Felt bowl, room to improve!

I should have started a commission yesterday but after a long morning trying to sort something out on the phone (getting passed from pillar to post then just when I was getting somewhere being cut off accidentally!) I decided to call it a day and shelve the start of the project until today.

Gathering my materials, goodies from Merridee!

Instead, I decided to felt a little open topped bowl using some grey and rust coloured needle felt which was a gift from Merridee and combine this with some light chocolate coloured French landsheep wool and an unusual shiny metallic woven net knitting tape (at least I think that’s what it is), also a gift from Merridee! It was quite interesting working in colours that I wouldn’t usually put together, initially I decided to felt a wide topped bowl using the open resist method and I wanted to include a piece of my eco printed silk as detail on the silvery grey inside. I’m guessing that I need a lot more practice with this method determining the size and shape of my template because the finished bowl is not as wide at the top as I expeced and I also think that I should have used fewer layers of wool but started out with a much bigger resist. In addition to these issues, the eco printed silk didn’t combine well with the prefelt so I pulled it off mid way through the fulling process and the metallic mesh didn’t gleam as much as I expected once the bowl was fully felted.

The outside is now the inside

I think that this is primarily because the French wool is 28 micron and therefore quite hairy, I do like the texture of it however and as I was working and shaping the bowl I decided to turn it inside out and have the design on the inside and the simple brown edged grey on the outside. The French wool felted really easily and was gorgeous to lay out, I think it would be wonderful for large totes or weekend bags so if you’re interested in ordering any it’s code numbet 1464 from Wollknoll!

Anyway, enough for now as I really have to get the sleeveless jacket started, here’s a picture of the finished bowl, it’s much better this way out even if it does look a lot like a flower pot.

The finished bowl, not quite what I expected so plenty to work on


Wall hanging and felt vessel on days three and four of Dagmar’s workshop

Being inspired by Dagmar’s fine art wall hangings on exhibition in Odense, Denmark during ‘Felt in Focus’ 2009 I swore then that I’d take a workshop of hers when this was one of the projects that would be offered for participants to explore.

Working on the back of my natural white wall hanging with ‘The Modest’ felting roller from ‘niki & niki’

Thanks to US friend Susan (who didn’t manage to get into Dagmar’s 2 day Irish workshop!) who alerted me to the 6 day masterclass at Big Cat Textiles, I booked asap and in turn alerted our mutual US friend Merridee, the die was cast and the three of us all had a marvellous time!!! I knew before I headed to Scotland that I wanted to make my wall hanging in natural white with various undyed fibres for the surface decoration, this left me free to make decisions about what attachments to add and how I wanted the piece to appear structurally after I had time to mull over all the different options. The soya, silk, linen, milk protein and sea cell fibres that I used on the surface gave a nice tone on tone effect and opting for a simple style meant that I was free to try a complimentary vessel with a spiral attachment on day four.

The almost finished wall hanging, sorry about the poor quality photo

Working with an open rather than a closed resist for my vessel was a eureka moment for me!!! Strange isn’t it? Dawn uses this method almost always for her beautiful hats and it never once occurred to me to do so for a vessel. It’s a hang over from reading somewhere (a beginners felting book I think, early in the days) that it was always preferrable to totally cover the template, something to do with the pressure the edges are put under during the felting process. Well anyway, chatting to Dagmar and actually trying an open sided resist has totally changed my perspective on how I’ll felt vessels in the future, I loved the way I could manipulate the shape and the quality of the open edges was very uniform and smooth! I’m not saying that I’ll always use this method but I can now see my way clearly to felting some vessels that I’ve been itching to try but to date have only existed in my imagination, watch this space. Finishing my vessel by the time day four’s advertised time was up meant that I had several hours free that evening to measure myself (with help obviously!) and work out how large I needed my template to be for the sleeveless vest with attachments that were scheduled to be felted during the fifth and sixth days of this marvelous workshop. I’ll leave you with a picture of the finished vessel, note the subtle colour and texture from soya fibre inside the neck. Next time, the vest.

My large felt vessel with spiral

Memories of felting in Portugal, part two!

At the beginning of our first session felting I asked all the participants what was the most important technique for them to learn over the course of our week together. Working with the Bordeleira wool was going to be a new experience for all of us although I had had the opportunity myself to felt 3 small samples and one little vessel prior to arriving at Dominio Vale do Mondego. From the teaching point of view I wanted every participant to be able to leave having absorbed new skills or ways of working and most importantly having had plenty of fun!

