One very welcome spin off from my recent adventures in freestyle knitting has been discovering some of the amazing natural and man made yarns now available online or in specialist shops. I felted myself a little clutch bag (purse for our American friends!) on Thursday afternoon and decided to add various yarns from my Blade scarf into the surface layer as an experiment to see how they would felt. The most amazing revelation was the huge success of some Tilli Tomas beaded silk! This is a very beautiful but expensive yarn and I had a small bit of discarded knitting with some cut threads which I really didn’t know if it would be possible to incorporate successfully into my felt. I laid out the bag around a resist as normal, decorated the surface with the scrap of beaded silk knitting, some artificial sari ribbon and some swirls of a Rowan wool/silk yarn and a silk/cotton combination. Some of the beaded silk I covered with the finest wisps of fibre and other areas I left uncovered. I needn’t have worried, the beaded silk felted beautifully and actually needed no covering wisps at all.
Clockwise from left - sari ribbon, silk-wool, silk-cotton and beaded silk
I love the way the knitting has become distorted and the little seed beads gleam and glisten as they catch the light! The sari ribbon also became incorporated really easily and it was actually the silk/wool and silk/cotton combinations that needed a little extra care while rubbing before they felted fully into the wool. I love the effect of all the different yarns in the finished bag and know that it will get lots of use over the coming months, green is after all the colour that I am most often to be seen wearing!
I am still waiting for my delivery of Icelandic wool to arrive in preparation for the large rug I am felting my father’s cousin Sylvia, hope there is no charcoal getting in the way! In the meantime my sister commissioned me to create 36 small felt flowers to adorn her new Stranne table light from Ikea. This is a spin off from my own lamp which I updated at Christmas by adding stylised flowers to surround every little light bulb, everyone seems to like it for some reason. Anyway, I used flowers left over from my Sculpture in Context piece so just added whatever I had left over but for Suzanne’s lamp I am making them from scratch in colours that she choose on Sunday. Yesterday I started the production by felting two 8 flower batches and this morning I intend felting 16 more before loading the truck and heading of to a teaching engagement this afternoon.
Stunning hand painted roving from the Dancing Farm
On Friday I recieved a wonderful swap package from Suzy aka Hollyhill in the New Year Secret Scarf Exchange on Ravelry. It included this fantastic hand painted roving from the Dancing Farm which in addition to looking forward to felting with it has inspired me to try out spinning with a spindle for the first time in an attempt to add some handspun yarn to me freestyle kniting! Not having any spindle myself I have adapted one (using a piece of bamboo, a CD and some rubber bands) and this evening when I am back from teaching I am going to have a try armed with Gaia traditional crafts beautiful book Creative Spinning. This is such a wonderfully bulky amount of gorgeous fibre to recieve and in my mind’s eye I can see several beautiful and light felted scarves and some yummy yarn all created from the one gift from Suzy, thanks for this great swap package!!!
You could be forgiven for thinking that I am doing NO felting at the moment if all you were doing was looking at my current Flickr photos! In one sense it would be true because I am so totally wrapped up in my Golf Club duties at the moment that all I can do is collapse at the end of the evening after the prize giving ceremonies are over (to watch World Cup highlights with my freestyle knitting in hand) but in another it is not true at all. While I am unwinding I am plotting and planning my newest felt bag design and waiting for the delivery of Icelandic wool to start the large rug that I have been commissioned to felt. Last night I finished this Jane Thornley inspired ‘Frond’ knitted wrap and I have decided to felt an accompanying bag using some of the gorgeous yarns and sari ribbon to add surface detail and tie everything together.
Day two saw everyone moving to the Feltmakers Ireland studio in Phoenix Park for the morning session before heading back to Collins Barracks for the afternoon. Logistically this meant that we needed to bring all our relevant materials plus our work from day one with us. Because I had worked and felted my bag the previous evening I was free to start developing my theme further as well as have some time to absorb all we learnt on the first day. Annette had asked friend and workshop helper Cristina to bring some balls of cheap yarn with her and we started the day by having a fun session weaving the yarn through the trees. For anyone not familiar with Phoenix Park it is the largest park in a Capital city in Europe so we had plenty of trees to choose from!!!
