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.

Question about closure for a felt pouch and rich deep colours are hard to photograph!

Yesterday I forced myself to sit down to stitch and finish 5 of the 6 little felt pouches I felted on Wednesday and Thursday. Making the descision to participate at Borris Farmer’s Market each Friday for the forseeable future in addition to focusing on stocking my Big Cartel shop has meant that I am sticking to my guns and continuing to develop a range of small but colourful felt pouches. As many of you well know by now felting is my big passion, not stitching. I do however appreciate that elective stitching can add another dimension to hand made felt, hence my current discipline in this department!!!

I love this starburst design!

The only reason that I didn’t manage to finish all of the pouches is the fact that I need to figure out a different closure for pouch number 6, the starburst design on the flap really deserves to be shown off and not cut into for a button hole! I’m toying with the idea of velcro but do any of you experienced seamstresses have any suggestions??? All help gratefully recieved!

My other difficulty is capturing the turquoise background of some of the pouches and revealing the richness of the blues and greens in the mohair off cuts when I post pictures of these pieces online. It seems almost impossible for me to share the depth of the colours over the internet but hopefully people will get the jist of the colours and anyone actually buying a pouch online will be plesantly surprised when it arrives in the post!  The image below is a good case in point.  The colours of the mohair piece on the flap of this pouch change subtly from rich green through to a deep blue viewing from left to right but I just can’t seem to capture them accurately. I can get the textured effect of the stitching but not quite the correct colours, never mind, I like this photo anyway and I just love the vintage button closure!

Beautiful marbled effect vintage button

Up-cycling mohair off cuts into little felt pouches and hard at work organising my new online presence!

My sister Lizzy requested a little cell phone holder as one of her Christmas presents and since this proved to be a big hit with various members of the family I decided to get in gear and felt some more! Working with woven mohair off cuts from Cushendale Woollen Mill and a few scraps of silk I laid out a simple design on top of two layers of finnish wool (thanks Chrissie!) and created a piece of flat felt. The completed felt was nice but not very exciting and that’s where the fun began, I got out my sewing machine!!!

Free machine embroidered pouch

Selecting just a few embroidery threads with a lovely high sheen I stitched simple shapes in both contrasting and complimentary colours on top of the silk and highlit various squares of the mohair off cuts. As learnt during a workshop with Lisa Klakulak at ‘Felt in Focus’ in Denmark last July, by stitching in a particular way it is possible to raise the surface area of the felt and create added texture and interest. Beautiful buttons picked up with Kirsten Lang in Odense completed the last two pouches and now I have four more pieces of felt completed just waiting for some stitching today. I do love how in places the stitching echos the shapes of my dry stone walls, free form but effective I think!

Finally for today, I am in the process of organising my online presence to work in the most effective manner possible during 2012 and from this time forth. In effect this means that I have joined Pinterest (check it out, it’s addictive!), set up a Tumblr blog (a little like Twitter for bloggers!), am working on my Big Cartel store and will be reactivating my Etsy shop, busy, busy time indeed!!!  Do please follow me on these new sites if you are interested, they will keep you up to date with all my activities in addition to my biggest love which as you already know is felting!!!

New bracelet and felting workshop this Saturday at Clasheen

This afternoon has been a REALLY bad one internet wise (must be some sort of connectivity problem but I really am not sure) so forgive me if I am going to be brief for now!

Detail of the stitching

Here is a picture (especially for you Dawn!) of my latest effort at stitching on felt, a soft bracelet in merino and hand dyed yarn, thanks Lisa from The Tin Thimble for the pressie of the gorgeous yarn, I love it!!!

On Saturday I am hosting a felting workshop at Clasheen and I have one place left if anyone is interested.  We will be primarily concentrating on three dimensional felt but if any total beginner is lurking out there in cyber space do give me a shout, this would be a really great opportunity to learn the basics of wet felting in a fun and supportive environment.

Right, I’m going to shut this computer down now and hope that tomorrow will be a new day, good night!

New felt bracelets, free machine embroidery workshop and the 2011 Irish Web Awards!

It’s a busy time here at Clasheen but I do seem to be managing my time a little better than usual, thankfully!

