First pictures from CRAFTed project!

Only a few words today because I used most of them up with sixth class this morning!!! 

Having fun adding the surface decoration


I was blown away by how creative everyone was.  Each pupil was asked to choose two colours to use as a base, then they could select from all sorts of yarn, fibre and fabric to add to the surface layer.  A lot of the girls had brought in beads, buttons, pipe cleaners and all sorts of glitzy embellishments with them and these will be stitched on next Monday before the felt gets stuck to the front of their journals.  A tip for anyone wanting an easy way to decorate a copy, why not stick velcro to the book and then just press the felt to the barbed side of the velcro???  No sewing, I like that! 

Anyone see a favourite colour combination here???

Some of the pieces were fully felted by the end of the session but others will need a little more fulling at home before they are ready to embellish with stitches, beads and buttons.  It is always interesting to see how different people felt at different speeds, one of the last girls to lay out her wool was in turn one of the only girls who ended up with a fully felted piece at the end of the session!

Metallic mesh fabric, thick and thin merino, little buttons to be stitched on afterwards

There is no right or wrong way to felt either as many ways to end up with a good finished result but I always like to share with pupils what I was shown when I started because I feel it gives a good foundation to build upon.  You can check out my flat felt tutorial if you want to see what we did today.


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.

Charlotte Buch’s two day workshop continued

My head is a little clearer now and my body a little less tired so here goes with continuing on from my first post about Charlotte Buch’s workshop in Denmark.  We started day one by drooling over the wonderful household textiles Charlotte had brought to discuss with us and listened to her explaining the techniques used while jotting our own notes in the workbooks supplied.  I was totally captivated right from the start as all the techniques could be applied to many different weights of fabric/fibre.  This meant that what we would be covering during the two days applied as much to sculptural work or clothing as to the household textiles that we were going to be making, the methods used have so many uses it is quite amazing!  Mainland European felters seem to work a lot more with prefelt/needle felt than we do here in Ireland and while I chose to work in my favourite short fibred merino (I brought Kap merino from Wollknoll with me) it was fascinating to see others stretching and working with commercially prepared needle felt. 

Charlotte had brought some great images of underwater creatures and coral with her and because I knew that I wanted to felt something three dimensional a black, white and acidic yellow sea cucumber (or is it a sea slug?  Is there a difference???) seemed the perfect kicking off point for me.  Of course as soon as I opened my suitcase with all my many kgs of wool I discovered that I had left the black on my kitchen table so had to think laterally and decided to substitute with turquoise instead!  Cutting out a template was the easy part and this I covered with gauze to give the piece some extra stability, at least that was the idea, more on that later!!!  I wanted clear edges between the white and the turquoise wool so decided to roll a LOT of cords dry before dunking them in soapy water and ‘painting’ them on, my idea being that when the felt was wet out the lightly rolled edges would move together but the slight edges would prevent the colour ‘bleeding’ and merging together too much. 

Laying out the first side prior to infilling with colour

 To be cont …..

Gathering the fibres …..

The next task was to narrow down my fibre choices and decide which colours would best compliment the scarf I had chosen to work with. 

Starting to select fibres and colours

The picture on the left shows my initial collection of fibres laid out surrounding the scarf, hand dyed gold silk, a 90% grey/10% pink alpaca combination, creamy/white undyed merino, baby blue merino, sunflower yellow merino some embroidery silks of my grandmothers peeking out at the bottom right and some beautiful merino and silk combinations at the bottom left.  I didn’t get a picture of the silver dyed linen fibres but they were a perfect match to tie in with the blue/grey and baby blue silk of the scarf.  Eventually I decided to keep things ultra simple and let the colours of the silk sing out against a natural white merino and use a little of the silver linen for additional surface detail.    

Once I had narrowed everything down to the bare essentials I cut my template from 1mm plastic echoing the shape of the jewellery pouch and making sure that it was large enough to allow me lay the biggest flower motif against the template without cutting into the design.  I did sketch the provisional layout of the silk pieces but decided to give myself some freedom as I laid out the bag and go with the flow if necessary, what’s new!  To start with I placed the largest piece of silk right side down on the template and then started to lay out my merino.  I wanted this piece of silk to be a beautiful surprise on the inside of the bag and needed it to be oversized for the impact I wanted to create.  At this stage of the day I was beginning to realise that I might not have enough time to get everything laid out fully, we had to exit the building at 5pm and were to bring our pieces with us to a different venue for the morning of day 2, panic!!!  Once the first layer of merino was in position around both sides of the resist I laid out some more pieces of silk fabric and covered them with a layer of plastic resist.  One of these resists I covered with baby blue merino before laying another resist on top.  My idea for this stemmed from a  beautiful large chunk of blue lace agate that my grandmother often wore and all us girls envied.  It wasn’t her most precious piece of jewellery by any means but the one we all wanted to touch and get an opportunity to wear as children, we just loved the lacy lines in shades of light blue and grey!  I wanted to expose both the blue merino and the silk underneath as two seperate layers, maybe I am not explaining this well but you will see what I mean when I post the final pictures.  By the end of the afternoon I had covered the resist with several layers of merino and was ready to bring it home with me to lay out the surface decoration later that evening.  More tomorrow ……..

