Kool-Aid dyed ponge silk and merino roving = nuno felted scarf!

Yesterday I spent almost all day dying merino roving and ponge silk in the microwave using a variety of Kool-Aid colours/flavours, check out my Facebook page to see some pictures of the work in progress.  Although I am not going to go through a step by step discussion of what I did here tonight (still a couple of leaves to felt before I head off to bed, more another day!) I will leave you with a close up shot of the nuno scarf I felted yesterday evening.  I just couldn’t go to bed last night without getting my hands stuck into all that yummy coloured fibre now, could I???  I also felted an optional flower brooch to compliment this scarf and as soon as out weather picks up a little I’m going to take some photos of them as I want to upload it to the internet for sale, my shop has been totally quiet for far too long now!

Surprisingly subtle colours in the finished nuno felt scarf

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American workshops – a guide to the raw materials required by participants!

My flights are booked, new linen trousers purchased and I am SO excited now about my upcoming workshops in America, meeting old friends, making new ones and simply having the best of fun with like minded fibre nuts!!!  From 13th to 16th May I will be participating and teaching at The Tin Thimble’s wonderful Mother’s Day Fiber Retreat, on Friday 20th and Saturday 21st May I will be with my amazing friend Dawn for two days of workshops in Plainwell, MI and then on Friday 27th and Saturday 28th May I will be meeting and staying with online fibre friend Jan Durham and facilitating two days of workshops in Lexington KY, how fantastic is that for an adgenda???  

On the Friday participants in both MI and in KY have the option of taking a workshop titled ‘Simple vessels, purses and other three dimensional objects incorporating found objects’ and on the Saturday a workshop titled ‘Nuno mosaic and other interesting possibilities for wearable felt accessories’.  Participants attending both workshops have the option of designing and felting larger and more complex vessels, bags, sculptural items, bigger nuno projects or indeed an art piece for the wall.  As a result I have been toying with the correct materials list to publish for each workshop, eventually I have decided to provide a ‘minimum fabric and fibre requirement’ list for some of the projects participants may want to make and hopefully this will cover most potential eventualities!  In this way each individual participant will decide for themselves what exactly they want to make and what materials then need to bring with them at a minimum,. I know from personal experience that I can never bring too much fibre and embellishment items with me when I attend any workshop so limiting myself can be a challenge, it may also bring unexpected rewards at times!!!  Each participant will need to bring their usual felting equipment, 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.  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 laminate floor underlay but in an emergency we can use bubble wrap or whatever flexible plastic you have to hand.  For participants felting nuno mosaic or large nuno wraps it is really best to have two long lengths of bubble wrap bigger than the starting size of the silk used, plastic trash can liners are OK too in an emergency so if you have a roll of them please just bring them along!  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 embellishments, inclusions, leather off cuts and artificial glittery fabrics with me for everyone to share as well as some of the mohair waste which I am currently experimenting with in some of my three dimensional work!  Enough of the waffle, hopefully the following will be a guideline and I am always happy to answer any questions directly so please feel free to email me if you have a major concern …….

Clutch bag, vessel, iPad cover and smaller three dimensional items will need 80 – 150g of fibre.

Larger and more complex bags will need 200 – 350g fibre, I like this to be divided into 2/3 merino and 1/3 a strong coarser fibre such as C1 or Icelandic wool.

A 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 nuno wrap (two day project!) will need 2 – 3 m (yards is fine) silk chiffon, ponge silk, cheesecloth or muslin for the base and 40 – 100g good quality merino depending on size.

A mosaic nuno scarf will need a total minimum of 1m silk chiffon but this needs to be in at least 3 colours ie. 1/3m from a roll of three different colours, adding a small amount of a clashing colour can work wonders!  Incorporating vintage scarves into nuno mosaic is wonderfully effective and a beautiful way of bringing old fabrics back to new life, to see what I mean check out Marni’s wonderful scarf from last year’s Tin Thimble workshop, isn’t it beautiful?  These scarves will also need over 100g good quality merino preferrably in two colours.

A large nuno mosaic wrap will need 2 – 3m silk fabric in mixed colours and a total of up to or over 200g good quality merino, again two colours of fibre is ideal.

As you can imagine different projects require different techniques and heaviness of hand when laying out the fibre.  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???

Still waiting, felt flowers in the making, creative spinning

I am still waiting for my delivery of Icelandic wool to arrive in preparation for the large rug I am felting my father’s cousin Sylvia, hope there is no charcoal getting in the way!  In the meantime my sister commissioned me to create 36 small felt flowers to adorn her new Stranne table light from Ikea.  This is a spin off from my own lamp which I updated at Christmas by adding stylised flowers to surround every little light bulb, everyone seems to like it for some reason.  Anyway, I used flowers left over from my Sculpture in Context piece so just added whatever I had left over but for Suzanne’s lamp I am making them from scratch in colours that she choose on Sunday.  Yesterday I started the production by felting two 8 flower batches and this morning I intend felting 16 more before loading the truck and heading of to a teaching engagement this afternoon.

Stunning hand painted roving from the Dancing Farm

On Friday I recieved a wonderful swap package from Suzy aka Hollyhill in the New Year Secret Scarf Exchange on Ravelry.  It included this fantastic hand painted roving from the Dancing Farm which in addition to looking forward to felting with it has inspired me to try out spinning with a spindle for the first time in an attempt to add some handspun yarn to me freestyle kniting!   Not  having any spindle myself I have adapted one (using a piece of bamboo, a CD and some rubber bands) and this evening when I am back from teaching I am going to have a try armed with Gaia traditional crafts beautiful book Creative Spinning.  This is such a wonderfully bulky amount of gorgeous fibre to recieve and in my mind’s eye I can see several beautiful and light felted scarves and some yummy yarn all created from the one gift from Suzy, thanks for this great swap package!!!

