Austin TX workshop update in pics!

Internet connectivity is zero here in the cabin at Lake Tahoe so Merridee and I have sneaked in to Tahoe City to catch some wifi, read our emails and catch up with essential online stuff. I arrived here on Monday morning having spent a wonderful week with Barbara and Sam in Austin TX, thanks guys for a really fun visit!

Cyndi, Barbara and Carolyn modelling their gorgeous nuno scarves!

The nuno scarf/wrap and vessel workshops last weekend went very smoothly, I hadn't appreciated that many of the participants had no previous felting experience until I arrived at the venue so was doubly delighted with the beautiful felt everyone created.

Stunning felt vessels and purses

It's always amazing when a group of creative people with access to the same raw materials get together, no two pieces looked alike even though everyone was working with the same instructions and the same basic shapes.

Super felt vessels and purses

Great job ladies!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two naturally printed felt vessels

Following on from my first vessel of 2014 I've felted two more since the beginning of the week, this time they've been naturally printed. I had some lovely pomegranate skins and pith left after I cooked a big lamb, date and pomegranate tagine, what better use than to add them to a pot and let their colour influence a couple of bundles?

Here's a picture of the first vessel prior to printing, it's a combination of Portugese merino, mohair locks and a silk/linen blend for surface embellishment. On FB earlier in the week I mentioned that the fibre was bamboo, not so as I discovered once I printed it, I thought it felt a little different laying it out! Anyway, the giveaway was the fact that it appeared to take colour from the pot well. Bamboo, being a cellulose fibre, usually remains white after printing adding an interesting look to the felt (which I like), silk on the other hand is a protein fibre and takes the colour well so even thought this was a silk/linen blend it didn't really achieve the effect I had intended. Not to worry, here's the finished vessel.

I like the reverse

and side views better.

The second vessel is more of a bowl shape, I used the same Portugese merino with loads of Firestar on the outside (for sheen) plus the same silk/linen blend embellishing the inside.

I used a combination of different eucalyptus and blackberry leaves for this one, you can see a blackberry leaf in the inside centre with this birds eye view.

I particularly like the strong contrast of the reddish eucalyptus against the golden tones of the pomegranate on the base. Next time I'll bundle differently but use the same materials, I'd like to get those colours on the top of a bowl!

 

First felt vessel of 2014

Yesterday I ordered the raw materials to fulfill the trade orders from Showcase and got some dreaded paperwork out of the way early in the morning. This left me free to felt my first vessel of 2014!


Every day when I walk up the lane and through the fields at Clasheen with Rex, my eyes are drawn time and time again to the beautiful lichen, moss and fern strewn dry stone walls which are a constant source of inspiration for me. It was interesting to see the night before that I was very attracted to an unusual polymer clay necklace online friend Jaroslava Zikmundova posted to FB and Etsy, I then discovered when I left a comment that it too was inspired by mosses and lichen!

Anyway, yesterday I wanted to work on an idea that I had had for a while, a felt vessel with plenty of texture and some craters. I'm planning a series of vessels incorporating some natural printing but for yesterday I just wanted to break my duck and get back to felting three dimensionally. I also wanted to use some of the lovely Portugese merino I bought at the wool factory in Guarda on a trip we made last year at the wonderful residential felting holiday at Dominio Vale do Mondego. Just as an aside, if anyone is interested in joining us for this years extravaganza don't forget to check it out and contact Karin ASAP, spaces are filling very quickly!

Here's a picture of the vessel during the early laying out stage…..

and one after I've laid out all the surface embellishments and started to felt, thanks Sue (GlitterGirl Feltworks) for the funky yarn!

Here's a picture of the almost finished vessel sitting on top of the wall, I still need to do a little work to firm up the shape. Overall I'm happy with the result, the craters would have been much better if I'd used a different method for creating them, the Portugese merino batt gives a lovely pebbly texture when felted but was a little uneven to lay out, all in all it was a pleasant way to start felting vessels for the new year.

 

Having fun felting, KSFF reflections and preparing for the workshops in Lexington!

I've been having great fun with Jan this week, scouring the local Goodwill stores for printed silk (she's still in training but a quick learner Dawn!), exchanging skills, brainstorming ideas, felting and preparing for two days of workshops in Lexington this coming weekend!

My first task was to finish felting the nuno scarf I laid out last Saturday at the Kentucky Sheep and Fiber Festival, it's really interesting to see the contrast between the scarf that Jan felted and the one I've just finished. We both chose a western inspired colour scheme of chocolate ponge silk with brown and teal shades of alpaca plus loads of Roo and Elizabeth's beautiful hand dyed bamboo for surface embellishment. Jan also added some of her own dyed cotton gauze on top of the alpaca and I used quite a lot of Firestar for added glamour and shimmer, I love them both!

