Another fibre and yarn experiment, wool has arrived

Fibre and yarn felted together

Yesterday afternoon as I was trying to tidy my studio (yes, I can NEVER keep it in order!) I came across another small scrap of discarded knitting or possibly even crochet. I don’t have any idea what I was doing or when I started and scrapped it but I do know that the yarn was a gorgeous merino and silk combination from Manos del Uruguay in lovely shades of blue and green. I decided to felt a small insulated pot stand using two shades of green and a white C1 wool and stretch out the knitting for some surface interest. Again this yarn combined very well with the fibre but if I were to start over I would probably try getting the base to the prefelt stage before adding the yarn because it did lose some clarity and sharpness of colour as the felting process progressed.

My mother called over for a coffee earlier this morning and while we were having a chat the postman arrived with my large order of wool from Iceland. At last I can start to get Sylvia’s rug underway but now I am thinking I am not going to get it finished before I head off to the ‘Felt Naturaly’ symposium in Denmark next week, never mind I will finish it in a couple of days after I return home. I am going to finish tidying the studio this afternoon and hopefully get the rug base laid out ready for long days felting on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Tomorrow I will be at a Visiting Captain’s Day at Killerig Golf Club but all work and no play …………. not that I ever look on felting as work but you know what I mean!

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Successful day making and completing some felting projects!

Carmen called over for a cup of tea and a chat this morning, we actually hadn’t met for over a week as both of us have been so busy in the run up to Christmas. 

The finished felt bag, new handles attached!

I was delighted with her input re. adding handles to a felt bag that I had made, this bag is to be sent to a swap buddy in the States and I was very frustrated with the shoulder strap that I had already stitched on.  We both agreed that the long linen shoulder strap was awful, it really didn’t add anything at all to the bag.  I had a pair of  simple oval wooden handles in my studio and felt that they would suit the shape better, Carmen agreed.  My problem was wondering exactly how to attach them to the bag so that the metal ‘closure’ was not actually visable and Carmen solved the problem by suggesting stitching some fancy yarn over the join.  The yarn that I used is Icelandic knitting wool, not fancy at all but a perfect colour choice for the merino in the bag, stitching the handles on completed before lunchtime which must be some kind of record for me!

My second completed project of the day was a chunky felt and ceramic necklace, destined for …..’s Christmas present, don’t want to give the game away so not posting any pics yet!  The ceramic beads were another buy at the Knit and Stitch Show, they are a beautiful shape and each one is uniquly glazed in various shades of chocolate, rust, ochre and teal.  I used some of the Norwegian C1 wool that I ordered from one of the suppliers at ‘Felt in Focus’ this summer for the felt balls.  The colours of wool that I had complimented the ceramic beads perfectly and the felt balls didn’t seem to feel scratchy at all, I had been wondering would they but there was no need to worry.

Completed project number three is a crochet cowl, I know, I know, not felt but what can I say!  This is something that I started at the end of my American adventures when crocheting was my only connection to fibre and it kept me sane on the flights home before I seemed to get struck down with possible swine flu.  This is another Christmas pressie, this time for an old family friend.  I have finished it off with a beautiful resin stick from Woolfish, yet another Knit and Stitch find!

Lastly I have a confession to make!  Carmen fell in love with the velvet encrusted scarf from yesterday so it became part of her Christmas present, I forgot to take a photo before she headed off with it so here are a couple with the wool laid out and the velvet and silk ribbons embellishing the surface.  Apologies for the quality of the images, for some reason my camera has severe difficulties when taking anything in this particular colour combination!

Velvet and silk ribbons laid on top of the merino

Trapping the velvet with wisps of wool

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 …..

