Sculpture progresses and fun morning with friend

Apologies for my lack of posts over the last few days.  The internet connection has been extremely sketchy, must be something to do with the fact that our weather has broken at last and amazingly for this time of year farmers (and the golf course) had actually been praying for rain!

I have been working on fulling and shaping the sculpture that I started at the end of last week.  This first experiment in creating a tall column shape should give a good indication of whether I need to make my felt thicker, use a different resist, have a larger space to work in etc., all the nitty gritty things that will help me when planning and executing pieces larger than my own actual height and width!  When I started fulling and shaping I initially worked the felt around a long piece of electricity cable housing.  I had intended on having this diameter as the finished width but discovered that the felt needed to shrink further to become stronger and self supporting so I put the work aside to see what on earth I could find to hand with a slightly narrower diameter to enable me continue the shrinking process.  I returned to the scuplture the following morning having discovered the perfect fencing stake lurking in my garage, no problems now working the felt around the wood and beating it with a wooden spoon to finish firming up the felt!  Pictures to follow when the piece is totally finished.

Yesterday I spent a fun morning with friend and artist Rosin Markham.  Amongst other materials Rosin sometimes works with gorgeous undyed raw wool from a variety of different sheep breeds.  She very generously gave me samples and locks from some wonderful looking kinds, hopefully I will be able to take pictures later today and you will see the crimp and texture which should translate wonderfully into some finished felted work.  As Rosin had never worked three dimensionally before I showed her how I work around a resist and she laid out a simple round vessel in graduating shades of undyed Icelandic wool.  Meanwhile I decided that this was a good morning to get started on an ocean inspired bag which I am making as part of the current ‘felted bag swap’ on Ravelry.  I tried out a new shape which with a little tweaking will be perfect as a basis for exploring a new complex felt bag design, just need to add another flap or two but need to buy more laminate floor underlay first!  Rosin’s vessel was looking very good by the time she had to leave and my bag is now sitting on top of a rad drying while I plan and execute the dreaded cord handle.

Suzanne's necklace

You may remember I posted a good while ago about the necklace I made my sister Suzanne for her birthday.  She and my mother came over for a coffee on Sunday morning and I snapped a shot of her wearing it for my records, note the fact that she didn’t want her face to be shown, false modesty in my opinion but it does make for a good photo!

Felt ornaments, beads and hair accessories

Yesterday was ladies day at the Golf Club and as I only had a couple of hours in the morning to attack a felting project I decided to convert some flat felt samples into smart and colourful Christmas ornaments.  Using this great tutorial from Betz White I slashed, manipulated and stitched a large felt ogee.  Unfortunately I couldn’t find my tailors chalk (no surprises there!) so it took me a lot longer than it should have to cut the lines.  This was a bit frustrating but I didn’t want to make any mistakes and the stitching did compensate somewhat as for once it only took a couple of minutes to get through this dreaded task! The resulting ornament is definitely pretty but until I find my chalk I am just going to string this with some large glass beads and enjoy it hanging in one of the trees in my garden.  Any more of these ornaments will just have to wait until I am properly prepared at the slashing stage although I might get inspired to cut a few out from paper as I try and destash my interiors magazines!

I did put up some images of the felt and ceramic necklace on Flickr yesterday forgetting for a minute that they would automatically link through to my Facebook profile so here is a close up for you to see the contrast of felt and ceramic. 

Close up of felt, ceramic and organza necklace

Hopefully the intended receipient won’t realise that the necklace is her Christmas present so the surprise will not be spoilt.  These large beads are strung on a copper coloured organza and this is an effect that I intend to replicate with a couple more necklaces using some gorgeous vibrant coloured lime ribbon that I brought back from Denmark. 