At this point I have to say that I LOVED every minute of the KSFF!!! Teaching for the full day on Saturday but only half a day on Sunday was a perfect combination. I was able to have a good chat with Roo and Elizabeth on Friday evening plus check out my workshop space, having Sunday afternoon free gave me plenty of time to do the rounds of all the stands, see the animals plus pick up a tonne of yummy fibre to bring home to Ireland, not ALL for me mind you, some for Anita who's looking after my studio while I'm gone. The organisation of everything was SPOT ON, thanks so much to all the committee and helpers who were friendly, helpful and put on a wonderful event!

Yesterday I shared the open resist method of making vessels with Jan, in turn, I was inspired by a wonderful teapot she felted at a Pam MacGregor workshop to try including a handle in one of my own vessels. I love this exchange of ideas and brain storming, I've now an idea in my head for some new bags with long shoulder straps (purses!), I doubt that I'll get to felt them though until some time after I return from teaching in Portugal! This week long residential workshop is now fully booked but if you live within shouting distance of Lexington why not come and join us for our workshop here next Saturday 25th May!!! If you're interested in more information or reserving a place please email me ASAP, if you don't have any idea what to make don't panic (because I'll help you) and if you need materials in a hurry Jan will bring extra on the day if you let her know which colours you prefer.

I'll leave you today with this picture of my new vessel drying, I call it 'Ode to Pam'.

 

Wow ….. thanks and upcoming workshops at Clasheen

Wow, thanks to all of you who have been commenting and leaving such great suggestions about my current woes and successes with free machining on felt, I am going to take everything on board, promise!  Yes, I know that I have always sworn off stitching but since my class with the wonderful Lisa Klakulak this summer I seem to have lost some, but not all of my inhibitions!!!  Investing in my super-duper machine obviously has helped and in order to justify the cost I am thinking that I will be sewing for a little while yet.  I had forgotten Pam that you had problems with some of your thread at Felt in Focus, the thing that I found strange is that I had already successfully stitched another piece of felt with my shiny rayon and viscose threads, it just seemed to be the slightly squishy felt of the yellow vessel that defeated me this time.  Anyway, I will keep persevering and hopefully with time, improve!

This morning I finalised dates for some Autumn workshops here at Clasheen.  I am definitely going to be adding more workshop titles and dates (felt accessories, nuno felt, complex bags etc.) over the coming weeks but since Alan and I are still planning a week away I don’t want to jinx things and book anything for the middle/end of September just yet!  If you are a beginner or improving felter interested in honing your flat felting skills or wanting to experiment with three dimensional shapes check out the workshop page and get in touch with me asap, places are strictly limited to a maximum of 6 per session.  If clicking the workkshop page link seems one step too far, here is the info pasted below!

Saturday 17th September 2011 and Saturday 8th October WET FELTING – the basics

At this one day workshop beginners and improving felters will discover the magical world of wet felting!  Working with a selection of colourful wool and adding beautiful silk, linen and other vegetable fibres to enhance and embellish the surface design participants will each create a beautiful piece of flat felt to bring home with them at the end of the day.  Improvers will have the opportunity to learn new techniques such as adding inclusions like glass, stones and other found objects into the layout of their felt. The emphasis throughout each day will be on solid techniques learnt in a fun and creative environment.  Participants will leave with the confidence and knowledge to duplicate the process at home, learning the basics of flat felting leads to all sorts of exciting three dimensional work and nuno felting in the future!

All materials are included in the cost of E75, tea, coffee and soft drinks are provided throughout the day, participants are asked to bring their own packed lunch with them.  The workshop will start at 10am sharp and run until approx 4.30pm.   Everyone is asked to arrive about 20 minutes before the kick off time in order to meet the other participants, relax and have a welcoming hot or cold drink!  Please contact Nicola asap if you would like to reserve a place on either 17th September or 8th October, each class size is strictly limited to 6 people.

Saturday 22nd October 2011 SIMPLE VESSELS AND BAGS – the basics of seamless, three dimensional wet felting

At this one day workshop beginners and improving felters will learn and experiment with the fascinating technique of wet felting around a resist.  Working with a selection of colourful wool and adding beautiful silk, linen and other vegetable fibres each participant will have the opportunity to felt either a simple vessel or a small seamless bag.  Improvers will have the opportunity to learn new techniques such as including internal pockets and integrated handles into the layout of their felt. The emphasis during the day will be to create strong, seamless three dimensional felt in a fun and creative environment and participants will leave with the confidence and knowledge to duplicate this process at home.

