Arms ache from felting!

My arms ache this evening after a long rolling session which seemed to go on forever!  I was delighted to get a free day to felt, especially as it was unexpected because I had been meant to play a golf match this morning but my opposition couldn’t make it.  Over the last couple of days I have been away attending residential workshops as part of the toursim course I am attending and it was great to get a mental break and back into the creative swing of things!  I started the day by ironing and working on the edges of a nuno felt project and then got stuck in to laying out a really thick pad of fibres ‘a la’ Sigrid Bannier.   I have spent absolutely hours rolling, heating and rolling again to make sure that the felt is fulled and strong enough to punch into more striped felt beads which I will string over the weekend to make some more fun jewellery.  Over the last while I seem never to stay still for very long and I really need to make myself some new accessories that I can wear at all the events that I appear to be going to every week.  In the run up to the local elections I only expect this to get more hectic (my partner Alan is running for the Green Party in our local elections which take place at the beginning of June and I am his campaign manager!!) so I better concentrate over the next week or so and get them underway!  It is lashing rain at the moment here so hopefully I will get to take some pictures of recent work tomorrow and promise to upload them as soon as I get a minute.

Experiments in felt, success and disaster!

Yesterday afternoon I called over to Carmen’s house to see how her new studio is progressing.  Her partner Peter has spent the last couple of weeks working almost full time on this shed conversion and I must say that the results look great!  This was a modern barn with open sides and no concrete floor, now it is a beautiful cladded building with 4 huge windows, a wooden stable style door, shelving, electricity, water and plenty of wall and display space.  Peter is now making metal topped tables and then Carmen is all set to go, the only thing that will be left to do is landscape the outside a little bit!  Anyway, I toured the studio and then we had a great lunch of fish soup followed by fresh fish and veg.  I had said to Carmen that I would help with some organising and tidying up in the studio but since Peter was working on the tables we decided to experiment a little with some more felted jewellery.  I showed Carmen how I made the blue felt rings and then I tried making a ring by felting around a large glass mosaic bead.  this actually worked out very well although you do need a big hand for the ring to look totally in proportion!  When I got home I decided to use the same method of trapping the glass but this time surrounding a marble.  This ring also worked well but again I would like to have a little less wool surrounding the glass and therefore end up with a slightly smaller ring.  I am going to take some pictures later today and hope to get them online tomorrow or even this evening.  Let me know if any of you have and ideas, maybe I just need to start with a smaller marble to get a finer end result.

My felting disaster is another thing altogether!  Carmen got a new book for her birthday and one of the projects was felting around a ball.  Now I know that many of you have done this before using Beth Beede’s method but I have always prefered starting any of my 3 dimensional work using a flat resist.  Anyway, I decided to give the ball method a go and try to make the fruit bowl as demonstrated in the book.  I didn’t have any elastic bandage to wrap around the wool wrapped ball so decided to go for Beth’s method of using cut off tights, a VERY difficult manouver if you are working by yourself.  My colour scheme was a big success, shades of red and maroon with some orange highlights, red muslin (felted in beautifully) and some gorgeous silk in shades of maroon and wine.  My bowl decided that it would like to become a hat and after I had shaped it on my hat block I realised (as this was actually the first time that I had used the block) that it would be HUGE on my head.  Now I am back to the stage of having a fruit bowl or deciding whether to cut up the felt or punch into it and create some jewellery.  Ah well, another day another hat, I really need a lesson in how to make a proper and comfortable but most importantly wearable hat!!

Procrastinator’s Challenge!

One of the blogs that I regularly follow is Jo-Anne Carter’s ‘The Carter Clan’.  Jo-Anne is running a great surprise give away and has cleverly linked it in to a challenge running on the  ‘A Hole in the Basket Primatives’ blog.  Well, I know that I am really up to my eyes organising Mehmet’s trip next week but this was just the jolt that I needed to get me to finish some projects. 
Procrastinator's Challenge!

Procrastinator's Challenge!

As a result I have entered Jo-Anne’s give away and Ann’s challenge so here goes with the projects that I want to finish during January ……..

  1. Handle and closure on large green/lime/white bag.
  2. Handle on small green bag and possibly some beading.
  3. Handle on small blue/purple/navy/white bag.
  4. Handle on natural bag with goat hair.
  5. Handle and closures on the small mixed blue saddle bag.
  6. Wet and re-felt the brown and cream vessel so that I can use it as a bag instead of a desktop tidy.  Add a handle, poss leather.
  7. Make a closure for the red and pink mosaic neck wrap.
  8. String felt beads to make tactile outdoor and indoor mobiles.
  9. String beads to make jewellery.
  10. Decide how to finish and hang my batiked circle fabric, been waiting a long time for this one!!
  11. Possibly make something with the blue/purple nuno felt you can just see peeking out from behind the bags.
  12. Possibly add a handle and closure to the nuno felted bag just visable to the right of the nuno neck wrap.

