Up-cycling mohair off cuts into little felt pouches and hard at work organising my new online presence!

My sister Lizzy requested a little cell phone holder as one of her Christmas presents and since this proved to be a big hit with various members of the family I decided to get in gear and felt some more! Working with woven mohair off cuts from Cushendale Woollen Mill and a few scraps of silk I laid out a simple design on top of two layers of finnish wool (thanks Chrissie!) and created a piece of flat felt. The completed felt was nice but not very exciting and that’s where the fun began, I got out my sewing machine!!!

Free machine embroidered pouch

Selecting just a few embroidery threads with a lovely high sheen I stitched simple shapes in both contrasting and complimentary colours on top of the silk and highlit various squares of the mohair off cuts. As learnt during a workshop with Lisa Klakulak at ‘Felt in Focus’ in Denmark last July, by stitching in a particular way it is possible to raise the surface area of the felt and create added texture and interest. Beautiful buttons picked up with Kirsten Lang in Odense completed the last two pouches and now I have four more pieces of felt completed just waiting for some stitching today. I do love how in places the stitching echos the shapes of my dry stone walls, free form but effective I think!

Finally for today, I am in the process of organising my online presence to work in the most effective manner possible during 2012 and from this time forth. In effect this means that I have joined Pinterest (check it out, it’s addictive!), set up a Tumblr blog (a little like Twitter for bloggers!), am working on my Big Cartel store and will be reactivating my Etsy shop, busy, busy time indeed!!!  Do please follow me on these new sites if you are interested, they will keep you up to date with all my activities in addition to my biggest love which as you already know is felting!!!

Stitching, finishing and framing felt plus a question I am hoping to find an answer to!

I started this morning by free machine embroidering a couple of abstract felt landscapes.  It’s difficult for me to decide when enough is enough with this sort of work, my personal preference has always been for NO stitching or embellishing but I do realise that not everyone feels the same way!

Stitching into an abstract felt landscape - the background colour is a richer purple but I find it hard to capture accurately

After Lisa Klakulak’s wonderful workshop at Felt in Focus I have really been trying to stretch myself in this direction, luckily Carmen arrived half way through the morning and was just in time to stop me stitching on some glass beads too, even she said that they were one step too far!!!  Once the stitching was finished I needed to iron one piece to flatten it a little and then frame them before packing them all away for taking to Carlow tomorrow afternoon.  I like my textiles displayed within a simple white frame without any glass covering the felt and feel that being so tactile they are definitely best displayed in a manner to invite the viewer forwards and tempt them to touch!  Sticking some pieces of velcro to the mount I offer the felt up to the hook side (of the velcro), press it in place and voila, the work is framed.   If this is not making total sense there are some pictures of the process I use in the section about displaying felt in ‘From Felt to Friendship’.

Why are these pieces heading in to Carlow tomorrow afternoon?  The Blueprint group that I am a member of is having a Christmas exhibition with a theme of urban and rural landscapes, the work is juried and curated and I would love to have one of these new pieces accepted.  I almost forgot, I actually ordered a batch of name tags this afternoon to stitch into bags and on the back of framed pieces, I don’t think that they will be ‘pretty’ enough to stitch inside vessels or on to scarves so this begs the question do any of you know where it is possible to order personalised tags online that look gorgeous and don’t cost an arm and a leg???  Thanks!

Rex trots through the flood outside my door this morning!

I’ll leave you with a picture of Rex plodding through the water outside my house this morning!  Following on from this it rained ALL morning but thankfully has now cleared up and is actually warm and humid, amazing.

I never thought the day would arrive ……

Many of you know that any kind of sewing has always brought me out in a dreadful sweat and for donkeys years I have sworn NEVER to stitch for pleasure.  I did however break the habit of a lifetime this summer in order to participate in Lisa Klakulak’s wonderful workshop at ‘Felt in Focus’, it was time to stretch my mind!  I always admired Lisa’s beautifully detailed sculptural pieces and free machine embroidery on thick pieces of hand rolled felt just seemed to attract my attention this year, once I actually got to grips with it I actually found that I quite enjoyed the experience!

Selling 4 of the 5 stitched felt seascapes I had on exhibition during Kilkenny Arts Festival made me realise that there is definitely an appreciation for this type of textile art.  I never thought the day would arrive but I decided this week to invest (heavily as  it turned out!) in a specialist straight stitching machine which has the capabilitiy to stitch through amazingly thick layers of felt effortlessly.  This means that not only can I sew through multiple layers of wool but I can also stitch right up to and around thick sections of felt and in this way emphasise and enhance highly textured surface details.    John from Sewing Machines Ireland in Waterford provided expert assistance in my choice of machine.  He said that he wouldn’t dream of supplying me with a machine unless I subjected it to rigorous testing and see if it would be suitable for the type of work I was thinking of so off I went armed with felt on Wednesday afternoon, the intention was to try out a second hand industrial Pfaff complete with knee lift.

