Making cords the Australian way!

Before I discuss the new way that we learnt of making cords at the Anita Larkin workshop, I just want to say that all the techniques we tried over the weekend ultimately unite and allow you to create exciting scupltural 3 dimensional pieces of felt!  At first it seems that learning how to make cords is very basic at a workshop for people who have all felted before but you are never too late to learn new techniques.   Most of you are familiar with making cords and probably everyone has their favourite method.  How many can there be you might ask but I certainly learnt a totally different method from Anita than any I had seen used before.  Lay out a long layer of very fine fibres in a diagonal and then lay a second layer on top of these in the opposite direction, also diagonally.  If you want to make a thicker section lay some more layers in that place and then dry felt the fibres by lightly moving your hands over them as with wet felting.  Using your spray bottle VERY lighlty wet along only the edge of the fibres and then roll them gently into a log shape.  If you are going to be attaching this rope to another piece of felt leave the ends dry for the moment.  Using the minimum amount of warm water lightly wet the sausage shaped fibre log and with soapy hands roll it very lightly on your bubble wrap, blind or sushi mat.  As far as I can see the biggest difference is in the way the fibres are laid on the diaganol and the volume of (or lack of) water used.  This seems to make a very solid and strong cord.  Shapes that were started as in the previous post may be added on at any time once the cord starts to hold its shape or the cord itsef may be attached to another piece of felt that you are in the process of making.  Next post I will discuss inserting wire into felt and wrapping a solid object in felt.  I also want to post a few more images of work that I have completed recently to keep the blog a little bit visual!

Using a wire brush while felting! Silk paper workshop.

An amazing tip learnt during the Anita Larkin workshop concerns the use of a wire brush!  People had brought different sized brushes to try, but for fairly small pieces of work a suede shoe brush seemed perfect.  We used these when repairing a seam or depression caused by uneven rolling, attaching an object or closing the hole created when removing the plastic around a resist (explanation re resists Anita’s way to follow in another post).  I hope that I can explain what we did clearly but if it is not obvious enough please let me know.  The type of ridge/depression I am talking about is that created by uneven pressure when rolling a ball or a cord, often a problem for me and I am sure that most of you know what I am talking about.  Once you notice a ridge or depression forming at the pre felt stage use your wire brush gently to fluff up the fibres on either side of the problem area.  Holding the piece of felt lightly in your hands (or on the table if easier) smooth the fibres with your fingers and encourage them to move towards each other.  It is important that if the ridge goes in one direction you make the smoothing action in the opposite direction, ie. at a 90 degree angle to where the ridge is lying.  Keep smoothing very gently for quite a few minutes and you will notice that the ridge or depression magically seals over.  This method of fluffing up the fibres with a wire brush also allows you to attach a prefelted object to another piece of felt, just fluff up the side where you wish to make your join and work the seal very slowly and carefully.  Next time that I write a post I will discuss Anita’s method of making cords and inserting wire into felt. 

I did want to mention today however that on Saturday I attended an excellent one day workshop about silk paper making facilitated by Tunde Toth.  This workshop was organised by the South East Textile Group and took place at our usual venue in the Demense Yard at Castlecomer, Co. Kilkenny.  Tunde is an artist working from the Kozo Gallery in Thomastown and specialises in different types of paper making.  She brought a great range of fibres for us to work with, initially we made a basic silk paper and then got really stuck in using inclusions and dyes as we became more experimental.  I found the whole process really inspiring as depending on the thickness of the paper made I feel it will be possible to insert the silk paper into a piece of felt at the early part of the felting process.  Already I have made a couple of experiments with silk paper that I made on Saturday, more on this subject as soon as I have finished writing about the scupltural feltmaking weekend with Anita.

Scrim ready to nuno felt

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.

Free to Felt!

After months of hard work for the Green Energy Fair I am almost free to concentrate on a series of small sculptural vessels incorporating silk and wool.  I just arrived back from Dublin today and was too exhausted to face in to any paperwork until the morning.  Carmen gave me a call to see if I was around as she wanted to use my long table and make a baby’s blanket as a present for one of her friends.  Great excuse to do a little felting myself and very theraputic!!!  I promise that over the next few weeks I am going to create and photograph some of my work in progress and publish it to this blog.

As mentioned in my last post I created a necklace for Cathy (director of Artlinks) and thanks to Martin her husband for forwarding me on some great images, hope you like them.  Here is one and you can check out the other on my Gallery page.