Order of process for making my ArtL!nks felt vessels

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!) …..

  1. 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
  2. Make my prefelt from 3 even layers of merino
  3. Cut out some prefelt shapes
  4. Lay my template on top of bubble wrap, bubble side up
  5. 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
  6. Lay 2 fine layers of white merino up to and about 1.5cms (half an inch) over the edge of the resist
  7. Wet the fibres with soapy water, rub lightly either through a net or by pressing another piece of bubble wrap on top
  8. 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
  9. 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
  10. 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
  11. Wet, press and turn over back to side 1
  12. 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
  13. Fold over edge and lay out 2 more layers of white before wetting out and folding over any stray fibres to the other side
  14. 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

  15. 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
  16. Keep turning the vessel over to work on both sides and rotate to ensure all the package is worked evenly
  17. 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!


Another ArtL!nks vessel underway

This morning I started my largest ArtL!nks vessel to date, the template I am using is a couple of inches bigger all round than my dustbin lid or trash can lid as those of you would say in the USA!  I know that part of my original proposal was to set up a seperate blog to write exclusively about the project but to be honest I have decided that it makes a lot more sense to document my progress here, it is felting after all and this is the place all my friends come to when they want to discover what I have been up to during the day!!! 

One side laid out with prefelt and two layers of white merino, two more layers to go

Anyway, I need to buy more laminate floor underlay and a fresh roll of bubble wrap later in the week because while this vessel will be large it is still not going to be as large as my final work and I need more resist material to draft out the biggest template.  I want this largest vessel to have a finished diameter of approx 1m (just over 3′) and when I am in town I think it would be fantastic if I could find some huge balloons over which to shape and dry the piece, it would be so much easier to finish if there was already a shape inside to felt towards.  Thanks to everybody who is leaving comments here and on Flickr about the vessels I have felted to date, it is interesting as well to have a debate about the merits of stiffening felt versus shrinking and working without stiffener and hardening the piece by hand.  We might talk about how I am shrinking and firming up the vessels in the next post, for now I am going to get a quick cup of 3 ginger tea and then off to do some more rubbing and felting!

Gathering the fibres …..

The next task was to narrow down my fibre choices and decide which colours would best compliment the scarf I had chosen to work with. 

Starting to select fibres and colours

The picture on the left shows my initial collection of fibres laid out surrounding the scarf, hand dyed gold silk, a 90% grey/10% pink alpaca combination, creamy/white undyed merino, baby blue merino, sunflower yellow merino some embroidery silks of my grandmothers peeking out at the bottom right and some beautiful merino and silk combinations at the bottom left.  I didn’t get a picture of the silver dyed linen fibres but they were a perfect match to tie in with the blue/grey and baby blue silk of the scarf.  Eventually I decided to keep things ultra simple and let the colours of the silk sing out against a natural white merino and use a little of the silver linen for additional surface detail.    

Once I had narrowed everything down to the bare essentials I cut my template from 1mm plastic echoing the shape of the jewellery pouch and making sure that it was large enough to allow me lay the biggest flower motif against the template without cutting into the design.  I did sketch the provisional layout of the silk pieces but decided to give myself some freedom as I laid out the bag and go with the flow if necessary, what’s new!  To start with I placed the largest piece of silk right side down on the template and then started to lay out my merino.  I wanted this piece of silk to be a beautiful surprise on the inside of the bag and needed it to be oversized for the impact I wanted to create.  At this stage of the day I was beginning to realise that I might not have enough time to get everything laid out fully, we had to exit the building at 5pm and were to bring our pieces with us to a different venue for the morning of day 2, panic!!!  Once the first layer of merino was in position around both sides of the resist I laid out some more pieces of silk fabric and covered them with a layer of plastic resist.  One of these resists I covered with baby blue merino before laying another resist on top.  My idea for this stemmed from a  beautiful large chunk of blue lace agate that my grandmother often wore and all us girls envied.  It wasn’t her most precious piece of jewellery by any means but the one we all wanted to touch and get an opportunity to wear as children, we just loved the lacy lines in shades of light blue and grey!  I wanted to expose both the blue merino and the silk underneath as two seperate layers, maybe I am not explaining this well but you will see what I mean when I post the final pictures.  By the end of the afternoon I had covered the resist with several layers of merino and was ready to bring it home with me to lay out the surface decoration later that evening.  More tomorrow ……..

