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!!!

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Stitching, finishing and framing felt plus a question I am hoping to find an answer to!

I started this morning by free machine embroidering a couple of abstract felt landscapes.  It’s difficult for me to decide when enough is enough with this sort of work, my personal preference has always been for NO stitching or embellishing but I do realise that not everyone feels the same way!

Stitching into an abstract felt landscape - the background colour is a richer purple but I find it hard to capture accurately

After Lisa Klakulak’s wonderful workshop at Felt in Focus I have really been trying to stretch myself in this direction, luckily Carmen arrived half way through the morning and was just in time to stop me stitching on some glass beads too, even she said that they were one step too far!!!  Once the stitching was finished I needed to iron one piece to flatten it a little and then frame them before packing them all away for taking to Carlow tomorrow afternoon.  I like my textiles displayed within a simple white frame without any glass covering the felt and feel that being so tactile they are definitely best displayed in a manner to invite the viewer forwards and tempt them to touch!  Sticking some pieces of velcro to the mount I offer the felt up to the hook side (of the velcro), press it in place and voila, the work is framed.   If this is not making total sense there are some pictures of the process I use in the section about displaying felt in ‘From Felt to Friendship’.

Why are these pieces heading in to Carlow tomorrow afternoon?  The Blueprint group that I am a member of is having a Christmas exhibition with a theme of urban and rural landscapes, the work is juried and curated and I would love to have one of these new pieces accepted.  I almost forgot, I actually ordered a batch of name tags this afternoon to stitch into bags and on the back of framed pieces, I don’t think that they will be ‘pretty’ enough to stitch inside vessels or on to scarves so this begs the question do any of you know where it is possible to order personalised tags online that look gorgeous and don’t cost an arm and a leg???  Thanks!

Rex trots through the flood outside my door this morning!

I’ll leave you with a picture of Rex plodding through the water outside my house this morning!  Following on from this it rained ALL morning but thankfully has now cleared up and is actually warm and humid, amazing.

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

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

Teaser photo, thanks a bunch and weekend felting workshop

Here is a teaser photo from my main neckpiece completed during Lisa Klakulak’s workshop, more tomorrow!

Free machine embroidery using a selection of threads and differing tensions

Thanks a bunch for all the positive comments about my first adventures into free machine embroidery, much appreciated.  I really wanted to push myself with the workshops I participated in at FIF but wasn’t expecting to have so much fun with the sewing, ah well, it’s never too late to teach an old dog new tricks!!!

Lastly for today, don’t forget that I am facilitating a felting workshop at The Yarn Room in Ashford, Co. Wicklow this Saturday, the perfect way to release your creative inner spirit.  Why not pop along for a relaxing day of felting fun???

Textured and stitched, the addition of machine embroidery to felt adds another dimension!

It is just not going to be possible to blog comprehensively about all the new techniques learnt and information absorbed at Felt in Focus, firstly there is definitely not enough time and secondly a lot of it is in my head and will be transmitted into my work over the course of the coming months.  Instead I hope you will share with me as I post some images taken during the two amazing workshops I participated in, felt jewellery with Lisa Klakulak and printing on fabric (printing with pigments and binders and not with acid dyes as I had somehow imagined!) with Kirsten Lundberg.

20 layers of partial felt underneath a layer of silk chiffon adds to the raised surface

I’m going to start today by uploading two images of the first piece I completed at Lisa’s workshop, a richly coloured wall piece (that I originally intended to be a bracelet!) with areas of high relief, achieving textured surfaces is something that really interests me.

Seeing Lisa’s felt in reality was a wonderful experience, watching her demonstrate how adding free machine embroidery to various areas really opens up a whole new avenue for exploring different means of surface embellishment.  As someone who has always had a horror of working on a sewing machine free machining was a total new experience, wonderfully relaxing believe it or not expecially since I was working on a relatively ‘free’ style of stitching  playing around to see what sort of effects I might be able to achieve without totally stressing myself out about perfection!

Merino, fabrics, partial felts and stitching combine to create a unique new felt