Felting, eco printing and upgrade at Clasheen (the final one!)

Rather later than planned, here’s the final post about the current upgrades at Clasheen and a little pictorial review of the last few weeks. As mentioned previously, I’ve been working on creating a library area in the room which links the guest bedroom and the guest bathroom making it a comfortable suite for friends to stay and workshop participants to relax and refresh. It’s also a lovely bright area for me to read in when I have a minute, at last I have more than enough shelving (combined with the shelves already downstairs) to store my reference books and thrillers. Here’s a picture of one small area as I started to add the books, the little cupboard Jonathan created is specifically sized to store my printer and paper.

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On the work and friend side of things April has ben a very, very busy month, what’s new!

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I’ve been felting and printing a lot as I work towards creating pieces for my solo show in August and the FORM photo shoot which took place yesterday. Here’s an example of eco printed silk combined with fine black merino, it won’t be one of the pieces I display but it is good to be back in the studio getting my hands soapy! I’d also like to say a big thank you to the new FORM designmade in Carlow lineup for electing me as their new chairperson.

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Wonderful textile artist and great new friend Kim Thittichai  visited Clasheen for a fun few days. Aren’t these beautiful flowers that she brought me so cheerful? I love them.

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I absolutely loved being a helper at the first Lyda Rump workshop organised by Maureen Cromer in Dublin on behalf of Feltmakers Ireland, such fun during the day and a delicious meal and company in the evening!!! Lyda is a wonderful felt maker and textile artist, we’ve spent time together now in Germany, Denmark, Ireland, Denmark again and now Ireland again, it was great to catch up, thanks Maureen and Terry for your hospitality too!

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After spending time with Kim and Lyda I finally managed to get some intensive sampling done in advance of my ten day residential felt and eco printing retreat this summer. One of the things we’ll be covering is the possibility of mordanting fabric using natural materials, as opposed to using more traditional metallic based powders. Here are two samples using the same printing materials but different pre treatments prior to bundling and printing. The piece on the left was mordanted with Symplocos and the one on the right with pomegranate, both bundles were boiled in the same pot at the same time, used the same big leaves, are exactly the same lambswool fabric and the results couldn’t be more different! Join me from 15th to 25th July to learn more!

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Thank you Klara and Irish Country Magazine for selecting one of my blackberry and rose printed silk cushions for your feature ‘Outside In’ this month, I’m delighted!

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Thanks also to Dorota for your impeccable sewing as usual, I love the sample apron you made me and I’m looking forward to printing it and seeing how it comes out. I’m also very happy with the latest batch of cushions, this one is blackberry on Symplocos mordanted lambswool.

Finally for today, here’s a lovely picture of great buddy Dawn Edwards who’s just arrived from Michigan on her third visit to Clasheen, it’s great to have her back!!!

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Pictures of my recent nuno felt top!

Slowly, slowly I am finally starting to get back to basics with my newly working computer and all the attendant software.  Things like Office 2007 were all wiped out and I had a major panic because I couldn’t find any discs even though I knew that I had purchased all the bumpf.  Anyway, without boring you totally sensless I finally managed to find some old emails from Microsoft, realised I had purchased the software online, found the 25 digit product key and voila, I am back in business this morning!  Initially I couldn’t get any of the pictures from my phone onto the computer but now that I have updated everything I can finally proceed as if the last 4 weeks never happened, I wish!!!

Folded and stitched nuno felt top

 

You probably remember I blogged recently about my Japanese inspired folded and stitched top but wasn’t able to upload any pictures at that time, well here they are.  The first shot shows the top from the front, this is the kind of loose style of clothing I enjoy wearing myself so hopefully I will get plenty of wear out of this now that I have finally put it together into something wearable!  The second image is the top from the back.  I think you should be able to see how beautifully this piece of ponge silk was dyed by Lyda Rump, I echoed the colours by selecting short fibred merino in complimentary shades and also added silk fibres making the top reversible if desired.

The back of the top

Revelation leads to a new nuno felt top!!!

OK, WordPress is behaving extremely funnily at the moment so forgive me if this the pictures in this post are not where I wanted them and they don’t have any captions. This morning I had a revelation, you all know by now how much I avoid sewing if at all possible, sometimes I like to add a few judicious hand stitches (I know stitching enhances felt wonderfully) but in general I avoid sewing like the plague!!!