Two upcoming exhibitions and experimenting with resists to get surface design and texture

As I have already mentioned I seem to be so snowed under that I can’t think straight, must be why I had a different date in mind to deliver work for two upcoming exhibitions!  I was pretty horrified to discover I need work delivered to Carlow next Tuesday as part of the Blueprint show but slightly more relieved when I found out that work for the South East Textile Group show (info to follow next post) may also be delivered on Tuesday, three days later than I had originally thought.  Firstly some info re the Blueprint show and then some images of a sample piece using resists within the felt which when cut out and removed create design and texture on the surface.


The Blueprint Artists Network presents an exhibition of artworks by artists from the South-East from 12th – 20th June 2010 in Castle Gate, Kennedy St, Carlow. 
Opening reception starts 6pm Friday 11th June 2010
This show promises to be one of the must-see events of the Eigse Fringe 2010, featuring over 60 paintings, drawings, prints, photographs and mixed media works by established and emerging artists from Carlow, Wexford, Kilkenny and Wicklow.
The venue on Kennedy Street has quickly established itself as an integral part of the Eigse route.  First opened during Eigse ’08 with an exhibition featuring just three visual artists, last year saw the venue expand dramatically and this year 14 artists will transform the space with a colourful display to suit all tastes.  Nicola Brown, a textile artist from Borris, Co. Carlow, will display her colourful wall hangings and fantastic felt pots; Anthony Walsh is an animator from Carlow whose work features on the Eigse website this year and Saidhbhin Gibson will be exhibiting her subtle mixed media work which incorporates natural and found objects.  Also on display will be photography, painting, drawing, print and mixed media work by Stephen Mynhart, Mary Cullen, Rachel O’Hara, Brandon McLane, Mairead Holohan, Shane Gannon, Paul Heary, Jackie Edwards, Deirdre Burke and Brian Bastick.
All exhibitors are part of the Artlinks network www.artlinks.ie and information on each artist and on The Blueprint can be found in the Artlinks online directory.
Open daily from 12th June 2010 – 20th June.
Castle Gate, Kennedy Street, Carlow.
For further information, email Mary Cullen at  mary.create@gmail.com or Brandon McLane at mclaneart@gmail.com

Now for those pictures …….

Playing with resists

The finished sample

‘Convergence’, ‘Obviously Felt’, exciting news and my latest felt vessel!

Two international felting events taking place worth noting in your diaries are the 11th Southern Hemisphere Felting Convergence (a bi-anual event happening from 2nd to 7th October 2011) and the ‘Obviously Felt’ symposium (28th July to 1st August 2010) organised by the Danish Felting Association Grima in honour of their 20th anniversary. My exciting news this weekend is that Carlow Co. Council have confirmed that they are awarding me E400 under the Arts Acts Grant scheme meaning that I will be able to participate at ‘Obviously Felt’ in Silkeborg, Denmark this summer, I am thrilled!!!  On the other side of the world expressions of interest are being sought from tutors interested in running workshops at Convergence 2011 so if you live anywhere within striking distance of Bunbury, Australia it could be an excellent opportunity to become involved in an international symposium and a brilliant way of show casing your work. Check out their excellent blog and email feltconvergence2011@westnet.com.au to submit your ideas!

Felt vessel

Yesterday I felted this simple but striking (to my mind!) vessel using Norwegian C1 wool and luscious locks of Wenslydale.  At least that’s what I ‘think’  they are because unfortunately I mislaid whatever information I had describing the locks so this is just a wild guess!  I used a round resist and once I had covered it with 50g C1 on each side I laid a further round resist on top of one side, this resist had a hole cut out in the centre to allow me to lay and attach the gorgeous curly fibres.  To start the felting I was very careful to rub gently but firmly over the raw locks but as soon as I was happy they were starting to combine with the other wool I just rubbed, rolled and felted as normal.  At the beginning I worked with coolish water and loads of soap (Anna Gunnarsdottir does this and the felt doesn’t shrink very much) but for the fulling process I rinsed it in hot water and made sure to seal the cut edges where I removed the resist very well.  Over the summer I am taking part in several exhibitions where I have to show sculptural pieces.  This piece is the starting point for a series of vessels combining C1 or Icelandic wool with raw locks and fibres from Irish and rare breed sheep.

