I’m feeling pretty pleased this evening following a surprisingly successful bout with my sewing machine!

I’ve had a reprieve from manning the stand at Mount Juliet today, instead, thanks to Leiko and Emma, I’ve spent the whole day finishing 5 abstract landscapes and creating a vest from a wrap! Basically, I got my super duper straight stitching sewing machine out of cold storage, wound the bobbin and just got to work adding some free machine embroidery to my latest flat felt pictures. Those of you who know me well understand how stressful I find sewing, however, I would like to say that in this case the correct equipment does make a difference, no broken threads, perfect tension and at the end of the day new framed work to bring to Borris market in the morning and Borris House Christmas Fair over the weekend. I was starting to wonder had I been crazy investing in my Janome 1600P last year, fear not though, I’ll definitely get myself organised and continue to do some more stitching in the new year, possibly at Duckett’s Grove considering it’s too cold to felt there at the moment. Pop over to Clasheen on Facebook page to see some photos of the finished work, all these landscapes with the exception of one were felted using a selection of the naturally printed and dyed silk I’ve been working on recently. The odd one out is a piece of needle punch felt which I also naturally printed/dyed, it was then felted onto a backing of undyed needle punch prior to stitching, I’m quite pleased with it and must try some more of this style after Christmas.

Armed with a successful start to the sewing day, I finally was brave enough to cut armholes into a short wrap that I felted last year. This wrap was made in white with a border of black, I dyed it using acid dyes when felted and although loads of people commented on how much they liked it at Duckett’s Grove it never sold.

Armholes underway

Armholes underway

Anyway, after cutting the armholes I pinned the raw edges, tacked them (basted) and having changed the foot on the sewing machine back to a regular one stitched twice around the edges. I’m thrilled with how this turned out, a lovely vest which I hope to take pictures of tomorrow.

Sleeveless felt vest, days five and six of Dagmar’s wonderful workshop

While not all the participants decided to felt a sleeveless vest I really wanted to get to grips with creating a custom-made template and felt one under Dagmar’s expert supervision. Being accurate with measurements etc. is just not my favourite thing but learning tips from Dagmar about how best to scale up ones body measurements and create personalised templates was a really good exercise for me. I prepared this on Friday evening and weighed out my wool so that on Saturday morning I was ready to start laying out my vest right from the get go.

Wet silk hankies stretched around my resist

Once again I choose to work with short fibred merino as opposed to one layer of fine needle felt followed by two fine layers of merino tops. This meant that I needed to lay 4 fine layers of wool, for an outdoor vest in my size we reckoned an approximate weight of 360g excluding any optional attachments I might choose to add. I also had the idea to make my jacket reversible and had a clear idea of how I wanted the colour to be achieved, black on one side (with silk hankies from the wonderful Roo Kline of Moonwood Farm for surface interest) and a complex green with a darker green border on the other ‘main’ side. This I intended to achieve by laying the first layer in black, the second in my favourite green with a black border around the armhole, neck and perimeter areas and the third and fourth layers all in green, I have to say that I’m thrilled with the resultant colour!

Working on the front left hand side

I liked one of Dagmar’s sample vests, it had a cross over front which I thought would be warm for Borris market and Duckett’s Grove in the winter so aside for making it quite a bit longer (to cover my kidneys) the only other design choice I needed to make was what sort of 3D attachments to add. Being someone who likes strong shape and form I opted for a simple detail down the front opening panels continuing around the neckline. I did toy with the idea of pockets but leaving these out meant a totally reversible jacket that doesn’t have bulk at the sides, the final descision was easy, no pockets or frills for me. I’m not going to ramble on about the actual laying out and felting of the vest, suffice to say that while it did take me two full days to felt it properly I loved the whole process and am so pleased with the result, the vest actually feels a little like soft suede! Each of my crossway measurements ended up the exact size I had wanted (to the mm!), neck, shoulders, armhole, waist and hips, strangely enough the length didn’t shrink quite so much so I’m thinking that must be something to do with the fibre, alternatively maybe I needed to roll it a little more in this direction. I actually love the longer length anyway, when I make another vest (I’ve already had a commission, thanks Mary!) I’ll just need to take this into account when calculating the dimensions of a new template.

