Life, Kentucky and Michigan updates!

Important events have unavoidably taken over in recent days and weeks so I'm way behind updating things here, many apologies if you've been waiting for a blog post. It's hard to believe but after only three full days at home I'm now sitting at the boarding gate in Dublin Airport awaiting my flight to Portugal. Tomorrow I meet the other participants for a wonderful week of shibori under the tutelage of Joan Morris (my first non working holiday for a long while!) and then next Saturday my own felting and eco printing workshops start at Dominio Vale do Mondego. Please excuse me if I upload a selection of pictures from both the Kentucky and Michigan workshops in the same post, I feel that if I don't I am never, ever going to catch up!!! Thanks a thousand times to great buddies Jan Durham and Dawn Edwards respectively for hosting me once again, it was a pleasure visiting you as always! I also really enjoyed teaching at the Kentucky Sheep & Fiber Festival in KY, it was my fourth year on the trot and thanks a million to master dyer Roo Kline of Moonwood Farm for sponsoring the gorgeous fibre we used in class. Now for a selection of pictures………

KSFF

Jan's two day workshop in Lexington
Day one with Dawn in Plainwell MI
Day two in MI, the rain had stopped by then and I was able to take a photo of each participant with a piece of their work. Great job ladies!
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

Felting, reflecting, unwinding and preparing…..

It’s back to a full working week here at Clasheen after all the fun and excitment of my super trip to the US. I’ve a lot of large nuno wraps to get felted and delivered before Thursday, I’m reflecting on the fantastic time I had staying with Jan and Dawn meeting so many old fibre friends and making new ones, I’m trying to spend time unwinding with Alan and I’m also trying to get sorted and prepared for my Friday departure to teach in Portugal!!! The weather here in Ireland has been WET ever since I’ve arrived home, aparantly it was glorious and hot during my absence but now it’s so wet I can’t even get outside to take a picture of the first wrap that I’ve finished. Instead here’s a picture from Plainwell, not everyone is here in this shot (a few people had to leave early) and not everyone is holding their work, you will get an idea of the scale of some of the projects however! Until tomorrow…..

Happy faces near the end of our two day felting workshop in Plainwell!

Dyeing gauze for nuno felting!

I’ve been having great fun dyeing cotton gauze under Jan Durham’s expert eye. It’s my first time getting to grips with Procion MX dyes are really they’re not difficult to use, the biggest problem was having to wait overnight (it could have been longer) before opening the bundles and seeing what I’d achieved!!!

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Rinsed, washed again and ready to hang outside

I like the idea of dyeing my own fabric to nuno felt into, I don’t think I’ll be doing this every week when I get home but I’ll definitely order some of the colours I like best and make an effort to experiment further. I’m not the tidiest person as regular followers of this blog know by now but I was able to keep myself totally dye free, luckily Jan’s husband Bruce was away yesterday though because if he had been around he mightn’t have been so happy about the dye I managed to spill all over the white counter top!

Once the bundles had time to absorb all the dye I rinsed them in cold then hot water before putting them through a wash cycle in Jan’s great big washing machine. The weather’s been a lot drier today (the rain this last few days has been just like Ireland!) so I was able to hang everything outside to dry. I ironed the smaller scarves but the larger piece in the second picture I decided not to bother ironing! I’m going to nuno felt it into a shift dress hopefully, I had planned to do it here but I actually think I may need to keep it until I get home and then I have my full selection of short fibred merino to work with.

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Kind of hippy, dippy don’t you think?

 

 

CRAFTed, Zwartbles, KY, MI and Portugal felting workshop updates and Dawn’s wonderful visit comes to an end

So much news, yet again so little time! Dawn came with me last week to meet the pupils that I’m working with for my 2012 CRAFTed project, they just loved her hats and in turn she just loved them singing two songs in Irish for her!!!

Adding buttons and other bits and bobs to embellish the felt portraits

Tomorrow is my last session with the school and I can’t believe that I haven’t got my paperwork up to date for this. It has been so hectic here the last 6 weeks that for the first time ever I am behind at this stage of the project, the fact that I am working with 35 and not 26 pupils also has contributed to the delay, anyway, onwards and upwards. We’ll be hanging the finished felt portraits tomorrow and making friendship bracelets for all the pupils to share.

After the opening of Duckett’s Grove on Friday morning Dawn and I picked up my great Danish buddy Kirsten Elise Lund and we headed back to Clasheen for an action packed and fun weekend! On Saturday morning we headed over to Suzanna Crampton’s beautiful home and spent a wonderful few hours rambling around the garden and getting up close and personal with her gorgeous Zwartbles sheep!

