Day one of our felting workshops starts tomorrow!

I’m having an early night tonight in order to be in top form for the first of three days teaching at The Tin Thimble in Loomis, CA tomorrow. This morning I woke up at 3.40am and just couldn’t get back to sleep, too many ideas sparked by the wonderful supplies from the studio and obviously a little bit of jet lag doesn’t help the cause either. Already I’ve been having a fantastic time catching up with old friends. In the morning I’ll be meeting some good online friends in person for the first time, that’s going to be exciting too!!! I’ll try and post some pics to FB as we go along during the workshops.

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A wonderful collection of eucalyptus!

As part of my own preparation for 7 days of intensive teaching I wanted to have the materials gathered for my personal work during this time. Obviously I’ll be working one to one with Rami but while he’s laying out pieces and generally discovering all the joys of the various felting techniques I’ll get a certain amount if time to do my own thing. At the beginning of the week I’ve attachments to prepare for a large sculptural piece and some Eco printing and dyeing to do then I plan to lay out a large nuno felt garment incorporating some of the silks and prefelts that I’ll already have printed. The workshop proper will run from 10am until late afternoon each day and after we’ve eaten each evening I’ll be back in the studio felting, Rami will be free to join me if he’s not already mentally and physically exhausted, I also have a list of reading material for him to go through so I think I’ll be keeping him on his toes! I’m going to leave you today with a picture I love, me and my god son Jack gathering eucalyptus leaves and bark (from a variety of different trees) in his grandparents garden, thanks Sharon, Jack, Betty and Jack senior for all your help and the gift of the wonderful vegetation!!!

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‘Helping Herd’ collaged wrap and you’re invited to a studio and tea rooms open night at Duckett’s Grove

Yesterday I spent time felting a large nuno collage wrap, this was my contribution to the Helping Herd fundraiser which actually took place earlier in the summer.

Nuno collage ready to felt

The winning bidder (thanks Janet for being so patient!) likes purples, pinks, blues and cool based tones so I gathered a selection of plain and printed silks (recognise one of the patterns Dawn?) and laid out my design on a base of purple cotton gauze and purple and pink short fibred merino. I included some gold printed crinkled silk, it was actually from a very expensive skirt I bought myself a couple of years before I started felting but never wore, I just love the fact that it’s possible to rework fabrics and create something totally new that hopefully will be appreciated and used for years to come.

Leiko modelling the finished wrap

These large wraps may also be hung on the wall or draped on the table and used as a decorative runner. I’ve actually started hanging some up in Duckett’s Grove and they really add a splash of colour to the whitewashed walls. Speaking of Duckett’s Grove, Emma, Michael and Jackie, Madeleine and I will all be staying open until 7pm on Saturday 25th of August to celebrate our first few weeks successfully operating from the ‘Courtyard at Duckett’s Grove‘! From 5pm onwards each of the studios will offer a complimentary glass of wine or something similar to set the tone and we’re all hoping to have special offers on the night and let everyone know that both studios and tea rooms are well and truly open for business!!! Do come along and please feel free to bring your friends, an official event page will be up on facebook as soon as I get a minute to actually get it organised.

Felting in Portugal, part four

Well the ‘tomorrow’ of  Wednesday’s post has been and gone so appologies if it’s taken me a couple of days longer than anticipated to write about our nuno felting and eco bundling experiences in Portugal! My Danish friend Annette arrived in Ireland at 12.45am on Wednesday morning and as well as enjoying her company, attending the market in Borris on Friday and sorting the hundreds of other daily things that go on here at Clasheen I’m trying to get my supplies together (not sucessfully yet unfortunately) and prepare for Dagmar Binder’s masterclass in Scotland which starts on Tuesday.  Annette and her husband will be staying here while I’m away and taking care of Rex then we’ll have another couple of days together when I return, I’m planning a visit to Cushendale Woollen Mill and we’ll be felting together too so that should be fun! Now as promised, back to our time in Portugal…..

Sandy and Stella both working on laying out large nuno felt wraps

The latter part of the week was taken up with nuno felting, flat felting with a view to eco bundling and basically a little (or a lot!) of whatever took each participants fancy based on the techniques that had been already been shared. Not everyone had previous nuno felting experience and strangely enough it proved impossible to get either cheesecloth or muslin in Portugal for everyone to share, why is this I wonder??? Between us all however we had quite a variety of suitable fabrics including the most amazing stretchy cotton gauze from The Netherlands that apparantly is something you use when making a mattress for yourself!!! Depending on the supplies that everyone had brought some participants worked with undyed Bordeleira while others worked with hand dyed silks and coloured merino. For everyone who had not nuno felted before I recommended felting their first pieces by hand to learn the different stages of the process, for those with plenty of nuno experience I shared the way I’m currently using the tumble dryer to slash the time for larger projects. Over the course of the rest of our week a selection of amazing large wraps were felted (pictures of finished work from the week will be in my next and final post about Portugal!) and some smaller nuno felt and flat felt pieces in white were made in preparation for some natural dyeing experiments.

Participants disappearing into the distance to forage for leaves, flowers and old pieces of rusty iron!

From the beginning it had always been obvious how Karin and Eelco would like everyone to use natural materials or found objects from the domain as inspiration for or inclusion in the felt that we would be making during the week. This came together very naturally with a desire to try out simple eco bundling, the olive and sweet chestnut leaves just cried out for inclusion as did various rusty bits of old metal which we picked up while out foraging for goodies! Terriea was marvellous in sharing her experience dyeing with leaves and rust, thanks Terriea for your wonderful manner and fun way of sharing a new experience!!! Our objective was to imprint leaf shapes and colours onto felt as well as trying out some experiments with the heavier cotton fabric Karin had bought originally thinking it would be OK for nuno felting with. Terriea explained that protein fibres such as silk and wool absorb natural colour from the leaves best but since we also had the cotton we decided to give it a go too, we soaked our felt and the cotton pieces overnight in a vinegar solution prior to bundling. This was all a fun and relaxing experiment so please don’t ask me for any exact measurements as shock horror, we didn’t take any!