Felt hair bobble

Having routed out some pieces of flat felt my other project yesterday morning was this simple spiky hair bobble.  Just get a long piece of felt a couple of inches wide and using a sissors or craft knife cut lines into one long side but not right through to the other side (hope this makes sense!).  Starting from one end roll the felt up into a rosette shape stitching a couple of times as you go along.  The slashed ends form a funky anenome style design and you could add a brooch back or as I did stitch on an hair elastic to create a fun felt accessory!

Where to buy the hollow punches that I use on my felt

This is just a quick post to clarify details of the hollow punches that I use to cut out my thick felt beads.  The punches are often sold for use with leather and a good place to check out if you are looking to buy one is eBay, here is the link for our neck of the woods.  I bought my set at a motor factors but Carmen got hers in Spain and they were much more expensive than mine but they do punch much better!

Green punched necklace

Green punched necklace

The edges seem to be very sharp and definitely cut out a nice crisp circle, the thick felt can be difficult to cut through and you need to have a piece of hardwood as a backing to lay the felt on as you work.  Carmen’s set also has punches with a wider diameter than mine, if you do order a set try and go for one with sizes up to 30mm.  When making the felt pad to punch for beads I like to lay out several different colours of wool and it is a good idea to have either a white or a yellow layer somewhere to provide a bit of contrast.  I’m not sure why this image of a necklace I made before Christmas has been inserted so small but if you want to have a proper look at it check out my necklace set at Flickr.  This green necklace is an example of a thinner pad punched in small beads and strung with sreen seed beads for contrast.

Arms ache from felting!

My arms ache this evening after a long rolling session which seemed to go on forever!  I was delighted to get a free day to felt, especially as it was unexpected because I had been meant to play a golf match this morning but my opposition couldn’t make it.  Over the last couple of days I have been away attending residential workshops as part of the toursim course I am attending and it was great to get a mental break and back into the creative swing of things!  I started the day by ironing and working on the edges of a nuno felt project and then got stuck in to laying out a really thick pad of fibres ‘a la’ Sigrid Bannier.   I have spent absolutely hours rolling, heating and rolling again to make sure that the felt is fulled and strong enough to punch into more striped felt beads which I will string over the weekend to make some more fun jewellery.  Over the last while I seem never to stay still for very long and I really need to make myself some new accessories that I can wear at all the events that I appear to be going to every week.  In the run up to the local elections I only expect this to get more hectic (my partner Alan is running for the Green Party in our local elections which take place at the beginning of June and I am his campaign manager!!) so I better concentrate over the next week or so and get them underway!  It is lashing rain at the moment here so hopefully I will get to take some pictures of recent work tomorrow and promise to upload them as soon as I get a minute.

Loads of felting news to report …

Yesterday was

Felted fingerless mittens
Felted fingerless mittens

 a day and a half!  Early in the morning my delivery of short fibred merino arrived from Filzrausch and boy was I excited.  I really wanted to get stuck in and felting straight away but I knew that I had other things that I just had to get sorted.  As soon as I logged on to the internet I had a message from Mehmet and thank goodness his visa and passport had finally been approved from the Irish Embassy in Ankara and he is available to travel!  This has been an absolute nightmare for me (wasn’t telling everyone) because I had never appreciated what it entailed getting your visa if you are travelling on a Turkish passport and I was afraid we might just have run out of time.  Anyway, all is well for the two workshops, Mehmet arrives next Thursday with the rug bases, the rolling mats are on their way and the wool is also on it’s way, from Wollknoll in Germany.  Margo made a rug with Mehmet last year and has some great images of the group’s work in progress and the finished rugs on her blog, they really take me back to the course Carmen and I did last September and I just want to get stuck in again! 

My second gorgeous event was opening my bartering package from Anna.  The scent was amazing as I opened the box and a fantastic selection of hand made cosmetics lay ensconced in tissue paper, bath bombs, lip balm, hand cream and after shave balm, I was blown away by how amazing they were!  We are now going to trade some more of these goodies in exchange for a felt scarf or necklace, what a nice way to do business.