All materials are included in the cost of E75, tea, coffee and soft drinks are provided throughout the day, participants are asked to bring their own packed lunch with them.  The workshop will start at 10am sharp and run until approx 4.30pm.   Everyone is asked to arrive about 20 minutes before the kick off time in order to meet the other participants, relax and have a welcoming hot or cold drink!  Please contact Nicola asap if you would like to reserve a place on 22nd October, class size is strictly limited to 6 people.

CRAFTed news, Michigan workshops open for booking and general workshop information

Laying out merino for the inside of a beret

Friday’s CRAFTed session was chaotic but fun, all the girls are going to have beautiful items to take home with them as a reminder of this transitional year at the school.  Working with 32 inexperienced felters is definitely a challange, I love the enthusiasm with which everyone is attacking their work, it does mean that Mairead (6th class teacher) and I are running all over the art room however during each session and I really hope that I am able to give each girl enough individual attention to ensure the process is an enjoyable one for everyone!  These individual projects will be completed in our last session (they include bags, cell phone covers, vessels, flat felt with/without little pockets, two scarves and one beret!) where we will also work on our collaborative wall hanging, this will be hung in the school when the girls graduate later this summer.  Because of the logistics when working with 32 beginners I am thinking that we will divide the class into three distinct groups next time, each group will rotate and have their turn to finish their individual project, create twisted yarn cords to add to their bags as well as select a square from the group piece which they will then embellish, add a pocket to or otherwise decorate with something of significance which they would like to leave behind as they leave for secondary school and move forward in life.  Not sure if this will work but I am predicting it will be easier and more sensible than having everyone working on the same task at the same time, it will also avoid me running all around the art room all the time, more concentrated effort but less stressful I think for all envolved! 

MICHIGAN WORKSHOPS – I am delighted to say that our Michigan workshops on Friday 20th and Saturday 21st May are now open for booking!  Please email the wonderful Dawn if you would like to reserve your place, I am just going to have another go uploading  the full details and descriptions to the workshop page (having problems yet again today!) so in case of further technical issues the Friday workshop is titled ‘Simple vessels, purses and other three dimensional objects’ while Saturday will be dedicated to the fascinating art of ‘Nuno Mosaic’.  One workshop will cost $140 or if both are taken the cost will be $130 per day, for more about what can be covered over two days check out the general workshop information further down this post. 

Wonderful vintage printed silk and chiffon create Marni's gorgeous textured nuno mosaic scarf!

The nuno mosaic technique was taught to me by German felter Sigrid Bannier and is a wonderful way to create memorable wraps, scarves and yardage for incredible one off pieces of clothing.  To refresh your memory (or if you are only visiting this blog for the first time!) here is an image of Marni’s amazing scarf incorporating vintage silk and chiffon from one of the Tin Thimble’s workshops last Fall, this was actually the first time ever that Marni had felted a nuno piece!  If this has not whet your appetite enough there are some more nuno mosaic images from The Tin Thimble workshops here, some from the previous Fall at Urban Fauna Studio in San Fransisco here and a few of my own nuno mosaic skirt and matching wrap here.

GENERAL WORKSHOP INFORMATION – I like to think of my workshops as a place where I share information and provide a recipe for felters to follow or adapt as they see fit!  When I am teaching I always explain that there are many ways possible to reach a similar end result, I will be sharing the methods and tips which I find work best and usually guarantee me a successful outcome, it is up to each individual participant to determine whether they want to follow exactly or adapt the steps to suit themselves.  Although each of my upcoming workshops has a title representing the main technique/techniques covered on that particular day, it will be possible for participants choosing to attend for both days to felt larger more complex projects that may not be specifically mentioned in the titles.  An example would be someone who wanted to felt a complex felt sculpture or bag using several stitched resists, another would be a person wanting to create a reversible nuno felt shrug.  If you have any queries in this respect please don’t hesitate to email me personally, I want to provide all the necessary information in order for people to make an educated descision.  As previous experience has demonstrated most participants at my American workshops are regular felters, it should be noted that all the workshops are open to total beginners so please don’t feel you can’t attend if you are just starting out learning this fascinating craft, I would love to have you come along!!!

Finally, at the risk of sounding pushy, the Kentucky workshops are now provisionally full for Saturday and only have 4 places left on Friday, if anyone is having a little think about things please don’t think for too long!!!

