July workshops and saffron wrap plus a rare recommendation for the weekend!

This July I am teaching 2 workshops in the wonderful new space at The Yarn Room in Ashford, Co. Wicklow.  ‘Revisiting the Basics of Wet Felting’ takes place on Saturday July 16th and ‘Nuno Felt Scarves’ the following week on Saturday 23rd, full details available by clicking on the relevant links.  This is a great opportunity for anyone living within striking distance of Ashford to have a really fun day out, beautiful Mount Usher Gardens are opposite this amazing, yarn and fibre filled shop/studio,  Avoca Handweavers run the restaurant there, what more could one want???

Saffron wrap

I finally exhausted all the dye from my large dye bath and ended up with this softly coloured saffron wrap.  The lighter coloured section is how it looks in reality and not a reflection on the camera lens, I held the centre of the scarf in the dye bath for longer than both ends and the tips of the cords then were returned to sit in the dye for the longest time until no more colour appeared to be left.  The tones are not as saturated as the jacket and bags but the softness is really appealing, I LOVE this dying lark now!!!  In order to get no obvious lines where the colour graduates I keep moving the piece up and down where I want the change of tone to be and just keep an eye out to make sure I am getting subtle variations and not a hard line or stripe, hope this helps Nessa!

The Tall Ships in Waterford 2011

Finally as I head off to make Cristina’s bed and pack my bags, a rare recommendation not felt related, I always try to keep this blog to topic but for once I just can’t hold my whist!  Visit the Tall Ships Race and Festival in Waterford this weekend if you are anywhere near Ireland, it is just an AMAZING experience!!!!!  Alan and I headed down for the opening evening last night expecting to amble around, enjoy some food and head home after a couple of hours, as well as doing all of the above we attened an amazing (and free!) Bryan Ferry concert (there are 4 stages playing wonderful artists) and stayed until the incredible firework display was over at about 11pm, magic!  Check out the website for a full list of the weekend events.  Car parking including a catalogue and shuttle bus only costs E10 per car, incredible value and how special it will be to see all the ships sail off for the race on Sunday morning???  Not to be missed if at all possible I think, enjoy.

Off to pack now for Felt in Focus, will keep you all up to date via my phone!


Nuno felting today!

I’ve been to the library, discovered I’ve won some gorgeous hand spun from my buddy Heather, run a wash, stocked up on brown soda bread and milk as well as 100 dressmakers pins this morning (more in a minute) and now I’m ready for a FULL DAY felting and possibly dying too, woo hoo!  I still need to catch up on emails, paperwork and many more other household tasks left over from the manic last weeks but for today that is it, no more procrastinating but rather creating and playing with fibre!!!

Nuno texture and merging colours

On Friday I shared with Gerda an experiment in nuno felting using a technique I hope to offer in workshops this Autumn.  Basically it involves using a tumble dryer for some of the steps therefore meaning that anyone with physical limitations or a tendency to get tired rubbing and rolling will have this stage of the process either eliminated altogether or cut down to no more than ten minutes in total!  Chrissie and I will be publishing a new book prior to Christmas (click here to check out a preview of our first book From Felt to Friendship if you are interested in what we have been up to so far) and this time concentrate on simple ideas for designing and felting your own clothing with a view to flattering your personal shape, not that ‘perfect’ shape we all aspire to but most of us never achieve!!!

Anyway, back to Friday and the nuno top I made.  Working in white ponge silk and undyed 26 micron I laid out a front and back side of my top basing the design on a scaled up version of a favourite wardrobe staple.  By using only white raw materials for the main layout area I was able to lay out the fibres really quickly, get on to the felting, piece my top together (thanks Gerda, you kept me sane, bought more much needed pins this morning!) and then have great fun dying using Horst’s wonderfully simple method of achieving graduating colours with no stress at all.  Having the correct equipment now for my studio and working with Horst again over the course of our large felt garment workshop as well as observing friends Jan Durham, Dawn Edwards and Sharon Costello from The Tin Thimble in action during my US trip has given me the confidence to set up my dying station in the kitchen and just ‘get on with it’ myself.

