Having fun felting, KSFF reflections and preparing for the workshops in Lexington!

I've been having great fun with Jan this week, scouring the local Goodwill stores for printed silk (she's still in training but a quick learner Dawn!), exchanging skills, brainstorming ideas, felting and preparing for two days of workshops in Lexington this coming weekend!

My first task was to finish felting the nuno scarf I laid out last Saturday at the Kentucky Sheep and Fiber Festival, it's really interesting to see the contrast between the scarf that Jan felted and the one I've just finished. We both chose a western inspired colour scheme of chocolate ponge silk with brown and teal shades of alpaca plus loads of Roo and Elizabeth's beautiful hand dyed bamboo for surface embellishment. Jan also added some of her own dyed cotton gauze on top of the alpaca and I used quite a lot of Firestar for added glamour and shimmer, I love them both!

At this point I have to say that I LOVED every minute of the KSFF!!! Teaching for the full day on Saturday but only half a day on Sunday was a perfect combination. I was able to have a good chat with Roo and Elizabeth on Friday evening plus check out my workshop space, having Sunday afternoon free gave me plenty of time to do the rounds of all the stands, see the animals plus pick up a tonne of yummy fibre to bring home to Ireland, not ALL for me mind you, some for Anita who's looking after my studio while I'm gone. The organisation of everything was SPOT ON, thanks so much to all the committee and helpers who were friendly, helpful and put on a wonderful event!

Yesterday I shared the open resist method of making vessels with Jan, in turn, I was inspired by a wonderful teapot she felted at a Pam MacGregor workshop to try including a handle in one of my own vessels. I love this exchange of ideas and brain storming, I've now an idea in my head for some new bags with long shoulder straps (purses!), I doubt that I'll get to felt them though until some time after I return from teaching in Portugal! This week long residential workshop is now fully booked but if you live within shouting distance of Lexington why not come and join us for our workshop here next Saturday 25th May!!! If you're interested in more information or reserving a place please email me ASAP, if you don't have any idea what to make don't panic (because I'll help you) and if you need materials in a hurry Jan will bring extra on the day if you let her know which colours you prefer.

I'll leave you today with this picture of my new vessel drying, I call it 'Ode to Pam'.

 

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Nuno felting with alpaca and/or merino in anticipation of my KY classes!

I decided not to go to my studio at Duckett's Grove today, rather I'm staying home and felting some more pieces to bring with me on my travels. Yesterday I made myself a very simple but much needed nuno felt scarf as well as preparing three pots of naturally printed and dyed silk bundles.

So far I've only had time to open up the bundles I steamed in the microwave, unfortunately the eucalyptus leaves from a new source left almost no imprint but the onion skins gave fantastic colour and a light dusting of tea leaves also imparted a soft, warm colour. I'll open the other bundles this afternoon and see what the results of these are like. They were simmered in two differen pots (stainless steel and aluminium) and although my intention was to include rusty metal in the aluminium pot I obviously got a bit distracted (a lot on my brain?), I discovered last night that I had included one rust wrapped bundle in the stainless steel saucepan as well. Uugh. Anyway, whatever the outcome I'm sure they'll be interesting, it's just that I wanted to have an obvious difference between the two pots, ah well, c'est la vie!

On the felting side of things I'm going to make a nuno felt wrap/shrug today using some of the fantastic alpaca and embellishing goodies I got from the wonderful Roo Kline and Elizabeth Taylor of Alpaca Fiber Solutions. I met Roo and Elizabeth at the Kentycky Sheep and Fiber Festival in Lexington last year and they very kindly are sponsoring all the fibre for my nuno felt scarf/neckpiece class at this years festival on Saturday 18th May, thanks a million girls!!! There are several places available for this workshop so if you're interested in nuno felting with alpaca do please check out the website asap and book your place, the cost for this workshop is an impressive $120 including all the necessary silk, alpaca and embellinshing materials! Here's a picture of a simple neck piece I felted two weeks ago using ponge silk, alpaca locks, Firestar and bamboo. Roo is a MASTER at dyeing and I just love the way the different fibres compliment and play against one another, for once the pink and lavender colours in these two pictures are an accurate representation of the actual felt itself! Check out the close up shot, don't the colours just sing?

 

Alpaca nuno felt neckpiece

Since meeting Roo Kline of Moonwood Farm at the Kentucky Sheep and Fiber Festival last May I’ve often meant to work with the fabulous samples of alpaca fibre she gave me, I never seemed to find the right moment however as 2012 just seemed to be so crazy and I wanted time to think of something nice that I would felt for myself! I often took the bag of lusciously soft alpaca out of my special stash box but until today when I also pulled out some deep purple ponge silk from another box at almost the same time I couldn’t make my mind up what to make.

