Craft fair and studio scarf display DIY

For a long while I've been mulling over how to display my new printed silk scarves to their best advantage without getting them all wrinkled, up to now I've draped them over props at fairs or arranged them as artistically as possible on the plinths and tables in the studio. In bed the other night I suddenly had a brainwave, why not find a simple but unobtrusive looking shower curtain ring that I could hang on the top bar of my Ikea clothes rails? Result!

I love the fact that I can hang at least 12 scarves on the one rail without the display looking cluttered. Potential customers can easily compare one scarf pattern against the next therefore making decision time easier, I can then cover the scarves and leave them hanging on the rail during the week or if I need to transport them to a show remove the hooks and pack everything up simply and quickly. Here's a trial run of scarves that I assembled together at Duckett's Grove yesterday, now all I need to do is pick up a few more rails when I'm in Ikea then I'm ready in advance for any Christmas retail opportunity that presents itself out of the blue!
 

 

Hectic time felt and life related …..

I have just spent a really busy time down in Cillin Hill setting up for my weekend workshops at the Sheep and Wool Festival (E25 for either a morning or an afternoon session incl materials, a bargain!) as well as bringing down three of Horst’s fabulous garments and collating everything for the presentation girl’s display. Alan’s father may not make the night so if that is the case Carmen has very kindly offered to step in for me on Sunday so that I can drive to Sligo to meet with Alan and be there for the funeral. Now I am heading out again to deliver a comissioned scarf (why did I say I would make it for today???) and then drive to my mother’s house to collect the wool and raw materials for the weekend. Stephanie from The Yarn Room has kindly sponsored the fibre and my sister Suzanne is collecting it in Wicklow on her way down from Dublin to visit my mother.  My mother will have roast stuffed loin of pork followed by fresh Wexford strawberries and cream waiting for us, I can hardly wait.  Thanks Stephanie, Suzanne and mum!!!

A little about our new book and just a glimpse of some raw materials from yesterday!

Working on our new book has really forced me to write down ideas as they come into my head and document projects on paper more than I would otherwise tend to do, for me a lot of my documentation is through this blog but sketching more is really helping me clarify ideas and leading me to explore them in a more systametic way than I have being doing previously.  Chrissie is brilliant at this anyway and I really look forward to seeing some of her sketches and musings when she comes to stay with me in April for our final efforts to put the book to bed and get it available online.  I don’t want anyone to get the idea our book is going to be the bee all and end all of felting techniques, it’s not!  Rather it is an idea of how we both work as well as a demonstration of how we translate our thoughts and ideas from the inspiration stage into the finished felt item.  

Stunning 50/50 silk merino blend from Cloverleaf Farms

I love gathering up my raw materials at the start of any project, the possibilities seem endless at this stage when all the beautiful fibres and colours are gathered together just waiting to be selected.  Sometimes however, I find that having a wide selection of different fibres to work with can bring on its own worries and often just getting started is challenge enough for one days work alone! 

Yesterday was one of the good days.  In the morning I selected some stunning 50/50 hand dyed silk/merino roving which I bought at the Rhinebeck Sheep and Wool Festival from the wonderful Joan Berner of Cloverleaf Farms, one of my all time favourite suppliers now!!!  I wanted to use it for a very special project and demonstrate how a small amount of luxurious fibre could create the most beautiful scarf imaginable!  Although I am not showing you a photo of the finished article imagine the glistening sheen of clear glass beads against the wonderful and subtle variations of colour in this blue based combination which Joan has called Sapphire.  I based the scarf’s design and colours on the beautiful blues and greens in the clear waters off La Gomera in the Canaries and Kos in Greece.  Wearing this piece (if I keep it for myself!) will bring back happy memories of holidays shared with Alan, the glass beads are NOT sewn in after the scarf is felted, wait for the book to see how I include them in the lay out stage!!!The second piece I felted yesterday is waiting on my table now to be transformed into a sleeveless vest/wrap type of affair, probably NO sewing again but maybe a couple of judicious stitches around the collar region, I’ll have to wait and see how it drapes once I cut out the armholes and put it on my manequin.  Again I loved gathering the supplies for this one, originally I had a big pile of silk fibre and hankies, beautiful Blue Faced Leiscester, linen fibres (all of these hand dyed) and some different colours of silk chiffon fabric.  In the end I felted this piece using ‘Chili Pepper’ BFL roving from Joan, silk hankies, silk fibre (again from Joan!), two colours of silk chiffon and then added a fine layer of orange merino because I wasn’t sure that I had enough BFL to make the vest strong enough.  Chrissie is really the master at the nuno felted jacket, I did however want to include a wearable piece requiring minimal stitching in the book, I know I could have done a bigger seamless project but really that’s not what I do every day, this type of felting is much more suited to my organic kind of style!  Anyway, here is a glimpse of some of the raw materials before I made my final selection.  Technically this wasn’t a nuno piece having more fibre than fabric, today I hope to felt a highly textured nuno wrap, one of my all time favourite projects! 

