The vessel I started during the week needs a couple more hours work and then hopefully it will be fully felted and fulled. I realise from some of your comments here, on Facebook and via email that it might be helpful if I wrote down the steps that I am using for this process one by one so here goes, (PS this is not a definitive way to felt vessels just the one I am using for these!) …..
Determine the size of the vessel and cut out the template, I use 2mm thick laminate floor underlay by choice although any type of flexible plastic or bubble wrap will work just fine
Make my prefelt from 3 even layers of merino
Cut out some prefelt shapes
Lay my template on top of bubble wrap, bubble side up
Lay my initial shapes directly onto the template, for these vessels I am working with the design inside method. I think that this is keeping the edges clearer and helps me get a seamless edge around the resist
Lay 2 fine layers of white merino up to and about 1.5cms (half an inch) over the edge of the resist
Wet the fibres with soapy water, rub lightly either through a net or by pressing another piece of bubble wrap on top
Turn the package upside down when I am happy the layer is wet through (but not soaking) using a second piece of bubble wrap, bubbles against the fibre as usual
Fold in the prefelt pieces that are draping around the edge of the template first, lay out more template shapes to complete the design. By using the laminate floor underlay I can see the colours from my prefelt through the resist and this helps me determine where I want to position the rest of the prefelt
Fold over the white merino from side 1 and then lay 2 layers of the same wool in side 2 this time just going up to the edge of the template but not too far over
Wet, press and turn over back to side 1
Fold over small edge from side 2, lay out 2 more layers of white merino going approx 1.5cms over the edge again, wet out and turn over
Fold over edge and lay out 2 more layers of white before wetting out and folding over any stray fibres to the other side
Place piece of yarn or different coloured fibre in the centre of the side where I will be making my cut to remove the resist
Gently working around the edge of the resist
Start to felt the vessel by rubbing gently on top of the bubble wrap and then delicately directly on the fibres themselves paying special attention that the edges are pulled up tightly around the resist
Keep turning the vessel over to work on both sides and rotate to ensure all the package is worked evenly
When I am happy that the felt is holding together firmly and starting to shrink I cut a circle in the centre of my top side and work the cut edges to seal them before removing the resist. Note in the picture how you can see the design on the inside at this stage, I love this first glimpse!
Sealing the cut edges of the opening
Tomorrow I will post the rest of the process as well continue with the stiffening debate. Thanks so much for all your comments to date on this topic and the tip about using a yoga or exercise ball for my next vessel, I have borrowed one from a friend (thanks Cathy) so my largest vessel will be underway by Wednesday at the latest!
Inspired by fellow Feltmakers Ireland member Sharon Wells, I decided to have another go at making myself a soft but structured felt hat that actually fits my very small head. Sharon posted about making the origami hat from Christine White’s book Uniquely Felt on Feltcreative and since this project has always been on my ‘to do’ list and I had a pile of prefelt waiting to be used I decided the time had come to just give it a go! In addition to Uniquely Felt the books that I would recommend for anyone wanting a bit more info about felting hats are ‘Fabulous Felt Hats’ by Chad Alice Hagen, ‘Filtning, Nunofilt & Nalefiltflor’ by Grete Lottrup and ‘Felting Fashion’ by Lizzie Houghton. While Chad Alice’s book is the only one totally dedicated to hats all of them to my mind have helped me work out the various steps necessary to create stylish headgear that actually fits and is wearable.
Laying out the prefelt shapes
Like Sharon I decided to work with a square resist 47cm wide. One of my friends actually has my copy of Uniquely Felt so I just had to estimate how much wool I would need for each side, excluding the prefelt I used a total of 84g short fibred merino for the hat but have no idea if that is a lot or a little! I laid out the wool extremely finely on both sides of the resist and then laid my prefelt shapes randomly on top making sure to overlap the edges in some places. Because I originally intended having a brim that would turn back to reveal hand dyed silk fibres from the bottom of the other side, I chose not to position any prefelt overlapping the fourth edge as I was afraid I would forget exactly where the silk was once I started working the felt!