Luscious hand dyed alpaca locks and shimmery firestar laid out on top of rich purple ponge silk

Anyway, suddenly the hot oranges and purply pinks of the alpaca called out to the rich purple silk, immediately I decided to felt a small neckpiece and couldn’t be happier with the result. Susan McFarland of Susan’s Fiber Shop gave me a gift of some glittery bits at the festival too, amazingly the colours matched the alpaca perfectly so this really is a Kentucky Sheep and Fiber Festival neckpiece!

The pic below will give you an idea of what the finished neckpiece is like, I couldn’t get a great shot however because the light was fading and the wind was rising. I’ll be teaching nuno felting at the festival this year so if you’re interested in felting something similar why not come along and join me? Next week I’ll felt a simple closure and include a beautiful large glass bead made my Toni Lutman in CA, I didn’t take a pic of the bead yet but the colours just sing against the purple and orangy gold.

Alpaca, firestar and ponge silk neckpiece

Nuno felt wrap and scarves

The weather has been a lot brighter today after a very wet start this morning, good news for me as it meant that I could snap a few pics outside of my nuno scarves and the wrap I felted earlier this week.

Simple scarf combining ponge silk, merino and silk throwster's waste

Simple scarf combining ponge silk, merino and silk throwster’s waste

I’ll start with one of a simple scarf, this was felted combining ponge silk with some of Leiko’s beautiful hand dyed superfine merino and embellished with hand dyed silk throwster’s waste, a welcome Christmas present from Carmen. I love teaching this scarf as a beginner’s nuno felting project, it’s always successful and such a beautiful way to learn a new technique! The second picture is of a large mosaic style scarf felted combining my own hand dyed cotton gauze (dyed under the watchful eye of Jan Durham and written up in this post last spring!), more of Leiko’s merino and a whole selection of different weights of silk fabric. Good friend Carole buys silk pieces by the weight in the US and then we do a swap for mohair off cuts from Cushendale Woollen Mill, Cushendale is a wonderful source of locally produced knitting yarn and weaving just down the road from me here at Clasheen. I totally forgot that I needed to send Carole another pack of these goodies so many apologies, I’ll head over to Philip Cushen next week and get them in the post to you asap.

Mosaic style nuno felt scarf

Mosaic style nuno felt scarf

Anyway, I also had a small pack of beautiful hand dyed teeswater locks and some firestar fibre in my favourite shades of acidic green, it’s strange to say that although I’m not a glitzy kind of gal at all I really do love the sheen and shimmer from the firestar!!! The printed silk in this scarf was part of my stash from the US, in fact I remember buying it in the Salvation Army on a foray with Sharon of the Tin Thimble but it could just as easily have been from one of the many trips I made with great friends Dawn or Merridee either, I LOVE these silk gathering events!

Firestar adds a shimmer in places

Firestar adds a shimmer in places

If you’re interested in seeing more images of these pieces plus some photos of a large green wrap I made on Tuesday please check out this album on FB and do like Nicola Brown – Clasheen while you’re over there, only of course if you do like what you see!!!

Using a felting roller to speed up the nuno process!

Yesterday morning I felted the piece which will actually be the first in my section of the new book with Chrissie, it’s a beautiful but simple scarf and I think the perfect project for anyone wanting to try nuno felting for the first time. I’m not going to have much time to blog for the next few days as I’m teaching, felting, writing, at the market and preparing the house for Dawn Edwards to arrive this day next week!!!

Using my 'niki & niki' roller directly on top of the bubble wrap

I will however post a few pics as I go along, the one today shows me using my felting roller on the top of the bubble wrap at the early stages of making my scarf yesterday. Instead of rubbing with my hands as I usually would before starting to roll, I simple rolled back and forwards with my ‘niki & niki’ felting roller all over my package 20 times on each side and the short fibre merino was already starting to migrate through the heavy silk fabric! Half the rubbing replaced with this rolling and a lot faster result, yay!!!

A lightweight nuno scarf for me!

On Friday afternoon I felted two ultra lightweight nuno scarves, one for me and one to sell! The ponge silk that I used for both was a beautiful lettuce colour and I combined this with a very fine open layer of my favourite apple green short fibred merino from Wollknoll. I wanted to wear my scarf the following day at the Crafts Council training I was attending and have it match the bag I was bringing so added quite a lot of apple green and turquoise mulberry silk as well as plenty of hand dyed silk throwsters waste. The second scarf I added apple green mulberry silk and plenty of high sheen firestar, it’s lovely to be working with spring shades and I must say it was nice to make myself something for a change! I will be bringing the second scarf to Borris Food and Craft Market on Friday but on the off chance that anyone here is interested it is priced at E40 plus a couple of euros P&P so please just email me if you would like to reserve it and I can invoice via PayPal!