Felt prior to stitching

In the event the Pfaff was great but John suggested a new machine he had in stock might actually be even more specifically suited to what I had in mind, drum roll please for the Janome 1600P QC!!!  It is like sewing with a Rolls Royce, incredible, even I liked using it!!!!!  I’m not going to bore you with all the features which make this machine so special for me but suffice to say I can stitch over CRATERS and MOUNTAINS effortlessly and I suspect it would take a total blundering idiot to break it, it weighs a tonne.  For anyone intending in sewing anything other than a straight stitch this is not the machine for you.  Because I knew that the only other possible use I would put it to would be to stitch up the seams of some simple nuno felt clothing it appears as if it is a match made in Heaven!  Anyway, I bit the bullet and invested in the Janome, I am not regretting my descision and have already finished stitching one piece as per the posted pictures.  I will however have to get my finger out, making a return on such a big investment (big for me!) means a heavy work schedual over the coming months and getting my Big Cartel shop stocked but you might ask what’s new???  I love my work!

Felt with free machine embroidery

Printing workshop update, post party news and the innocent big knit

There’s still so much information to share about what I was working on at both the second day of the Kirsten Lundberg printing workshop during Felt in Focus and at the book launch party with Chrissie last weekend but I’ve finally realised I am never going to have enough time to write everything down here on the blog!!!  It’s difficult to be brief but if I’m not I am never going to be able to update you all with the most important info and in turn I’m never going to be able to actually have my planned ‘staycation’, more about that next post!  So, here is a synopsis of the techniques I sampled during day 2 of Kirsten’s amazing workshop …..

  • The use of different binders on silk and cotton with the intention of creating a resist through which fibres would not migrate when working on nuno felt.  These binders could be white, transparent or opalescent and all could have pigments added to change the colour.  They could be applied in a variety of ways such as rollers, screen printing or painted directly on the fabric.
  • The use of a ‘glue’ to add text and images from magazines.
  • The use of a ‘glue’ to add metallic foil.
  • We discussed rust dying and had a look at various samples.

My main focus over the course of the 2 days was to print two similar but slightly different pieces of fabric basing my design on the dry stone walls surrounding me here at Clasheen.  I will be blogging about this further because in a couple of weeks I am going to be combining these with a variety of different coloured wool to see how best to replicate the texture and effect of the walls as I imagine them in my head, I’ll keep you posted.  Now, on to the party.  A big thanks to …..

  • Everybody who attended and helped make the day so special for Chrissie and me and added to the wonderful Irish style party atmosphere!
  • All who so generously brought gifts of salad, flowers, wine, soft drinks, yummy deserts and all thoses yummy extras that went to make the buffet table so tasty, you know who you are!!!
  • Nigel and Alan who carted tables, road signs and all the hardware kind of stuff around both before and after the party.
  • Those essentialtal washer upers including Elizabeth Cope, Suzanne, Shaz and Nigel.
  • Chrissie and Nigel for being such fun, isn’t the power of the internet amazing???
  • Good friend Martin Lyttle who introduced me and Chrissie for us to officially launch the book.
  • All those of you who bought the book and those of you who now have to order online because we sold out, thanks!

Chrissie and me revealing the front and the rear of our ewe!

After we both spoke a few words Chrissie presented me with the choice of two identically wrapped parcels, here is a picture of us as we revealed what each one contained, my parcel contained the front end of a sheep and Chrissie’s the rear!!!  Thanks Chrissie for such a well thought out gift, each picture means something by itself but together they make a whole.

As a result of hearing our story about meeting through the internet Sue Nunn kindly invited us both to join her for a slot on ‘The Sue Nunn Show’ before Chrissie and Nigel travelled home on Monday morning.  Thanks Sue for the invitation and allowing us the opportunity to chat and speak about our love of felting, we had a great time!!!  During the course of the programme we discovered that Sue and KCLR are participating in ‘the innocent big knit’, a movement to help keep older people warm in Ireland this winter.  We know that felting isn’t knitting but since crochet hats are accepted too Chrissie and I thought we would put the word out there that we are both felting hats to give to Sue, would anyone like to join us in supporting this worthwhile cause???  If you do decide to help out we need the hats to be with Sue before the end of the first week in October.  I am going to suggest that anyone who wishes to participate felt your hat/hats, post them to me (Nicola Brown, Clasheen, Ballybrack, Borris, Co. Carlow, IRELAND) to arrive no later than the last week in September, I will blog about them and take photos then deliver them in person to Sue before the final date.  Do please let me know if you are participating then I can keep an eye open in my post box!!!  Thanks!

