Reflections on our open evening at Duckett’s Grove and workshops next weekend

The sun finally shone yesterday evening so after a long day preparing and tidying up it was very pleasant for us artist makers to relax, have a chat to visitors and explain what we’re up to in the courtyard at Duckett’s Grove. Thanks to all my friends old and new who travelled to help us celebrate our new venture and thanks Marion Byrne for the wonderful gift of some Jacob’s fleece, much appreciated!!! The evening was actually quieter than I expected but the bonus was that as makers we were able to have a proper conversation with our visitors and not be dashing around like headless chickens all the time. I’d also set up a few laid out but unfelted flowers on one of my tables. This proved a good idea because no matter how many times I explain to people what wet felting entails it’s only when they can see and touch the raw materials beside the finished piece that the process becomes a little easier to understand and visualise.

Next Saturday I’ve a beginners and improvers full day workshop taking place between 10am and 4pm and on Sunday there are 2 places left in the afternoon for a fun felt flower workshop. Please email me if you are interest in attending and having some fun creative time!

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Scrambled brain ………

So many ideas, thoughts, impressions, happenings, exhibitions, commissions (promise to felt your sleeveless top tomorrow Patricia, just getting new bubble wrap this afternoon for the job), meetings etc. at the moment and although my brain is not actually scrambled I just can’t seem to write quickly enough to document everything as I would like to.  Apologies yet again for all those unsent emails over the weekend, I have just been totally tied up with American visitors and catching up with jobs delayed last week because of the golf matches that I absloutely had to attend in my position as Lady Captain.  Unfortunately for the golf club (but fortunately from my work perspective!) the club got knocked out of everything we played in last week so I am looking forward to a slightly quiter time on that side of things, now I hope to have time to finish some felt as I really need to earn some money quickly!! 

Jacob's fleece with Mehmet's rug base and Icelandic wool

A few pictures from my scrambled weekend …….

Raw unscoured Jacob’s fleece which I combined with Icelandic wool and a rug base (base prepared at Mehmet Girgic’s workshop in Turkey) to be sewn into a new laptop case/satchel for me!

Wool and mohair 'yarn', a by-product of the weaving process at Cushendale Woolen Mills

Funky ‘yarn’ picked up at Cushendale Woolen Mills over the weekend, the mohair on the right is now knitted into one of my new style crazy cowls and is available for sale throught Clasheen Uncut!  I am delighted to have found a fun project that I can work on in the evenings when taking a break from felting and fulling and hope to build a collection of funky knitted cowls as a simple way of supplementing my felting income.

Chair pad incorporating Icelandic wool, rug base and strips of woven waste

This week is going to be a busy felting week once I get awful paperwork and bank stuff out of the way today.  Tomorrow I am going to be spending all day felting a sleeveless jacket for a client in the States and on Wednesday one of my closest relations arrives in the morning to discuss a rug which I will be felting her as a comission, exciting times ahead!  This seat pad is a small experiment to see how much clarity is lost in the blue shades of Icelandic wool when combined with a natural white rug base from Mehmet and I also included some strips of the woven waste picked up at Cushendale just for the heck of it.

Don’t forget you need to get your entries off pdq to Chrissie if you want to enter her Waterfall jacket competition and if you are thinking of subscribing to a new felting magazing why not give the Australian publication ‘Felt’ a go?  Talking of things from the other side of the world I recommend keeping an eye on the Convergence blog to really get you in the festive mood!

Tactile felt hearth rug!

I forgot to mention yesterday that I did weigh the Icelandic wool and divided it into two piles.  There was just over 400g per layer and interestingly enough not much shrinkage overall by the time the rug was complete, possibly even less than 20%. 

Starting to lay out the Jacobs fleece

Cotton fabric between the layers of wool

I should also have said that I used green silk hankies both within the fleece and at several points near the edge of the rug but that the white silk tops around the outside might not be silk at all but is more likely to be tencel.   It felt quite different in the hand but as I don’t know where I got it from so this is just an uneducated guess!