Anyway, I ADORE the simplicity of Japanese design and one of the most read textile books in my library is ‘SAORI Self-discovery through Free Weaving’ by Misao jo and Kenzo Jo. My good friend Cristina lent me a few books last weekend and one of them is an absolutely wonderful book by Rutsuko Sakata, written in Japanese so unfortunately I can’t even give you the title here but believe me, I need to get a copy NOW! The pictures of Rutsuko’s work are beautiful and the line drawings inspirational. I was browsing through the book one more time at breakfast when suddenly I had a revelation! Last year I felted a beautiful piece of hand dyed silk with the intention of cutting and reassembling it into a kind of fitted sleeveless top (based on a well worn one from my wardrobe) prior to throwing it to hide the stitches and shrink it to fit. The silk was dyed by friend and master textile artist Lyda Rump and once I had incorporated a really fine layer of merino overlaid with silk fibres and felted them together the resultant nuno felt rectangle was so beautiful I baulked at cutting into it at all! Armed with a diagram from Rutsuko’s book I pulled out the nuno felt from my studio, folded it at the edges (a bit like origami but simpler!), pinned it and then tried it on, incredible, I now had the bones of a jacket/shrug that I know I will wear, fantastic!!! Anyway, I then found some perfectly matched thread (a Christmas present from Carmen!), added a couple of stitches to each side and voila, the top is completed. It’s raining horribly this morning so no pictures of the finished piece on the manequin, as soon as it stops I’ll take a few, for now off to felt and document another bag design for the book!

Has anyone ever felted with etamine??? Feedback please!

Last summer at the Felt in Focus symposium in Denmark Lyda Rump had some wonderful hand dyed fabric the like of which I had never seen before and which she explained to us was called etamine, it was 100% wool.  I do remember that Lyda said it was particularily suited to shibori (in a washing machine??) and also for using discharge paste to remove selected areas of colour, have any of you had a go???  Trying to do a bit of research on the internet did disclose that wool etamine is good for nuno felting but the info is sketchy and I am looking for some feedback.  Wollknoll are now selling etamine scarves and fabric by the metre and my latest order has just arrived this morning complete with 4 of the scarves, unfortunately the colour I wanted from a bolt must have been out of stock so I don’t have any small samples to practice on as I had expected.  At E12.50 plus P&P the scarves are not a cheap raw material so if any of you have some advice about the possible shrinkage rate, results you have had, pictures of work you have created etc. and are happy to share here that would be great thanks!

As an aside, if you are interested in having a peak at the video I created for Kelly recently for the Going Green Swap with a Twist on Ravelry head on over here to Clasheen Uncut!

Some more shibori pictures and fabulous new wool arrives!

My second shibori experiment on St. Patrick’s Day was this simple cowl, again felted using merino, cotton gauze and silk. 

Spice shibori cowl

This time my design had a hole at one end through which the cords pull through from the opposite end to close the cowl, hope this makes sense!  I love the combination of cerise, orange and raspberry wool as I think it gives the cowl a lovely warm and spicy feel.  The cords were very easy to incorporate into the body of the felt and this is a design I am planning to play around with a little, possibly make my next cowl a little longer and a little narrower.  Check out my Flickr photos for a full range of images from both sides of this piece.

Yesterday morning my latest order of silk arrived from Wollknoll and boy am I EXCITED!  When Lyda Rump was here for our workshops in February she was saying that they now were dying some fantastic wool similar to that which I usually get from Filzrausch, a short fibred19 micron merino.  I asked Sonja Fritz is she would be able to include a kg of various colours with my order for silk and I was blown away by the subtlty of the shades and how beautifully soft and easy this ‘Kap’ wool is to work with.  There was a PERFECT rose shade (I have never got anything quite as beautiful in this colour before) and it just cried out to be felted with one of Lyda’s gorgeous hand dyed silk chiffon scarves. 

Hand dyed silk chiffon with the softest nuno shibori

Again I decided to experiment with a little shibori.  My aim with this scarf was to emphasise the gorgeous colours from Lyda’s dying so I decided just to add wool at either end and not cover the chiffon completely.  This created a fantastic and light scarf which would be an amazing present for someone allergic to wool, only the silk would be touching the skin when you throw the scarf around your neck!  I have uploaded both these shibori pieces and my recent Zebra cobweb felt scarf to my Etsy shop this morning so if you are looking to treat yourself to a little uplifting pressie now is the moment!

New felt bag and how to integrate handles

Well, I shouldn’t have blogged the other day about the creative juices somewhat flowing because that just seemed to jinx things and it has taken a long time to get my new bag designed and felted!  I wasn’t happy with the initial sample (the one in various shades of orange, yellow and gold) so decided to make a large piece of prefelt from different proportions and stripes of cerice, turquoise and black merino overlaid with black and gold artificial lace, glitzy but subtle when fully felted.  This prefelt I then cut up into various shapes before felting it onto a base of apple green merino, another disaster!  In this instance I didn’t like the contrast between the different prefelt shapes and the clarity of the green when felted, by this stage I had spent a full day and a half without being happy with any of my samples!  Running in tandem with this very frustrating process I kept adjusting and fine tuning my template until at last I was happy with the shape of the proposed bag.  Eventually after some more dithering and debating I decided yesterday afternoon to just get on with the bag using colours that I often combine together (no sample this time!), black with small amounts of light and dark turquoise.  The front of the bag has inserts of textured leather and the back a few glass beads which I hope to stitch or bead around.  Now that the bag is fully felted I am actually thinking of entering it into an Irish craft competition so probably will take some shots of various details to upload here but not post a picture of the whole bag until the entries have been short listed. 

