So soft felt vessel

Almost no words today (truck problems etc. so run out of time) but a detailed picture of my latest felt vessel, this one is 100% mohair and incredibly squishy, soft and tactile.  Had friends over for a loooong lunch yesterday and Eileen made the comment that it would make a wonderful nest for a kitten!  ‘Till tomorrow ……………….

Dizzy, fizzy, pink mohair vessel!

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!

Scrambled brain ………

So many ideas, thoughts, impressions, happenings, exhibitions, commissions (promise to felt your sleeveless top tomorrow Patricia, just getting new bubble wrap this afternoon for the job), meetings etc. at the moment and although my brain is not actually scrambled I just can’t seem to write quickly enough to document everything as I would like to.  Apologies yet again for all those unsent emails over the weekend, I have just been totally tied up with American visitors and catching up with jobs delayed last week because of the golf matches that I absloutely had to attend in my position as Lady Captain.  Unfortunately for the golf club (but fortunately from my work perspective!) the club got knocked out of everything we played in last week so I am looking forward to a slightly quiter time on that side of things, now I hope to have time to finish some felt as I really need to earn some money quickly!! 

Jacob's fleece with Mehmet's rug base and Icelandic wool

A few pictures from my scrambled weekend …….

Raw unscoured Jacob’s fleece which I combined with Icelandic wool and a rug base (base prepared at Mehmet Girgic’s workshop in Turkey) to be sewn into a new laptop case/satchel for me!

Wool and mohair 'yarn', a by-product of the weaving process at Cushendale Woolen Mills

Funky ‘yarn’ picked up at Cushendale Woolen Mills over the weekend, the mohair on the right is now knitted into one of my new style crazy cowls and is available for sale throught Clasheen Uncut!  I am delighted to have found a fun project that I can work on in the evenings when taking a break from felting and fulling and hope to build a collection of funky knitted cowls as a simple way of supplementing my felting income.

Chair pad incorporating Icelandic wool, rug base and strips of woven waste

This week is going to be a busy felting week once I get awful paperwork and bank stuff out of the way today.  Tomorrow I am going to be spending all day felting a sleeveless jacket for a client in the States and on Wednesday one of my closest relations arrives in the morning to discuss a rug which I will be felting her as a comission, exciting times ahead!  This seat pad is a small experiment to see how much clarity is lost in the blue shades of Icelandic wool when combined with a natural white rug base from Mehmet and I also included some strips of the woven waste picked up at Cushendale just for the heck of it.

Don’t forget you need to get your entries off pdq to Chrissie if you want to enter her Waterfall jacket competition and if you are thinking of subscribing to a new felting magazing why not give the Australian publication ‘Felt’ a go?  Talking of things from the other side of the world I recommend keeping an eye on the Convergence blog to really get you in the festive mood!

Mohair and merino transformed into a light and airy cobweb felt scarf

The natural mohair locks that I brought home from the States are a gorgeous mixture of silvery colours and I thought that they would combine beautifully with some more 16 micron merino from Filzrausch, this time a black and white roving perfectly named ‘Zebra’! 

'Zebra' merino and mohair locks

Cobweb felting is not a technique that I have great confidence in never having had a chance to participate in a workshop on the subject.  Instead I’ve learnt from books and practical experience and to be quite honest this latest attempt is by far the best scarf that I have felted to date using this interesting method.  If any of you do have some tips and advice about the topic please leave a comment, all info gratefully recieved and put into practice for future projects!  Anyway, I laid out the roving along the full length of my table and then teased the fibres out as wide as I could possibly get them without breaking the strands or leaving any areas too open and exposed.  Once I was happy with the layout of the merino I teased the mohair locks with my fingers and laid the curls loosly in position.  I decided not to place any merino at right angles across the scarf because the mohair acted well to strengthen the felt and I wanted the black and white of design to run lengthwise and really give a sense of movement to the finished piece. 

Cobweb scarf blowing in the wind

I rubbed, rolled, stretched and re-rolled the scarf for much longer than usual in order to create a super strong and well fulled cobweb felt.  In some early cobweb experiments I don’t think that I rolled for long enough because after the scarves were worn for quite a number of times they almost seemed to continue felting further widthwise with use.  Maybe that is a feature of this type of felt, as I say I really know very little about the subject although I think that this scarf has totally stopped felting and fulling and I hope that it will stand up successfully to many happy seasons of wear!

Picture of the mosaic mat and more with prefelts and reusing old felt!

As promised here is a picture of the completed mosaic mat. 

The completed mosaic mat

Obviously you can tell from the image that snow has arrived at Clasheen but the unfortunate news is that my water has once more stopped running.  Luckily my heat is OK because the outside temperature has never risen above -2 degrees today, unheard of weather conditions for Ireland although everything looks like a beautiful winter wonderland at the moment!!  It struck me when taking this picture that the mosaic method would work very well if you cut out your shapes as if you were going to sew a traditional patchwork quilt.  This may be some research that I will take up at some stage but for the moment it was a really simple way to use some of my left over prefelt.  Following on from this project I decided to experiment with more prefelt, pieces of my first long loved (but finally wrecked!) cobweb scarf and various bits and bobs of embellishing fibres that I have had in my stash.  Due to my lack of water I also wanted to work some more with Icelandic wool (as it needs loads of soap but not too much water) and melted some snow on the range to keep me going for the moment. 