I also placed a large order with Wollknoll this afternoon for the wool that I need for the 2 rug making workshops with Mehmet Girgic.  He is making the rug bases in Turkey as we speak and sending the special enormous plastic woven mats that we will be using to roll the rugs in tomorrow.  These courses will be such great fun, I am tossing around so many ideas in my head for the two rugs that I intend making (I will be doing both workshops) but have still not settled on any one style yet!  We are SO lucky to have a feltmaker with such a worldwide profile travelling here to Ireland that I am amazed more people haven’t confirmed their booking yet, only one week to go!!

Off now to get stuck into those projects!

Brilliant fun at the felting workshops!

It’s official, the Sigrid Bannier workshops were a brilliant success for all the participants last weekend!  Due to a couple of unforseen last minute changes in our planned itinery, I had been a bit concerned (but not worried) about how everything would turn out.  Sigrid and her sister Ingrid arrived on Friday afternoon and were soon comfortably settled in to a local farmhouse B & B.  Alan and I were attending the Carlow Person of the Year awards that evening so I didn’t get to say hi in person until I collected them at 8.45 on Saturday morning.  We travelled in tandem to Woodbrook House and there the fun and games started!  Our first task was to master the big log burner and get some heat into the place, the Friday night had been one of the coldest in years and our venue was the old Chapel in the grounds of Woodbrook, a large space and usually not heated.  Luckily the beast was very easy to tame and within a relatively short space of time the room started to heat up nicely.  Participants arrived a bit sporadically (due mainly to the state of the roads) and after we all had drooled and marvelled over Sigrid and Ingrid’s jewellery the felting started in earnest.  Both the sisters arrived to felting at the same time but via different routes, quite an amazing coincidence!  Sigrid shared with us her technique of laying out many even layers of merino and then felting, fulling, fulling and fulling again until the resulting piece is as hard as a board.  This sounds simple but when using fine merino tops it takes a LONG time to do, the object is to end up with a very hard solid piece of felt.  This felted piece is then punched through with metal punches creating both round long beads and a mat full of holes which may be used for various purposes including an insulated pad for a hot pot.  By laying down your wool in various different colours the resulting beads are very beautiful, my beads had 22 layers in shades of grey, orange, pink and white and I was delighted with the result.  This evening I made some bright pink and orange felt balls which I am going to string along with the beads to create an eye catching necklace, I am going to use one of the sterling silver clasps that I ordered from jeweller Carl Parker to complete the piece.  Ingrid meanwhile was working away on little ‘mini workshops’, a whole series of felted flowers and funky rings which she was happy to demonstrate and teach everyone the techniques involved.  Both the sisters use a very fast felting merino batt which was a joy to work with, I was lucky enough to make a ring with Ingrid on Sunday and found the fibre beautiful to felt.  We ate a simple lunch in the old kitchen of the main house while having a chat and afterwards Ingrid taught us how to make amazing paper stars and then simple card boxes to present our hand made gifts in.  The whole weekend really was a brilliant learning experience, both ladies really enjoy sharing their knowledge and I must say that I learnt so many new but simple techniques that I am already putting into practice!  On Saturday night Sigrid, Ingrid, Carmen and Patricia joined Alan and me at Clasheen for a simple meal and a glass of wine and we all went to bed fairly early in preparation for Sunday’s nuno felting day.  I have not been able to take any photos yet of the necklace that I made so hope to do so tomorrow morning (after a radio interview that I have been invited to participate in!) and in the evening I will write a post about the beautiful silk and merino nuno that Sigrid taught on the Sunday.

Written in a hurry …..

I can’t believe that the weekend is almost upon us and the Sigrid Bannier felt workshops will start tomorrow.  Yesterday I was at a Crafts Council training day re curating exhibitions and met up with quite a few friends from Feltmakers Ireland.  Clodagh had brought along the beads that she made last week with Sigrid and Holly was wearing a necklace that she cut using one of Sigrid’s ideas, both were fantastic!  Apparantly the jewellery making workshop is VERY labour intensive and I am looking forward very much to learning some new techniques tomorrow.  Sunday sees the Nuno workshop taking place and I will be assisting then but not participating, I expect I probably will learn even more!!  Now I am going to rush off and prepare our meal for tomorrow evening, tonight Alan and I go to the Carlow Person of the Year awards and I feel like there are definitely not enough hours in any day at the moment but especially this week!  I promise to write a proper post and put up some pictures on Sunday night or Monday morning.

‘Craft in the Classroom’, battle with sewing machine …

Great news, I got a phone call today and learnt that I have been accepted for ‘Craft in the Classroom’.   I am going to be teamed up with a National School in Ballinamore, Co. Leitrim (a very rural area for those of you not familar with the Irish countryside) which is brilliant, Alan’s father is actually from the area and his uncle still lives on the edge of town overlooking the canal.  Alan owns a small derelict cottage a couple of miles from Ballinamore and we have been stripping it out in preparation for a major restoration job on a budget, is there such a thing??  Anyway, as soon as I know some more details I will contact Alan’s aunt and uncle and book my bed, they run an excellent farmhouse B&B specialising in providing accomodation for keen fishermen and women.

