Surface details and inclusions in felt, tutorial for simple felt slippers!

One of the most striking aspects of Dutch felter Lyda Rump’s work is her beautiful attention to texture and surface detail.  At both our accessories workshop and the complex bag workshop on 5th, 6th and 7th February learn how you too can enhance your work  during the actual laying out of your fibre and by embellishing your felt once it reaches the fulled stage.  Including items such as stones and glass pebbles while you lay out your fibres can lead to all sorts of exciting surface possibilities which really enhance the finished felt.  Layering strips of silk, artifical fabrics and other fibres on the top layer provide additional depth whilst further embellishing with stitches and small glass seed beads once the felt is fulled add interest and movement to the finished felt.  On Friday 5th we will be using our imagination to create fun and stylish felt accessories with Lyda and learning all those finishing touches that go to make jewellery, scarves and other felt accessories so special.  This is a great workshop if you have never felted before, come along and leave with some beautiful completed pieces!  I will have wool, silk, glass nuggets and beads on hand and Lyda is bringing some of her gorgeous hand dyed silk with her.  If you have been looking at some fabric or beads in your stash and are looking for inspiration about how to include them in your felt look no further!  Bring everything along and if you have some glittery fabric or mesh bring it along too!!  The two day complex bag workshop on Saturday and Sunday will explore the art of creating strong and beautiful multi pocketed bags and backpacks.  If you are a beginner/improver and are worried that this workshop might be too advanced for you think again.  Felting one of these bags is more involved than creating a piece of flat felt (that’s why they are called complex bags!) but Lyda is a brilliant teacher and I have participated in one of her workshops where an almost total beginner left with a very beautiful and perfectly felted bag.  If you would like to attend either workshop places are booking up now, please contact me asap to reserve your place.

Now on to that tutorial for the simple felt slippers that I made (when waterless) to use up an old piece of felt in my stash.   This project is not designed to be complicated, just an easy way of utilising a well fulled rectangle of felt and an excellent way for a beginners workshop to leave with a lovely warm and comfortable pair of slippers at the end of the day.  You could paint the bottoms with Latex to make them more durable if you wanted, I get mine from Wollknoll.  Measurements are fluid but just remember to cut out your felt a couple of inches bigger that you think you need to allow for the stitching.  This is especially important with the width, I would have needed my piece of felt to be quite a bit bigger all round if I wanted the slippers to fit my own foot! 

Divide in thirds and cut like so

Divide your felt in thirds and cut as per the image.

Round ends and stitch to close

Round the ends and stitch to close.  Pinch the back together and stitch up, voila!  Your first slipper!!

Oops, just lost my internet connection but back again …. in case I lose it imemdiately you can check out my Flickr images for some more pictures of the slippers in progress, even for a bad stitcher such as me they only took about 5 mins from cutting to finishing!

Oops again, lost my electricity this time ….. Just a quick not of warning, check that you have flipper the felt over before stitching your second slipper otherwise you will end up with two right feet like me!

Finishing the felt backpack

I decided not to attend the optional evening talk which was organised on day one of Lyda Rump’s workshop as I really wanted to get started laying out my backpack.  The resist had been cut out of laminate floor underlay as usual and I started by rolling the handle and also the dreadlocks to attach to the bottom of the bag and to use as a closure.  The ends of the handle and the dreadlocks were left dry so as to make it easier for them to felt into the middle of the bag when I added them at layer two.  It took me 40 minutes of pondering before I realised how to go about laying out my inside pocket and then I laid out one layer of the bag as well before calling it a night.  At breakfast the next morning fellow Irish felter Maureen Cromer pointed out that the way I had positioned the pocket was not how Lyda had explained the day before so so much for all my efforts that evening!  I had a word with Lyda at the beginning of day two and although my way would have worked I decided to start again as I really wanted to learn the simplest and most efficient method, that was why I was there!!  Lyda places the bag template on the working surface, covers it with the bubble wrap, lays the full 3 layers of the pocket, positions the pocket resist on top of it, lays the first layer of the back of the bag and then removes the resist from under the bubble wrap and places it on top of the layer of wool.  Then she folds over the wool around the edge of the resist and lays out the first layer on the other side of the bag.  Try it with a piece of paper on your table, it works and is a simple way of positioning the pocket in the correct place internally.  The glass nuggets and the bag straps were lightly needled in after layer 2 (this was C1 wool) and then the final layer of merino with it’s silk and gauze surface decoration was laid.  To skip to the completion of the bag, I rolled, re-wet with hot water, rolled and rolled again to fully finish the felting process and ensure that the backpack was as tough and rugged as possible without loosing the integrity of the beautiful merino, silk and gauze finish.  When I was sure that the package was shrinking and holding together as per usual I cut out the resist and at the very end I cut a tiny cross on top of the glass nuggets and then worked the area with my fingernail to widen the opening and expose the glass.  The final technique was to shave the surface of the bag like Mehmet Girgic does with his rugs and this leaves a beautiful finish allowing all the fabrics, fibres and glass to be shown to the best advantage.  Because I really worked hard on fulling my backpack the finished bag has handles that actually have shrunk more than I intended.  As I am tall the bag now sits very high on my back so for the moment I am wearing it as a shoulder bag until I make extension loops to add to the ends of the straps!  Holly Angle took some good quality photos of the bag so as soon as I get them via email I will post them here and to Flickr.

Felting with glass nuggets, Sigrid Bannier workshops and Seanchas Festival

To answer a question about working with glass nuggets or indeed stones or other found objects in felt, Lyda uses a great method to ensure that they stay in position.  Previously I have felted with glass but found that it tended to move within the felt layers therefore I could never quite predict what the end result would look like.  Lyda’s method for the bags was to lay out and wet layer one, lay out and wet layer two, position the glass nuggets, cover them with a wad of dry wool from layer two and then needle the dry wool into the wet layer to secure the glas in position.  Then you lay out layer three, wet and felt as normal.  This works like magic!  Tomorrow I will continue to write about the progress of my felt backpack but for now I just want to update you all about Sigrid Bannier’s workshops and let everyone in South Eastern Ireland know about a sustainable feltival where I will be teaching felting workshops at next weekend.

Sigrid’s workshops are filling up nicely but there are still spaces available on any of the days from Wednesday 5th until Sunday 9th August.  We have been chatting by email and Sigrid is very flexible, if anyone is interested in a specific workshop but not available on the advertised day just let me know and we will be able to fit you in with your chosen topic on one of the other dates!  Check out some great images on the gallery pages of Sigrid’s new website, if you click on any of the images a slide show will start.

This weekend sees the first running of a new sustainable festival called Seanchas which takes place near Adamstown, Co. Wexford from Friday 24th to Sunday 26th July.  I will be facilitating the adult felting workshops on Saturday and Sunday, you can check out all the info about the festival and the great activities on offer via the website.