Samples and materials laid out at the start of the workshop, picture mosaic thanks to Terriea

For the first two days we felted using washed and carded wool, flat felt pieces first then three dimensional vessels and bags of many different shapes and styles. The wool roving that we used was either a natural white or chocolate brown, it felted beautifully and it’s amazing to me it is not more widely known or appriecated elsewhere. I found that it felted every bit as quickly as mernio with an approximate rate of 25% shrinkage on pieces that I would normally achieve a rate of 33%. We incorporated a selection of other fibres with the Bordeleiera wool for added surface decoration or texture. I’d brought a lot of undyed fibres with me for everyone to share including linen, silk, milk protein, soy, banana silk, wool neps etc. and I’d also got some of my favourite mohair off cuts from Cushendale Woollen Mill, mohair waste (from the brushing process after weaving), angelina, firestar and various natural and artificial yarns to dip into as well as a few different colours of merino roving in case anyone wanted to use these too. These were displayed inside with the samples and examples of other work I’d made at the beginning of the week, from Terrie’s picture mosaic it looks as if everything was very organised, obviously knowing me you’ll appreciate that it never looked as neat and tidy again!

Sandy working on her large felt vessel

Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of our flat felt from day one or two, I think that I was concentrating so much on answering questions and making sure that the new felters had a successful first piece I forgot to take any pictures. Here’s a picture of Sandy though from day two starting to shape her piece, she’s working here on a stunning large vessel felted from the chocolate wool with a design in natural white with gold linen strands. As the week progressed we found that the Bordeleira wool was perfectly soft enough for wearables and nuno felting yet strong and easy to work with for bags and vessels.

On Wednesday morning we all visited a wonderful museum dedicated to wool and started working with the raw fleece in the afternoon. I’ll post about that next time and for now leave you with a great picture of Heather modelling one of her bags as a hat, watch out Dawn, you’ve got some competition!!!

Heather modelling her very flexible bag! Doesn’t she look great???

Photos from the Lexington workshops!

It was another exciting but calm day in Lexington as larger projects from yesterday came together and new pieces were laid out too. Donna, Lindy and Karen all felted pieces in the tumble dryer last night and worked on new pieces today and until you have tried this out for yourself it is impossible to realise how much time and effort this can save you! Check out ‘Nuno Felting with Chrissie Day and Nicola Brown’ or the downloadable book if you are interested in learning more about how to go about this and to see the proof of the pudding here is a group picture from this evening; Donna is modelling her wonderful vest, Karen her highly textured scarf and Lindy’s large piece of yardage is photographed to the left of the group.

Lindy’s yardage, Tonya, Donna, Jan, Nancy, Karen and Sandy (left to right)

A lot of interesting techniques were incorporated into the various pieces, resists laid out inside three dimensional pieces to reveal hidden details later (Tonya in an wonderful large vessel and Jan in a gorgeous bag which also includes glass nuggets), Karen incorporated beads at the lay out stage of her first resist project, Nancy felted a wonderful large purse with integrated handles and Sandy felted an incredible large wall hanging using alpaca and a selection of fabulous locks from a variety of different sheep and other animals! Check out the album I’ve created on facebook to see more of the work, congratulations everyone, you are amazing!!! I’ll leave you with a picture of Sandy’s beautiful landscape, isn’t it an amazing piece for her second ever time felting?

Sandy’s felt landscape using all cleaned but uncarded alpaca and other fibres

Saturday’s fun and productive workshop, raw wool bag, nuno felt tutorial, vessel for sale …..

On Saturday Mairead and Sharon really knuckled down to create beautiful pieces of flat felt in the morning and both felted wonderful vessels in the afternoon.  It’s always interesting sharing techniques with other artists because once I demonstrate the basic skills I love watching how participants use the creative process to get stuck in and bring their own experience to the felting table!  Sharon had never felted before and although Mairead’s art practice is often textile based wet felting is not a technique that she has had much prior experience in either.  I’ve posted images of their work to my mobile uploads on Facebook, have a look and I am sure you will agree they both did a wonderful job!

Jacob's sheep bag

I certainly enjoyed the day and I think that they both did too, in fact I was really fired up after they left and started a raw wool bag which I then had time to finish this morning.  The locks that I used were local Jacob’s and the inside is a rich raspberry coloured wool which I bought at Felt in Focus 3 years ago, it just seemed to be a perfect marriage with the rich chocolate and creamy white Jacob’s fleece!  I added a leather strap (an upcycled belt) for the handle and a cool vintage leather button for the closure.  In fact, I think that the button graced a sheepskin jacket yonks ago (isn’t yonks a great word???) so how much more appropriate could the button be than that?

