Home again, home again, jigiddy jig……..

I'm finally home again after a long delay ridden trip. Thanks to all my lovely friends who left me comments and private messages on Facebook, please excuse me if I haven't replied or liked each one individually but it's full steam ahead here today and I'm teaching (14 or 15 ladies!) from tomorrow morning onwards! At this stage I’ve unpacked about half my stuff and washed all the new linen and cotton jackets, shirts and skirts etc. that I picked up during those fun, high octane, silk seeking thrift store excursions with Dawn, Sue, Shirley, Jan, Kevin and Sharon!!!

I couldn't believe how many new garments (complete with tags) in natural fibres that I found on these trips, some to naturally dye and others to actually wear myself. They included a gorgeous silk top, a long sleeveless linen dress, several linen jackets and some amazing silk formal dresses. Anyway, enough of the writing for now, in brief……….

  • I had a MARVELLOUS time in MI, KY and CA and promise to finish blogging about the workshops and upload pictures sometime over this coming weekend!
  • the weather here is beautiful at Clasheen today
  • my washing is drying on the line
  • I've some silk scarves and tops ready for the dye pot
  • I need to finish off some of the new pieces I printed/dyed last week in order to submit them for a pop up shop/exhibition tomorrow
  • I'm cooking lamb chops, new potatoes and making a salad for supper tonight, Leiko is coming
  • Later I'm checking that the truck will start then delivering some stuff to a friend
  • Finally tonight I'll pack the truck for my workshop in the morning

 

 

 

Advertisements

SO EXCITED to announce American felting workshops in May, CRAFTed, upcoming book and process of first mohair vessel explained a little!!!!!

So much to share with you and really not enough time to get everything written down and documented, today I have just had to put felting aside and tie myself to the computer to try and get my diary under control for the next few months!

My biggest news of the day is that I will be paying a return visit to California and Michigan during the month of May and I am just so thrilled and excited to be planning another series of felting workshops with you on that side of the world, watch out, here I come!!!!!  Although provisional dates and venues just need to be finally confirmed and I don’t want to jinx anything it looks as if I will be teaching in San Fransisco on Saturday 7th and Sunday 8th May, travelling to an exciting fibre retreat in Downieville for 13th – 16th May and with the wonderful Dawn in Plainwell, Michigan either the last weekend in April or the third weekend in May, I am so excited I can hardly speak, unusual for me as those of you who have already met me can readily attest!!!!!  I had such a ball the last time I was over and met so many lovely people, I am really looking forward to renewing acquaintances and meeting more of you, the internet is truly a wonderful place to make contact with fellow fibre addicts!  Although I haven’t actually contacted them yet there might be the possibility of putting something together with a fascinating artist and designer in Los Angeles and if any others of you would like to discuss the possibility of me teaching a workshop while I am over please email me to discuss options asap!

My next bit of news is that I start a short residency called CRAFTed this Friday, a learning skills for life project aiming to connect creativity and innovation through craft.  It is jointly organised through the Crafts Council of ireland and Kilkenny Education Centre and I have been paired with 6th class at Scoile Mhuire Presentation School in Kilkenny, 32 girls aged 11 and 12.  Last Wednesday I met their teached Mairead at a day long training for the project (we had fun!) and we have decided on the working title  ‘exploring transition’ to be the theme for our collaboration.  This residency follows on from my Craft in the Classroom residency but due to financial constraints and funding restrictions in Ireland at the moment we just have 10 contact hours and 6 hours preparation this time (in addition to the training day obviously).  On Friday I will be meeting the girls and showing them some of my work, answering questions, giving a short demonstration of the magic envolved in felting and then we will be discussing and planning how the course of our project will evolve.  This class will be leaving at the beginning of the summer and moving to ‘big school’, they will also be making their confirmation during the Spring so ‘exploring change’ seemed an appropriate theme, let’s hope it proves to be so and I haven’t bitten off more than I can chew! 

Fibre diva, author and good friend Chrissie Day and I plan on having our collaborative felting book published in time for my upcoming trip to USA!!!  This has been long in the planning and I hope worth the wait when we finally get it together and under one cover at last!  We both love to felt with similar and different raw materials and the book should be an interesting combination of different styles, techniques, tips and advice, watch this space!!!!! (How many exclamation marks can one blog post cope with?????)

Now on to a brief but fairly comprehensive explanation (at least I hope it will be brief and not bore you!) of the process I went through at the end of last week, as with the white, brown and orange ArtL!nks vessels I decided to work with the design inside for my first mohair vessel experiment.  This proved to require more concentration than I had expected; building up the layers of colour and texture in this way and turning the felt inside out near the end of the felting process allowed for the clearest end surface design and least difficulty combining different materials especially around the areas where the fibres met the edge of the resist. 