My plan for the next few days is to felt and dye at least two pieces to be used for the fashion show at Felt in Focus next week, I leave for Copenhagen on Friday so I’m off now to get started!!!  Thanks Cristina for house sitting while I will be away, Rex will be thrilled.

It’s 12.30 at night ….. and surprise meeting this afternoon!

It’s 12.30 at night and I have finally made Horst and Gina’s beds, Kirsten’s will just have to wait until tomorrow evening!  I still have about another hour of organising/tidying to go but I must say that Dawn’s ultimate method of shoving everything into a closet or chest of drawers when you run out of time is getting more appealing by the minute, my only problem is that I don’t have enough storage to hold everything, pity, hmm!!!!!

I did get to have a lovely lunch and chat with Cristina earlier in the day (lunchtime I think but the hours are now blurring into one) and then had a surprise phone call from the wonderful Australian felter Pam de Groot.  Would you believe that Pam was at Cushendale Woolen Mill in Graiguenamanagh at the same time that Cristina and I were sorting out a lot of the logistics for Horst’s workshop?  We did manage to meet for a coffee and a chat however in Kilkenny and discovered that we are both booked in for Lisa Klakulak’s workshop at Felt in Focus!!!

Has anyone ever felted with etamine??? Feedback please!

Last summer at the Felt in Focus symposium in Denmark Lyda Rump had some wonderful hand dyed fabric the like of which I had never seen before and which she explained to us was called etamine, it was 100% wool.  I do remember that Lyda said it was particularily suited to shibori (in a washing machine??) and also for using discharge paste to remove selected areas of colour, have any of you had a go???  Trying to do a bit of research on the internet did disclose that wool etamine is good for nuno felting but the info is sketchy and I am looking for some feedback.  Wollknoll are now selling etamine scarves and fabric by the metre and my latest order has just arrived this morning complete with 4 of the scarves, unfortunately the colour I wanted from a bolt must have been out of stock so I don’t have any small samples to practice on as I had expected.  At E12.50 plus P&P the scarves are not a cheap raw material so if any of you have some advice about the possible shrinkage rate, results you have had, pictures of work you have created etc. and are happy to share here that would be great thanks!

As an aside, if you are interested in having a peak at the video I created for Kelly recently for the Going Green Swap with a Twist on Ravelry head on over here to Clasheen Uncut!

Off to tangle with some super soft yak (and short film to watch)

It’s wet and windy outside today and I can quite see why those yaks need to grow a soft undercoat during the winter months to keep themselves all warm and snug!  Luckily I was able to buy some beautiful soft yak fibre from Blas and Jamie at Urban Fauna Studio recently and now is the afternoon to put it to the test and make a soft and chic winter scarf or cowl for myself.  I had brought two colours home with me, Carmen choose an unusual blue which means that I am left with (ha, ha) a beautiful blend of olive green, just 61g which is not a lot to spare but I hopefully by the time I post tomorrow I will have some pictures taken to show you the results. 

This morning was spent tidying up more of the studio but a body needs a break sometimes and since the wind is blowing up a storm disallowing any outdoor phtography today the felting table calls, wouldn’t you agree??  Still no sign of my own camera under all the mess and at this stage I am beginning to wonder if it will ever turn up again.  It is especially frustrating as not only did I love the camera (it was a present from Alan) but my pictures from my trip to Felt in Focus were still on the card as were some from another friend who had problems with her own camera in Denmark as well.  I wanted to finish posting about making the large felt sculpture and was hoping the pictures would say it louder than words!