Alan has been pretty sick this week and today was no exception.  He did join my mother, Suzanne and I for lunch (local chicken, leeks, potatos and the first rhubarb of the season) but has headed off to his own house now and is hopefully tucked up in bed having a sleep.  As a result I have been a bit frustrated trying to pin him down re. my planned felting trip to US in the Fall but eventually this afternoon he told me to go ahead and finalise my dates leaving him out of the equation so for those of you waiting for me to confirm dates, I am on to it!

Mixed results for first day working larger piece

Yesterday I started working on my first larger sculpture of 2010.  As mentioned before I have planned various shapes and sizes over the last few weeks but luckily I didn’t have enough laminate underlay (to use as a resist) to start working on something particularly big yesterday!  I decided to work on a modified shape born out of the sculpture I made last summer in Denmark and set to making the resist and weighing out the wool.  For the type of work that I wanted to create a symmetrical resist shape is best.  You cut your shape several times and then stitch the various layers together down the middle line using strong thread.  For arguments sake just imagine three circles stitched together down the diameter, if you fanned the resulting semicircles out you would have six sides to create your sculpture with.  Next you prepare six dry circles of wool weighing each layer to ensure the felt will be even, then you start laying and wetting your wool flipping the semicircles as you go until all the various surfaces are totally encased.  For my piece yesterday I worked on a modified figure of eight lying sideways, the curves on the bottom edge were a bit extended and there was a small protrusion on the outside top edge.  It took me a while to prepare the stitched resist and as I was working I decided to remove one of the ‘leaves’ to leave me with a five sided template.  I decided to use natural white and apple green Icelandic wool with some green and white silk hankies and throwsters waste to add detail and surface interest.  It took several hours to get the resist stitched and the five layers of wool prepared and dry felted lightly to help the fibres come together, these were then stacked like pancakes in preparation for covering the resist and wetting out the wool.  To be continued …….. with some pictures!

The first snow of 2009 and a brilliant felt vessel!

My view this morning!

It’s really unusual to have snow this early in the year on the ridge opposite the front of my farmhouse.  Sometimes, the larger peak Mount Leinster does have a dusting in mid November but normally we only have it on the whole range in the thick of winter (if at all) so I was delighted to wake up to this pretty picture first thing this morning!

Hilary joined me just before half past ten to felt for the first time, our project was a simple felt vessel.  We had a chat about the basics of felting over a warming freshly ground coffee (part of a Going Green swap package from Chaimama via Ravelry) and then got stuck in selecting and weighing fibre.  The Icelandic wool batts (available from my Etsy store) are excellent for sculptural felt and it is important to have roughly the same amount of fibre on each side of your resist hence the weighing!  Hilary decided to make a round vessel with the main colours being my favourite apple green in combination with a gorgeous turquoise.  We sub-divided the wool into four equal piles giving us two layers to lay out for each side prior to any surface embellishment.  Once the two layers were laid and wet out lightly Hilary then added some turquoise mulberry silk and some swirls of wool in another complimentary turquoise/greeny shade.  As I have mentioned before using more soap than usually advised coupled with a lot less water seems to work really well with the Icelandic wool. 

Hilary sealing the edges

Once Hilary’s vessel passed the pinch test I cut out a very small hole to release the resist.  As you seal and work the cut edges the opening will always widen so a good tip is never to make the initial cut too big!  When sealing the edges use a lot of soap on your hands, this helps you to make a nice clean edge.   Now the vessel was worked by hand both on the bamboo blind (we had started with bubble wrap and progressed to the blind as the fibres started felting together) and in very hot  soapy water in the sink.  Hilary also threw the felt onto the table to help shock and full it, then kept stretching it to form the final shape and help the wool form the memory.  Finally all the soap was rinsed totally out of the felt, the vessel was reshaped, the texture and form admired and all that was needed were a few images to mark a great mornings felting!

Hilary with her stunning first piece of felt!



For some reason the image uploader is playing up this evening so check out my Flickr images for a larger shot of the finished vessel, the texture is beautiful!

Unblocked felt hat, an experiment with colour, style and texture

I loved the two felt hats that I made recently with Icelandic wool but I really wanted to wear them myself and unfortunately my head is just too small for hats shaped on my hat block!  At the brilliant ‘Pick up your Needles’ workshop on Saturday Irene had a simple but fun crochet hat that I thought could translate very well into felt.  It was really comfortable to wear and I asked her if she would mind me using the design as a starting point for creating a new felt hat, this time not blocked and small enough for me to wear as well! 