Nubbly textures and surface detail incl. yellow plastic net, red linen fibres, lilac wool neps and rich reflective mohair

Areas where I trapped hard rectangles of previously felted wool under silk chiffon and fibre (to get both design elements and a raised surface texture) plus the places where I added some pieces of yellow plastic netting needed the most brain power but I kept my flat felt experiment to hand and this was a big help in determining how exactly I would lay out my design.  Once I had the fibres and fabric laid out against the plastic resist on side one I followed this with a thick layer of loose mohair fibres.  As I mentioned before this mohair is a waste product from the weaving industry and as such when Carmen and I get the bags of fluffy, lustrous fibre the colours are both clear and subtly blended, it obviously depends on what fabric the mill has been brushing and what has been previously brushed as to what colours we end up to work with.  I choose the pinkest and purpleist (are these words???) blends to lay against the design and once the first side was totally covered I wet it out using a lot of soap, gave it a brief rub and then turned the package over to the other side.  Next I continued laying the surface design (working with the laminate floor underlay for a resist allows me to see the shapes and colours from side one through the plastic) before folding over the edges from side one and laying out the mohair on the second side as well.  Once that is done (soaped and rubbed lightly) I turned the package over again before laying two even layers of gotland/merino blend on each side.  The important thing at this stage is to place a piece of yarn or contrasting fibre on your work wherever you decide you will be cutting into the felt once the felting has occured and the fulling is progressed enough for you to be cutting out your resist.  If I don’t do this at this stage I totally forget where the upper and lower surface of my vessels will be, live and learn!  I spent a lot of time rubbing lightly on both sides of the package and paid special attention to the edges around the resist, the fibres there need to be nice and snug otherwise you will end up with unwanted ridges when you start to shape the vessel. 

Silk and linen fibres on top of woven mohair squares

Once I was happy that the fibres were starting to felt together well I commenced rolling in different directions alternating with rubbing directly on top of the felt using more pressure and friction at this stage.  When it looked as if I needed to cut into the felt to relieve the internal pressure (the felt is shrinking and therefore the plastic resist is getting scrunched up inside) I knew where to make the insision because I was careful to keep an eye on that odd coloured bit of yarn which was my marker!  I sealed the edges and rubbed carefully around the edge of the resist before turning the package inside out and having a look at what the vessel would finally look like and how the design worked in the round.  Finishing the piece was exactly the same as any other sculptural felt, rinsing, rubbing, rolling, banging, shaping etc. until finally I was happy with the result.  Because I used a combination of mohair with the gotland/merino blend the vessel is nice and strong sculpturally and definitely should hold it’s shape over time.  I like the way the different fibres have blended and mingled although I have to say I pulled off some sequined ribbon (do you remember us buying that Sharon???) once I turned the vessel inside out, a bit blingy for me at the end so it had to go much to Carmen’s delight!

Further exploration for my ArtL!nks project. Is more surface detail ever less???

You know the saying ‘less is more’ but do you think that the opposite holds and would it be possible to say that ‘more is less’ at times as well???  If ever this were the case the experiments I have been felting this week incorporating mohair might hold true to that principle, I am inclined to have a sneaking liking for them while Carmen is quite unreserved in her horror!  

Before I start to talk about these pieces let me say that I have also felted a white Icelandic wool and silk vessel (great as a lampshade!) which I have stiffened on the inside with lightly diluted PVA glue.  Success!!! 

Thin felt vessel stiffened on the inside with PVA

I used the same template as the medium sized white, brown and orange vessel from earlier in the course of this ArtL!nks project but only laid out two fine layers of wool and a large silk cap covering nearly both sides of the template.  Because I wanted to see how the glue would work I just rubbed and rolled the vessel until it was felting together without obvious seams at the edge of the resist and then turned it inside out, inflated a balloon inside and sponged on the diluted PVA to the surface.  My idea in trying this method was that while the PVA would strengthen the vessel it would not be totally absorbed by the felt and therefore once I turned the piece right side out to dry I should still have a ‘felterly’ texture to the surface of the felt, in addition to this it would obviously be larger than the firmly felted pieces using the same sized template.  Once the glue was sponged on I turned the felt right side out again and inflated another balloon inside before hanging the lot from my ceiling to air dry.  Yesterday afternoon I burst the balloon and even though the outside appeared totally dry the inside was still damp at the bottom.  By this afternoon however the whole vessel is quite dry and in fact it is incredibly light and almost got blown away in the light breeze when I was trying to photograph it.  The silk cap was a waste of time, possibly because the Icelandic wool is coarser than the merino but I was expecting some nice white on white texture and to be honest it almost looks like a glob of glue on the surface!  Other than that the felt feels pretty good on the surface and when I hold the vessel up to the light is looks wonderful as a lightshade, more possibilities with this one, maybe using the yoga ball as my template.  On Monday the LARGE vessel will start, procrastination ends here as I have now invested in a more expensive yoga ball complete with stronger pump, no excuses now to get the damn thing inflated!!!