Next on the adgenda was the tidy up I am trying to give the whole house, not just for my guests staying during Mehmet’s course but for my own sanity as well.  On January 1st I signed up to an amazing system at FlyLady designed to prompt me to organise my day and sort out my mess, I think that it could be working but we will just have to wait and see!  At the moment I am just doing the baby steps but check it out because if any of you are messy and a procrastinator like me you NEED to see this!  Do I sound like a crank??

Talking about procrastinating I finished the mobile that I had started the night before, check it out on my Flickr account, also two of the bags that I finished.  One of the other things that I really need to get a handle on is my Etsy shop.  I did make my first sale last week, horray, but I just need to really concentrate on uploading more items and getting a good shop front going.  The big problem is that you can’t upload images from Flickr and it seems to use a lot of battery power uploading from the camera, hopefully I will get it streamlined soon.

Eventually I got to try out the new wool, brilliant.  I tried a necklace first and then was inspired to make the fingerless mittens pictured.  The wool is so beautiful to work with, very soft and tactile and amazingly fast to felt.  These were the first mittens that I have made and had I thought about it better in the laying out stage I could have saved myself a lot of time by making them both at the same time.  This would have entailed laying out a much longer length of fibre wrapped resist and felting to the stage where I cut out the hole for my thumb.  At this stage I could have cut the hollow tube in two meaning that the mittens would only have to be finished seperately for a couple of minutes.  I would also have the advantage of both mittens having the exact same thickness, as it is one is a little thicker than the other because I was too lazy to weight the wool!  Ah well, will just have to make another pair!!

Felt jewellery, lampwork, felting process/equipment …..

An amazing coincidence happended the other evening (was going to say occurred but not sure that the spelling is correct!).  Just before I checked out my account on Ravelry, an online fibre artist community, I happened to pick up a glass bracelet that I bought myself on Murano two years ago.  My sisters and I took my mother to Venice for her 70th birthday present and we spent a great few days marvelling at the beautiful buildings, art and glass.  Anyway, one day we took the vaporetto to Murano, probably the most famous place in the world for handmade glass.  I treated myself to a lampwork bracelet but strangely enough have only worn it about twice in the last year.  When I picked it up the other evening it immediately hit me that if I took it apart I could then incorporate the glass beads into one of my felted designs, what a revelation!  This is probably what I will do this afternoon, still plotting and planning my series of wallhangings and still a bit unsure how to progress so any diversion is a diversion worth taking!  The coincidence occurred (using the word anyway, spelling or not!!) when I checked out some of my groups on Raverly.  One of the people in a felting forum had actually been in Venice and her husband bought her a glass and felt necklace for a Christmas present, I was absolutely amazed since it was probably only 5 minutes previously that I had thought of my brainwave.  This really goes to show that no idea is a new idea!

Following on from some comments in relation to felting I thought that some of you might be wondering what the difference between felting and fulling is.  Christine White in her book ‘Uniquely Felt’ describes the process of wet felting as a two stage process.  Firstly there is the laying out of the loose wool fibres, the wetting and massaging in order to make a piece of non-woven fabric that holds together and this is called confusingly, felting.  If you were to stop the process now this would be called prefelt.  The second process to get a stable, strong fabric is the fulling.  This process is the rolling and/or throwing in order to toughen the fabric and cause it to shrink.  Combining the two processes is wet felting, sometimes called traditional felting or just felting, confused yet??  Fulling can also be done with knitted wool or crochet, usually be bunging it into the washing machine with the intention of shrinking the piece in order to make it more sturdy and hardwearing.  This is why when you are ordering any books about felting you need to be sure that they are actually about wet felting and not just fulling knitting as this seems to be a craft gaining in popularity all the time, especially in England and the USA.  Another area of felting that appears to vary from region to region is the actual equipment that people use so I am just going to state the basic felting process that I use on a daily basis. 