I’d really like to thank my local Arts Office and Carlow Co Council for awarding me an Arts Act Grant to go towards funding the cost of this masterclass. It was a wonderful experience, I feel that I learnt a lot and really have a far greater understanding of how I can translate some of my sculptural ideas into practice! I’ll leave you with two pictures of the almost finished vest, although it does fit well now I just want to try it on with a light woollen polo neck and tighten up around the armholes a little.

The back of the vest, black side out

The front of the vest, green side out

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

My new nuno felt vest/stole!

As stated in yesterday’s post, I headed to the studio in the afternoon to felt some yardage and once it was dry I cut out the free-style curved stole from ‘shapeshape’ by Natsuno Hiraiwa. It definitely drapes differently in felt as opposed to the jersey I tried in the morning but I love the finished result, to me it’s much more a vest than a stole!

Free-style curved stole adapted slightly and prior to dyeing

In fact I adjusted the pattern when I started to cut, one because I was aiming for a longer piece at the back, two because I wanted a narrower piece to drape or form a collar at the front. I was also limited by the amount of muslin that I had in stock (I LOVE nuno felting with muslin!!!) so my end yardage was not quite as long at the pattern asked for, I laid out one very fine layer of merino between two layers of fabric and then decorated one side with a lot of raw silk, the piece is obviously now reversible. It’s amazing how much more confident I was cutting into my felt as a result of discovering that the angled armholes appear to suit my body shape. Like my sample from the morning this piece fits well and now all I have to do is decide what colours to dye it!!! With some of the waste I cut out the reversible faux collar, this piece was a big revelation because Natsuno says not to take any short cuts when cutting, it’s obvious why once you do cut and as a result it sits beautifully around the neckline. In the picture I have it lying back to front, I like the vee shape!

Texture and soft colour from the raw silk

 

Felting and dying fun with Gerda!

After Horst’s workshop Gerda had a few extra days to stay over in Ireland before flying home to South Africa on Sunday so I invited her to stay at Clasheen for a couple of days, boy did we have some fun felting and dying Horst style!!!  It’s going to take me about a week to finally unwind after all the excitment of the last few weeks but for now check out the sleeveless vest I felted and dyed with gold and pumpkin acid dyes in my kitchen.  It’s great to finally have a HUGE dye pot and the confidence to actually try some experiments out for myself!  ‘Till tomorrow …..

Graduated colour from gold to pumpkin

Sleeveless vest prior to dying and fulling

A little about our new book and just a glimpse of some raw materials from yesterday!

Working on our new book has really forced me to write down ideas as they come into my head and document projects on paper more than I would otherwise tend to do, for me a lot of my documentation is through this blog but sketching more is really helping me clarify ideas and leading me to explore them in a more systametic way than I have being doing previously.  Chrissie is brilliant at this anyway and I really look forward to seeing some of her sketches and musings when she comes to stay with me in April for our final efforts to put the book to bed and get it available online.  I don’t want anyone to get the idea our book is going to be the bee all and end all of felting techniques, it’s not!  Rather it is an idea of how we both work as well as a demonstration of how we translate our thoughts and ideas from the inspiration stage into the finished felt item.  

Stunning 50/50 silk merino blend from Cloverleaf Farms

I love gathering up my raw materials at the start of any project, the possibilities seem endless at this stage when all the beautiful fibres and colours are gathered together just waiting to be selected.  Sometimes however, I find that having a wide selection of different fibres to work with can bring on its own worries and often just getting started is challenge enough for one days work alone! 