Stone wall inspired bracelets

As promised here is a picture of the two dry stone wall inspired felt bracelets I made at Niki’s last week, the bracelet on the right I kept for myself and the one on the left has just been added to my Big Cartel shop.  It has been interesting hearing the reaction of everyone who has seen these two pieces together, with the exception of one friend and myself, everyone has choosen the one on the left hand side as their favourite.  This leads me to believe people find the larger white surround of the stones appealing, whatever, I love them both!!!

I spent a wonderful two days over the weekend participating in a workshop with the South East Textile Group.  Our main focus for the workshop was free machine embroidery on various types of dissolvable fabric or paper but for me the biggest result was getting to grips with my Janome straight stitch machine and feeling comfortable with the results!  Our tutor was Arelene Shawcross, an English lady now living and working from Macroom in Co. Cork.  Arelene was an excellent teacher, I would highly recommend sessions with her for anyone interested in exploring free machining further, her manner is informed, relaxing and highly productive.  There were loads of interesting samples for everyone to examine and exclaim over.  For me the beauty of Arlene’s embroidery was most visable in some subtle tone on tone work, I don’t find highly coloured pieces as attractive to my eye but definitely there was something to suit everyone in the work on display and we all got inspired and ready to get down to business quickly.

Stitching on Romeo, is that a smile???

The first sort of soluble fabric that I decided to experiment with was a thickish plastic kind of one called ‘Romeo’.  Following on with my dry stone wall obsession I wanted to keep my work subtle and elected to stitch a bracelet (after a couple of small sample pieces!) using soft shades of silver, grey and blue machine embroidery threads.  The top two tips that I learnt over the weekend were that it is important not to have the presser foot (free machine or darning) down against the fabric you are stitching on and that you can use machine embroidery and metallic threads on top and in your bobbin if you follow this rule, magic!!!  You may remember I was having problems with my metallic thread breaking constantly when I last stitched into felt, changing to a new needle and following the above tips worked like a dream, I tried stitching into some very thick felt after I had finished the bracelet and no problems.  Following is a picture of the bracelet pinned to some polystyrene prior to dissolving the plastic, images of the finished piece tomorrow!

Finally a big thanks to Cathy for nominating this blog for a 2011 Irish Web Award, YAY!

Bracelet pinned to polystyrene and ready to submerge in water

Beautiful felt flowers!

Just a short post today sharing a couple of pictures from the workshop I facilitated this morning with some clients and helpers at the Carlow Wheelchair Association and NCBI (National Council for the Blind Ireland) facilities in Carlow town.

Happy smiling faces and beautiful flowers!

This is the third session we have had to date although because of the nature of the centre not every participant is able to attend every week, aren’t these flowers amazing???  I have uploaded a few more pictures to my Facebook profile, do ask me to be your friend if you follow this blog and are on FB too!

I will upload pictures of my latest stone wall inspired bracelets next time and hopefully some images taken during the 2 day free machine embroidery workshop I am participating in this weekend.  Although I am very disappointed not to be going away on holidays with Alan tomorrow there obviously ARE some benefits of staying around.  Luckily I got a space at the last minute for the workshop so thanks Jean for organising it, fingers crossed I will learn loads!

Roisin modelling one of her gorgeous flowers!

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.

I never thought the day would arrive ……

Many of you know that any kind of sewing has always brought me out in a dreadful sweat and for donkeys years I have sworn NEVER to stitch for pleasure.  I did however break the habit of a lifetime this summer in order to participate in Lisa Klakulak’s wonderful workshop at ‘Felt in Focus’, it was time to stretch my mind!  I always admired Lisa’s beautifully detailed sculptural pieces and free machine embroidery on thick pieces of hand rolled felt just seemed to attract my attention this year, once I actually got to grips with it I actually found that I quite enjoyed the experience!

Selling 4 of the 5 stitched felt seascapes I had on exhibition during Kilkenny Arts Festival made me realise that there is definitely an appreciation for this type of textile art.  I never thought the day would arrive but I decided this week to invest (heavily as  it turned out!) in a specialist straight stitching machine which has the capabilitiy to stitch through amazingly thick layers of felt effortlessly.  This means that not only can I sew through multiple layers of wool but I can also stitch right up to and around thick sections of felt and in this way emphasise and enhance highly textured surface details.    John from Sewing Machines Ireland in Waterford provided expert assistance in my choice of machine.  He said that he wouldn’t dream of supplying me with a machine unless I subjected it to rigorous testing and see if it would be suitable for the type of work I was thinking of so off I went armed with felt on Wednesday afternoon, the intention was to try out a second hand industrial Pfaff complete with knee lift.