For 99% of my work I lay out my wool on a piece of bubble wrap, bubbles facing up. 

I lay my wool in thin layers overlapping the fibres like roof slates or shingles.

Using a mixture of grated olive oil soap mixed in warm water I wet out the piece making sure that all the wool is fully wet.

I place another piece of bubble wrap on top and with wet soapy hands massage the package gently all over.  Massaging gently ensures that any surface design you may have laid does not shift, I can’t emphasise enough how much quicker the next stage is if you spend about 5 to 10 minutes massaging.  I NEVER use netting to encase the wool as when I tried it I found that the fibres got caught in the net and I prefer working just with bubble wrap  and later in the process using my hands directly on the felt.  Also, it saves a lot of time that otherwise would be spent sewing the netting together!

I lift up a piece of the bubble wrap to make sure that all the wool is wet and when I am happy that it is I start the rolling process. 

I roll my work in all directions and with both sides facing up, the length of time spent rolling just depends on the actual finish I want to achieve.  For flat felt like cobweb felt scarves it might take 45 minutes, for nuno felt I also throw the work and this process is actually pretty quick once you are sure that the wool fibres are working through your silk or cotton.  Wallhangings take hours or days depending on size and slippers in my experience take about 6 hours! 

This is felting at its simplest, when the piece has shrunk to your desired size just rinse (you may add vinegar to the last rinse), stretch into shape and dry.

Summary The basic equipment that you will need to create a piece of felt is bubble wrap, olive oil soap and water, towels help to mop up any excess water!

Tomorrow I will talk about the Osman technique and the use of prefelts to get a specific shape and a clear outline in your work.  Happy felting!

Craft fairs, felting, open house this weekend…….

Wow, how the time flies!  It seems that I have been continuously on the road over the last two weeks and coupled with that have been having internet connection problems, hence the lask of posts for which I would like to apologise.  Anyway, here goes with a bit of an update (including a caution!) and things should be back on track from now on.

Last weekend I had a stand at a small rural craft fair which Carmen organised, this was to raise funds locally for the community development project in Raheen, Co. Wexford that she is involved with.  Stands cost only E20 (luckily!!) and some bright wit from another Christmas event kindly removed all Carmen’s road signs.  The roads were absolutely treacherous when I set out, my intention was to reach the venue a couple of hours in advance but unfortunately, signs lacking, I actually arrived to the parish centre about 15 minutes after the proposed opening time of 10am.  Carmen will never know how close I was to turning around and just going home when I couldn’t find the venue, she had left her phone in the car and I was trying to contact her continuously once I had got lost but eventually I found a man who gave me directions and all was well again.  Some of the teenage members of the Youth Club that Carmen works with were on hand to help everything run smoothly and to man the tea and coffee stand.  Attendance was dreadful, 37 people work in the centre, Carmen herself was the ONLY worker who actually attended and she was running the show!  Anyway, the public were definitely conspicuous in their absence and by about 3pm I had only sold one scarf.  I wanted to stick things out for Carmen’s sake (other exhibitors had gone home) and thankfully a couple of people arrived who really related to the felt and I sold several items in quick succession.  I definitely picked up a few new people to teach, covered my costs and went home with a couple of extra Euro in my pocket so the day turned out to be a much more positive experience that I had at first expected.  Not so the 2 day house event that I attended on Monday and Tuesday.  This took place at Ballyhealy House, a comfortable old guest house a couple of miles outside Kilmore Quay in Wexford.  My friend Betty owns the house and for the last 4 or 5 years has been running a Christmas Gift Fair at home so we were expecting a big croud.  I felt sorry for Betty because she had put a lot of effort into inviting people, advertising and promotion on the radio.  All I can say after 2 disasterous days is that it is definitely apparant to me people are affected badly by the current economic situation.  On the Monday afternoon/evening a friend and I counted only 23 actual customers (none of whom bought any of my items!) and the following day not 1 person came when they had dropped their children to school (this was a busy time previous years) but about 38 customers did come sporadically during the day.  I met a few  nice people who were very much into hand crafted products and by the end of the day had made sales to customers who really appreciated the felt.  Again I made contacts interested in lessons after the New Year so from that point of view it was worthwhile but in this instance the stand cost E150 and I definitely didn’t cover my costs when you put travel expenses etc.  into the equation.  LESSON LEARNT  I will not participate at craft fairs ever again unless the space costs E20 – E50 and it is really to support a cause that I believe in and/or the current economic climate takes a turn for the better.  It is really soul destroying to sit hour after hour when no customers are even in the building!  Felt is a very definite niche market and I had no problems selling my work whenever interested customers came to my stand, the problem was a lack of customers through the door and this is something that I had no control over.  I hope that this summation does not sound too depressing but I really want anyone else thinking of going down this route to plan their participation carefully and learn from my experience.