Silk and cotton mix fabric felted with Icelandic wool

Silk and cotton mix fabric felted with Icelandic wool

One of the most exciting colours of Icelandic wool that I am stocking in my Etsy shop is a great red (I have always found to date that a decent red is one of the most difficult colours to order batts or roving in) and for the hat I teamed this red with a nice rich deep violet (or purple if you prefer).  I also wanted to play around a bit more incorporating different fabric and fibre into the wool, this time I used silk twists (kind of like hand dyed throwsters waste) and some deep purple crinkly fabric with a surface print in gold.  This silk and cotton mix fabric was actually from an expensive skirt that I bought a couple of years ago and only wore once, now that I have no spare cash for buying clothes I am recycling everything I can to incorporate into my felt where appropriate!  The template for the hat was a simple rectangle and I prepared a few felted cords to jazz up the corners at the top.  One of the design features of this model is it’s simplicity, working a rectangle shape around a resist means that even inexperienced felters could make a successful hat at their first attempt, I feel another workshop in the making!  After weighing the wool I divided the total amount (60g) by four and laid out the first layer on each side.  At this stage I positioned the cords at opposite corners and added a little more soap in these areas to help keep them in place.  After laying the second layer I then added my silk twists and crinkly fabric, checked that I was happy with the design and continued to felt as usual.  Surprisingly enough, I actually found that this hat took longer to make that the ‘Raspberry Ripple’.  The big advantage however is in the easy of process, the fun design and the fact that I just continued to full until I was happy with the overall size in relation to my head. 

The finished felt hat!

I definitely think that this design has possibilities and will now try and make it in a different colour combination with possibly some minor alterations to the shape.  The fact that a hat block is not necessary to shape the hat is also an advantage and I like the way that it sits jauntily on my head!  Unfortunately the sun was very strong today and not the best for taking pictures (although great for everything else!) so I hope to take some more of the hat on Thursday and also get some better images of the wool to put up on Etsy.

New felt hat, an experiment with Icelandic wool

Yesterday afternoon I was just able to grab an hour and a half to try out a felt hat as an experiment with the Icelandic wool.  Some of you have been asking how coarse the wool is and is it suitable for wearables, in her book ‘Uniquely Felt’ American fibre artist Christine White classifies Icelandic wool in the medium and long wool section with a Bradford Count of 46-52s and a micron count of 32-28.  To my mind this makes it perfect for creating sculptural felt hats ideally suited to a colder climate.  For my experiment yesterday (still to be rinsed and shaped again this morning) I decided not to use any merino on the inside, this would probably make the lining softer but to be honest when I tried the hat on yesterday evening it felt great, not a bit scratchy!

Raspberry ripple felt hat!

Raspberry ripple felt hat!

I slightly altered a bag resist that I already had to use as a template and then spent some time studying books by Chad Alice Hagen, Christine White and Lizzie Houghton to determine exactly how much wool to use.  Because I really am a beginner when it comes to hats (unlike my friend Dawn Edwards!) it did amaze me how little wool I needed to use to create a beautifully strong but flexible hat, just 80g in total for this model.  The raspberry coloured Icelandic is a very rich colour and I was lucky to find a matching piece of scrim in my stash that I had made in a week long batik course with Alex Meldrum at the Grennan Mill Craft School in Thomastown.  I didn’t want to embellish the wool too much but did want to see how a little bit of fabric would add or detract from the final look of the hat.  The whole project was really quick and simple to get to this stage although I am going to alter the template slightly this morning and have another go with some different colours. 

Raspberry ripple

Raspberry ripple

I love the way the wool is still soft and flexible but appears to hold the structure well.  This is the first time that I have used my hat block (it has been sitting gathering dust in my studio) and it did make the shaping into these rings pretty easy, I am not sure however how well I would be able to create other shapes, time will tell! 

Close up of felt hat showing hand dyed scrim

Close up of felt hat showing hand dyed scrim

I also like the surface texture of the hat as shown in the detailed picture, the scrim felted in to the wool very well and there is a very nice tactile feel to the whole thing.  I may shave inside the band where the wool will come in contact with my head although the jury is still out on this but otherwise I think I will leave the outside surface ‘au natural’!  If any of you are interested in trying out some Icelandic wool it is now available from my new Etsy shop.  I hope to prepare some felting kits before the weekend and will let you know as soon as these come on stream.  Off now to rinse and finish the hat, more tomorrow!