Handles for felt bags seem to be a topic that many of you are interested in at the moment.  For myself I like one of two things, either a felt handle integrated into the bag itself or a handle made from another material altogether, leather, metal or wood being three excellent choices that jump to mind immediately.  Contrasting materials and textures bring excitment to felt so keep your eyes peeled to see what unusual items you may come across that could be put to good use as a handle.  I also like my bags to have a couple of different options for use if at all possible, handbag, backpack and/or shoulder bag all rolled into one.  To this end I sometimes incorporate a loop into the back of my bags, this may then be strung with a long felt cord to form a backpack although obviously it depends on how the integrated handles are incorporated if this is to work successfully.  Now, how to integrate rolled felt handles so that they are totally strong, don’t stretch, will stand up to practically any hardship and most importantly last for many years!  For strong sturdy sculptural bags the alsolute best method that I have ever used is what I learnt from Lyda Rump at Felt in Focus in Denmark last summer.  Felt your handle/handles totally until they are extremely hard and there is no shrinkage left leaving all the ends dry.  Lay out your bag in three layers, layer 1 merino, layer 2 a strong and coarser wool such as C1 or Icelandic and layer 3 merino again.  Wet and soap lightly between each layer and after you have laid your second layer fluff out the dry ends from your handle/handles and place into position.  Don’t forget to allow for the fact that your bag will shrink, the handles should not shrink any further or only a very small bit if they are still a little soft.  This is why it is so important to felt them extremely firmly before inserting them!  Cover the dry ends with a little more of the wool from layer 2 and needle lightly into position.  Continue to lay layer 3 followed by your surface decoration and when you start to felt your bag pay special attention to the ends of the handle/handles and make sure that they felt into place exactly where you want them to end up.  As your bag felts and gets stronger pull and rub at the base of the handles to make them extremely strong and well integrated.  Another great method for handles is to cut your resist out but don’t actually remove any felt.  You then need to stretch the opening in such a way as to form your handles and then felt them fully.  Both Elaine and Carmen’s handles were formed in this way at our recent complex bag workshops and loads of books on felting give different ways of cutting to achieve this result.  Have a look at the images of Elaine laying out her wool (from my recent posts) and then her wearing the finished bag, this should give you an idea of what I am talking about if you don’t have any suitable books.

The last day of our wonderful complex bag workshop

Sunday was the second and final day of our complex bag workshop and the end of three brilliant days felting with Lyda Rump.  Because Cristina and I had worked well into Sunday morning to complete our bags we had a great opportunity to try something else whilst watching Elaine and Carmen’s bags taking shape as they felted and fulled.  I decided to make a small felt vessel which had been in my mind for a while and Lyda showed me how to design the template to give me the result I was aiming for.  Sometimes another brain or a bit of lateral thinking makes all the difference because I would have used a round resist myself and cut the opening down the middle in a wave, Lyda suggested an oval resist with a wavy top edge and this proved to be an entirely better option.  What it is to have artistic ability combined with years of experience! 

Vessel in progress

Carmen and Elaine worked on the various parts of their bags by rolling, pulling, stretching and spot fulling with a felting mouse.  When the bags were almost finished they were rinsed thoroughly in clear water and then put to drain in my washing machine with a towel to add a bit of friction and weight.  Doing this does not shrink the felt any further but it does remove a significiant amount of water and then you can work the felt further if you want or just stretch to shape and leave it to dry if you are happy that it is fulled enough. 

Elaine, Lyda and Cristina showing off the felt bags!

I don’t have a picture yet of Carmen’s finished bag as she decided to do the final shaping at home and felt a beautiful scarf during the last hour or so of the afternoon.  More about this in my next post and also some discussion about the various handle options when creating a felt bag. 

I would like to say a really big thank you all for leaving such lovely comments about my own complex bag!  It is great to be able to feel so connected to everyone through the medium of the internet and I really appreciate you taking the time to leave your thoughts, tips and advice!! 

I’ll leave you with an image Lyda took as I was preparing my small vessel on the gravel for a photo, it gives a good overhead view of the scalloped edges of the opening.

Positioning the vessel for photography