Due to my golf club commitments over the last few days (and I STILL have another golfing engagment tomorrow) I had to felt the hat over several different sessions and this afternoon I was able to finish fulling and shaping it over one of my cooking bowls. Unfortunately, although I do have a hat block it is just too huge for my own head but the bowl worked perfectly so nothing ventured nothing gained.
Blocked and drying
It did take a long time to shrink this hat enough to fit my head so the next one that I make (and there will be another one!) will have a wedge shaped template, not a square. The other outcome with fulling as much as I did is that the clarity of the prefelt gets muted and the silk almost disappears into the wool, not a problem but definitely something to consider. In the end I decided that I liked the brim folded inside of the hat instead of outside as initially intended, it would of course be possible to wear it both ways anyway! If you are interested in seeing any more views of the hat in progress I have uploaded them to Flickr and as soon as the hat is dry I might ask Alan to take a picture of me wearing it! Tomorrow is another day and I hope to crystalise plans for my American workshops and spend some time answering emails and generally catching up with things.
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!
My sister requested a table runner for her Christmas present and this morning I decided to use up some of the left over prefelts to create a mosaic style mat. The prefelts were felted from chocolate, turquoise and natural coloured Icelandic wool and my first job was to cut them into 5cm squares using my cutting mat and a rotary cutter. I then cut about a quarter of them on the diagonal before deciding on the layout I wanted for the simple mosaic design. The prefelts were quite thick and this definitely helped when butting the edges together. Once they were laid out I wet the design lightly with very soapy cool water, none of the squares or triangles shifted so I moved on to the next stage. To felt the whole design together I decided on a light layer of the natural coloured wool as a backing. The Icelandic batts are so easy to use, no stress getting fibres aligned, just pull out a wad and lay it down! Once this was done I added some more soapy water, it is amazing how much soap this wool needs compared to merino but once the felting process starts the fibres lock down very tightly and very quickly. I actually was amazed at how everything held together almost immediately, this was the first time that I had used dry Icelandic prefelts (last time I made them and used them wet immediately) and the whole process took only about 30 minutes after laying out the design to rinsing out the completed felt mat! The natural coloured wool for the backing created a nice edge to the design and this style of mosaic flat felting is definitely an idea to play around with some more, photos to follow tomorrow.
Printing on felt is one surface decoration that I have not tried yet but hopefully today will change all that! I am just off now for my monthly workshop (have missed all during the summer unfortunately) with the South East Textile Group and apparantly printing is what we will be learning, specifically printing on felt or so I believe. Luckily I have a plain green felt rectangle in my stash and I am hoping it will be fine to try on this, some of the other members are bringing along commercial needle punched felt and possibly some hand made prefelt as well. I will also have access to a good printer which the group owns so I am bringing some JetFix paper as well. I want to print on to muslin and gauze and then incorporate this into some experimental nuno as soon as I have a minute early next week. Anyway, off I go, I will update you on how I get on over the weekend.
On the Wednesday before Sigrid returned home I was facilitating two children’s felting workshops for the Kilkenny Arts Festival and she was kind enough to give me a hand! The organisation was supurb from the festival committee side of things and when we arrived in the morning Sigrid and I found every help available that we could possibly need to ensure the success of the day.
Participants and their great felt from the morning workshop!
We were lucky enough to be working in the Parade Tower of Kilkenny Castle, a beautiful building that is actually the oldest part of the castle complex. With some friendly help from the festival volunteers we set the tables up in a U formation and got the wool and bubble wrap all set up before the first children arrived for the 10.30 workshop. The morning session was actually supposed to be 7 to 9 year olds and the afternoon 10 to 12 year olds but in actual fact ages got a bit mixed up along the way and we had a cluster from all the ages attending both sessions.