Thanks, picture of my recent ArtL!nks vessel drying and stiffeners at last

Thanks for all your comments re. the yoga ball, I am now wondering if my new ball has a puncture somewhere so I need to try and inflate Cathy’s with the foot pump before I go into total breakdown mode!

It is FREEZING at Clasheen this morning, still well below zero degrees and most of my windows have ice on the inside even though it is now almost lunchtime here.  I did manage to take a photo of my latest ArtL!nks piece out on the wall just to give you an idea of how much it has shrunk and also how it looks in relation to two of the previous vessels. 

Vessels increasing in diameter

The balloon is still inside until it totally dries out and as I said previously I am not 100% happy with the end result (not the nicest design and definitely not quite the shape I was looking for) but I suppose it is fruitless to expect that each piece will turn out exactly as I want and hopefully my next piece will be more pleasing to the eye.  I measured the diameter of my initial resist at 56cms (a couple of cms bigger than my dustbin lid) and the final measurement at 31cms therefore if I have done my online percentages correctly that is a shrinkage rate of 55.37%!  Without a larger balloon to put pressure on the inside of the vessel I found it impossible to shrink the felt further although I do feel that there might be some more potential to decrease in size I just don’t seem to be able to achieve it myself.  Once I burst the balloon I will see how stable the felt is and how the shape holds when dry, because the felt is quite thick (as are the first smaller successful vessels) I am hopeful that all will be well.

One of the vessels I am intending to stiffen with wooden floor varnish (Anna Gunnarsdottier uses this for her hugh felt sculptures) and see how it weathers the elements outside.  Will it hold water (Anna would say yes!), will it discolour, how will I secure it in the garden?  Obviously unless I add some form of stiffening aid just leaving one of the vessels as is and putting it outside would probably mean that after the first heavy rain the shape would start to distort because the form is hollow.  We get a LOT of rain here in this neck of the woods and while I love outdoor installations made in felt which weather subtly with time for these vessels the shape is all important to me. 

I have tried PVA glue to stiffen some buttons/jewellery early in my felting days and found that when used neat it TOTALLY altered the feel of the felt, you would need an angle grinder to cut into it!  Probably if I had diluted it 50/50 with water things would have been fine but as it was the texture was horrible and it was a long time before I ventured into the stiffening game again.  My next and only other attempts were to stiffen two felt sculptures I made, one during an Anna Gunnarsdottier workshop and one directly afterwards when I returned home to Clasheen.  As far as I remember I allowed the sculptures to dry totally in shape before re-wetting and squeezing out the excess water.  Next I plunged them back into a basin of PVA or wooden floor varnish (without fungiside) and worked the medium thoroughly into the felt before squeezing and reshaping.  In both cases I stuffed the drying felt with bubble wrap and while they definitely will never shift in shape again I am not totally sure that I like the finished effect!  Unless you actually touch the felt it does appear to be ‘normal’ but that seems to make the sensory experience even more surreal as soon as you discover it feels totally unlike a tactile fabric under your hand.

Anyway, I have been following all your comments with interest making note of what other felters and textile artists have tried as stiffeners so thanks a million for sharing your thoughts everyone!  This list is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this topic I suspect but some of the most common mediums used to stiffen felt artificially are …..

  • PVA glue
  • Wooden floor varnish
  • Bondcrete (Australian)
  • GAC400 from Golden (American)
  • Shellac
  • Artists medium
  • Acrylic floor polish

In all cases I think it is possible to use these undiluted or diluted and this will have a big bearing on the end result achieved.  My friend Nancy Schwab has painted some of her vessels with a 50/50 mixture of textile paint and water which also acts as a stiffener, has anyone else tried this out and if so what paints do you use?  Have you any tips and advice to share with us by leaving a comment?  All info gratefully recieved!!!

Order of process continued …..

Following on from yesterday’s post the shaping and fulling of the vessel takes a lot of time once the opening is cut and sealed.  The steps that I go through are as follows …..

  1. Insert one hand inside the ‘package’ and pressing around the outside where the resist meets the seam work the felt from both sides to even out any potential ridges
  2. Once this is done I then turn the vessel right side out and check the design for loose pieces
  3. For the smaller vessels I had no problems with the design not integrating into the white merino but for the larger ones it seems to be necessary to check each prefelt design and then using a Clover needle felting tool (5 needles in a spring loaded holder) go over each design element to ensure everything is felting together well