Seamless felt bags and New Year swap update

Mari's seamless felt bag

Mari's seamless felt bag

The South East Textile Group held our first meeting of the year last Saturday and it was my turn to share some skills and facilitate the workshop.  We met at the Demanse Yard in Castlecomer, Co. Kilkenny and as usual started the morning with a coffee and chat in the beautiful light filled restaurant/coffee shop.  Our theme for the day was ‘felt bags’ and luckily I got my newsletter from the secretary during the end of last week or they would have been without a tutor as with all the excitement of the rug making I had totally forgotton to make a note of the date in my diary!   We had a great turnout of members and as many of them had only felted once or twice before I really wanted to make sure that they all had a good experience and went home with their own beautiful completed bag. 

Anne's seamless felt bag

Anne's seamless felt bag

We started the workshop by passing around some seamless bags that I had previously made and I explained that I wanted everyone to work using an oval resist, the different shapes of the finished bags would be achieved by cutting the opening in different positions.  I prefer using laminate floor underlay as my resist and we had a brief discussion about how this layer of plastic is like a letter in an envelope and prevents the fibres from both sides sticking together when starting the felting process.  Because I had a lot of wool ordered for Mehmet’s rug making workshops I had a nice selection of colours for anyone to choose from if they didn’t have their own wool to work with and once everyone had selected and weighed their wool (mainly long fibred American merino but also a few colours in New Zealand merino batts) I showed them how to lay out the fibres in even layers on top of their oval shaped resist.  When using this method it is really important to take care when turning your package over and keeping the fibres tight around the outside as you flip the loose strands from one side to the other.  Because some of the members had only felted once before we did have a few laughs trying to get to grips with the concept of seamless felting; which layers of wool would become the inside of the bag, which the front, which the back, where would the design end up etc.  but once everyone understood what we were aiming to achieve some beautiful bags started to take shape.  Interestingly enough one of the completed bags actually looked even better when turned inside out, something that quite often happens when felting, one of the reasons that I love the process!  Wonderful bags made by novice felters!We wet the layers of wool out (all the bags were worked between 2 layers of bubble wrap) with warm water and olive oil soap, massaged the fibres, flipped the whole thing over and then laid out the other side.  In order for everyone to have a well finished bag I kept a close eye on how the members were laying to wool out, some used 3 layers before laying out any final decoration, some 4 layers.  I had brought a goodie bag with a selection of different coloured wool for the final layer and also some great mulberry silk which some people choose to incorporate into their design.  We broke for lunch at this stage and returned in the afternoon to roll, throw and complete the fulling process.  Once the packages had shrunk enough and the members could feel the resist culing inside the felt it was time to cut open the package and decide where to place the handles.  Some members cut out a semi-circle of felt as I had done in my demo bags, Mari and Mary actually didn’t cut a whole piece of felt out but created clever little flaps to use as closures in the finished bags.  Once the bags were felted fully I showed everyone how to make a simple cord handle and a couple of people went on to decorate their bags with great felt flowers as well!

The Clasheen New Year destash swap is now underway and swap partners have been assigned! 

Annabie swaps with Clear2glass
edwardsdawn41 swaps with Shelivesacharmedlife
Clasheen swaps with ABarrett
Girly Girl Bags swaps with weepereas

Check out our Flickr group to see exactly what we are up to and why not join in the fun next time around!

Newspaper article, prefelt, Mehmet Girgic and Osman technique…

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.

Prefelt frenzy and thanks!

Thanks to all my friends and family who attended the opening of the Winter Exhibition at Kozo Gallery in Thomastown yesterday.   Special thanks to my mother Lynette, my sisters Suzanne and Lizzy, my partner Alan and my friends Cathy, Martin, Eileen, Remmy, Duncan and Helena who all make the effort to attend, a great turnout!  The exhibition continues until 31st January and as work is sold I can replace it with newer pieces.  A second opening has also been organised for 6th December and another 5 artists are joining us then in the run up to Christmas.  This was the first time that Kozo have invited artists to participate in an open selection and the work seemed to be very favourably received by both the public and the press.

With all the coming and going over the last few days I decided to felt something simple and quick this morning, prefelts seemed the obvious choice.  I had promised my students that I would have some prepared for their next lesson and of course as soon as I started making them I have been having all sorts of wild ideas of what I myself would like to use them for.  Now I want to spend all my time preparing some funky colour schemes and know that I will be in a frenzy over the next few days to prepare a wide selection of colours!  For those of you not sure what I mean by prefelt it is a piece of felt in the making which you stop fulling and shrinking as soon as the fibres are holding together into an obvious piece of fabric.  This lightly felted piece can then be cut into any shape and laid on top of loose wool roving or batts, wet out and felted fully as normal.  The big advantage of using prefelt in a design is that because it has already started to mesh together into a fabric your design edges will be very clean cut and sometimes this is exactly what you require.  Anyway, I am having fun making quite large pieces in solid colours (so far!) and embellishing part of each prefelt heavily with either tussah or mulberry silk.  Tomorrow I will continue making some more pieces and on Tuesday or Wednesday start cutting some of them up to use in some vessels I have been brooding over!!