Kirsten, Dawn and Suzanna, Zwartbles are such a gently breed and SO friendly it's amazing

I want to write a full blog post about this trip, the sheep and felting with their fleece before I leave for US but if I don’t get time please MAKE sure I do so later in the summer!!! After a blissful morning we all went for an early lunch to Nicholas Mosse Pottery, dropped Suzanna home then Dawn, Kirsten and I headed food shopping to Kilkenny followed by a brilliant trip to Cushendale Woolen Mill in Graiguenamanagh. Thanks so much Mary Cushen for opening up the mill especially for Dawn and Kirsten, we really appreciated the personal attention, this local mill is my ‘must see’ recommendation for any international textile visitor who comes to Clasheen!!!

Choices, choices at Cushendale Woolen Mill

In the evening Kate Ramsey arrived to stay and we were all joined by some of my closest friends for a plate of curry and a chat. On Sunday morning Niki Collier arrived and we spent the day felting, chatting, eating, laughing and basically having what we Irish call ‘the craic’, Kate and Niki also popped in to Carlow to see Eileen MacDonagh’s amazing exhibition LITHOSPHERE at Visual!!! In the evening our local guy won the final of ‘The Voice of Ireland‘, congratulations Pat Byrne, we voted, cheered and shouted with the best of them. Dawn, Kirsten and I had an early start on Monday morning, 4am to be precise! It was bitter sweet leaving the girls at the airport, our time together was really special and it was very sad to see it ending. I will be however heading to US myself in exactly one week and visiting with Dawn and the three of us have plans laid for a longer session together next spring, lots to reflect on and lots to look forward to!!!

Speaking of the US, I am SO EXCITED that I will be heading off my travels exactly one week from today, in fact by this time next week I’ll actually be airborn and heading over to stay with the wonderful Jan Durham in Lexington and the amazing Dawn Edwards in Plainwell! If you would like to join us in Lexington on Friday 11th and Saturday 12th May or Plainwell on Friday 25th and Saturday 26th May from 10am to 5pm please just contact Jan or Dawn asap, we have just a few slots left on each of these dates so hurry if you want to have some fabulous felting fun!!! There are also only a few places left for the amazing week long felting extravaganza at Dominio Vale do Mondego in Portugal, please follow the link to see what’s on offer and contact Karin asap if you wish to confirm your spot! I’ll leave you today with the full workshop descriptions for KY and MI, I’m also going to be in action for 3 days at the Kentucky Sheep and Fiber Festival from 18th, 19th and 20th of May in case you can’t make either Lexington or Plainwell!!!

‘Fantastic Felt Inspired by the Natural and Built Environment’ 

Skill Level: Basic felting skills an advantage but total beginners are very welcome too!

Class Description: Let the shapes, forms, colours, patterns, textures and structures of the natural and built environment fire your imagination! During this two-day workshop participants will design and create their own unique and beautiful wearable, functional or decorative pieces of felt using nature and the man-made landscape for inspiration. Some participants may choose to create a purely decorative art piece such as a complex vessel, sculpture or wall hanging while others may decide to design and felt some wearable art or interior accent, possibly a bag, some jewellery, some nuno felt or maybe a framed landscape or table runner.

There will be time to experiment and discover techniques or materials over the two days that you may have never considered using in your felting before. Nicola will be bringing some of her favourite mohair off cuts for everyone to try out and will share with participants how she is currently using free machine embroidery selectively to accentuate design elements in some of her new bags and framed landscapes. She’ll also demonstrate the use of an electric sander during some stages of the felting process and speak about the possibilities of fulling nuno felt using the tumble dryer, Nicola doesn’t use a sander all the time herself but sometimes it can really help with certain tasks and it is definitely useful to know when this might apply. The tumble dryer technique is wonderful for difficult to felt fabrics and to eliminate all the traditional rubbing and rolling, it’s not for everyone but it is fantastic to speed up the process especially if you have a bad back or other health issues so again, another technique it can be handy to know about!

Participants are encouraged to bring along treasured bits and bobs from their stash, buttons, beads, scraps of vintage fabric, shells, stones, glass nuggets etc., these all make wonderful inclusions in felt and help to personalize and create a truly unique work of art! We will have access to a sewing machine during the workshop but if you have your own machine with a free machine embroidery foot please bring it along and some threads too if you have space in your car. We won’t have access to a tumble dryer at the venue but if participants would like to try this technique during the workshop they are free to lay out a large nuno wrap during day one and get it to the stage where they can bring it home with them and finish it using their own dryer that evening. Nicola will clearly explain the steps to take and it should be possible to full the pieces and have them finished to show off on day two!

NB Although participants will get the most from this workshop in either Kentucky or Plainwell if they are able to participate on both Friday and Saturday there may be a few places available for those unable to attend both days, please just contact Jan or Dawn asap to check.