Inspired by a mobile phone
As the children arrived Sigrid manned the weighing scales and asked each of them to choose two colours, these would be the colours for the background of their piece of flat felt. We had some gorgous colours of Icelandic wool and what was most interesting to observe was that many of the children in the first session choose green and teal. None of them choose red in the morning whereas in the afternoon session several children choose a red and purple combination, quite an unusual observation we thought as we didn’t prompt anyone in any way! I gave a quick demonstration of how to lay out the background explaining how the colours mixed and then the children were able to start experimenting themselves. Once the background was laid out in several layers (we had weighed the wool to make sure that everyone would have a thick enough background and used batts as they are easier for children than tops) the children then had the fun choice of what they wanted to select to embellish their work. I had various scraps of prefelt which we had cut into shapes, loads of different wool fibres in a range of colours, plastic onion sacks, wool yarn and some artificial hairy yarn which incorporates into felt amazingly well.
Mother and daughter
Initially I asked each child to choose three pieces of prefelt and two or three other embellishments, as only one of the participants had every felted before I didn’t want them to be too swamped with all the choice. Once they started to add the extras if any child needed more of anything they were free to collect it from the materials table but in general limiting the embellishments proved a good idea! Once everyone was happy with the lay out of their piece we started wetting out and rolling the work. This proved to be an area where all the volunteers were excellent, little hands sometimes find the rolling difficult to begin with but everything really went along very smoothly indeed with a small bit of adult assistance.
Swirls and spirals
As per usual the wetting out and soaping proved very popular with the children although nothing compared to the last process where I let them all throw and thump their felt onto towels laid out on the floor! I explained simply how the rubbing, rolling and throwing all helped to felt and full the fibres and by the end of both workshops we had some outstanding work for all the children to show off to friends and family. All in all Sigrid and I thought that the workshops were a great success and thanks to Sigrid for taking the photos, you can check images of every child’s felt by clicking through to Flickr.
Children with their brilliant work, volunteers and me at the afternoon session!
Bridann and Margaret arrived this morning for our beginners felting day at Clasheen. Neither had wet felted before although Margaret had done a little needle felting and has bags of wool waiting at home for her to get cracking with the wet felting. We started the morning with a coffee and chat about the basics of felting and had a look at various types of wool and animal fibre before getting started on their first flat piece of felt. Experimenting was the order of the day to enable both ladies to get a feel for the fibres and they each decided to mix two colours for their base, Bridann chose grey and pink while Margaret chose orange and brown. I had a selection of prefelts, silks, various animal fibres and wool to select from and add as embellishment to the top layer. It was great seeing the pieces come together and Margaret who thought she had chosen ‘safe’ colours was amazed at how vibrant her finished piece of felt actually was! After a spot of lunch we started on their first 3-dimensional piece, Margaret chose to make a tall vessel and Bridann a round bowl. They really produced amazing work for their first 3-dimensional pieces and tomorrow I will upload the images. For some reason today they will not go in the position I want them to on the blog, the wonders of technology!
When we had lunch I demonstrated a simple 3-d felt flower and for some reason that inspired me to create a new style felt ring myself after the workshop was over. I used the gorgeous soft short fibre merino from Filzrausch and had great fun playing around with some simple colour combinations, blue, teal, a spot of yellow and a black centre. I made the ring piece from dark green wool and it looks as if the rings are flowers growing from the dark green stems!
Here is an image as promised of the experimental piece I felted using wool, silk, alpaca, scrim, mohair and an orange plastic onion net. Using a typical Irish seascape for inspiration I created a wet felted piece suggesting rocky pools, frothy water, fishing nets and swirling sand. It was great fun to do and now I am going to ask all my pupils in Leitrim to collect these nets as I really think that we can use them in some of our work for ‘Craft in the Classroom’.
I had a great evening at the Irish Blog Awards in Cork on Saturday. It was a LONG drive up and down but well worth the effort, stylish hotel (amazingly the Cork International Airport Hotel!), the ladies tea party was a hoot and the ceremony itself great fun. Congratulations to ‘Irish Blogger of the Year’ Suzy Byrne who’s blog Maman Poulet won the gong Best News/Current Affairs Blog as well as the top award. You can check out all the winners in the various catagories and a big word of congratulations to Damien and all his crew who organised such a great fun event.