Now, on to my ‘more is less’ experimenting.  Carmen is always great at sharing any unusual materials she gets with me and recently we were lucky enough to get some large bags of  ‘what I am now calling mohair waste which came as big clouds of fibre kind of like an  unstructured batt, probably there is a proper name for it but hopefully you can follow my drift!  This waste is the fibre removed in the process at woolen mills when woven and washed mohair is brushed to raise the surface creating not surprisingly ‘brushed mohair’ fabric.  Part of my ArtL!nks work involves expetimenting with surface detail and although these pieces are totally off the wall as far as my other work is concerned I did have great fun playing around with these.  I need a window of a couple days solid felting to complete my LARGE vessels and that is not going to occur until next week starts because I just haven’t had the space/time balance right this one! 

Plenty of colour and texture going on here!

Neither of us has ever felted with 100% mohair before so my first piece was a glorious riot of colour and texture which until I started to felt I had no idea if it would be successful or not.  Inspired by Robin Blakney Carson from Luckystone Feltworks I wanted to see what the result would be of adding oodles of various embellishments to the surface of the lustrous fibre, this mohair has an amazing sheen.  Now I am not for one minute suggesting that my experiments reach anything like the standard of Robin’s students work (they bead, slash, embellish and stitch into their felt as I had the pleasure of seeing at Robin’s workshops in Rhinebeck) but it was fun to just throw caution to the wind and play around with oodles of different materials and fibres and see how they would all combine with the mohair!  Unfortunately I have run out of time now but you can check my Flickr photos for more details (some notes about the materials on this picture) and to see the vessel I felted from mohair with a gotland/merino lining, info to follow next post!

Jeanette Sendler workshop cont ….. adding the surface design and felting the bag

Everyone was pretty tired and hungry at the end of day one and straight after the workshop finished a few of us went for a tasty Italian meal nearby with Jeanette.  Refuled and ready to go again I drove straight back to Alan’s small Dublin pad and proceeded to lay out my surface design and felt my bag.  As already mentioned I had made some provisional sketches giving ideas of where I wanted to position my silk fabric and flax fibres.  It quickly became obvious to me that I needed to adjust the positioning slightly if I wanted to get a balanced and pleasing look once the resists were opened up and the other layers of design exposed.  I spent quite a bit of time cutting around the edges of one of the flower motifs and some more time cutting out small splashes of red and grey silk which I laid out underneath some of the silver flax.  If anyone is interested in ordering dyed flax I bought several different colours online from Filzrausch.  The last descision I made was choosing to lay out three strips of the hand rolled edge of the scarf on the front of the bag, my design was now complete and I was ready to felt. 

Felting the bag did not take long at all.   Because it had already been wetted out and left sitting in the trunk of my truck while I ate my food the wool fibres were nicely relaxed and everything came together very quickly, probably no more than 30 or 40 minutes rubbing and rolling in total!  Even though I started the project with the intention of using less wool and having a slightly more ‘flexible’ bag than usual I still worked the wool firmly and finished when I was happy that plenty of shrinkage had occured.  I was really happy with how the silk combined beautifully with the wool and almost melted into the front of the bag.  Next time I will post some pictures from the workshop and write about a wonderful exercise (with trees and yarn!!!) we all did outdoors at the start of day two!

Gathering the fibres …..

The next task was to narrow down my fibre choices and decide which colours would best compliment the scarf I had chosen to work with. 

Starting to select fibres and colours

The picture on the left shows my initial collection of fibres laid out surrounding the scarf, hand dyed gold silk, a 90% grey/10% pink alpaca combination, creamy/white undyed merino, baby blue merino, sunflower yellow merino some embroidery silks of my grandmothers peeking out at the bottom right and some beautiful merino and silk combinations at the bottom left.  I didn’t get a picture of the silver dyed linen fibres but they were a perfect match to tie in with the blue/grey and baby blue silk of the scarf.  Eventually I decided to keep things ultra simple and let the colours of the silk sing out against a natural white merino and use a little of the silver linen for additional surface detail.    