Initially I worked the rug hard (several hours) by hand and sander on the reverse and eventually was brave enough to turn it over and work directly on the top.  It took ages for the fibres to start coming together, possibly if I had laid two layers of wool on top of the fleece and then the fabric as the last layer it would actually have been a lot quicker.  Whatever, another couple of hours later and things were beginning to hang together nicely.  When I was absolutely sure that the fleece was not going to come apart I chanced wrapping the rug inside a piece of cotton and putting it through a wool wash in my washing machine!  With the exception of rinsing Osman technique rugs or making beads from waste felt I never use my machine for felting, I prefer to do everything by hand.  This time however since I was in an experimental mood and the Jacobs is extremely slow to felt I decided nothing ventured, nothing gained.  After it came successfully out of the machine I worked it by hand again without any soap.  Another while later I put it through a 40 degree wash and again worked directly on the surface by hand for approx another 45 minutes. 

My finished hearth rug!

The finished rug is extremely tactile and will make a great fireside rug or else something to keep my toes warm during those cold Irish mornings!  More detailed images of the final result are available in my Flickr photos.

Combining raw fleece with Icelandic wool and last call for winter workshops

As promised yesterday I am going to post about the rug I made on Sunday from raw fleece and Icelandic wool but before I kick things off just a quick reminder.  There is now only one adult and child place left in either the morning or the afternoon workshop here at Clasheen on Saturday 5th December and if you want to join me this coming Saturday and learn how to make a felt vessel using a resist please email me asap

Now for the low down about the hearth-rug that I made on Sunday.  Basically I was trying to experiment combining raw fleece with carded wool using the ‘Heart Rug’ project in Dutch Felt as my guideline.  It was a little bit like following a cookery recipe because author Ria van Els-Dubelaar recommends using a long fibred fleece but I really wanted to experiment with the Icelandic batts which are now available from my new Etsy store!  In the rug from her book she uses merino to back the fleece and silk fabric as a stabiliser for the final layer on the back.  I decided to use my beautiful Jacobs fleece (a present from a kind neighbour), Icelandic wool for the base and a middle layer of some cotton fabric that Mehmet Girgic packaged my Turkish rug bases in, waste not want not! 

Firstly I needed to decide which colour batts to compliment the cream and dark chocolate brown fleece, I went for my favourite apple green although I did have a bit of a toss-up with turquoise as well!  The deciding factor was that I didn’t know exactly how much wool I would need and I knew I had plenty of the green but not so much of the turquoise, oh what an exact science I make of things!  Selecting which parts of the fleece I would use was fun, I had about 4 different bags with some gorgeous sections of Jacobs and some dirty dags mixed in as well.  Once my choice was made the raw wool was laid on bubblewrap with the shorn side uppermost, sections were pulled apart by hand a little and silk tops and silk hankies inserted in these gaps.  I also laid some silk around the outside edges of the fleece and then covered the whole thing with a one layer of Icelandic wool.  At this stage I lightly wet out the entire and pressed the soapy water through the wool.  Anywhere I saw the colour of the raw fleece through the green wool batts I topped up the green wool before laying my cotton on top of the bundle.  The second layer of Icelandic wool went on next and then I wet the whole package and started the felting process. 

Pictures of work in progress and completion the rug to follow tomorrow!

Newspaper article, prefelt, Mehmet Girgic and Osman technique…

Thanks a million to Sheila Ahern who mentioned me in her excellent article in last Sunday’s Independent Newpaper.  Here is the link for any of you who might like a peek, the main thread of the piece is about felting becoming addictive and some of the prose made me laugh out loud!

Yesterday I mentioned the basic tools that I use when felting and today I am going to give a brief overview of using prefelts in your work to get defined outlines, also a little mention of the Osman technique prior to Mehmet Girgic’s workshops later in January. 

