Felt bags, slippers, order arrives and snow melting after 17 days!

Spent a happy day felting and stitching with Carmen today, bags and more bags, photos tomorrow. Yesterday I managed to drive down my road for the first time in 17 days, snow currently melting but loads forecast for weekend and into next week again. Oil arrived yesterday, my wool has arrived, I stocked up with fuel for my stove and had the last session with Borris Active Retirement. Check out the wonderful booties Dorothy made for her little grandaughter’s Christmas presents by clicking on my Flickr link to the right! Will write a proper post tomorrow on the computer, sending this via my phone!

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Wow, brilliant felting workshop in Mullingar last Sunday!

Thanks to Anna for organising such an artistic and fun group of people for the beginner’s felting workshop in Mullingar on Sunday.  I am going to finish blogging about my large felt sculpture but until I get time to finish shaping and fulling the piece after Lyda Rumps’s vist and workshops this week the next stage of documenting the process will have to go on hold!  For the Mullingar workshop we were lucky enough to be able to use the facilities at the Educate Together primary school, in exchange I facilitated a felting morning for the sixth class pupils on Monday, more about that and a picture later. 

Atsuko's piece prior to wetting out

After I had explained the basic felting principles and shrinkage rates etc. participants decided what flat felt project they wanted to create.  We had several felt wallhangings, two pairs of stitched slippers, one folded and stitched bag to match a new coat, one experimental felt lampshade (which made a stunning but delicate light felt wrap!) and then one interesting felt pod which was designed to be a sun glasses case but could in fact be purly decorative or used to protect a variety of small treasures.

I wanted everyone to work at their own pace and in their own style, the finished work far exceeded my imagination and it was amazing to think that this was actually a beginner’s workshop and not an advanced class!  Anna had said that Sunday’s participants were all artistic, check out the full batch on photos on Flickr and I think we will have to ammend that to VERY artistic!!!

The following morning I was back at the school, the full compliment of 24 sixth class pupils were in attendance and felted an OUTSTANDING wallhanging, there must be something in the water in Mullingar!  This class will be the first to graduate since the school was opened six years ago so for them it was an exciting opportunity to create a lasting memento which will now be embellished and hung for posterity somewhere in the public area of the building.  Each pupil created a beautiful and individual piece of felt to signify something personal and of meaning to them.   They then decided how we would lay out the work and the mammoth task started of laying out a white wool background and felting the whole piece together.  Realistically this was a very ambitious project for anyone nevermind 11 to 13 year olds who had never handled raw wool in their lives before!  Interestingly one of the pupils was from Mongolia and as a younger child had seen her grandmother felting, brilliant to think that she can move to another part of the world and actually participate in the process as a united class activity. 

AMAZING large felt wallhanging!

Because of parental consent etc. I am not going to put up pictures of the pupils actually making the hanging (they will follow if all the parents are happy to give permission), here is the completed hanging however and I am so pleased looking back through the pictures at all we achieved on a cold and frosty Monday morning!  Triona (their class teacher) is now going to work with the pupils embellishing the hanging with stitches, beads and various found objects before adding a pole and hanging the work for all the other staff, pupils and parents to enjoy.  Although we didn’t measure the finished work at a rough estimate is measures 4′ X 6′, each individual pupils work is almost 1′ square!

Variations on a felt slipper (another tutorial) and announcing felting workshop for Mullingar!

Ok, I actually have water again since last night so this morning I was able to complete another felt slipper project and this time incorporate some wet felting to finish!  The pictures really are self explainatory but it’s important to note that the rectangle of felt I started with was NOT fulled well (an early experiment using batts) and this is how I was able to wet felt hard to finish the slippers.  

Cutting in thirds and one third in half

This time I cut the rectange into three and then divided one third in two again, doing this ensured that I would never have ‘two right feet’ again! 

Adjusting the length

I sliced a bit off the back of the slippers as when I tried them on before stitching the back I realised that they were going to be VERY long!

I dunked the slippers (one at a time) into really hot water and soaked them before adding plenty of nice unscented soap.  Working them in my hands for a minute or two I paid particular attention to the cut edges.  Next I rolled them in my bamboo blind before working them on a washboard to shrink and set the shape.

One stitched, one half way through felting

It’s easy to see from this image that the cut edges really needed to be worked well to seal the felt.

Once I was happy that the slippers had shrunk almost to size I rinsed the soap out and and spun them in my washing machine.  To finish the shape nicely I put my feet in plastic bags (didn’t want to have to take of my tights, STILL no heat!!) and worked them for a minute or two more on the washboard and banged the edges with a wooden spoon to full them properly. 

Finished felt slip ons

Voila, my finished felt slip ons!  I am actually very happy with these as although I didn’t want to scrap one of my earliest flat felt experiments I had no idea what to do with the piece and it was languishing in my cupboard.  Now I can keep my feet warm and wear the felt with pride!  NB Check how the wool that I used to stitch the seams has also felted during the process, more pictures of the process on Flickr.