Once I had narrowed everything down to the bare essentials I cut my template from 1mm plastic echoing the shape of the jewellery pouch and making sure that it was large enough to allow me lay the biggest flower motif against the template without cutting into the design.  I did sketch the provisional layout of the silk pieces but decided to give myself some freedom as I laid out the bag and go with the flow if necessary, what’s new!  To start with I placed the largest piece of silk right side down on the template and then started to lay out my merino.  I wanted this piece of silk to be a beautiful surprise on the inside of the bag and needed it to be oversized for the impact I wanted to create.  At this stage of the day I was beginning to realise that I might not have enough time to get everything laid out fully, we had to exit the building at 5pm and were to bring our pieces with us to a different venue for the morning of day 2, panic!!!  Once the first layer of merino was in position around both sides of the resist I laid out some more pieces of silk fabric and covered them with a layer of plastic resist.  One of these resists I covered with baby blue merino before laying another resist on top.  My idea for this stemmed from a  beautiful large chunk of blue lace agate that my grandmother often wore and all us girls envied.  It wasn’t her most precious piece of jewellery by any means but the one we all wanted to touch and get an opportunity to wear as children, we just loved the lacy lines in shades of light blue and grey!  I wanted to expose both the blue merino and the silk underneath as two seperate layers, maybe I am not explaining this well but you will see what I mean when I post the final pictures.  By the end of the afternoon I had covered the resist with several layers of merino and was ready to bring it home with me to lay out the surface decoration later that evening.  More tomorrow ……..

Fabulous day, picture of my new nuno wrap and last chance to join the Clasheen Spring Swap

The weather here is FABULOUS today, hot, sunny and not a breath of wind.  OK, I am going to have to ammend that to hot, sunny and loads of wind because of course as soon as I nipped downstairs (my ‘office’ is upstairs as is my dining room!) the wind had picked up tremendously and I wasn’t able to photograph my latest nuno scarves as planned. 

Apricot and cream linen nuno wrap

I was however able to take some pictures of this beautiful nuno wrap which I created by felting merino and silk fibres into a base of cool crisp linen.  The linen is in graduated shades of apricot through to cream and to my mind this would be a wonderful piece to accessorise a simple outfit as the style is sophisticated yet subtle.  I can just imagine throwing it around my shoulders over a cream or terracotta ensemble and feeling cool and comfortable at a wedding or other such Spring or Summer function.  It took me ages to make up my mind what to actually do with the linen as I have had it for ages in my stash but had been waiting for the ‘perfect’ project to use it for.  Last week I was checking out some small balls of merino tops I got recently from Wollknoll and suddenly realised that there were some great shades of apricot and teracotta that would work brilliantly with the colours of the fabric.  This was my first nuno experience working with linen and I must say that I loved felting with it.  I wear a lot of linen myself (which I order from Blue Fish in Taos, New Mexico) and love the feel of the fabric, the casual elegance and comfort which it lends to any outfit totally suits my personality (ha, ha) and I adore the fact that it drapes well and washes brilliantly which is a big bonus.  I did find that it shrunk a lot during the felting process and I really like the crinkly texture in the finished wrap. 

Apologies to everyone who was waiting for their partners this weekend for the Clasheen Spring Swap, I am running a couple of days behind time so just wanted to let you all know everything will be organised on Wednesday, I promise, I promise!  As a result of my total sloppiness (aka totally snowed under as usual!!) if any of you would like to join in at this very last minute sign ups will now close tomorrow so you have a few hours left tonight.  Click through to our Clasheen Crafty Swap Flickr Group, read the rules, sign up and welcome to the Swap!!!

Pictures of my new fabric and felt neckpiece design

As promised here are some pictures of my new style (loosly based on a Lyda Rump design) fabric and felt neckpiece. 

Printed silver fabric and black felt bead neckpiece

The scarves that I have used in my first two prototypes are a 20% silk 80% linen mix and the beads are wet felted from some of my gorgeously soft short fibred merino.  When I was taking these pictures I thought again how perfect this style would be for anyone who  is allergic to wool.  The felt beads may be moved around the scarf and never touch the skin therefore anyone finding wool itchy would never come in contact with anything irritable.

Detail of printed fabric and felt bead neckpiece

I formed one long felt bead around a wooden dowel and just before I had finished felting cut the piece into five even pieces.  The black beads perfectly compliment the silver printed fabric and I am still deciding if I will add small seed beads to the turquoise neckpiece (pictures on Flickr) or leave it as is, plain and simple.  As mentioned before I sewed the ends of the scarf together and covered the join with a felt bead.  It would of course be an option not to do this but leave the ends open, this way the scarf could be wound around the neck in the normal manner as many times as wanted leaving the ends free to sit to the front or to the back.

I am off now to have a quick snack for lunch and then set in to a long afternoon felting in preparation for Sunday’s craft fair!  Until tomorrow …..