More with resists

I have had some really intensive felting over the last few days with another couple of sessions to go before I deliver my work to Thomastown on Tuesday for the South East Textile show and then on Wednesday (or Thursday at a total pinch!) to Carlow for the Blueprint Exhibition.  As I write this post my wrists, hands, shoulders, brain and other parts of me I can’t even describe ache and feel like they have gone into a rubbing and rolling overload! 

At last I finished a wall hanging yesterday which I am happy with.  It is a banner like piece felted from various shades of grey Icelandic wool and a small amount of merino with undyed silk throwsters waste and a scattering of ‘caves’ (just can’t think of a better word today) created with resists and revealing glimpses of various sequined and bejewelled fabrics underneath.  One of the sequined fabrics is very interesting, black and almost see through with very thin sequins in a kind of transparent black.  The effect of this fabric when combined with the merino or the Icelandic wool is fascinating to me, the fabric appears to disslve into the wool and the sequins appear as little glimmers on the surface, an interesting contrast.

Today I have felted a sort of mosaic nuno panel which has taken ages to lay out and get to the rolling stage, finally it is drying on my work table and now I am off to grab a soothing cup of ginger tea before grabbing the bull by the horns and starting all over again! 

Pictures during the week ……….

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

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.

Printing is fun ….. collagraphs on felt! Pictures of the nuno, silk and linen wrap

What an exciting day I had yesterday.  Because I really didn’t know exactly what we would be doing at the South East Textile Group monthly workshop I was totally floored to discover that we would be learning how to print collagraphs on to paper and felt using intaglio plates, I had been thinking along the lines of lino or potato prints.  The brilliant Maeve Coulter, feltmaker and printmaker extrodinare had been inspired by an exhibition of printed felt at the Knit and Stitch show in England and was dying to try experimenting at home, we were the guinea pigs! 

Maeve clearly explained the process we would be using during the workshop, creating out printing plate from Dahler board (for a stronger plate suitable for multiple prints perspex or metal is the best), cutting designs into it with craft knives and adding depth and texture with cutouts created from embossed wallpaper, lace, fabric, threads and in fact anything very thin that we could lay our hands on that could be used.  Once we were happy with our design and had glued the various components using PVA or wood glue the plate was painted with shellac and we took a well needed break for lunch and a drink. 

As soon as we returned to the workshop after lunch we learnt how to apply the oil based intaglio printing inks over the surface of our boards making sure to work the colour really carefully into all the textured areas.  As with any type of painting it was very simple to mix the inks and achieve subtle colour variations in tone and it was also possible to blend the ink on the plates as we went along.  Once the plates were totally saturated with colour we then removed all the excess ink, not so easy in the textured areas as it was difficult to determine if enough was removed as none of us had never done much (or in my case none) printing with a press before.  While we were preparing the plates Maeve had left suitable paper soaking in the sink and one by one as we had finished our rubbing we brought our plates and paper to the printing press to try out our first print.  Often the first couple of prints are not the best, once you see how things are going you can decide if you need to rub off more ink or change the colours etc. so Maeve had prepared us for the worst!  In reality it was fantastic!!  Obviously we did need to adjust and rethink some areas but overall it was just so exciting to see all the work coming off the press, beautiful designs and colours, each persons work totally different. 

After the first print run we then switched to a much more expensive and better quality paper before having the opportunity to print onto fabric if we wanted.  My prints on paper were in various shades of green (no surprises there!) so I decided not to clean the plate after my second print but add a deep turquoise colour and see how that would print onto my apple green felt.  The fabric accepted the ink brilliantly, obviously this is a method really suited to felt and I was very happy with the resultant green colour as achieved with the blue on top of the green background.  Now that I understand the process my mind is spinning with all the possibilities opening up, graduated shades of felt, adding silk, linen or corn fibres to the felt, incorporating a design in the felt that mirrors the print ……. can’t wait to join Maeve for another session and see how far we can expand this technique.  (Will edit to include images as soon as I have them taken!)

Now for a couple of pictures of the nuno felt wrap with silk, merino and linen. 

Merino and linen fibre laid out ready to felt

Merino and linen fibre laid out ready to felt

This first image is a close up of the fibre laid out and ready to felt.  If you look carefully you can see the small design printed on the silk and linen background and the green and pink fibres overlaid on top of the merino are some of the new linen fibres that I am experimenting with at the moment.  It did take a lot longer to work the fibres through the silk/linen mix but hopefully you will think that the result was worth the effort!

'Hot Shot' nuno felt wrap

'Hot Shot' nuno felt wrap

This scarf will be the first to go up on my Etsy shop this evening (computer willing) and over the next few weeks I hope to add new work, wool, felting kits (still waiting for the Icelandic wool to arrive) and goodie bags filled with odds and ends of both fibre and embellishments.

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.

Injured felter!!

Recycled metal and wet felt necklace

Recycled metal and wet felt necklace

I had a lucky escape on Thursday morning when I got a nasty cut at the edge of my little finger whilst trying to do the washing up!  Housework is not my strong point but I had decided to clear the decks in the kitchen before getting stuck in to a bit of felting and a couple of calls re. the Irish Green Gathering.  Unfortunately a recycled glass Mexican wine glass ‘exploded’ in the sink just as I was inserting the sponge held by my my right hand into the cup shape and voila, a nasty deep cut and a trip to the doctor ensued.  One finger glued together later, today I have decided just to post a couple of pictures of recent work and wait ’til the next post to finish talking about the Anita Larkin workshop.

Nuno felt and merino handbag

Nuno felt and merino handbag