Terriea and Annemarie with a large pot of bundles ready for the stove

On Thursday morning Sandy choose to continue working on the final shaping of her large felt vessel but everyone else wrapped a selection of different nuno felt, flat felt and cotton pieces with a selection of the leaves and rusty pieces of old metal we’d scavanged. Heather also decided to eco print a felt bag; the original intention had been to felt this together with some silk velvet but as the velvet experiment hadn’t worked out as planned this proved to be an inspired choice to print with! Carla made great use of some left over cherry soup from the previous lunch with one of her pieces of felt and I added some tea leaves to a couple of my cotton bundles. Once all the pieces were tied up with their various inclusions we placed them in two different saucepans, one for pieces including rusty objects and the other for pieces only containing vegetable matter. The bundles were covered with water and put on a cooker to bring to the boil, once boining point was reached the heat was turned down and the pots were simmered for aprox 45 minutes to an hour. They were then left to cool down naturally and the bundles stayed in the water overnight until we unwrapped them on Friday morning. This was fun, seeing how our expectations were either met, exceeded or in some cases failed, all part of the learning process and information to be stored and used in future projects! Sweet chestnut leaves (plus the long flowers), olive leaves and rose leaves proved to impart the strongest and clearest shapes on felt, Carla’s scarf using the cherry soup worked brilliantly as did Annemarie’s pieces using a mizture of flowers, grasses and fruit slices while Heather had a very successful experiment wrapping one of her large nuno felt wraps without inclusions and simmering it in the pot with the rest of the iron filled pieces!!!

I’ve got to sign out now because my bags are calling and I need to get those raw materials assembled for Dagmar’s class as well as some final clothes dried and the house tidied a little. My final post about Portugal will be memories of our last group day together at Dominio Vale do Mondego and pictures of the participants with some of the amazing felt completed during the course of this fantastic week. I’m not sure if I’ll actually get this written before I fly to Scotland at 6.05am tomorrow morning but I will try and keep you all up to date with progress at the masterclass during the week and finish Portugal as soon as I can. For now one last picture and ‘adeus’ until next time!

Having fun – Heather and Sandy watching Nienke unwrapping one of her bundles

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!!!

‘Niki & Niki’ felting tools are on the way plus plenty of other felting news!

Well, everything definitely seems to be happening at once here. The first batch of felting tools that designer Niki Collier and I are having made to our specifications has arrived now and will be available for sale sometime over the next few days! We just need to burn our name on them, measure and weigh everything properly and then work out the postage costs, all the pieces are hand made so measurements will be as accurate as possible. You might remember recently I used the large textured roller to full my sister’s rug (you can find a picture in this post), it is 56cm long with a rolling surface of 38cm and a diameter of 4.5cm, it will be retailing for €45 excluding P&P. We also have a shorter version with an approx rolling surface of 25cm at €35, a handleless version measuring 20cm at €30 (I like this on my hands!) and a kind of ‘poker’ or ‘prodder’ for using when fulling vessels and sculptural pieces retailing at €8.

Niki & Niki's new little felting 'prodder'

Last night I was felting a little nuno inspired vessel with a lot of textured detail and the prodder was great for stretching and shaping whilst in the final stages of the fulling process. Obviously we need to come up with a better name for it so have a look at the first image and if anyone has any suggestions please pass them along!!! P&P costs will be kept to a minimum for all the tools, basically just what it costs up to wrap them up securely and get them sent to the various destinations, if you want to make an advance order please just email me asap, numbers are limited for this our first delivery! I should also mention that Niki is in the process of setting up her new design website and I’m honoured to be the first invited guest that she has interviewed, thanks Niki. If you want to read a little bit of Irish banter head on over to have a look at the interview!

This morning I ordered all the materials for Dawn’s ‘Fantastic Felt Hatsworkshops, please remember if you are one of the participants and have not already done so that the deadline for the balance of the workshop fee is on or before this Friday 23rd March.

Today I’ve felted a small nuno flap which I will be attaching (or hopefully attaching knowing my sewing skills!) to a leather pouch, this will be the prototype for a new design intended to be a phone, iPod or camera case and I’m hoping that all will work out well. The leather is from a large batch I bought the first time that I visited Dawn in Plainwell, we spent a great day visiting Saugatauk and Lake Michigan stopping en route at an office depot outlet where I picked the leather up for a song compared to what it would cost in Ireland. I love the combination of leather and felt but to date I’ve been too chicken to actually cut the pieces up and decide definitively what I’m going to do with them, wish me luck!

Speaking of luck, I’m thrilled to have received a letter confirming that Carlow County Council through the Arts Office have awarded me €550 to go towards the cost of attending Dagmar Binder’s masterclass in Scotland this summer, to say I’m delighted in an understatement!!!

Finally I’ll leave you with a better picture of my latest vessel, I’m not 100% happy with it as I wanted a more all over nuno effect but at least it’s a starting point so all is not lost. I laid it out using the design inside method and possibly needed to rub for a bit longer prior to rolling as some of the fabric needed to be snipped once I opened up the package. I also needed to pay more attention to the fact that the fabric would be reversed, obviously I needed to work from the outside in (or inside out) but even knowing what I should have been doing I laid some of the fabric back to front, ah well, I’ve lived and learnt!

Little textured nuno style vessel

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