Hand dyed BFL and silk from Joan teamed with some lightweight silk chiffon

Triton’s Horn, American update again, developing a working title and starting to sample or fine tune our first pieces

Thanks Dawn for giving me permission to publish your image here and I know that everyone will join me in saying congratulations.  Triton’s Horn is a wonderful piece of felt and I am so looking forward to seeing it in reality when I visit Michigan this October! 

Triton's Horn by Dawn Edwards

For those of you wondering why I have not been advertising dates as promised for my American workshops in September/October I have been having a few (read panicing here!) blips with finding out the correct info for my Visa application.  At last I have the relevant data as of Friday morning and have been told I may travel under the Visa Waiver Programme providing I have some relevant letters with me to produce in case of questioning.  Whew, that is a HUGE load off my mind and now I am going to contact all my great friends and co-organisers during this week to re-open talks about potential workshops and venues.  You WILL be the first to read confirmed details here and as a little taster I can reveal that I will be facilitating a ‘Complex Felt Bag’ workshop on 25th and 26th September at The Tin Thimble in Loomis, CA and a ‘Nuno Mosaic’ workshop on 27th September, also in The Tin Thimble, another ‘Complex Felt Bag’ workshop on 11th and 12th October in Kalamazoo, Michigan and a ‘Felted Accessories’ workshop on 13th October, also in Michigan.  San Fransisco and hopefully Berkeley workshops will take place between 29th September and approx 8th October with something special in the pipeline for World Felt Day on 2nd October, watch this space!!!

Continuing on from yesterday, the next thing participants at Jeanette’s workshop did was sit down quietly for about 20 minutes to write down the thoughts and feelings evoked by talking about our objects and memories.  At this stage we were also looking for a working title, this was not set in stone but could be ammended and adjusted through out the course of the process.  Initially I jotted down ‘Isabella on my mind’ as a provisional title and by the end of the weekend decided to run with ‘In search of Isabella’ which I now hope to develop further into a body of work inspired by my grandmother and possibly other relatives in both Scotland and Ireland.

Natalie holding one of granny's beautiful silk scarves

Although I had brought quite a selection of granny’s silk scarves with me the one pictured here being held by Natalie is the most evocative for me colourwise, therefore this is scarf that I choose to cut up and rework into a new piece.  It was a very nervous moment for me cutting into the beautiful hand rolled silk but once Jeanette had encouraged me to wield the sissors all was well and I got stuck in with a good will.  Because I had such strong memories of my grandmother and a clear idea of where I wanted to go it was not difficult to select a bag as the project I wanted to felt basing the shape on the little suede jewellery pouch of hers I had brought with me.  I know that sampling can be a very important part of any project but because I have been working a lot recently on bags and inclusions I decided to jump straight in and cut out the template having already planned where I was going to use the various cut outs from the silk scarf.

I wanted to use the largest flower motif intact in the inside of the bag and then nestle various pieces of silk within the wool before adding surface detail with more silk flowers and strips of the rolled edges.  My idea was that the bag would be equally beautiful inside and outside, seen and unseen, and I was further going to embellish the surface with both raw and dyed flax (linen) fibres.  To be cont …..

