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!
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!!!
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
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 …..
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
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.
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 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.