Felt prior to stitching

In the event the Pfaff was great but John suggested a new machine he had in stock might actually be even more specifically suited to what I had in mind, drum roll please for the Janome 1600P QC!!!  It is like sewing with a Rolls Royce, incredible, even I liked using it!!!!!  I’m not going to bore you with all the features which make this machine so special for me but suffice to say I can stitch over CRATERS and MOUNTAINS effortlessly and I suspect it would take a total blundering idiot to break it, it weighs a tonne.  For anyone intending in sewing anything other than a straight stitch this is not the machine for you.  Because I knew that the only other possible use I would put it to would be to stitch up the seams of some simple nuno felt clothing it appears as if it is a match made in Heaven!  Anyway, I bit the bullet and invested in the Janome, I am not regretting my descision and have already finished stitching one piece as per the posted pictures.  I will however have to get my finger out, making a return on such a big investment (big for me!) means a heavy work schedual over the coming months and getting my Big Cartel shop stocked but you might ask what’s new???  I love my work!

Felt with free machine embroidery

Felting and stitching …..

I have been flat out this week trying to finish my work for Kilkenny Arts Festival which opens next weekend.  Most of my pieces are totally wet felted but a couple have some free machine embroidery to add surface detail, I know, I can’t believe I am actually writing that!  The exhibition takes place in Grennan Mill Craft School, Thomastown and I am one of 6 individual artists who all have solo shows under one roof, the setting utilises the various floors of a wonderful grain mill poised on the banks of the river Nore.  For anyone within striking distance of Thomastown please do call in during the exhibition and say hi, I will be envigilating on some days (not sure when yet) so if you are interested in meeting up please do email me in advance and I can let you know my schedual!!!

Exhibition Invitation

Apologies to those of you waiting for the final review of the new printing techniques I learnt at Felt in Focus, it is going to be a week or so before I can really relax and get stuck into writing posts properly!

Wrap up from Lisa Klakulak’s felt jewellery workshop and book review in Living Crafts Magazine

Another few days have gone by since I promised to post more pictures of the pieces I worked on at Lisa’s felt jewellery workshop, time just seems to be running as fast as ever so sorry if any of you have been waiting.  I had debated a variety of large neckpiece options but finally decided on an oversized ‘pendant’ to be worn either on a thick felt torc or with a scarf wrapped through the bail, a new word I learnt and you can check out the meaning here if you don’t already know it too!

Oversized torc and neckpiece

Because my first piece didn’t have the shrinkage I was hoping for or expecting I did have to revise my ideas for the pendant, I still made it oversized but that’s OK, I like my pieces to make a statement!!!  Unfortunately I didn’t ask anyone to take any pictures of me wearing it with my own camera but to get an idea of the scope of the project there is an image of me and my friend Birgit Kiems taken on the night of the gala dinner at Felt in Focus on Facebook, you can have a look at Birgit’s pictures here.  Be prepared, it’s not the most flattering image of me, eyes half closed and tummy sticking out!  Iam also in the process of uploading more images to Flickr, these show a little more detail of various parts of the free machine stitching, now that I am home I will also take some pictures of the torc minus the pendant.

Thanks to Pardis and all at Living Crafts Magazine for giving Chrissie and I the thumbs up for our new book ‘From Felt to Friendship’ in the summer 2011 issue!  Here is what they said ….. “This gem of a felting book is for those who are beyond the beginner stage and are looking for inspiration for more adventurous projects.  It is written as a guide to encourage the more experienced felter to experiment and ‘play’ more freely.  It is rich with many beautiful projects and diverse techniques.”  THANK YOU!!!

The next time I post here I am going to talk a little about the fascinating time I had participating in Kirsten Lundbergh’s printing workshop, the possibilities are now endless with creating my own designs on fabric especially when you combine these new methods (new to me!) with the dying skills I learnt from Horst