New ideas learnt at the weekend jewellery making workshop I attended!

This weekend I was really lucky to be able to participate in an Angela O’Kelly jewellery workshop organised by the committe of Feltmakers Ireland, it was wonderful!

Colourful and tactile bracelet formed from fabric paper, paper, plastic, felt

Angela is great fun and such an inspirational jewellery designer, I’ve stolen an image from her website to give you an idea of the designs she explores but head on over there to check out some of her amazing textile, fibre, semi and precious metal pieces, just beautiful.  Obviously it’s not going to be possible to give you a blow by blow account here of all the techniques we covered, there were many!  Instead I’m going to share with you the most important lessons I took away from the weekend so here goes ……

  • How to make some of your own jewellery findings
  • A simple way of making a stiff ‘nest’ from yarn and glue which can then be used as a starting point for further embellishment
  • The beauty and versatility of paper yarn
  • How to ‘spin’ your own paper yarn
  • How to work with gold and silver leaf

….. and the most important thing I learnt and really must try hard to remember, I need to use felt as the starting point of a design sometimes and not as the end point!

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Unblocked felt hat, an experiment with colour, style and texture

I loved the two felt hats that I made recently with Icelandic wool but I really wanted to wear them myself and unfortunately my head is just too small for hats shaped on my hat block!  At the brilliant ‘Pick up your Needles’ workshop on Saturday Irene had a simple but fun crochet hat that I thought could translate very well into felt.  It was really comfortable to wear and I asked her if she would mind me using the design as a starting point for creating a new felt hat, this time not blocked and small enough for me to wear as well! 

Silk and cotton mix fabric felted with Icelandic wool

Silk and cotton mix fabric felted with Icelandic wool

One of the most exciting colours of Icelandic wool that I am stocking in my Etsy shop is a great red (I have always found to date that a decent red is one of the most difficult colours to order batts or roving in) and for the hat I teamed this red with a nice rich deep violet (or purple if you prefer).  I also wanted to play around a bit more incorporating different fabric and fibre into the wool, this time I used silk twists (kind of like hand dyed throwsters waste) and some deep purple crinkly fabric with a surface print in gold.  This silk and cotton mix fabric was actually from an expensive skirt that I bought a couple of years ago and only wore once, now that I have no spare cash for buying clothes I am recycling everything I can to incorporate into my felt where appropriate!  The template for the hat was a simple rectangle and I prepared a few felted cords to jazz up the corners at the top.  One of the design features of this model is it’s simplicity, working a rectangle shape around a resist means that even inexperienced felters could make a successful hat at their first attempt, I feel another workshop in the making!  After weighing the wool I divided the total amount (60g) by four and laid out the first layer on each side.  At this stage I positioned the cords at opposite corners and added a little more soap in these areas to help keep them in place.  After laying the second layer I then added my silk twists and crinkly fabric, checked that I was happy with the design and continued to felt as usual.  Surprisingly enough, I actually found that this hat took longer to make that the ‘Raspberry Ripple’.  The big advantage however is in the easy of process, the fun design and the fact that I just continued to full until I was happy with the overall size in relation to my head. 

The finished felt hat!

I definitely think that this design has possibilities and will now try and make it in a different colour combination with possibly some minor alterations to the shape.  The fact that a hat block is not necessary to shape the hat is also an advantage and I like the way that it sits jauntily on my head!  Unfortunately the sun was very strong today and not the best for taking pictures (although great for everything else!) so I hope to take some more of the hat on Thursday and also get some better images of the wool to put up on Etsy.

Fantastic nuno mosaic felting workshop at Urban Fauna Studio

I had a WONDERFUL time at Urban Fauna Studio on my last full day in the States!  Blas and Jamie have a superb set up, wonderful fibres, yarns, books and notions etc. all neatly laid out in a small but practical space in a quiet part of the Mission district in San Fransisco.  Alan and I arrived in the city during rush hour (I guess that should be rush hours!!) on Wednesday evening and I have to say it was only then that I discovered how far downtown San Fransisco actually was from the studio, although we had driven through the city at the beginning of the holiday I really didn’t realise that it was so big.  Luckily Alan is someone who likes to study all the local maps from an area as soon as we arrive and boy was I happy when he found out that the Muni light rail system could practically drop me from our hotel on O’Farrell Street to Urban Fauna’s door, all for the cool price of only $2, a lot less stressful than driving! 