I was pretty tired yesterday after my 6 hours driving so decided to relax by making two more spiral neckpieces (pictures in Flickr), very relaxing!
Today it is back to the grindstone as I have a production in line up and running making prefelt to use for my first session in Leitrim this Wednesday. I have decided that since we will be having a 2 hour ‘taster’ at the school the best way of ensuring all the pupils make a successful piece of felt in the allocated time is for them to lay out their design on a backing of prefelt, hence the production line!
I am really looking forward to my delivery of a special wool from German company Filzrausch . This is the short fibre merino that I saw for the first time with Sigrid and Ingrid Bannier at the workshops in November and what they use for almost all their jewellery making. It is amazingly quick to felt and soft making it very comfortable to wear against the skin. The cost is a bit more expensive that other merino but I am hoping that I will more than make up for this extra cost in the time saved and the scope of the projects that I intend to tackle. Carmen had bought any wool that the sisters had left after the workshops and I got a little bit from her. This afternoon I made some felt beads, a flower, a ball and a piece of flat felt, in all they took me probably a third of the time that I would take normally, amazing! Watch this space, the wool should arrive at the beginning of next week hopefully.
One thing that I didn’t mention yesterday is that when I make prefelts I don’t lay the fibres out anything like as thickly as usual. This is because the prefelt will be cut and laid on top of whatever piece I am working on and I don’t want the felt to end up too thick in those sections. If however, you wanted a very textured piece, a wallhanging for example, maybe you would want the prefelt to be thick and to stand out a little from the rest of the background. Anyway, it is nice to experiment a bit so you will find out what thickness suits your style of work yourselves!
Thanks a million to Sheila Ahern who mentioned me in her excellent article in last Sunday’s Independent Newpaper. Here is the link for any of you who might like a peek, the main thread of the piece is about felting becoming addictive and some of the prose made me laugh out loud!
Yesterday I mentioned the basic tools that I use when felting and today I am going to give a brief overview of using prefelts in your work to get defined outlines, also a little mention of the Osman technique prior to Mehmet Girgic’s workshops later in January.
Prefelt is basically what occurs when you start the felting process but stop working the fibres as soon as they have started to form a cohesive fabric and before they have started to shrink. By washing carefully and drying your piece at this stage you can then cut the prefelt into any shape you like and place it on top of freshly laid out wool fibres. The result of this is that the cut out shape retains its clean lines and you can have much more control of what your finished piece will look like than with the usual method. If you are a bit impatient like me, you can actually cut the piece when wet and use it immediately, if you do this it is best to have the main layers of fibre wetted out before placing the prefelt in position. You also don’t have to rinse out the prefelt if you will be using it within a few days of making it, only if you want to store it for a while. I like to spend a bit of time sometimes dreaming up interesting combinations for my prefelt, I often try and include metallic threads, silk, angelina, things that I might not want a huge amount of in a finished piece but enough to add some interest to the work.
The Osman technique as taught by Mehmet Girgic is another way in which to get clean outlines. This is the method that I used for my road sign, note how obvious the outlines of the oak leaves are. With this piece I laid out the oulilne of the words and the leaves on top of a prepared base, this base was quite thick and comprised of layers of natural fleece and a top layer of heavy duty muslin which had been worked to the prefelt stage. In this method you roll the dry roving into a thin thread, dip it into extremely soapy water, wet the section of base that you wish to work on and then ‘draw’ your outlines with the wet roving. Because you have already wet the base and dipped the wool into soapy water the roving sticks very well to the backing. Once you fill in all the areas that you want to have colour you then wet out and roll, stamp, roll and stamp your piece again. This method is great for rugs and large wallhangings so why not give it a try? Mehmet will be arriving on Thursday 15th January and facilitating two 3 day workshops in rug making, check out the workshop page for full details. A couple of people have had to drop out at the last minute so if anyone is interested in a place please contact me asap! This is an amazing opportunity to meet and work with a world reknowned tutor.