Day one of the complex felt bag workshop with Lyda Rump

After a great breakfast and a morning assembly all the participants in Lyda Rump’s complex bag workshop met in our classroom.  We oohed and aahed over the amazing bags that Lyda had brought to show us (check out some of them here in her gallery) and discussed how it is possible to make a felt soft to the touch but strong and hardwearing.  For most of her bags Lyda uses an inner layer of a strong wool (such as C1) sandwiched between two layers of merino.  Each of the layers is weighed out meticulously, for mine the body of my backpack weighed 97g per layer and there was extra wool for the straps, inner pocket and the dreadlocks.  We looked at all the design merits of the various bags, inner and outer pockets play a big part as do double bags reminescent of saddle bags.  Lyda is also experimenting a lot with incorporating knitting (or crochet) into her bags.  This makes them more like a wearable piece of clothing and reduces the pressure on your shoulder if you use the knitting like a sleeve that the body of the bag is attached to, very funky and individual, check out the orange coloured bag at the bottom of gallery 1.  After we had a look through some of Lyda’s sample books and images from other bag workshops everyone went into the trader’s hall to investigate what wool was available for purchase suited for the inside of our bags.  I choose Norwegian C1 wool from Ullform and selected colours that would match or complement the Filzrausch short fibred merino that I had brought with me to make my bag with, this was to match a long scarf that I had made the night before I had left for Denmark.

My long merino and silk scarf

My long merino and silk scarf

 

 

My idea was to have the main body black and use subtle blends of turquoise and green wool, silk, gauze and glass to add texture and interest.  Lyda always gets her students to make a sample first, this enables her to see how people usually felt and allows them to try out colour combinations, new wool and new techniqes. 

My first felt sample

My first felt sample

 

Here is my first sample, check back again for my next post where I go through the pros and cons of this piece!

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.

Beautiful silk arrived for nuno felting!

This morning my order arrived from Wollknoll containing a wide range of beautiful coloured silks that I am going to be using in some mosaic nuno wallhangings and hopefully some clothes!  This is the technique that Sigrid Bannier taught recently to Feltmakers Ireland members and friends, one workshop in Dublin the other in Kiltealy.  We laid out chopped up pieces of silk chiffon in random or organised designs on top of  light see through plastic, covered it with 2 layers of very fine merino, more light plastic, wet it down and felted.  We overlapped the silk pieces slightly where they met so that there were no gaps in the coverage and this made the resultant fabric beautifully tactile and supple.  The colours were wonderful all over but in some cases especially interesting where the neighbouring silks overlapped.  Sigrid explained to us how to create a long skirt in a tube form and then use a large button or brooch as a closure.  I think that I might try this as an exciting Christmas/New year project (it would be a talking point at openings!!) and commission a nice button from Hillary Jenkinson at the Demanse Yard, Castlecomer for the fastening.

The other thing that I am excited about today is that I met some very nice people today in Borris, they were planning to contact me at some stage as they are interested in some felting workshops.  It was quite by chance that the topic came up as I was actually representing my partner Alan (he is a Green Party County Councillor) at the opening and blessing of a new playground which serves children from all the neighbouring communities.  The young children staged a Nativity play, there were a few short speeches, we all went outside to the play area and then the longest serving member in the group cut the ribbon.  At that stage everyone was invited back inside for a warm spiced punch (non-alcoholic!) and a bit of networking and chat.  It turned out that the committee members had seen one of the recent newspaper articles profiling my change of career and had discussed contacting me re. demonstrating to the younger children, teaching some workshops at their summer school and also doing some workshops with the leaders and teachers in the play school.  It was great to hear this as one of my intentions in the New Year had been to put some proposals together to present to local community groups so here I am already on my way!

Craft in the Classroom is  going to be stepping up a gear after Christmas as well, my HSE Child Protection Training takes place on 13th and 14th January and at the beginning of February I get to meet my teacher in Leitrim and learn all about the class that I will be working with.  Mehmet Girgic is arriving on 15th January and staying until 23rd so all in all January will be a very busy month.  Don’t forget for those of you living in the vicinity of Wicklow that I am also teaching felting workshops on 31st January in the Old Courthouse, Tinahely, we actually have a day lined up with tasters in felting, knitting, spinning and crochet, book your space by clicking here!