Prefelt is basically what occurs when you start the felting process but stop working the fibres as soon as they have started to form a cohesive fabric and before they have started to shrink.  By washing carefully and drying your piece at this stage you can then cut the prefelt into any shape you like and place it on top of freshly laid out wool fibres.  The result of this is that the cut out shape retains its clean lines and you can have much more control of what your finished piece will look like than with the usual method.  If you are a bit impatient like me, you can actually cut the piece when wet and use it immediately, if you do this it is best to have the main layers of fibre wetted out before placing the prefelt in position.  You also don’t have to rinse out the prefelt if you will be using it within a few days of making it, only if you want to store it for a while.  I like to spend a bit of time sometimes dreaming up interesting combinations for my prefelt, I often try and include metallic threads, silk, angelina, things that I might not want a huge amount of in a finished piece but enough to add some interest to the work.

The Osman technique as taught by Mehmet Girgic is another way in which to get clean outlines.  This is the method that I used for my road sign, note how obvious the outlines of the oak leaves are.   With this piece I laid out the oulilne of the words and the leaves on top of a prepared base, this base was quite thick and comprised of layers of natural fleece and a top layer of heavy duty muslin which had been worked to the prefelt stage.  In this method you roll the dry roving into a thin thread, dip it into extremely soapy water, wet the section of base that you wish to work on and then ‘draw’ your outlines with the wet roving.  Because you have already wet the base and dipped the wool into soapy water the roving sticks very well to the backing.  Once you fill in all the areas that you want to have colour you then wet out and roll, stamp, roll and stamp your piece again.  This method is great for rugs and large wallhangings so why not give it a try?  Mehmet will be arriving on Thursday 15th January and facilitating two 3 day workshops in rug making, check out the workshop page for full details.  A couple of people have had to drop out at the last minute so if anyone is interested in a place please contact me asap!  This is an amazing opportunity to meet and work with a world reknowned tutor.

Exciting times!

Wow, so much has been happening of late that I don’t know where to start.  I’ll try to get this in some sort of order but guess it might just become one big long ramble.

My addiction to felt continues!  Last weekend Carmen (my friend who is responsible for getting me started) and I travelled to Dublin for the agm of the Feltmakers Federation.  Such a nice group of talanted and sharing people is a rare thing to come accross.  After the nitty gritty of the meeting was dispensed with we had an interesting presentation from Una Parsons, the CEO of the Craft’s Council followed by an excellent discussion by Sheila Smith.  Sheila is a master at the art of felt and has written to my mind the definitive book on felting called ‘Felt to Stitch’.  We oogled her wonderful creations and I am really looking forward to her next book, watch out for it in the late summer.  Today, Carmen and another friend Jean came to my studio and I showed them how to create cobweb scarfs, they made very beautiful creations.

As a result of the encouragement and advice received to date I have decided to offer workshops at Clasheen titled ‘Fleece to Felt’.  Aimed primarily at the beginner, these days will offer an ideal chance for stressed out individuals to get in touch with their creative side amidst the beautifull surroundings of the Blackstairs Mountains.  Browse my books, gain inspiration from the landscape and leave at the end of the day with a masterpiece that you have created over the course of the day. 

The purchase of the land surrounding my old farmhouse has been completed a couple of weeks ago so I guess you could say that I am a small holder now!  Brilliant if a bit scarey, at present I have the land rented out to a friendly local farmer so now I can gaze out on horses and young cattle every day.  This week I had an appointment with Chris, our brilliant local forrester to discuss my plans about planting several acres with broad leaved trees in the next dormant season.  Chris has gone home armed with my wish list, natural looking planting, indiginous trees, damson, crab apple and other wild fruit trees mingled in etc. etc. and he will be preparing a plan for me, almost like the floor plan of a house!  I am really looking forward to seeing what he will come up with, we are also exploring the different possibilities of applying for a grant to cover some of the expenses.  My vision is to have a really special amenity area, woodland walks planned from the start and a spring at the top of the land will be included in the ‘floor plan’ as an area of special interest and bio-diversity.

A big note of thanks to Artlinks for the wonderful service they offer.  Last week I attended two of their professional development courses, ‘Business Mentoring for your Creative Practice’ and ‘Marketing your Creative Work’.  This week I am booked into ‘Photographing/Documenting your Creative Work’ and ‘Blogging for Beginners’, guess that is the one I really could do with tonight!

Better go now, my job as competition secretary at Borris Golf Club steps up another gear in the morning, the President’s Prize to the ladies beckons!