U.S. workshop updates plus pictures of nuno felt from yesterday

I’m SO EXCITED that my spring trip to KY and MI is really starting to take shape!!! It’s taken quite a while to get a materials list together for the sessions organised in Plainwell MI by Dawn Edwards (25th and 26th May) and in Lexington KY by Jan Durham (11th and 12th May) because with the title ‘Fantastic Felt Inspired by the Natural and Built Environment’ participants are free to decide during the course of the workshop what direction they would like to explore, vessels, bags, sculpture, nuno felt, wall hangings, the list goes on. In a way I’ll be acting like a conduit for ideas, help and inspiration, the one constant is that the starting point and the theme will be the same for everyone. As a result it’s been a lot more difficult for me to write out a definitive list of what participants should bring with them, however I hope that the guideline below will be of some help for people with specific projects in mind and if anyone has a particular question that they would like me to answer personally please just email me and fire away!!! My workshops at the Kentucky Sheep and Fibre Festival have also gone live on the festival’s website so head on over there if you would like to join us on either the 18th, 19th or 20th of May! Now for the details for Plainwell and Lexington……

  • Small vessels, sculptures and bags will need 80 – 150g of fibre.
  • Larger and more complex vessels, sculptures and bags will need 200 – 350g fibre, for bags I like this to be divided into 2/3 merino and 1/3 a strong coarser fibre such as C1 or Icelandic wool.
  • A simple textured nuno scarf will need either a pre rolled silk chiffon or ponge silk scarf as a base, a long length of silk cut from a roll or alternatively a cotton cheesecloth or muslin length, the longer the better in all cases!  This project won’t need anything like a big amount of fibre but at a rough guide anything between 40 – 60g will be fine for a highly textured end result!
  • A large textured nuno wrap/bolero (two day project!) will need 2 – 3 m (yards is fine) silk chiffon, ponge silk, cheesecloth or muslin for the base and at least 40 – 100g good quality merino depending on size.
  • A large collaged nuno wrap, wall hanging or yardage for clothing (this may be made using the tumbler method and if so requires no rolling!) will need a piece of base fabric approx 35 to 40% bigger than the desired finished size. I like to use muslin, cheese cloth or my favourite cotton gauze for this but you can use silk chiffon or ponge silk too! In addition to this base fabric you need at least the same volume of fabric in a selection of colours and mixture of weights and texture, i.e. if your base fabric measures 180cm X 40cm you need about 2m X 50cm fabric comprising a mixture of silks, cottons and/or some metallic mesh plus at least 200g good quality merino (for wearables) or alpaca/other fibre for a wall hanging.
  • A large table runner will need less fabric than the large collaged nuno wrap above but a higher percentage of wool to fabric, this it to make sure that the runner will actually protect the table from heat or water and is not just decorative, decorative’s OK too if that’s what participants want!

As you can imagine different projects require different techniques and heaviness of hand when laying out the fibre. For wearables I usually but not exclusively use merino with some surface silk/banana/tencel/firestar fibre so I would just encourage particiapnts to sort through their stash and we’ll work together with whatever they bring. The figures above are a minimum guideline, I don’t want anyone to feel pressurised to buy more fabric or fibre than they may realistically need but to be honest where felting is concerned, can one ever have enough fibre or raw materials??? Each participant will also need to bring their usual felting equipment to the workshop. This may include bubble wrap, towels (please bring a few!), hard olive oil/goats milk/glycerine soap, sprinkler, bamboo blind, pool noodle, net, whatever they like to work with themselves, people wishing to try the tumble dryer method need to bring an additional lightweight roll of builders plastic to use instead of bubble wrap.  Anyone felting a bag, vessel or any sort of three dimensional project will need some flexible plastic to use as a template/resist, I prefer 2 or 3mm laminate floor underlay but in an emergency we can use bubble wrap or whatever flexible plastic you have to hand.  NB I love working with batts but roving and tops are perfect too, bring whatever you have and like to work with yourself.  I will also be bringing loads of embellishing goodies with me for everyone to share!

Now for some pictures and chat about the pieces I was nuno felting yesterday.

Texture from Heather's hand spun yarn

Those of you following me on Facebook (click both links on the sidebar to the right if you’ve not already done so!) may have seen the image I uploaded yesterday morning showing some chocolate merino, gauze and beautiful hand spun yarn from my great buddy Heather which I gathered together and was in the process of felting into a simple nuno scarf. This is one of the projects I’ve been completing for the new book with Chrissie, basically it’s an easy first piece for anyone to try using the tumble dryer method. The image here shows how this particular hand spun felted beautifully to the surface of the gauze, I love the texture and colour of it on the surface of this scarf, it’s well felted together but you still have amazing texture from the slubby yarn! Pictures of the completed scarf will be revealed when the book is finished, hopefully not too long because I’m working on it every day now and hope it will be finished before Dawn arrives for her holiday and workshops here at Clasheen in April!!!

The other scarf that I felted yesterday (I also started some felt landscapes) is an even simpler piece, one fine open layer of short fibre merino on top of a long piece of ponge silk. I also added a lot of hand dyed silk fibre on top of the merino, I like the way this scarf can be reversible and only wish that it had been less windy when I was trying to take pictures of it this morning!

Plenty of silk fibre on the reverse