My first food colour dyed nuno scarf, American update and one space available next Wednesday to learn nuno felting!

As promised here are some more musings re my first  hand dyed nuno scarf experiment.  Once I had zapped the scarf in the  microwave for the second 5 minute session I left it in the bowl to cool down a little bit.  As soon as it was cooler to handle I rinsed it out under running water before spinning with a damp towel and then hanging it up to dry. 

My first scarf dyed with food colouring

Contrasting textures

I absolutely adore the mohair locks combined with the nuno texture but wouldn’t include the corn fibres again for this type of work.  As mentioned before I did know that they would not dye with the food colouring but because I intended the scarf to be various shades of blue and green I thought that the fibres would add a nice touch, I actually think that they don’t!  I am happy however with the blending of the green and yellow colours which was carefully planned and not an accident by any means, oh ye of little faith!!  The scarf seems to be amazingly soft after the process and I really don’t know if the dying altered the handle of the nuno felt or if it is just the addition of the mohair locks.  Dying with food colouring is something that I will experiment with a little further as it was quick, safe and only required items already here in my house (except obviously the food colouring itself!).
At the moment I am just trying to finalise the Michigan leg of my US felting trip this October.  As soon as I have confirmed news I will post here and sort out the Californian and Oregan side of things, I can’t wait!!!
I am teaching a nuno felting workshop here at Clasheen next Wednesday and due to the arrival of my new tables this morning (HURRAH!) have one space available for the day.  Please email me asap if you are interested in attending.  The cost is E75 for the day including materials and ongoing tea or coffee, silk fabric is a little extra (you can use cotton gauze or muslin if preferred) depending on whether you go for hand dyed or commercial silk.

My finished felt slippers and textile trials in our extreme weather conditions!

With the cold weather continuing and more snow forecast I made myself finish my felt slippers this afternoon. 

The finished felt slippers with latex soles

I had painted four (I think!) layers of latex on the soles allowing 24 hours between each coat, this has given an excellent ‘sticky’ sole which is both waterproof and slip resistant.  My friend Sheila Ahern from Feltmakers Ireland has a really great tip for colouring the latex, add some food colouring in the appropriate colour as you paint on the soles!  It was too late for me this time but I will definitely consider it again especially if I make slippers in dyed wool as opposed to natural colours.  As per usual I had been putting off stitching the backs of each heel AGAIN but finally all all the agonising is over and now I will be wearing these beauties tonight in front of my wood burning stove!

I still have no water here and as you can see from this photo am reduced to melting snow on top of the range if I want a cup of tea or a coffee. 

Melting snow on the range

Luckily I do have heat again so things are not as bad as they were a week or so ago but no water at all now bar melting snow means no felting until my supply resumes.  As a result, I am trying to finish off little projects that have been lurking in my conscience and during my enforced absence from felting I have also vowed to get to grips with my Ashford Knitters Loom!  This frustrating but beguiling piece of kit has had me cursing and frustrated endless times over the last afternoon and this morning.  I actually bought the loom from Stephanie at The Yarn Room with money that I earned teaching felting at one of the ‘Pick Up Your Needles’ sessions at the Courthouse Arts Centre in Tinahely, Co. Wicklow.  My thought process went something along the lines of occasionally (when I have NO water!) it is good to experiment in another textile discipline and sometimes in the future (when I master the blooming thing!) it might be interesting to combine some weaving with some felting.  Knowing as you must by now how incredibly difficult I find little fiddly things to master it is a testament to my not so great patience that I actually managed to warp the loom at all. 

Warping the loom

To be totally fair to Ashford, these Knitters Looms are excellent to work with and the included instructions are very clear and simple to follow.  I’m not going to bore you with all my selvedge difficulties, suffice to say that I found it totally impossible to get an even edge!  I know that it is my first scarf but really, it was amazingly frustrating not to even think that I was improving as the weaving progressed and the scarf got longer.  Early in the process I determined to sell the loom but as things went on I started dreaming of loads of lovely felt projects enhanced by a small piece of my very own woven fabric! 