    Securing loose edges of the design with a Clover needle felting tool

  4. Once I am happy that all the elements are cominging together it is time to apply some pressure and start to rub, roll and felt strongly using whatever method I fancy as I work on different parts of the vessel.  At this stage I might roll or rub on bubble wrap, the table or an excellent ridged mat I brought home from America (fridge shelf liner I think!), a great present from one of my students.  You could also use a car floor mat although I do find that sometimes they turn pure white merino a nasty grey colour!
  5. I still have soap in the felt at this stage and soon I will blow up a balloon inside the vessel to try and work it into as round a shape as possible.  Pouring HOT water from the kettle over the vessel I work it with soapy hands over my washing up bowl in the sink
  6. After a while I take it out of the sink and upend it over a large glass salad bowl.  Now I start to stiffen the felt by banging repeatedly all over the surface with a long handled wooden spoon
  7. Periodically I roll the whole balloon encased package on top of the ridged mat and spot full with a felting mouse before plunging it into HOT water again and doing some more rubbing in the sink
  8. Next I rinse it thoroughly in HOT water before turning the vessel inside out, inserting another balloon and repeating the rolling, banging  and rubbing process on the other side

    Inside out vessel starting to get stiffer and take shape

  9. I keep alternating between banging the vessel into shape now, stretching it with my mouse from the inside and rewetting with extremely HOT water.  When I am happy that the vessel is almost shrunk to size I turn it right side out for a last rinse before putting it in my washing machine and turning on the drain and spin cycle.  Now I don’t have any balloon inside the vessel as I want to spin out as much water as possible using the machine
  10. Once the vessel comes out of the machine I inflate another balloon inside it before the final session of banging and stiffening
  11. When I am finally happy with the strength of the felt and the final shape I leave the vessel on the balloon to dry fully sitting once more inside my large glass salad bowl

Today I have spent about 4 hours banging and rolling this latest vessel and at last it is resting around its balloon to dry.  As soon as I am happy that the felt is totally dry (probably a few days because it is a big piece) I will burst the balloon and take some pictures.  I don’t like my surface decoration as much as the last vessel I felted but I was concentrating more on the size and shape of the piece and wanted to use up the prefelt I had from a previous one last week.  Tomorrow is my sister’s birthday so I am having a felt free day but on Wednesday morning I will start my largest vessel hopefully using Cathy’s yoga ball for the shaping and shrinking, watch this space! 

As you can read from the process above I am stiffening these vessels by shrinking and fulling the felt to the degree that they are strong and hold their shape without the use of any additional stiffeners.  My next post will examine some of the ways in which to add different solutions (PVA, artists medium etc.) to aid the stiffening process and it would be great to stimulate debate about this process, thanks to all of you who have already commented on the topic here and on Facebook!

Just organising swap partners tonight and a little bit of nuno felting!

Just organising the swap partners tonight for our first Clasheen Crafty Swap of 2011!  Welcome to all returning swappers and a big hello to our new members, you are going to love this event!!!  I am almost back to normal today, probably about 90% of my usual self with just a bad cough periodically but nothing much else to worry about.  There were two meetings (golf club, what else!) I should have been attending tonight and another tomorrow evening  but I have put in my appologies because an early night snuggled up in front of the stove calls, not a drive in the current wild wet and windy weather.  This morning I felted a highly textured nuno scarf and then knuckled down to felting a one off wrap, a bit more unusual this one but you will have to wait for more details and some pictures tomorrow!  My ArtL!nks vessels are really calling out to me but I just want to get a couple more smaller projects out of the way tomorrow and then from Wednesday onwards I can start the really large vessels and get a good run at them.  ‘Till then …..

Felting kits for sale in my Etsy store at last!

My first batch of felting kits are finally up for sale in my Etsy store as of this afternoon.  I can’t believe how long it has taken to get to this stage, really I am kicking myself they were not up earlier but truthfully I just seem to have been totally snowed under with other important things as you may have guessed from my recent posts! 

Some of the wool for my new flat felting kits

Each kit contains between 110g and 120g Icelandic wool in mixed colours, a small bag with various embellishments which might include beads, buttons or fancy yarn, bubble wrap and full written instructions on how to make your flat felt masterpiece.  The kits make ideal presents for crafty male and female friends, both adults and children alike.

After Christmas (not going to be too ambitious about the date this time!) I will also be offering nuno felt kits, felt jewellery kits and simple felt vessel kits.  Realistically I need to write up clear instructions for all the tutorials, order in  more silk for the nuno kits, cut out resists for the vessel kits and basically take some good images of each individual kit to upload to Etsy.  The weather has been so bad here recently that I have not been able to take individual shots of the flat felting kits (they kept flying off the table this afternoon in the wind!), at the moment I only have the one photo but in the absence of any others I guess it will just have to do for now!