Large autumn coloured felt bowl

The weather has been dreadful here for the last 48 hours.  It is so wet that I haven’t a hope of getting outside to photograph my new framed landscapes, I wanted to get them uploaded to my Big Cartel shop but the light is so poor inside (because it is LASHING outside!) that I am going to have to wait another little while.  I did however decide to upload the large autumn coloured stitched vessel that I felted for the rare breeds show at Gosford.  It’s available for $120 at the moment and if you put the code OCTATCLASHEEN in at the checkout stage you get a 15% discount until the end of this month.  This is a BIG felt vessel!!!

Finally I had a query about a video record/nuno felt scarf tutorial which I uploaded to YouTube a long time ago, here’s the link again for those of you new to this blog and who just might be interested in the info it contains!

Little felt vessel

The weather was appalling at the weekend, very wet and windy, definitely not the perfect conditions for capturing photos outside.  I did manage to take a couple of pics of the little rosehip inspired vessel I made my mother for her birthday so here it is.  Apologies if the exposure isn’t the best, I ran outside when it was only drizzling and not totally lashing as we say here in Ireland!

Little red vessel

I also thought that the colour was appropriate given that this weekend celebrated ‘Felt United’, the third international day of felt and the colours for this year were red, blue and purple.

Another rose hip felt vessel and more free machine embroidery pictures

Apologies for not posting final pictures from the weekend’s free machine embroidery workshop yesterday, tidying up just got in the way!  Seriously, the massive back kitchen/garage restructuring that I have undertaken this week is really coming along famously and I didn’t want to break stride and get sidetracked by the computer, I would NEVER have headed back to the devestation that is my garage otherwise!!!

My mother’s birthday in on Sunday and she has requested a companion piece to the little rose hip vessel (one of the pieces in ‘From Felt to Friendship’) I gave her for Mother’s Day earlier in the year.  Luckily she requested this ages ago (as she requested the original vessel!) and I was able to put some orange, red and black merino aside in a bag so fingers crossed I can make a nice piece this morning, a welcome change from all the tidying and cleaning going on chez Clasheen!  This afternoon I am playing in the last big ladies golf competition of 2011 so thinking of this I have put aside this morning for felting the vessel and hopefully a couple of new bracelets to stitch at the weekend.  I really feel that because I have invested so heavily in my machine I need to get to grips with the technicalities pdq because I obviously need to be selling work to justify the initial cash outlay.  My intention is not to stitch every piece of felt from now onwards rather understand the possibilities and see where that leads me!  Now on to some more pictures and info from Arlene Shawcross’s brilliant free machine embroidery workshop last weekend.

The finished bracelet photographed against the granite stone wall I used for inspiration

On Saturday evening when I returned home after the first day was over, I had a look in my studio to see if any of the beautiful glass buttons I brought home from the Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck last October would suit the colours of the bracelet which I had been stitching.  The loop closure is not the widest because I felt I needed to keep it in proportion to the delicacy of the stone wall design so I was delighted to discover the smallest of the buttons was a beautiful grey/blue glass with a band of deep green and iredescent gold, perfect.  It was a bit (or a lot fiddly!) to attach the button and after a failed attempt myself I have to confess that Arlene was brilliant and stitched it on for me, thanks Arlene!  Big strong hands are a huge advantage sometimes (excuse the pun) but for some jobs especially ones involving detailed sewing I just get very frustrated, ah well, one step at a time I suppose.

My next experimental project was to stitch on a dissolvable paper, very interesting.  Arlene has gorgeous samples and I thought this would be a very interesting way of creating interesting pieces to sandwich between two layers of perspex or glass, my mind was humming!  With this method I didn’t need to cross over each line of stitches to the same degree as I had with the Romeo, the second stage of the process is wetting out and removing some of the paper so being selective with this ensures that the remaining paper ‘bonds’ everything together anyway.  Adding paint to your brush and washing it lightly over the surface of the stitches and paper leads to interesting effects if you don’t make it too wet, as the water/paint dries the remaining paper stiffens around the stitching.  I loved this distressed look and will be experimenting further, below is an image of one of the pieces that I made.  The final piece that I created used a very sticky backed plastic, problems, problems with this one but a very impressive final result even if I do say so myself!  I’m going to add a few selective beads to this piece, frame it, photograph it and then blog about it so until then I’m not going to write any more about it here.

A close up of the stitched, dissolved and dried paper sample