Weaving through the trees
Sunlight filtering through the threads
Jeanette suggested that we either allow ourselves to get lost in the weaving and just enjoy the moment or else contemplate the different ways we were all connecting and how the many strands ultimately conntected and became one big web. Needless to say this was great fun!
Today I am going to show you two detailed images of my bag, the full bag will be revealed in the next post.
Looking into the bag
What lies beneath
Lastly today I want to let everyone know that Wikio are launching a list of the top UK and Irish knitting blogs on Monday and amazingly Clasheen is in the top ten! Here is a sneak preview of how things are looking …………
I have been really busy this week catching up with all the jobs left undone over the last while and preparing for my Lady Captain’s Day at Borris Golf Club which is taking place tomorrow! On Wednesday I had an interview at the Crafts Council which might lead to me being on a panel of makers called on if residencies or projects are looking for textile artists in this area although because I have already participated in a project last year they have said that new makers will get preference. Today Carmen and I are giving a felting demo at our local country market in the morning and this afternoon I am invigilating at the Blueprint show in Carlow. Yesterday night I as I followed the latest matches of the World Cup I cast on for Jane Thornley’s stunning Feather and Fan organic wrap because I wanted something to do while I was sitting in the exhibition space minding the work. Yes, this is knitting I know and I never thought that I would be enjoying getting stuck into any knitting project except something chunky worked with recycled fabric or plarn! Purely by chance as I was searching the internet seeking patterns for torn fabric worked on huge needles I managed to stumble into Jane’s site and info re. a knitting retreat in Taos, one of my all time favourite places in the world!!! I became totally hooked instantly. The organic mix of yarn and fibres which Jane champions really appeals to me and the freestyle shapes she has designed look a perfect match for some of my Blue Fish linen and hemp! Still no word from the American Embassy re. my vias requirements so I am planning on trying to actually see someone when I am in Dublin next week delivering my piece for the final round of the National Crafts Competition judging. Ordering the wool today for the rug that I have been comissioned to felt, should have probably ordered it a week or so ago but just don’t seem to have had the time to settle down and deal with the ordering process!
After a great breakfast and a morning assembly all the participants in Lyda Rump’s complex bag workshop met in our classroom. We oohed and aahed over the amazing bags that Lyda had brought to show us (check out some of them here in her gallery) and discussed how it is possible to make a felt soft to the touch but strong and hardwearing. For most of her bags Lyda uses an inner layer of a strong wool (such as C1) sandwiched between two layers of merino. Each of the layers is weighed out meticulously, for mine the body of my backpack weighed 97g per layer and there was extra wool for the straps, inner pocket and the dreadlocks. We looked at all the design merits of the various bags, inner and outer pockets play a big part as do double bags reminescent of saddle bags. Lyda is also experimenting a lot with incorporating knitting (or crochet) into her bags. This makes them more like a wearable piece of clothing and reduces the pressure on your shoulder if you use the knitting like a sleeve that the body of the bag is attached to, very funky and individual, check out the orange coloured bag at the bottom of gallery 1. After we had a look through some of Lyda’s sample books and images from other bag workshops everyone went into the trader’s hall to investigate what wool was available for purchase suited for the inside of our bags. I choose Norwegian C1 wool from Ullform and selected colours that would match or complement the Filzrausch short fibred merino that I had brought with me to make my bag with, this was to match a long scarf that I had made the night before I had left for Denmark.
My long merino and silk scarf
My idea was to have the main body black and use subtle blends of turquoise and green wool, silk, gauze and glass to add texture and interest. Lyda always gets her students to make a sample first, this enables her to see how people usually felt and allows them to try out colour combinations, new wool and new techniqes.
My first felt sample
Here is my first sample, check back again for my next post where I go through the pros and cons of this piece!