Warm woven scarf

Time will tell whether I continue with my weaving but for the moment I have a very warm (all be it an extremely badly woven) scarf to keep me warm during this cold weather and a head full of ideas for future felt and fabric collaborations.

Just a quick post re felting with velvet

Just a quick post this evening as the hours seem to have slipped away and it is now time for bed!  The last of the  trees were planted this morning and I was lucky enough to plant the final 8, far from the amount I had originally intended but time was not on my side.

This afternoon I decided it was time to try incorporating some fabulous hand dyed silk velvet into a scarf, this was part of the stash that I bought at the recent Knit and Stitch Show in Dublin.  I also wanted to try some of the hand dyed silk ribbons that I brought home from the States, both the fabrics were in gorgeous shades of hot orange through to burgundy.  I laid out a short scarf in some of my short fibred merino and overlaid with the velvet and silk strips.  Lizzie Houghton (in Felting Fashion) says to trap the velvet with some wool fibres and  luckily I did.  As I progressed through the felting process I actually thought that the velvet had felted into the wool, not the case as it turned out.  The silk ribbon also didn’t incorporate into the wool as well as I expected but overall the effect is quite rich.  A couple of seed beads in appropriate spots might just add to the opulent  feeling and the richly textured end result is worth trying out a couple more times as the velvet does add another dimension to the felt.

Pictures of my new fabric and felt neckpiece design

As promised here are some pictures of my new style (loosly based on a Lyda Rump design) fabric and felt neckpiece. 

Printed silver fabric and black felt bead neckpiece

The scarves that I have used in my first two prototypes are a 20% silk 80% linen mix and the beads are wet felted from some of my gorgeously soft short fibred merino.  When I was taking these pictures I thought again how perfect this style would be for anyone who  is allergic to wool.  The felt beads may be moved around the scarf and never touch the skin therefore anyone finding wool itchy would never come in contact with anything irritable.

Detail of printed fabric and felt bead neckpiece

I formed one long felt bead around a wooden dowel and just before I had finished felting cut the piece into five even pieces.  The black beads perfectly compliment the silver printed fabric and I am still deciding if I will add small seed beads to the turquoise neckpiece (pictures on Flickr) or leave it as is, plain and simple.  As mentioned before I sewed the ends of the scarf together and covered the join with a felt bead.  It would of course be an option not to do this but leave the ends open, this way the scarf could be wound around the neck in the normal manner as many times as wanted leaving the ends free to sit to the front or to the back.

I am off now to have a quick snack for lunch and then set in to a long afternoon felting in preparation for Sunday’s craft fair!  Until tomorrow …..

Yummy yak!

Tha yak was absolutely yummy to felt with!  If I remember Blas correctly it was an 80% yak 20% merino mixture but I am going to check this out again.  Although the fibre is quite a bit more expensive than merino it is worth every penny and I definitely will be ordering some more for myself in the not too distant future!Detail of yak and silk scarf  It was gorgeous and soft to lay out but due to the short fibre length totally different than working with merino.  Initially I thought that I would have to be very frugal with the fibre as I only had 61g but in actual fact I made an extremely long but fine scarf and had quite a bit left over!  I had kind of decided to try it for cobweb felt but as soon as I discovered how short the fibres were changed this for 2.5 thin layers (2 layers and a bit of topping up in thin areas!) with a lot of silk fibres on the surface.  The yak was super quick to felt, within about 50 minutes from start to finish (including laying out and no use of the sander!!) my new winter scarf was ready!

Electric blue hand carded merino and silk

Continuing with my destash, I came across some stunning hand carded rolls that I created one day when I spent some hours hidden away with Carmen’s drum carder.  Hiding their light under my table is what these lustreous fibres have been doing in the meantime so off to Etsy they’ve gone to find a slightly more appreciative new home!

