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!
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.
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
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!
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 had a lucky escape on Thursday morning when I got a nasty cut at the edge of my little finger whilst trying to do the washing up! Housework is not my strong point but I had decided to clear the decks in the kitchen before getting stuck in to a bit of felting and a couple of calls re. the Irish Green Gathering. Unfortunately a recycled glass Mexican wine glass ‘exploded’ in the sink just as I was inserting the sponge held by my my right hand into the cup shape and voila, a nasty deep cut and a trip to the doctor ensued. One finger glued together later, today I have decided just to post a couple of pictures of recent work and wait ’til the next post to finish talking about the Anita Larkin workshop.
Yesterday afternoon Carmen, Polly, Joan (a New Zeland friend) and I got stuck in to some serious activity. Joan and I had been working on the Irish Green Gathering all morning and felting was just the way to spend the afternoon. Carmen brought along a gorgeous selection of felt beads that she has been working on and decided to string a couple of necklaces, very funky. The rest of us were working with resists and I was showing the girls how to proceed as neither had actually done a seamless piece before. In fact Joan has only felted one flat piece with me before and she made an amazing quality vessel which I hope she will allow me to photograph. Polly fell in love with the idea of felt slippers as soon as she saw a pair that I had make a couple of weeks ago. Obviously they take a lot more work so things were progressing nicely when she had to take them home with her. Hopefully Polly will have time to work on them today or tomorrow and I am really looking forward to seeing the finished product!
I decided to make a vessel and incorporate some of the scrim that I waxed and dyed last week at the batik course in Grennan Craft Mill. The fabric had taken the dye really well and was a pleasure to work with yesterday. Later in the week I am going to try nuno felting a larger piece of this scrim and use less wool, I expect to get a highly textured fabric for my end result.
I am really looking forward to experimenting with the scrim that I batiked (is that a word?!) last week during the course that I participated in at the Grennan Craft Mill, Thomastown. The fabric took the dyes brilliantly and I intend to make a couple of vessels or bags tomorrow when Polly and Carmen call over for an afternoon of felting. The batik was really great fun and has given me a whole lot of new ideas for experimentation, will keep you updated as to how I progress. I will also post some images here showing a couple of the finished pieces I completed, also a bag or two when I get them felted with the scrim. Some of my clothes are still at the Mill as I took the opportunity on the last day of the course to wax and dye a couple of items! I will be picking them up next week when Alex is there and hope that they boil out well.
This coming weekend I have been luck enough to be picked by lottery to attend a sculptural weekend course in Dublin with Australian feltmaker Anita Larkin. This weekend is organised by the Feltmakers Federation and should be a really fun time, as well as a great opportunity to pick up some new skills.
This week I am on an excellent batik course at the Grennan Craft Mill in Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny. Facilitated by Alexandra Meldrew, our diverse group are basically having a crash course in different techniques and applications of this facinating craft. My idea was that after the week, skill peremitting, I would be able to incorporate some of my pieces into some nuno felt work. Here is a selection of my work in progress.
The fabric that we are working with is quite tightly woven so I have waxed and dipped on a piece of scrim today to see what that will turn out like, just realised that I left it in the bucket of dye when I finished this evening!! I find that scrim is great to nuno felt with so hopefully this experiment will work out and I can have fun next week incorporating it into some bags or vessels.
Tomorrow I am going to bring along a couple of white silk scarves which I got from Wollknoll, I am intending on waxing them with simple designs and dipping in just one colour of dye. I probably will keep one as is and then use the others in pieces of felt as well, will just wait and see how I feel next week.