More felt incorporating up-cycled materials

I’ve been continuing to work combing off cuts of silk and mohair into my base wool while felting. My intention today had been to felt all morning and stitch all afternoon but then I realised that one of my New Year’s resolutions was to keep updating my Big Cartel store so that process ate into my time too!!!  Deciding the price for the little embroidered pouches I uploaded was not the easiest, finally I settled on E18 each, only time will tell if this was the correct descision. Anyway, here is a picture of some embellishment laid out prior to felting and hopefully by tomorrow afternoon I’ll have cut, stitched and be able to reveal the finished pieces!

Mohair off cuts and silk scraps laid on top of short fibred merino

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More up-cycling with mohair off cuts

It’s very stormy outside today so I only got a few dry minutes to grab this photo! I’ve been assembling materials for another batch of little pouches.

Blue and green mohair against the stormy sky

Don’t the greens and blues look fabulous against the grey skies?  I love felting these incorporating up-cycled materials and the latest ones will combine silk off cuts (thanks Carole!) and scraps of mohair pieces (from Cushendale Woollen Mill) with either turquoise or kelly green short fibred merino from Wollknoll.  They’re also a good excuse to practice my free machine embroidery! I will be writing up a simple tutorial for these and this will be included with the kits I’m preparing, fabric pieces, buttons and enough wool to complete 2 pouches soon to go online in my revived Etsy shop!

Apologies for the short post today, I do have 2000 words to write for my final ‘Train the Trainer’ assignment so better go get cracking!!!

Largest ArtL!nks vessel felted at last!!!!!

Whew, I was beginning to think that I would NEVER get my largest ArtL!nks vessel felted and fulled!!!!!  Over the last week or so I have been giving it a rub and a roll every time I had a spare minute and yesterday afternoon I finally decided enough was enough and decided to declare it finished!

Working any uneven spots on the mohair layer with my felting mouse

I don’t have a lot of time this morning to blog about yesterday (preparing for my session this afternoon with Borris Active Retirement) but thought you might enjoy a couple of photos showing what I was up to at this final stage of shaping the vessel.

You may recall that I laid out this vessel with the intention to have the mohair layer for the outside, as things progressed, I far preferred the inner layer of white merino as I like the subtle colour variations where the mohair fibres have felted through the white.  Because of the soft and less structural nature of mohair (as opposed to a vessel felted purely from merino or another fibre) I decided to stiffen the mohair then turn the vessel inside out exposing my favourite side.  I think that I will need to leave the vessel dry on the exercise ball for at least a week but hopefully by then the PVA will have dried sufficiently for me to remove the exercise ball and see if this last experiment stiffen has been a success or not!

Sponging on diluted PVA to stiffen prior to turning right side out

Largest ArtL!nks vessel underway and pictures of my stash from Avoca!

My largest ArtL!nks vessel is now underway and I thought I would share this picture with you all, it’s not got the best colour contrast but it does give an idea of the size involved when you see the template beside my washing up bowl and sprinkler! 

Putting the vessel size in perspective

Eventually I decided to lay merino on the inside and mohair waste on the outside for this experiment.  I do really want to have a large vessel with the chocolate and orange design but for the first one this will be a less costly experiment if anything does go wrong!  More pictures of the vessel in progress are going up on Flickr but I don’t know how many I will have time to upload before I have to pack the truck for my session with Borris Active Retirement this afternoon.

I also promised you a couple of pictures of the goodies I scored at Avoca on Saturday, well here they are, one more to follow tomorrow!!! 

My Valentine's Day jacket from Alan

Gorgeous tweed and new stash of buttons!

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!!!  XXX

Workshop in Kentucky anyone, another felt beret picture and house sitting at Clasheen

Would anyone be interested in a Clasheen style felting workshop in Kentucky sometime during the last weekend in May??? 

I was very excited to get an email from fibre artist Jan Durham this weekend and we have been chatting over the last few days about the possibility of organising a get together in Kentucky after my workshops with Dawn in Michigan and prior to my return flights home to Ireland.  It would be WONDERFUL to add a new venue to my American adventures so if you are interested in meeting up sometime between Friday 27th and Tuesday 31st May and having a fun time felting together please email Jan today to have a chat!  Kentucky is not a state that I have visited before and what nicer way to make an inagural trip than to meet up with and share time with other felt and fibre friends!!!

Accurate colours and textures

The weather is extremely cold and windy this morning but the biggest plus is the fact that our horrendous rain from yesterday and last night has finally stopped!  I grabbed the chance to take another few pictures of the felt beret I made and here is one showing an accurate representation of the beautiful heathery colours and textures.  I have fallen in love with the possibilities of combining the mohair waste with other fibres and hope that the ladies of Borris Active Retirement feel the same way today when we explore the potential of simple felt hats.

HOUSE SITTING AT CLASHEEN

During my trip to the States in May I am thinking of offering my house and studio to an artist who would like a peaceful rural retreat in which to concentrate on their practice for a month in exchange for providing company and walks for Rex, my canine friend!  Obviously Clasheen is perfect (if somewhat untidy at times!) for a felter or textile artist but it would also suit a writer, painter, photographer (wonderful scenery locally!) or indeed any creative person who would like the space to concentrate on their work whilst having all the amenities of a small town 6 minutes drive away.  If you know anyone who is reliable, flexible and loves sheepdogs who might be interested in living here during the whole of May please pass on this information and ask them to email me asap!  I would also be happy to consider a person or couple interested in basing themselves here for a month rent free especially if they were happy to do a little gardening or painting in exchange for accomodation in a traditional Irish farmhouse coupled with peace and quiet!  Rex is my main priority however so whoever is interested in the possibility of using my studio facilities and/or house must be a dog lover and will need to commit to looking after him for the duration of my trip abroad.

Today has been the perfect day for felting!

We woke up this morning to horrendous winds outside, the perfect excuse to hole up inside and join Carmen for a full day of felting!  By the time she arrived the winds were increasing and after about another hour of howling and wailing the rain started, great stair rods of water coming down vertically, does anyone else use stair rods as an expression for rain???

Mohair and silk throwsters waste for the outer layer of this beret, short fibred merino inside

Tomorrow afternoon I start my third series of workshops with the Borris Active Retirement group and by request the topic for our first session is ‘felt hats’.  I decided to experiment today and felt a beret combining an inner layer of short fibred merino with an outer layer of mohair waste and silk throwsters waste.  As a quick aside, I suggest that anyone interested in trying out this mohair waste that Carmen and I are using (Sharon, hope this suggestion helps) goes to their nearest weaving mill and ask if they have any loose fibres left from the brushing process.  This is where we have got ours and it has been free to collect as Carmen is a friend of the person, I know that Cushendale Woolen Mill sells their abroad but you just need to ask around and I think you would be able to access some.  Anyway, the process for the beret is almost identical to the recent explanation of the mohair vessel with the exception that you don’t create such a deep three dimensional shape as with the vessels, rather stretch and pull the felt into a flattering shape to softly cover your head.  As before, the mohair really blended well during the felting process and for this beret I added a wonderful vintage button cover I picked up during last Fall’s workshops at The Tin Thimble in Loomis, CA. 

Beautiful vintage button cover

The deep lilac in the centre of the button cover is perfect with the turquoise, pink and lilac silk/mohair combination!  Head on over to my Flickr photos to see more pictures of the hat in progress as well as one rather dark image of the finished beret, the heavy rain made photography rather trying this afternoon!!!

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!