flowers among her favourites from the exhibition, you can check out some great images on this post from her blog.  Elaine is a very talanted glass artist and it is really interesting to go back through her blog and follow the progress of her ‘seven year old tree’ from conception to installation! 

Alan and I are just about to hit the road again having spent a couple of great days walking through some of the most amazing giant redwoods ever.  On Friday we met a black bear twice, he or she was calmly picking blackberries from the briars and only about 7m away from us, quite surreal!  We also have had great fun watching giant seals, sea lions and elk, the wildlife is absolutely fabulous in this part of the world.  This morning we are heading over the border to Grant’s Pass in Oregon and from there we will be travelling down to Lava Beds National Monument and then on to Lassen Valley Volcanic Park.  Hopefully I will be able to pick up a new camera somewhere along the way, at Sears I was told to check out K Mart as they might have the Panasonic Lumix model that I am on the lookout for.  On the fibre side of things my crochet journey continues, one of the books that I have picked up on my travels is ‘365 crochet stitches a year’ and at the moment I am experimenting with a shell pattern from October 20th and using the remainder of the silk/cotton/wool mix from Noro.  To be cont …..

American update and Sculpture in Context opening!

Last Wednesday I attended the opening of Sculpture in Context with my friend Sheila Ahern (Feltmakers Ireland and board member of the Crafts Council) and despite the dreadful rain we had a great time looking at the various exhibits and enjoying a glass of wine.  The work throughout the garden and in the various green houses looks amazing so if you are anywhere in the area don’t miss this great opportunity to visit this beautiful space and view top class sculpture from all over Europe, admission is free and the exhibition continues until 16th October.  That evening I drove back to Clasheen and at 4.40am Alan and I caught the airport bus before our flights to San Fransisco, we are now officially on vacation!

On Thursday night we stayed near the airport at the Quality Inn and Suites (clean, relatively cheap and convenient) before collecting our ‘Green’ rental car and setting out on our road trip through northern California.  Our first day we drove through the Sonoma Valley, a premier wine producing region near Napa taking our time and just enjoying the scenery before heading cross country for the rocky coastline near Bodega Bay.  Once we got near where we had planned on staying for our first night it soon became apparent the due to Labour Day weekend lodging prices were extremely high.  Eventually we headed back inland a bit and ended up staying in Santa Rosa, not ideal but actually not the worst.  As we left the following morning I was delighted to see a knitting store called Village Knitters by chance and what do you guess, we had to stop so that I could get my fibre fix.  The store was a little like Stephanie Kennedy’s new shop ‘The Yarn Room’ in Ashford, Co. Wicklow, gorgeous yarns, loads of books and a knitting workshop in progress at the back of the store!  I bought some gorgeous new Noro yarn in a black and lime colourway, it is a 45% silk, 35% cotton and 20% wool mix (hope I have the proportions right) which feels beautifully soft and tactile in the hand.  This is earmarked for myself, I am making a crochet cowl and in fact I have already made a wool cowl on the flight, a great opportunity to complete some Christmas presents during the time I am away from felting!  We then ambled along small rural roads and arrived in Bodega, a pretty little village where Hitchcock filmed ‘The Birds’.  The village had some interesting antique shops as well as a great artisan’s co-op where I was delighted to buy some locally produced wool yarn as well as some gorgeous soft combed alpaca tops, also local I think.  We ate some tasty barbecued oysters and had a beer for lunch and then visited the schoolhouse where much of the movie was filmed before heading out to the coast and continuing north along route 1.

The only difficulty that we have had so far in the States is that internet access appears to be a problem for us.  Alan did bring his computer but for some reason doesn’t appear able to connect to wi-fi anywhere that it says it is enabled so unfortunately my posts may be sporadic and constrained by finding locations where there is an internet cafe.  Apologies in advance for the sketchy posting, I will keep you as up to date as possible but it may be with intervals of 4 or 5 days between posts.  To be continued …..