For those of you interested in climate change and how it impacts on our environment you may be interested in viewing my friend Cathy FitzGerald’s new short film  ‘once i counted birds’.  This short has been entered in the UK Guardian Newspaper’s worldwide 1 minute to save the world film competition and selected films will be screened at the Copenhagen Climate Change summit in December.  If you enjoy the film please please vote for Cathy by rolling your cursor over the stars  (you can vote until the 7 November) and please feel free to forward the link to any friends you think might like it!

Catching up with news, felt lampshade workshops, any felters in California?

Well I have so much news to write about and only so much time to do it in!  Sigrid travelled back to Germany on Thursday after a wonderful 2 weeks together here at Clasheen and since then I am trying to catch up on household chores, complete my 450+ flowers for ‘Sculpture in Context’, submit a proposal for a craft exchange to Norway and make and submit my entry for an international felt exhibition ….. all these have to be completed before Thursday 27th, some by August 24th!  On September 2nd ‘Sculpture in Context’ opens and on the following morning Alan and I fly to San Fransisco for a 4 week road trip, woo hoo, I am really excited to be travelling to the States for another vacation!

OK, let’s take all these things in order and then I will follow up with some more detailed posts over the coming week to bring you all up to speed with events here in Ireland as well as posting about Anna Gunnarsdottir’s wonderful 2 day ‘felt sculpture’ workshop at ‘Felt in Focus’

Sigrid Bannier’s 2 day felt lampshade workshop went brilliantly, each participant made at least one completed piece with some creating several items over the course of the weekend.  The most useful knowledge gained from this workshop for me was realising how you could adapt basic light fittings and put them to many uses when deciding how to create your lampshades or light fittings. 

Anne with her finished felt lampshade

Anne with her finished felt lampshade

Some participants came armed with a clear idea of what they wanted to achieve and Sigrid was very good at enabling people see how their thoughts could be turned into reality.  Other people had no preconcieved ideas and let Sigrid’s photos and the basic lamp fittings dictate what their finished piece would be like.  The simplest ideas often work the best and by hanging a very fine piece of light coloured felt in front of a wall light beautiful effects can be achieved.  Gerd (who had only felted once before!) incorporated fresh rushes (a type of grass found in boggy ground) into her wall piece and initally had intended creating two lampshades using this method.  Half way through the process she decided to keep the felt as one piece to hang in front of her double height window allowing the natural light to shine through the felt and reveal the gorgeous pattern created by the vegetation.  More images of work in progress and finished pieces from this workshop may be found on  Flickr and when Carmen and Patricia have finished their flower covered shades I promise to take pictures and post them as well!

This is just an off chance but are any of you living in the upper part of California and if so would you be interested in me delivering a felt workshop during the month of September???  Alan and I will be travelling to San Fransisco on 3rd September for 4 weeks and participants from a local Irish stone symposium will be staying in my house for the duration.  This is a win win situation as my friend and well known sculptor Eileen MacDonagh has organised participants from the symposium to house sit during my trip, for these people they get a great location and free accomodation for the month while I get my house minded and my dog fed!  Alan and I are collecting a car in San Fransisco and our intended route extends northwards to encompass amongst others Napa, Mendocino, Redwood National Park, Lava Beds National Monument then travels south through Lassen Volcanis National Park, Yosemite National Park, Mono Lake and returns to San Fransisco via the Big Sur coastline.  If any of you are interested in the possibility of me teaching a felting workshop please email me asap and we can discuss the various options.  It would be absolutely amazing to meet some followers of the blog in person so do please contact me or leave comments if you live anywhere near where we are travelling and who knows we might get time for a coffee and a chat!

Large felt sculpture workshop!

The second felt workshop that I participated in at ‘Felt in Focus’ was fairly large felt sculptures with Anna Gunnarsdottir from Iceland.  This was a brilliant experience and taught me a totally new way of looking at resists!  As with Lyda’s complex bag workshop I am going to cover what we did over several posts and this is also a good way for me to revisit all that I learnt over the 2 days.  (Please bear with me as I am having computer problems, it keeps closing and I think that I need to get it ‘attended’ to by an expert or else I will go potty!)