On to happier days, or should I say difficult but happier days!!  I returned home from Ballyhealy House late on Tuesday evening and was due to set out for a Feltmakers Ireland get together and Crafts Council training in Dublin at 7am the next morning.  The weather was so cold that night and the roads so covered by ice that I took the decision to leave a bit later than planned.  My vehicle is a long wheel base pick up truck and it is not the best in icy conditions being only 2 wheel drive and very light unless fully loaded.  Anyway, it took me an hour and 25 minutes to drive a distance that usually takes less than half an hour so I did not arrive to Dublin until after 11am, a total travel time of over 3 hours.  What a nerve wracking journey but it was great to finally arrive, grab a Starbucks coffee and head into Blanchardstown Library to meet the other feltmakers.  There was a big pile of work on display and instead of actually making Christmas Ornaments as I thought we were going to do everyone discussed the items that they had made recently and on the recent Sigrid Bannier workshops.  I was wearing the necklace that Sigrid gave me as a present and the ring which I made with Ingrid to match it, these got many admiring glances!  We all went next door to the Driocht cafe for a light lunch (very tasty!) and then were joined by some other crafts people for an afternoon session with a Crafts Council sponsored mentor.  This session was dealing with sales and I must say following on from the previous 3 days was quite an interesting experience.  It reinforced my belief that unless you get the foot fall past your stand you will not have a good show but if you were in any way unsure how to get a sale with a LIVE customer this was the afternoon for you!  When we had networked and said our goodbyes it was almost 6 o’clock but I wanted to take a quick run into Inspiring Ideas, a craft shop in the Blanchard Centre before setting out for Clasheen once more.  A heavy fog was blanketing everywhere so I tried not to delay, some beads and cord later I have to confess that I then grabbed a large Big Mac meal to set me up for the journey ahead!  Lucky I did this, my trip home took 2 hours and 45 minutes, usually I can do it in approx 2 but the fog was just like pea soup.

Yesterday morning Carmen called over and we got stuck in for a very enjoyable morning’s felting.  I made some more punched beads ‘a la’ Sigrid and then strung them in the evening with some nice lime green beads that I have, Carmen made a beautiful felt and linen necklace.  I then had the pleasure of watching Carmen prepare the most devine paella (anyone who knows me knows that I just LOVE good home prepared food) complete with fresh squid, monkfish and huge prawns.  We had a glass of sherry, very refined and then got stuck into the paella, not so refined!  It was fantastic, a great combination of tastes and textures.

This Sunday I am opening my house between 2 and 5pm sharp for a display and sale of my felt and hand made Christmas ornaments.  Quite a few friends were asking me about buying felt as presents so this seemed an ideal opportunity to gather everyone together at the one time and have a bit of a social event at the same time.  We are going to enjoy a glass of spiced apple punch and some canapes and I would love for any of you within striking distance to come along if you would like to attend and please tell your friends!  If anyone needs directions please just email me and I will forward them on.