This morning my order arrived from Wollknoll containing a wide range of beautiful coloured silks that I am going to be using in some mosaic nuno wallhangings and hopefully some clothes! This is the technique that Sigrid Bannier taught recently to Feltmakers Ireland members and friends, one workshop in Dublin the other in Kiltealy. We laid out chopped up pieces of silk chiffon in random or organised designs on top of light see through plastic, covered it with 2 layers of very fine merino, more light plastic, wet it down and felted. We overlapped the silk pieces slightly where they met so that there were no gaps in the coverage and this made the resultant fabric beautifully tactile and supple. The colours were wonderful all over but in some cases especially interesting where the neighbouring silks overlapped. Sigrid explained to us how to create a long skirt in a tube form and then use a large button or brooch as a closure. I think that I might try this as an exciting Christmas/New year project (it would be a talking point at openings!!) and commission a nice button from Hillary Jenkinson at the Demanse Yard, Castlecomer for the fastening.
The other thing that I am excited about today is that I met some very nice people today in Borris, they were planning to contact me at some stage as they are interested in some felting workshops. It was quite by chance that the topic came up as I was actually representing my partner Alan (he is a Green Party County Councillor) at the opening and blessing of a new playground which serves children from all the neighbouring communities. The young children staged a Nativity play, there were a few short speeches, we all went outside to the play area and then the longest serving member in the group cut the ribbon. At that stage everyone was invited back inside for a warm spiced punch (non-alcoholic!) and a bit of networking and chat. It turned out that the committee members had seen one of the recent newspaper articles profiling my change of career and had discussed contacting me re. demonstrating to the younger children, teaching some workshops at their summer school and also doing some workshops with the leaders and teachers in the play school. It was great to hear this as one of my intentions in the New Year had been to put some proposals together to present to local community groups so here I am already on my way!
Craft in the Classroom is going to be stepping up a gear after Christmas as well, my HSE Child Protection Training takes place on 13th and 14th January and at the beginning of February I get to meet my teacher in Leitrim and learn all about the class that I will be working with. Mehmet Girgic is arriving on 15th January and staying until 23rd so all in all January will be a very busy month. Don’t forget for those of you living in the vicinity of Wicklow that I am also teaching felting workshops on 31st January in the Old Courthouse, Tinahely, we actually have a day lined up with tasters in felting, knitting, spinning and crochet, book your space by clicking here!
Would you like to learn the basics of felting, knitting, crochet or spinning or possibly just refresh your skills? Come and join us (a mad group of passionate fibre artists!) between 10am and 5pm in Tinahely Courthouse Arts Centre, Tinahely, Co Wicklow on Saturday January 31st for an action packed 1 day workshop. This is an excellent opportunity to try out a new fibre craft for the amazing price of just E50 to include tea, coffee and all materials needed.
Wet Felting: This course is ideal for people wishing to learn the basics of wet felting. A variety of materials will be provided and participants will complete a project such as a simple bowl or a felt necklace. Tutor:ME!
Knitting: Learn to cast on, knit, purl, increase, decrease, cast off. The class is aimed at beginners and those who are refreshing their skills. Tutor:Stephanie Kennedy
Crochet: Learn simple chain stitch, double crochet, increase, decrease and crochet embellishment. The class is aimed at beginners and those who are refreshing their skills. Tutor:Irene Lundgaard
Spin Your Own Yarn: Participants will be given the opportunity to create their own unique yarn which they can knit or crochet. Tutor: TBC
Places may be booked online from Stephanie at the Yarn Room, hurry to grab your spot!
Carmen and I had intended to meet up at mine this morning and settle in to a productive mornings felting. Unfortunately poor Carmen has picked up some kind of bug or virus and was totally unable to make our session so I called over to her house and dropped back again later to check that she was OK. As a result I didn’t get as much time as expected to work on my last couple of ideas for ‘Breaking Out’ but I did work on some felted components that I will utilise tomorrow at a marathon felting day! I am working on a neckpiece which will feature felted coils, I am making the coils by wrapping felt cords around metal knitting needles while wet and then baking them in my Rayburn until the wool is dry and the curls are fixed. They seem to be working. My intention is to make a lariat or choker with both ends finishing in long curly pieces of felt, sounds strange and maybe it will be! Update promised tomorrow and a few new pictures.