Workshop number 2 at Felt in Focus

The second workshop that I participated in at Felt in Focus was brilliantly facilitated by Kirsten Lundbergh, ‘Print, Paint and Reserve on Silk for Nuno Felting’.  In my innocence I somehow arrived to this two-day workshop with the idea that we would be printing with acid dyes, duuh, Kirsten soon put me right!!!

We started the first morning  getting to know a little bit about Kirsten’s background, really this deserves a whole post to itself but in a nutshell this is an amazing story about quitting a large and successful printing/dying business to spend 13 years teaching women living in remotest Africa (several hours from any electricity, water or facilities) how to dye cloth using simple environmentally friendly methods then showing them how to start micro businesses and bring their product to market.  I found this an absolutely fascinating and inspiring story, it also made us all realise that with the barest minimum of materials and facilities everyone should be able to print successfully without causing any harmful damage to the environment or society.  As a result of this experience all the products Kirsten works with herself and sells through her current business are totally non toxic to use.  It’s very refreshing to know that when working with children and indeed students no special precautions need to be made when printing, very refreshing also if you do tend to be a bit glib like I am!

Kirsten mixing binder and pigment

Moving on from Kirsten’s background we learnt a little about the pigments and binders we would be using.  These binders are the base to which pigments are added prior to printing or painting on your chosen fabric, my presumption re acid dyes had already flown out the window by this stage!!!  Depending on the end result we wanted to achieve there were different binders for silk, cotton, adding an opaque colour, transparent colour, opalescent colour, solid white etc., etc., etc. as well as glue type binders to aid transferring image from print to fabric, magnetic foils, the list goes on and on.  One of the most fascinating was a binder that allows you to print designs (either with or without colour) onto the fabric thereby creating a resist and then when nuno felting no wool can migrate through these areas, the second binder I fell in love with is made exclusively for Kirsten’s and means you can print on silk without altering the structure of the fabric at all, wonderful!!!  More anon …..

Wrap up from Lisa Klakulak’s felt jewellery workshop and book review in Living Crafts Magazine

Another few days have gone by since I promised to post more pictures of the pieces I worked on at Lisa’s felt jewellery workshop, time just seems to be running as fast as ever so sorry if any of you have been waiting.  I had debated a variety of large neckpiece options but finally decided on an oversized ‘pendant’ to be worn either on a thick felt torc or with a scarf wrapped through the bail, a new word I learnt and you can check out the meaning here if you don’t already know it too!

Oversized torc and neckpiece

Because my first piece didn’t have the shrinkage I was hoping for or expecting I did have to revise my ideas for the pendant, I still made it oversized but that’s OK, I like my pieces to make a statement!!!  Unfortunately I didn’t ask anyone to take any pictures of me wearing it with my own camera but to get an idea of the scope of the project there is an image of me and my friend Birgit Kiems taken on the night of the gala dinner at Felt in Focus on Facebook, you can have a look at Birgit’s pictures here.  Be prepared, it’s not the most flattering image of me, eyes half closed and tummy sticking out!  Iam also in the process of uploading more images to Flickr, these show a little more detail of various parts of the free machine stitching, now that I am home I will also take some pictures of the torc minus the pendant.

Thanks to Pardis and all at Living Crafts Magazine for giving Chrissie and I the thumbs up for our new book ‘From Felt to Friendship’ in the summer 2011 issue!  Here is what they said ….. “This gem of a felting book is for those who are beyond the beginner stage and are looking for inspiration for more adventurous projects.  It is written as a guide to encourage the more experienced felter to experiment and ‘play’ more freely.  It is rich with many beautiful projects and diverse techniques.”  THANK YOU!!!

The next time I post here I am going to talk a little about the fascinating time I had participating in Kirsten Lundbergh’s printing workshop, the possibilities are now endless with creating my own designs on fabric especially when you combine these new methods (new to me!) with the dying skills I learnt from Horst

Teaser photo, thanks a bunch and weekend felting workshop

Here is a teaser photo from my main neckpiece completed during Lisa Klakulak’s workshop, more tomorrow!

Free machine embroidery using a selection of threads and differing tensions

Thanks a bunch for all the positive comments about my first adventures into free machine embroidery, much appreciated.  I really wanted to push myself with the workshops I participated in at FIF but wasn’t expecting to have so much fun with the sewing, ah well, it’s never too late to teach an old dog new tricks!!!

Lastly for today, don’t forget that I am facilitating a felting workshop at The Yarn Room in Ashford, Co. Wicklow this Saturday, the perfect way to release your creative inner spirit.  Why not pop along for a relaxing day of felting fun???