Blas outside Urban Fauna Studio

Blas outside Urban Fauna Studio

I duly arrived on Thursday morning looking forward to meeting proprietor Blas and scoping out the facilities in advance of the participants arrival for our class at 10am.  Unfortunately Blas’s wife Jamie was tied up so I will just have to wait until next summer and their trip to Ireland before meeting the other half of this great fibre duo.  I was very impressed with the quality and selection of fibre and yarn available to purchase as well as interesting books, notions and other covetable items and more than impressed with how Blas manages to keep this relatively small space totally clean, tidy and organised, if only my own studio was half as tidy I would be in 7th heaven!  While Blas headed off to the local shop to pick up some fresh fruit and teas I made myself at home, first selecting some yummy and unusual fibres to bring home with me and then setting up the tables and laying out a couple of samples of my felt that I had brought with me from Ireland.  First to arrive was my online friend Nancy Schwab, the person actually responsible for putting me in touch with Blas and Jamie in the first place!  Nancy is a great nuno felter and had brought some of her beautiful scarves for everyone to drool over and this was interesting for all the participants to see as neither Flo, Nancy W-B or Laura had actually wet felted before.  We had a really fun group (two Nancys, Flo, Laura and Blas) and everyone was totally more experienced in dying fabric and fibre than I am and between them there was a gorgeous selection of hand dyed and bought silk to select from to create the nuno mosaic with.  I explained how Sigrid Bannier pioneered the technique and suggested that for the total beginners a double ended scarf would be a good project to tackle, plenty of opportunity to experiment with colour but not as large a piece to lay out as experienced felters Blas and Nancy S were going to attempt. 

Laying out the mosaic design - Nancy Schwab

Laying out the mosaic design - Nancy Schwab

Using a guideline of three different colours everyone started to chop up their silk and lay out their patterns, a bit like making an overlapping jigsaw!  As you can see from the image of Nancy laying out her design everywhere the silk colours overlap another colour is created.  In this way a complex design is created and additional depth is acquired from whatever colour wool is used on the reverse to felt everything together.  As we started to work everyone began to appreciate that this method of working opens up the door to amazingly complex details, particularly as everyone seemed to be a dab hand at dying silk in the first place a whole new avenue of textile design is now on the horizon.  Before lunch I showed everyone how I would lay out two fine layers of merino on top of the overlapping silk and everyone managed very well with varying degrees of thickness and different qualities of wool.  Blas actually used a yak/merino mix that has to be one of the softest fibres I have ever touched, needless to say I bought some to bring home for myself and some as a present for Carmen as well!  Anyway, we wet out the first end of the scarf and started rubbing and massaging to help the fibres migrate through the silk.  After lunch around the corner in a super Japanese place (FANTASTIC food and amazingly cheap) everyone got stuck back into their work and continued to lay out more silk to complete their piece before rubbing and then rolling in bubble wrap around a short piece of pool noodle.  Once we were totally sure that the wool was migrating through every layer of silk the felt could then be dipped into extremely hot water and then either thrown on a towel or rocked and rolled on the table to continue the felting process.  Once I was happy that the work was fully felted each piece was given a final rinse and then proudly worn for a fun filled photo session!  The nuno mosaic technique does use a lot more elbow grease than straight nuno felt and takes longer to create but I am sure you will agree from the photos here and on Flickr that the amazing results were more than worth the effort! 

Beautiful results form our nuno mosaic workshop

Beautiful results form our nuno mosaic workshop

I promise that tomorrow I will put up the post ‘American wrap up – Yosemite, Castle Air Museum and fantastic killer whales!’ but for now I am off to create a nuno felt scarf all for myself!