Yesterday was one of the good days.  In the morning I selected some stunning 50/50 hand dyed silk/merino roving which I bought at the Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool Festival from the wonderful Joan Berner of Cloverleaf Farms, one of my all time favourite suppliers now!!!  I wanted to use it for a very special project and demonstrate how a small amount of luxurious fibre could create the most beautiful scarf imaginable!  Although I am not showing you a photo of the finished article imagine the glistening sheen of clear glass beads against the wonderful and subtle variations of colour in this blue based combination which Joan has called Sapphire.  I based the scarf’s design and colours on the beautiful blues and greens in the clear waters off La Gomera in the Canaries and Kos in Greece.  Wearing this piece (if I keep it for myself!) will bring back happy memories of holidays shared with Alan, the glass beads are NOT sewn in after the scarf is felted, wait for the book to see how I include them in the lay out stage!!!The second piece I felted yesterday is waiting on my table now to be transformed into a sleeveless vest/wrap type of affair, probably NO sewing again but maybe a couple of judicious stitches around the collar region, I’ll have to wait and see how it drapes once I cut out the armholes and put it on my manequin.  Again I loved gathering the supplies for this one, originally I had a big pile of silk fibre and hankies, beautiful Blue Faced Leiscester, linen fibres (all of these hand dyed) and some different colours of silk chiffon fabric.  In the end I felted this piece using ‘Chili Pepper’ BFL roving from Joan, silk hankies, silk fibre (again from Joan!), two colours of silk chiffon and then added a fine layer of orange merino because I wasn’t sure that I had enough BFL to make the vest strong enough.  Chrissie is really the master at the nuno felted jacket, I did however want to include a wearable piece requiring minimal stitching in the book, I know I could have done a bigger seamless project but really that’s not what I do every day, this type of felting is much more suited to my organic kind of style!  Anyway, here is a glimpse of some of the raw materials before I made my final selection.  Technically this wasn’t a nuno piece having more fibre than fabric, today I hope to felt a highly textured nuno wrap, one of my all time favourite projects! 

Hand dyed BFL and silk from Joan teamed with some lightweight silk chiffon

Join Horst in Ireland and design, felt and dye your own unique duster or jacket!!!!! We should get time to make a sleeveless top, matching bag or funky wrap too!!!!!!!

Well, at last I have the details ready for Horst’s amazing workshop here in Ireland!  I am so lucky to have had the experience with Dawn last year when we spent time with him at his home in Ohio, I just know that it is going to be amazing for all of us in Ireland that we are the first stop on Horst’s first trip to Europe!!!!!

Horst Couture

I had been wracking my brain trying to cover all eventualities and look at the pricing structure to keep the costs as affordable as possible for all potential participants.  We need space (which I have to hire) if a lot of us are going to be laying out large pieces all at the same time, we need countless kilos of white wool in order for everyone to make a duster or jacket (in addition to a second item!!!), we need good food to keep us all going, we need many metres of resist material, we need washing machines and dryers, we need electricity for the many sanders and we need a simple dying station where Horst will show us how he creates his beautiful colours!

I am thrilled to say that I finally think everything is sorted out and the price for the three day workshop including ALL materials will be 370 Euros, participants also have the option of a wonderful Spanish lunch each day and that will be an extra 10 Euros per person per day if chosen.  Considering that one of Horst’s amazing dusters may cost between $1800 and $2200 if purchased I think 370 Euros is a steal for the opportunity to work with him to create your very own wearable masterpiece!!!  Not only will participants design and felt their own duster (or short jacket if they prefer), using Horst’s methods everyone should also have time to felt either a sleeveless vest or possibly a funky bag or wrap too!!!!! 

The workshops will take place from Friday 17th June to Sunday 19th June and times will be from 10 am until approx 5 pm each day.  We may decide to start earlier for the second and third days but that will be a decision taken collectively once the workshop starts, I don’t want anyone to feel under pressure but I do want everyone to be able to complete at least one absolutely stunning garment!!! 

Vest

Obviously it is an advantage to have felting experience but because of the way Horst works if anyone is just starting out as a felter please don’t hesitate to join us, you will be amazed at what you can create under Horst’s watchful eye!  I now need to email everyone individually who has already expressed an interest in attending, for everyone else spaces are strictly limited so please email me asap if you would like the chance to join us at Clasheen.  One last note, the workshop venue will be near my studio but not actually here at my house.  We need SPACE for this workshop so I have a provisional venue booked close at hand, next week I will be making sure that everything is up to speed, the details will all go on the workshop page then but for now, BOOKING IS UNDERWAY!!!!!