Silk and mohair/romney highlights

Here is an image to whet your appetite and you can check out my Flickr photos for some more teasers of this landscape.  For anyone wanting to experiment with Icelandic wool I am offering the batts that I work with for sale through my Etsy store, please just mail me if you don’t see the colour that you are looking for!

More ramblings from an American road trip and my fibre related finds along the way

Moving on up the coast from Arcata (but not before I bought some gorgeous ceramic beads from Talisman in Eureka) we stayed at a basic but comfortable motel at the edge of Crescent City before heading East through Smith River National Recreation Area and on up into Oregon. 

Stunning Fern Canyon

Stunning Fern Canyon

While in Crescent City we explored some of Redwood National Park including the stunningly beautiful Fern Canyon, part of the Praire Redwoods section of the greater park area.   Passing through Grants Pass we then headed South a little before turning East again and travelling to fascinating and remote Lava Beds National Monument.  On the way we spent one night at Shakespere mad Ashland (I kid you not!) in a gorgeous old hotel on the main street where I had the opportunity to pick up some great buttons and beautiful undyed mohair locks at  a handspinners, weavers and knitters delight called The Web.sters.  I have never felted with pure mohair before so am really looking forward to seeing how it felts when I get home, it feels beautiful and silky to the touch and is in gorgeous natural shades of grey, silver and off white.  We also spent some time chatting (or visiting as you folks say over here) with Alfred Hanan at his brilliant shop ‘Hemporium’, a fantastic place to pick up some stylish, comfortable and natural clothing or accessories and then met Dale Muir in her studio at the Ashland Art Centre.  Dale works with recycled materials creating wonderful funky assemblages which just had to make me smile.  The Art Centre is very interesting, one of many different co-operative type businesses we have encountered along the way and giving me lots to think about for future possibilities back home in Ireland.  We stopped in Ashland for one night before moving on the Tulelake, our base for visiting both Lava Beds and the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuges.  Thanks to our Californian Lonely Planet we checked in to Fe’s B&B on 660 Main St., a great choice as Fe and her husband Bob were great hosts and Fe’s delicious hot breakfasts with fresh fruit were healthy, tasty and large setting us up nicely for a day exploring the fascinating scenery and wildlife in the area.    Another nice aspect about the B&B was the fact that guests from the 4 bedrooms joined up together at breakfast and shared tables.  We got to spend some time with an interesting young couple Lizzie and Lawrence from England and had a meal together the second night at Captain Jack’s Stronghold, a surprisingly good restaurant at the side of Hwy 139 a few miles south of Tulelake.  One thing that it is hard to convey to friends at home is how BIG this country is and when you are in more remote regions it could be hundreds of miles between gas stations or anywhere to eat, decent or not! 

Alan among the lava beds

Alan among the lava beds

Both Lava Beds National Monument and Klamath Wildlife Refuges were brilliant stops on our trip.  The volcanic activity over the years has created a fascinating landscape, we did some great walks through the lava beds and and into the caves and were lucky enough to see a young mountain lion on our way back to the B&B on our second night.  The refuges provide habitats for a mind boggling array of birds migrating along the Pacific Flyway and on the second morning we saw a bald eagle from a distance of about 8 feet while driving around one of the auto routes, the best way of viewing the birds as they seem to be less afraid of cars than of us humans!  We intended staying one or two nights at Fe’s but ended up there for three, if ever you are in the area call in and say hi, you won’t be disappointed with the welcome and the brilliant tasty breakfasts!!

Romney and mohair, a totally new experience!

Brilliant swap package!

Brilliant swap package!

Wow, I recieved my swap parcel from Dawn Edwards and it was fantastic!  It is amazing to post a friend part of your stash and in return receive part of theirs, you never know what will come out of the exchange!!  Check out these gorgeous goodies (much better picture in Dawn’s Flickr images), don’t they look divine???  Obviously I could loose no time in trying out the beautiful fibre, a 70% romney and 30% mohair combination.  I was extremely excited to be trying out a fibre that was totally new to me and in some of my favourite colours, olive, golden lime and deep purple.  Carmen called over this afternoon to do a bit of felting together and we drooled over the wool/mohair mix before I decided to make a vessel as a trial run.  BIG mistake!  Before starting I searched in all my books to check out the type of project I should submit the wool to, didn’t find much info so decided to make a vessel.  I laid out 4 layers using the resist method and the colours were very beautiful but the vessel was not!!  It was patchy and definitely not strong enough for what I had intended but nothing ventured, nothing gained.  I reworked the felt into a totally different shape and put it in the oven to dry.  It now is a sculptural and organic piece which I intend to stitch into (WOW, I can’t believe that I said that) and I promise to put up a few pictures sometime over the next few days.  I am going to ask Dawn what she usually makes with this type of fibre and tomorrow have planned to combine it with some richly coloured silk to make a colourful and lightweight scarf.  Thanks a million Dawn for such a challenging and great package!