Fantastic nuno mosaic felting workshop at Urban Fauna Studio

I had a WONDERFUL time at Urban Fauna Studio on my last full day in the States!  Blas and Jamie have a superb set up, wonderful fibres, yarns, books and notions etc. all neatly laid out in a small but practical space in a quiet part of the Mission district in San Fransisco.  Alan and I arrived in the city during rush hour (I guess that should be rush hours!!) on Wednesday evening and I have to say it was only then that I discovered how far downtown San Fransisco actually was from the studio, although we had driven through the city at the beginning of the holiday I really didn’t realise that it was so big.  Luckily Alan is someone who likes to study all the local maps from an area as soon as we arrive and boy was I happy when he found out that the Muni light rail system could practically drop me from our hotel on O’Farrell Street to Urban Fauna’s door, all for the cool price of only $2, a lot less stressful than driving! 

Blas outside Urban Fauna Studio

Blas outside Urban Fauna Studio

I duly arrived on Thursday morning looking forward to meeting proprietor Blas and scoping out the facilities in advance of the participants arrival for our class at 10am.  Unfortunately Blas’s wife Jamie was tied up so I will just have to wait until next summer and their trip to Ireland before meeting the other half of this great fibre duo.  I was very impressed with the quality and selection of fibre and yarn available to purchase as well as interesting books, notions and other covetable items and more than impressed with how Blas manages to keep this relatively small space totally clean, tidy and organised, if only my own studio was half as tidy I would be in 7th heaven!  While Blas headed off to the local shop to pick up some fresh fruit and teas I made myself at home, first selecting some yummy and unusual fibres to bring home with me and then setting up the tables and laying out a couple of samples of my felt that I had brought with me from Ireland.  First to arrive was my online friend Nancy Schwab, the person actually responsible for putting me in touch with Blas and Jamie in the first place!  Nancy is a great nuno felter and had brought some of her beautiful scarves for everyone to drool over and this was interesting for all the participants to see as neither Flo, Nancy W-B or Laura had actually wet felted before.  We had a really fun group (two Nancys, Flo, Laura and Blas) and everyone was totally more experienced in dying fabric and fibre than I am and between them there was a gorgeous selection of hand dyed and bought silk to select from to create the nuno mosaic with.  I explained how Sigrid Bannier pioneered the technique and suggested that for the total beginners a double ended scarf would be a good project to tackle, plenty of opportunity to experiment with colour but not as large a piece to lay out as experienced felters Blas and Nancy S were going to attempt. 

Laying out the mosaic design - Nancy Schwab

Laying out the mosaic design - Nancy Schwab

Using a guideline of three different colours everyone started to chop up their silk and lay out their patterns, a bit like making an overlapping jigsaw!  As you can see from the image of Nancy laying out her design everywhere the silk colours overlap another colour is created.  In this way a complex design is created and additional depth is acquired from whatever colour wool is used on the reverse to felt everything together.  As we started to work everyone began to appreciate that this method of working opens up the door to amazingly complex details, particularly as everyone seemed to be a dab hand at dying silk in the first place a whole new avenue of textile design is now on the horizon.  Before lunch I showed everyone how I would lay out two fine layers of merino on top of the overlapping silk and everyone managed very well with varying degrees of thickness and different qualities of wool.  Blas actually used a yak/merino mix that has to be one of the softest fibres I have ever touched, needless to say I bought some to bring home for myself and some as a present for Carmen as well!  Anyway, we wet out the first end of the scarf and started rubbing and massaging to help the fibres migrate through the silk.  After lunch around the corner in a super Japanese place (FANTASTIC food and amazingly cheap) everyone got stuck back into their work and continued to lay out more silk to complete their piece before rubbing and then rolling in bubble wrap around a short piece of pool noodle.  Once we were totally sure that the wool was migrating through every layer of silk the felt could then be dipped into extremely hot water and then either thrown on a towel or rocked and rolled on the table to continue the felting process.  Once I was happy that the work was fully felted each piece was given a final rinse and then proudly worn for a fun filled photo session!  The nuno mosaic technique does use a lot more elbow grease than straight nuno felt and takes longer to create but I am sure you will agree from the photos here and on Flickr that the amazing results were more than worth the effort! 

Beautiful results form our nuno mosaic workshop

Beautiful results form our nuno mosaic workshop

I promise that tomorrow I will put up the post ‘American wrap up – Yosemite, Castle Air Museum and fantastic killer whales!’ but for now I am off to create a nuno felt scarf all for myself!