Sleeveless felt vest, days five and six of Dagmar’s wonderful workshop

While not all the participants decided to felt a sleeveless vest I really wanted to get to grips with creating a custom-made template and felt one under Dagmar’s expert supervision. Being accurate with measurements etc. is just not my favourite thing but learning tips from Dagmar about how best to scale up ones body measurements and create personalised templates was a really good exercise for me. I prepared this on Friday evening and weighed out my wool so that on Saturday morning I was ready to start laying out my vest right from the get go.

Wet silk hankies stretched around my resist

Once again I choose to work with short fibred merino as opposed to one layer of fine needle felt followed by two fine layers of merino tops. This meant that I needed to lay 4 fine layers of wool, for an outdoor vest in my size we reckoned an approximate weight of 360g excluding any optional attachments I might choose to add. I also had the idea to make my jacket reversible and had a clear idea of how I wanted the colour to be achieved, black on one side (with silk hankies from the wonderful Roo Kline of Moonwood Farm for surface interest) and a complex green with a darker green border on the other ‘main’ side. This I intended to achieve by laying the first layer in black, the second in my favourite green with a black border around the armhole, neck and perimeter areas and the third and fourth layers all in green, I have to say that I’m thrilled with the resultant colour!

Working on the front left hand side

I liked one of Dagmar’s sample vests, it had a cross over front which I thought would be warm for Borris market and Duckett’s Grove in the winter so aside for making it quite a bit longer (to cover my kidneys) the only other design choice I needed to make was what sort of 3D attachments to add. Being someone who likes strong shape and form I opted for a simple detail down the front opening panels continuing around the neckline. I did toy with the idea of pockets but leaving these out meant a totally reversible jacket that doesn’t have bulk at the sides, the final descision was easy, no pockets or frills for me. I’m not going to ramble on about the actual laying out and felting of the vest, suffice to say that while it did take me two full days to felt it properly I loved the whole process and am so pleased with the result, the vest actually feels a little like soft suede! Each of my crossway measurements ended up the exact size I had wanted (to the mm!), neck, shoulders, armhole, waist and hips, strangely enough the length didn’t shrink quite so much so I’m thinking that must be something to do with the fibre, alternatively maybe I needed to roll it a little more in this direction. I actually love the longer length anyway, when I make another vest (I’ve already had a commission, thanks Mary!) I’ll just need to take this into account when calculating the dimensions of a new template.

I’d really like to thank my local Arts Office and Carlow Co Council for awarding me an Arts Act Grant to go towards funding the cost of this masterclass. It was a wonderful experience, I feel that I learnt a lot and really have a far greater understanding of how I can translate some of my sculptural ideas into practice! I’ll leave you with two pictures of the almost finished vest, although it does fit well now I just want to try it on with a light woollen polo neck and tighten up around the armholes a little.

The back of the vest, black side out

The front of the vest, green side out

Wall hanging and felt vessel on days three and four of Dagmar’s workshop

Being inspired by Dagmar’s fine art wall hangings on exhibition in Odense, Denmark during ‘Felt in Focus’ 2009 I swore then that I’d take a workshop of hers when this was one of the projects that would be offered for participants to explore.

Working on the back of my natural white wall hanging with ‘The Modest’ felting roller from ‘niki & niki’

Thanks to US friend Susan (who didn’t manage to get into Dagmar’s 2 day Irish workshop!) who alerted me to the 6 day masterclass at Big Cat Textiles, I booked asap and in turn alerted our mutual US friend Merridee, the die was cast and the three of us all had a marvellous time!!! I knew before I headed to Scotland that I wanted to make my wall hanging in natural white with various undyed fibres for the surface decoration, this left me free to make decisions about what attachments to add and how I wanted the piece to appear structurally after I had time to mull over all the different options. The soya, silk, linen, milk protein and sea cell fibres that I used on the surface gave a nice tone on tone effect and opting for a simple style meant that I was free to try a complimentary vessel with a spiral attachment on day four.

The almost finished wall hanging, sorry about the poor quality photo

Working with an open rather than a closed resist for my vessel was a eureka moment for me!!! Strange isn’t it? Dawn uses this method almost always for her beautiful hats and it never once occurred to me to do so for a vessel. It’s a hang over from reading somewhere (a beginners felting book I think, early in the days) that it was always preferrable to totally cover the template, something to do with the pressure the edges are put under during the felting process. Well anyway, chatting to Dagmar and actually trying an open sided resist has totally changed my perspective on how I’ll felt vessels in the future, I loved the way I could manipulate the shape and the quality of the open edges was very uniform and smooth! I’m not saying that I’ll always use this method but I can now see my way clearly to felting some vessels that I’ve been itching to try but to date have only existed in my imagination, watch this space. Finishing my vessel by the time day four’s advertised time was up meant that I had several hours free that evening to measure myself (with help obviously!) and work out how large I needed my template to be for the sleeveless vest with attachments that were scheduled to be felted during the fifth and sixth days of this marvelous workshop. I’ll leave you with a picture of the finished vessel, note the subtle colour and texture from soya fibre inside the neck. Next time, the vest.

My large felt vessel with spiral