I had a fabulous time in Northern Ireland at the end of last week, staying with good friend Liz and facilitating a complex felt bag workshop in Hillsborough with a wonderful group of ladies! Here are a couple of pictures that I took, I'm hoping that the participants will email me pictures of their finished bags because I just didn't have any more time myself to keep snapping!!! Interestingly, the iPad cover that was such a hit in the states was also a popular choice with the group. Thanks so much to all the Northern Feltmakers for making me feel so welcome, Fiona and Ann for the organisation, Liz for being such a great helper and Dorothy for organising my lunches, I really enjoyed our evening out too and the meal was delicious!
I had a lovely day today in the studio at Duckett's Grove catching up with Eliska (on the left) and Zoryana, the temperature may have been cold but their bags are going to be HOT!
We hadn't met since Dawn's great 'Fantastic Felt Hat' workshop in Borris last year so as you can imagine we had a lot of catching up to do. Good friend Tanya, who I don't see very often, also called in for a chat complete with one of her friends and gorgeous puppy as did Christine, a super new felting recruit from Myshall. Liga popped in to say hi too and brought me back my felt from the Creative Carlow shop when it closed, if you don't know Liga's beautiful polymer clay jewellery you can check it out here on Etsy. I guess you could say it was a busy day at the studio!
Here's a picture of Zoryana's bag after the handles and flaps were cut, the turquoise swirls are hand spun banana fibre and there are blue and green silk hankies over both sides of the bag. Zoryana also included one glass marble in the bottom left hand corner but this won't be revealed until the bag is totally felted and fulled.
Eliska's bag has a black inside and a hot red outside. In this picture she's sealing all the cut edges, sometimes I work on this stage of the process for an hour, it might sound like a long time but it makes such a difference to the quality of the edges!
I'm heading to bed now as I've got to have my wits about me in the morning, I'll be starting a series of four workshops with 13 ladies in Carlow so want to be in top form and not tired and bleary eyed. Over the next few days I'll be posting updates about all my US workshops and Portugal, watch this space.
This week has really just flown. I need to finalise a working description today for my upcoming three day felting workshop at the wonderful Tin Thimble, Loomis CA, this takes place from Friday 31st May through to Sunday 2nd June. These classes coincide with the annual Felt Fest organised by The Tin Thimble, I've always wanted to attend this fabulous sounding event so I guess this year I've finally hit the jackpot!!! As a result I've not got much time to write today, instead I'm going to post a few pics here (from the workshops that I've taught this week) and let them do the talking for me.
This first shot is of the beautiful flat felt pictures created by Myshall Art Group on Monday night, for some of the ladies it was their second night felting, for others their first.
Here's a closer shot of some of these pieces…….
and another! The last shot shows Anita with her beautiful first felt bag at Duckett's Grove yesterday. This bag has integrated handles, a flap and an interior pocket, great job Anita!
I've had a pretty frustrating week computer wise, thanks goodness for the iPad otherwise I might have gone totally mad! Next weekend I have a felt bag workshop happening on Saturday 16th February in Duckett's Grove, the initial process is the same for vessels and other three dimensional objects so if either bags with integrated handles, pockets and flaps or strong, sculptural vessels are your thing please email me asap to book your place. On Saturday 2nd March I have a beginners and improvers flat felting workshop happening, again please email me if you would like to book a place. These will both be intensive hands on classes where you will leave at the end of the day with a beautiful finished piece and the knowledge that you will confidently be able to repeat the process at home by yourself, more details over on the workshop page.
Before Christmas I met a lovely South African lady called Lizette at Borris Food and Craft Market. She bought some of my naturally printed and dyed nuno felt to bring home for gifts and also selected a few flowers in nice bright colours, felt and silk are wonderfully lightweight to transport so make perfect presents for anyone heading off in a plane!!! Anyway, Lizette is back here for a visit and called in to say hi again at the market on Friday. With her she brought me a gift of the latest 'Bead Book' magazine sent from her good friend Debbie Rijns, director of education at Precious Metal Clay South Africa.
In the magazine I was thrilled to see that a tutorial for one of Debbie's mixed media necklaces features one of my felt flowers combined with a beautiful PMC leaf, copper wire, beads and cord. Above is a picture of the second page of Debbie's tutorial. Thanks Debbie for creating such a lovely necklce incorporating the flower and I really appreciate the credit and mention in the magazine!
Carmen and I had a wonderful afternoon on Friday for Earth Day! I had been intending on teaching a simple way of making and assembling a mobile out of felt and recycled items, instead I ended up making a mobile purely from laminated bubble wrap and seed beads as I loved the shine of the light on the plastic, it swirls beautifully in the wind!
Earth Day mobile swirling in the breeze
I actually have a new idea now for a similar shaped one made entirely from felt, I think I might need to stiffen the felt to make sure it is light enough but holds its shape, watch this space. For the one I made on Friday I placed bubble wrap between a sheet of laminating plastic and then ironed it between two sheets of baking paper, if I hadn’t used the baking paper the iron would have stuck to the plastic. Once the bubbles started to heat up and melt I was able to run the whole thing through the laminating machine but if I hadn’t had the laminator I could just have continued ironing until everything was bonded together well. I cut one large disc from the plastic and then cut into it in a circular shape working towards the centre. I’m not explaining this very well but probably you know what I mean, once the disc was cut into a swirly shape I could hold up the centre and the rest would fall down as in the picture of the completed mobile! Next I cut out quite a few circles and strung them together using fishing line and little seed beads as spacers. I had the biggest gap between the smaller discs at the top of the mobile (19 seed beads) and graduated the discs so that the larger ones were at the bottom with the shortest string of beads (9 beads at the bottom).
Amazing skies on our walk down from the summit of Mount Leinster!