Two of Anna's felt sculptures

Two of Anna's felt sculptures

Anna’s large sculptural pieces are amazing and it was very exciting to learn the technique of felting large objects, my head is now full of shapes and I am just waiting for the arrival of Icelandic wool to really go crazy experimenting at home.  Once everyone had introduced themselves and explained what they hoped to get out of the workshop Anna explained and demonstrated how she stitches layers of plastic resist together to form the template for her felt objects.  I was lucky that reknowned Irish felter Elizabeth Bonner had participated in the first workshop so I had the advantage of watching her work progress and learn from any observations and tips.  The biggest help to me was knowing that creating a symmetrical template was easiest and then stitching straight up the central line as opposed to joining the layers with a curved line would be the simplest option.  Anna encouraged everyone to think outside the box when deciding on our shape and I although I had toyed with the idea of using my backpack template this proved too large to deal with in the two days allocated.   My choice therefore was a bit like a rounded figure of eight on it’s side, complete with two bumps on each surface that I intended embellishing with horse hair.  This workshop was also a great opportunity to experiment with new fibres and fishskin.  Anna had a great selection of horse hair and dyed salmon, wolf fish and cod skin, other participants had brought raw fleece and various found objects to play around with.  To be cont …. including pictures of my template and work in progress!

‘Felt in Focus’ group on Flickr and Sigrid Bannier’s arrival on Thursday

Before I left Denmark to travel home to Ireland I borrowed Holly’s computer and set up a Flickr group for ‘Felt in Focus’.  The idea for this is that the participants and organisers can share photos and continue friendships by participating in the discussion board through the group.  Why not have a look at the photos for yourself to get a flavour of what the various workshops had to offer?  I emailed the organisers today and hopefully they will be forwarding the info about the new group on to everyone who attended and over the next few weeks we should see a lot more images of work in progress and the finished items!

Sigrid arrives on Thursday and I am looking forward to catching up and learning from her again!  There are still a couple of places available for the nuno mosaic workshop on 5th, incorporating found objects into your felt on 6th and the lampshade 2-day workshop on 7th and 8th August.  Please contact me if you are interested in attending, all materials are provided and fun is guaranteed!

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.

‘Felt in Focus’, a mind blowing symposium!

Well, it is going to be impossible to relate all the excitement of ‘Felt in Focus’ on the blog but I am going to try!  I have decided to write quite a few posts over the next two weeks documenting the experience from start to fininsh.  Hopefully you will get a flavour of how fantastic the experience was and also learn a some of the amazing tips of the trade that I picked up along the way!!  On Sunday 4th I joined 15 other members of Feltmakers Ireland at Dublin Airport and by 17.30 we were happily checking in at our accomodation on site at Glamsdalens Idraetsefterskole in Denmark.  Every last little detail was taken care of through out the week by the amazing organisers and by 18.00 140 participants were enjoying our first 5 star meal in the large communal dining room.

Our first meal together

Our first meal together

You might be able to see from the image that there is only one man in the room, totally there were 3 men on the organisational side of things and only one male tutor, amazing considering that in many areas of the world felting is really a male occupation.  We enjoyed superb food throughout the week, it would actually be impossible to convey how fantastic it was (including amazing and innovative vegeterian fare) but suffice to say that EVERYBODY said they would rate it as 5 stars and I had three portions of a particular desert one night and I don’t really eat any sweet things after a meal at all!!  At 19.00 we had a welcome address and presentation of the teachers in the main hall and between 20.00 and 21.30 the symposium was officially opened by Jytte Ablidstrom and Birgitte Krag.  Wine and beer were available to purchase from the information stand in the evenings so after a bit of a chat and a glass or two everyone said a quick good night and headed off to bed.  My next post will start to document the fantastic complex bag workshop that I took with Lyda Rump and relate more about the participants and teachers that made the event so special.