I am delighted to be invited by Anna Browne to facilitate a BEGINNERS and IMPROVERS FELTING WORKSHOP in Mullingar on Sunday 31st Janurary at the Educate Together National School in Mullingar.  If you live in the midlands and would like to attend this fun day please book directly with Anna through her blog by clicking here!  You can also see what Anna and her boys have been up to with some of my spare felt, gorgeous gifts and inventive ideas abound on her blog Anna Paints.

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!

My finished felt slippers and textile trials in our extreme weather conditions!

With the cold weather continuing and more snow forecast I made myself finish my felt slippers this afternoon. 

The finished felt slippers with latex soles

I had painted four (I think!) layers of latex on the soles allowing 24 hours between each coat, this has given an excellent ‘sticky’ sole which is both waterproof and slip resistant.  My friend Sheila Ahern from Feltmakers Ireland has a really great tip for colouring the latex, add some food colouring in the appropriate colour as you paint on the soles!  It was too late for me this time but I will definitely consider it again especially if I make slippers in dyed wool as opposed to natural colours.  As per usual I had been putting off stitching the backs of each heel AGAIN but finally all all the agonising is over and now I will be wearing these beauties tonight in front of my wood burning stove!

I still have no water here and as you can see from this photo am reduced to melting snow on top of the range if I want a cup of tea or a coffee. 

Melting snow on the range

Luckily I do have heat again so things are not as bad as they were a week or so ago but no water at all now bar melting snow means no felting until my supply resumes.  As a result, I am trying to finish off little projects that have been lurking in my conscience and during my enforced absence from felting I have also vowed to get to grips with my Ashford Knitters Loom!  This frustrating but beguiling piece of kit has had me cursing and frustrated endless times over the last afternoon and this morning.  I actually bought the loom from Stephanie at The Yarn Room with money that I earned teaching felting at one of the ‘Pick Up Your Needles’ sessions at the Courthouse Arts Centre in Tinahely, Co. Wicklow.  My thought process went something along the lines of occasionally (when I have NO water!) it is good to experiment in another textile discipline and sometimes in the future (when I master the blooming thing!) it might be interesting to combine some weaving with some felting.  Knowing as you must by now how incredibly difficult I find little fiddly things to master it is a testament to my not so great patience that I actually managed to warp the loom at all. 

Warping the loom

To be totally fair to Ashford, these Knitters Looms are excellent to work with and the included instructions are very clear and simple to follow.  I’m not going to bore you with all my selvedge difficulties, suffice to say that I found it totally impossible to get an even edge!  I know that it is my first scarf but really, it was amazingly frustrating not to even think that I was improving as the weaving progressed and the scarf got longer.  Early in the process I determined to sell the loom but as things went on I started dreaming of loads of lovely felt projects enhanced by a small piece of my very own woven fabric! 

Warm woven scarf

Time will tell whether I continue with my weaving but for the moment I have a very warm (all be it an extremely badly woven) scarf to keep me warm during this cold weather and a head full of ideas for future felt and fabric collaborations.

Latex soles for felt slippers, cold spell continues and Happy New Year!

Last night I decided not to light my wood burning stove first thing this morning and try to get some household chores out of the way as a less expensive way of keeping myself warm!  Needless to say it wasn’t long before I decided on a little textile diversion and in the continuing absense of water had a go at painting latex on the soles of some warm felt slippers which I had made for myself earlier in the year.  Those of you who are regular readers of this blog will realise it is these little finishing touches that I find very difficult to get out of the way, add in a touch of sewing and they really are my worst nightmare come to life!  Anyway, I made the slippers last spring using some gorgeous gotland (which someone has now told me might shrink further as I wear them) and I had promised myself that I wouldn’t wear them until I had added a latex sole for extra durability and waterproofing qualities. 

Painting latex on the soles of felt slippers

They also need one stitch at the back of each heel, this is to hold the tongue of felt (just visible in the picture) into a nice decorative curl, somewhat Turkish looking is what I am aiming for.  I havn’t used latex before but believe that I need to paint about 5 layers to achieve a really good sole, Tone from Ullform in Norway also said that she sprinkles a layer of ground maize (hope I have that right!) over the final coat and that this adds quite a bit of grip to the bottom of the sole. 

The heavy wind and rain from yesterday has finally abated, now we just have sleet here and snow on the mountains surrounding Clasheen.  Thankfully I managed to speak to the friend who services my Rayburn and he gave me a couple of tests to carry out which indicates that my central heating system is actually working.  I still don’t have any heat in the rads however but have now got a man organised to check the pump in the well tomorrow morning so hopefully if we can get the water going and the pressure tank up and running things might get back to normal soon.  I can only keep my fingers crossed!  Obviously from all the messages that I am receiving many of you from all over the world have your own weather difficulties, some actually having drought and excessive temperatures, the exact opposite to what we are having here.  It is nice to feel part of a wider community although obviously I would prefer if no-one had any problems in the weather department at all!

Finally I would like to wish everyone a happy and peaceful New Year.  Enjoy any festivities that you have planned for this evening and hopefully we will all have a fantastic time felting and enjoying our various art practices throughout 2010!