In the evening I participated in a wonderful walk up Mount Leinster followed by a great party at friends Cathy and Martin’s house, check out this picture of the amazing skies we encountered, this is EXACTLY what it looked like!!!
Yesterday I felted an iPad cover (it was a commission) while working with Deirdre as she designed and felted her first bag. Working from charcoal Icelandic wool sandwiched between two layers of black merino Deirdre embellished the flap and inclusion of her bag with sky blue fabric, yarn and fibre. There is still about an hour or two of fulling and shaping to go but I am sure you can see how wonderful this bag is from the photo, isn’t it GORGEOUS???
Well, I shouldn’t have blogged the other day about the creative juices somewhat flowing because that just seemed to jinx things and it has taken a long time to get my new bag designed and felted! I wasn’t happy with the initial sample (the one in various shades of orange, yellow and gold) so decided to make a large piece of prefelt from different proportions and stripes of cerice, turquoise and black merino overlaid with black and gold artificial lace, glitzy but subtle when fully felted. This prefelt I then cut up into various shapes before felting it onto a base of apple green merino, another disaster! In this instance I didn’t like the contrast between the different prefelt shapes and the clarity of the green when felted, by this stage I had spent a full day and a half without being happy with any of my samples! Running in tandem with this very frustrating process I kept adjusting and fine tuning my template until at last I was happy with the shape of the proposed bag. Eventually after some more dithering and debating I decided yesterday afternoon to just get on with the bag using colours that I often combine together (no sample this time!), black with small amounts of light and dark turquoise. The front of the bag has inserts of textured leather and the back a few glass beads which I hope to stitch or bead around. Now that the bag is fully felted I am actually thinking of entering it into an Irish craft competition so probably will take some shots of various details to upload here but not post a picture of the whole bag until the entries have been short listed.
Handles for felt bags seem to be a topic that many of you are interested in at the moment. For myself I like one of two things, either a felt handle integrated into the bag itself or a handle made from another material altogether, leather, metal or wood being three excellent choices that jump to mind immediately. Contrasting materials and textures bring excitment to felt so keep your eyes peeled to see what unusual items you may come across that could be put to good use as a handle. I also like my bags to have a couple of different options for use if at all possible, handbag, backpack and/or shoulder bag all rolled into one. To this end I sometimes incorporate a loop into the back of my bags, this may then be strung with a long felt cord to form a backpack although obviously it depends on how the integrated handles are incorporated if this is to work successfully. Now, how to integrate rolled felt handles so that they are totally strong, don’t stretch, will stand up to practically any hardship and most importantly last for many years! For strong sturdy sculptural bags the alsolute best method that I have ever used is what I learnt from Lyda Rump at Felt in Focus in Denmark last summer. Felt your handle/handles totally until they are extremely hard and there is no shrinkage left leaving all the ends dry. Lay out your bag in three layers, layer 1 merino, layer 2 a strong and coarser wool such as C1 or Icelandic and layer 3 merino again. Wet and soap lightly between each layer and after you have laid your second layer fluff out the dry ends from your handle/handles and place into position. Don’t forget to allow for the fact that your bag will shrink, the handles should not shrink any further or only a very small bit if they are still a little soft. This is why it is so important to felt them extremely firmly before inserting them! Cover the dry ends with a little more of the wool from layer 2 and needle lightly into position. Continue to lay layer 3 followed by your surface decoration and when you start to felt your bag pay special attention to the ends of the handle/handles and make sure that they felt into place exactly where you want them to end up. As your bag felts and gets stronger pull and rub at the base of the handles to make them extremely strong and well integrated. Another great method for handles is to cut your resist out but don’t actually remove any felt. You then need to stretch the opening in such a way as to form your handles and then felt them fully. Both Elaine and Carmen’s handles were formed in this way at our recent complex bag workshops and loads of books on felting give different ways of cutting to achieve this result. Have a look at the images of Elaine laying out her wool (from my recent posts) and then her wearing the finished bag, this should give you an idea of what I am talking about if you don’t have any suitable books.
Sunday was the second and final day of our complex bag workshop and the end of three brilliant days felting with Lyda Rump. Because Cristina and I had worked well into Sunday morning to complete our bags we had a great opportunity to try something else whilst watching Elaine and Carmen’s bags taking shape as they felted and fulled. I decided to make a small felt vessel which had been in my mind for a while and Lyda showed me how to design the template to give me the result I was aiming for. Sometimes another brain or a bit of lateral thinking makes all the difference because I would have used a round resist myself and cut the opening down the middle in a wave, Lyda suggested an oval resist with a wavy top edge and this proved to be an entirely better option. What it is to have artistic ability combined with years of experience!
Vessel in progress
Carmen and Elaine worked on the various parts of their bags by rolling, pulling, stretching and spot fulling with a felting mouse. When the bags were almost finished they were rinsed thoroughly in clear water and then put to drain in my washing machine with a towel to add a bit of friction and weight. Doing this does not shrink the felt any further but it does remove a significiant amount of water and then you can work the felt further if you want or just stretch to shape and leave it to dry if you are happy that it is fulled enough.
Elaine, Lyda and Cristina showing off the felt bags!
I don’t have a picture yet of Carmen’s finished bag as she decided to do the final shaping at home and felt a beautiful scarf during the last hour or so of the afternoon. More about this in my next post and also some discussion about the various handle options when creating a felt bag.
I would like to say a really big thank you all for leaving such lovely comments about my own complex bag! It is great to be able to feel so connected to everyone through the medium of the internet and I really appreciate you taking the time to leave your thoughts, tips and advice!!
I’ll leave you with an image Lyda took as I was preparing my small vessel on the gravel for a photo, it gives a good overhead view of the scalloped edges of the opening.