The two sides of my new nuno felt scarf

U.S. workshop updates plus pictures of nuno felt from yesterday

I’m SO EXCITED that my spring trip to KY and MI is really starting to take shape!!! It’s taken quite a while to get a materials list together for the sessions organised in Plainwell MI by Dawn Edwards (25th and 26th May) and in Lexington KY by Jan Durham (11th and 12th May) because with the title ‘Fantastic Felt Inspired by the Natural and Built Environment’ participants are free to decide during the course of the workshop what direction they would like to explore, vessels, bags, sculpture, nuno felt, wall hangings, the list goes on. In a way I’ll be acting like a conduit for ideas, help and inspiration, the one constant is that the starting point and the theme will be the same for everyone. As a result it’s been a lot more difficult for me to write out a definitive list of what participants should bring with them, however I hope that the guideline below will be of some help for people with specific projects in mind and if anyone has a particular question that they would like me to answer personally please just email me and fire away!!! My workshops at the Kentucky Sheep and Fibre Festival have also gone live on the festival’s website so head on over there if you would like to join us on either the 18th, 19th or 20th of May! Now for the details for Plainwell and Lexington……

  • Small vessels, sculptures and bags will need 80 – 150g of fibre.
  • Larger and more complex vessels, sculptures and bags will need 200 – 350g fibre, for bags I like this to be divided into 2/3 merino and 1/3 a strong coarser fibre such as C1 or Icelandic wool.
  • A simple textured nuno scarf will need either a pre rolled silk chiffon or ponge silk scarf as a base, a long length of silk cut from a roll or alternatively a cotton cheesecloth or muslin length, the longer the better in all cases!  This project won’t need anything like a big amount of fibre but at a rough guide anything between 40 – 60g will be fine for a highly textured end result!
  • A large textured nuno wrap/bolero (two day project!) will need 2 – 3 m (yards is fine) silk chiffon, ponge silk, cheesecloth or muslin for the base and at least 40 – 100g good quality merino depending on size.
  • A large collaged nuno wrap, wall hanging or yardage for clothing (this may be made using the tumbler method and if so requires no rolling!) will need a piece of base fabric approx 35 to 40% bigger than the desired finished size. I like to use muslin, cheese cloth or my favourite cotton gauze for this but you can use silk chiffon or ponge silk too! In addition to this base fabric you need at least the same volume of fabric in a selection of colours and mixture of weights and texture, i.e. if your base fabric measures 180cm X 40cm you need about 2m X 50cm fabric comprising a mixture of silks, cottons and/or some metallic mesh plus at least 200g good quality merino (for wearables) or alpaca/other fibre for a wall hanging.
  • A large table runner will need less fabric than the large collaged nuno wrap above but a higher percentage of wool to fabric, this it to make sure that the runner will actually protect the table from heat or water and is not just decorative, decorative’s OK too if that’s what participants want!

As you can imagine different projects require different techniques and heaviness of hand when laying out the fibre. For wearables I usually but not exclusively use merino with some surface silk/banana/tencel/firestar fibre so I would just encourage particiapnts to sort through their stash and we’ll work together with whatever they bring. The figures above are a minimum guideline, I don’t want anyone to feel pressurised to buy more fabric or fibre than they may realistically need but to be honest where felting is concerned, can one ever have enough fibre or raw materials??? Each participant will also need to bring their usual felting equipment to the workshop. This may include bubble wrap, towels (please bring a few!), hard olive oil/goats milk/glycerine soap, sprinkler, bamboo blind, pool noodle, net, whatever they like to work with themselves, people wishing to try the tumble dryer method need to bring an additional lightweight roll of builders plastic to use instead of bubble wrap.  Anyone felting a bag, vessel or any sort of three dimensional project will need some flexible plastic to use as a template/resist, I prefer 2 or 3mm laminate floor underlay but in an emergency we can use bubble wrap or whatever flexible plastic you have to hand.  NB I love working with batts but roving and tops are perfect too, bring whatever you have and like to work with yourself.  I will also be bringing loads of embellishing goodies with me for everyone to share!

Now for some pictures and chat about the pieces I was nuno felting yesterday.

Texture from Heather's hand spun yarn

Those of you following me on Facebook (click both links on the sidebar to the right if you’ve not already done so!) may have seen the image I uploaded yesterday morning showing some chocolate merino, gauze and beautiful hand spun yarn from my great buddy Heather which I gathered together and was in the process of felting into a simple nuno scarf. This is one of the projects I’ve been completing for the new book with Chrissie, basically it’s an easy first piece for anyone to try using the tumble dryer method. The image here shows how this particular hand spun felted beautifully to the surface of the gauze, I love the texture and colour of it on the surface of this scarf, it’s well felted together but you still have amazing texture from the slubby yarn! Pictures of the completed scarf will be revealed when the book is finished, hopefully not too long because I’m working on it every day now and hope it will be finished before Dawn arrives for her holiday and workshops here at Clasheen in April!!!

The other scarf that I felted yesterday (I also started some felt landscapes) is an even simpler piece, one fine open layer of short fibre merino on top of a long piece of ponge silk. I also added a lot of hand dyed silk fibre on top of the merino, I like the way this scarf can be reversible and only wish that it had been less windy when I was trying to take pictures of it this morning!

Plenty of silk fibre on the reverse