Last night I staged a MAJOR battle with my sewing machine, I might even go so far as to say that I HATE the thing!  Two pieces of beautiful nuno felt later and I vowed that it would never see the light of day again.  I ruined the felt; my intention initially had been to sew some simple lined diary covers (for the 10 2009 diaries waiting in my studio) but after I wrecked the first piece I ammended my plan to some nuno wrist cuffs I had seen a pattern for in a great American quilting magazine.  No go.  More felt ruined.  I am now going to forget about sewing totally except for some easy beading, instead I am going to ask my friend Remmy to line a couple of bags if necessary and concentrate on making things that need NO stitches!

I have put some more images up on Flickr this morning but the battery on my camera is on charge again, I have nearly worn the poor thing out.  As soon as it is charged fully I will be able to load the images to my Etsy shop, for some reason they need to go directly from the camera and not from the web and that seems to be using a huge lot of battery power.    If you want to check out some of the items on Flickr I can say that the nuno scarfs will range in price from E30 (frothy neckpiece) to E60 (bronze nuno felted scarf) and the brooches and necklaces from E12 (pink and orange brooch) to E40 (reversible necklace).  To order any of these pieces before I put them up on my Etsy shop please email me directly, I would be happy just to charge you whatever it costs to post them instead of the Etsy charges but you would need to let me know asap!

Craft Fair, Etsy shop, Sigrid Bannier workshops

It’s been a busy weekend an an even busier start to Monday!  On Saturday I went down to Woodbrook House to discuss a couple of things with Giles and also to clarify the set up of our felting room and the dining arrangements for the Sigrid Bannier jewellery and nuno workshops next weekend.  Due to unforseen circumstances I am now going to be organising and cooking the food myself next weekend as well as participating in the Saturday workshop and entertaining everyone on Saturday night!  We also need to rearrange the workshop room somewhat and I will be going down to Woodbrook again in the morning to try for a final organising with Giles. 

At last I am starting to get a few more items up on my Etsy shop.  I wanted to have nice hand made products in the E15 to E60 price range suitable for Christmas presents and stocking fillers.  This morning I uploaded a range of images of trellis scarves and wraps selling from E30 up to E47, one thing to remember is that the prices on line are un USA dollers so they are not actually as expensive as they sound at first, $38 = approx E30!  As soon as my camera charges up again I have a series of felt necklaces (some with vintage or hand made buttons) to photograph and get on line.  These will cost from E15 to E20 each so do check in over the next few days as I get to grips with getting the shop up and running.

The Craft Fair that I participated in on Sunday was interesting if very dissapointing.  Unfortunately there was an extremely low turnout of people to view the stands and although in general the standard of work was very high there just weren’t enough people to make it worthwhile.  I was lucky enough to sell both of the alpaca scarves (both to men!) that I had on display and therefore covered costs and made a few Euro.  Most of the exhibitors sold nothing although the home made biscotti and preserves that the organisers had made did sell steadily to anyone who came.  It was a salutory lesson for me.  Normally I am on the organising end of events and to be honest advertising in many shapes and forms is the main answer to get the foot fall, the only sign that I saw for the event was on the road leading to the town and although the organiser did assure us that she had advertised extensively locally none of us had seen anything.  I am not blaming her in the slightest but I do feel that she underestimated the amount of signage needed and the actual cost of getting it all together, purely through lack of experience.  The venue was beautiful if small, a gorgeous room overlooking the river Barrow and the organisers were helpful and friendly.

Felt jewellery, mosaic nuno and felted vessels

Last call to everyone for the Sigrid Bannier felt jewellery making and mosaic nuno workshops that take place on 29th and 30th November at Woodbrook House, Kiltealy, Co. Wexford.  Please visit the workshops page for full details and either call me or contact Feltmakers Ireland immediately if you want to book a space.  This weekend Sigrid is in Dublin and these courses are totally over subscribed, the Wexford leg still has a couple of places.

This afternoon I made the last felted vessel that I will be bringing with me to Kozo Gallery tomorrow.  I love 3 dimensional work and really enjoy exploring the different shapes that can be made starting out with a flat felted parcel containing a resist.  Depending on where you cut the hole to remove the resist all sorts of regular or organic shapes can be achieved using the same initial template.  The vessel that I made today is in various shades of green merino embellished with a felted cord and some beautiful hand dyed tussah silk.  I sandwiched the felt cord inside 4 layers of merino then felted the vessel as normal.  Although I was expecting it to stand out very visably in relief in the finished piece I think that I could have used a thicker cord, it is visable but I felted it so much that I think it disapeared into the background a little!  My intention is to shave the vessel as soon as it dries and then emphasise the cord with a little judicious stitching of seed beads along the lines.  Fingers crossed this will achieve the effect that I am looking for.

Amazing photos!

Thanks a million to professional photographer Bernie McCoy who took some amazing images of my work on Tuesday.  I just got the CD today and am finalising an application for ‘Breaking Out’ at the Crafts Council so will not put all the images up on the blog yet!  We shot several different pieces of jewellery, scarves, bags and felt vessels.