Today has been the perfect day for felting!

We woke up this morning to horrendous winds outside, the perfect excuse to hole up inside and join Carmen for a full day of felting!  By the time she arrived the winds were increasing and after about another hour of howling and wailing the rain started, great stair rods of water coming down vertically, does anyone else use stair rods as an expression for rain???

Mohair and silk throwsters waste for the outer layer of this beret, short fibred merino inside

Tomorrow afternoon I start my third series of workshops with the Borris Active Retirement group and by request the topic for our first session is ‘felt hats’.  I decided to experiment today and felt a beret combining an inner layer of short fibred merino with an outer layer of mohair waste and silk throwsters waste.  As a quick aside, I suggest that anyone interested in trying out this mohair waste that Carmen and I are using (Sharon, hope this suggestion helps) goes to their nearest weaving mill and ask if they have any loose fibres left from the brushing process.  This is where we have got ours and it has been free to collect as Carmen is a friend of the person, I know that Cushendale Woolen Mill sells their abroad but you just need to ask around and I think you would be able to access some.  Anyway, the process for the beret is almost identical to the recent explanation of the mohair vessel with the exception that you don’t create such a deep three dimensional shape as with the vessels, rather stretch and pull the felt into a flattering shape to softly cover your head.  As before, the mohair really blended well during the felting process and for this beret I added a wonderful vintage button cover I picked up during last Fall’s workshops at The Tin Thimble in Loomis, CA. 

Beautiful vintage button cover

The deep lilac in the centre of the button cover is perfect with the turquoise, pink and lilac silk/mohair combination!  Head on over to my Flickr photos to see more pictures of the hat in progress as well as one rather dark image of the finished beret, the heavy rain made photography rather trying this afternoon!!!

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Some simple felt accessories fit for a ball (well maybe an informal Golf Club dance!)

Tomorrow evening I have to show my face at the Golf Club Captain’s Dinner.  Being on a budget I was wracking my brain deciding what to wear (it is informal this year which is unusual) when to my absolute delight I found my ‘lost’ black velvet trousers!  I managed to pick up an inexpensive plain turquoise top that compliments them perfectly so today I set myself the task of creating some eye-catching accessories to glam up the outfit.

Turquoise and black nuno felt brooch with Victorian button

Turquoise and black nuno felt brooch with Victorian button

My mother is lending me a gorgeous diamante bracelet of my grandmother’s and I wanted to make a matching nuno felt brooch using this fantastic Victorian button for the centrepiece.   I was lucky enough to pick up the button in a charity shop while in the States and the nuno felt seemed the perfect setting to really show it off!  I cut out a rough circle of pongee silk, laid one layer of short fibred merino on top and within a very short space of time the brooch was made.  Not being too fussy about the evenness of the circle makes for a simple organic shape and I like this brooch so much that I think I will make some more of them tomorrow morning and put them up for sale!

My next project was a small black evening bag and for this I used an old resist that I already had and made it a little bit smaller.  I wanted a clutch (purse for those of you over the water) which was easy to carry and not too big, something just to keep a little bit of money, car keys and the obligatory lip balm that I always manage to mislay!  To jazz it up and tie the whole outfit together I have just finished another nuno flower to stitch onto the flap, this time using turquoise silk felted with a deeper turquoise merino.

Printing is fun ….. collagraphs on felt! Pictures of the nuno, silk and linen wrap

What an exciting day I had yesterday.  Because I really didn’t know exactly what we would be doing at the South East Textile Group monthly workshop I was totally floored to discover that we would be learning how to print collagraphs on to paper and felt using intaglio plates, I had been thinking along the lines of lino or potato prints.  The brilliant Maeve Coulter, feltmaker and printmaker extrodinare had been inspired by an exhibition of printed felt at the Knit and Stitch show in England and was dying to try experimenting at home, we were the guinea pigs! 

Maeve clearly explained the process we would be using during the workshop, creating out printing plate from Dahler board (for a stronger plate suitable for multiple prints perspex or metal is the best), cutting designs into it with craft knives and adding depth and texture with cutouts created from embossed wallpaper, lace, fabric, threads and in fact anything very thin that we could lay our hands on that could be used.  Once we were happy with our design and had glued the various components using PVA or wood glue the plate was painted with shellac and we took a well needed break for lunch and a drink. 

As soon as we returned to the workshop after lunch we learnt how to apply the oil based intaglio printing inks over the surface of our boards making sure to work the colour really carefully into all the textured areas.  As with any type of painting it was very simple to mix the inks and achieve subtle colour variations in tone and it was also possible to blend the ink on the plates as we went along.  Once the plates were totally saturated with colour we then removed all the excess ink, not so easy in the textured areas as it was difficult to determine if enough was removed as none of us had never done much (or in my case none) printing with a press before.  While we were preparing the plates Maeve had left suitable paper soaking in the sink and one by one as we had finished our rubbing we brought our plates and paper to the printing press to try out our first print.  Often the first couple of prints are not the best, once you see how things are going you can decide if you need to rub off more ink or change the colours etc. so Maeve had prepared us for the worst!  In reality it was fantastic!!  Obviously we did need to adjust and rethink some areas but overall it was just so exciting to see all the work coming off the press, beautiful designs and colours, each persons work totally different. 

After the first print run we then switched to a much more expensive and better quality paper before having the opportunity to print onto fabric if we wanted.  My prints on paper were in various shades of green (no surprises there!) so I decided not to clean the plate after my second print but add a deep turquoise colour and see how that would print onto my apple green felt.  The fabric accepted the ink brilliantly, obviously this is a method really suited to felt and I was very happy with the resultant green colour as achieved with the blue on top of the green background.  Now that I understand the process my mind is spinning with all the possibilities opening up, graduated shades of felt, adding silk, linen or corn fibres to the felt, incorporating a design in the felt that mirrors the print ……. can’t wait to join Maeve for another session and see how far we can expand this technique.  (Will edit to include images as soon as I have them taken!)

Now for a couple of pictures of the nuno felt wrap with silk, merino and linen. 

Merino and linen fibre laid out ready to felt

Merino and linen fibre laid out ready to felt

This first image is a close up of the fibre laid out and ready to felt.  If you look carefully you can see the small design printed on the silk and linen background and the green and pink fibres overlaid on top of the merino are some of the new linen fibres that I am experimenting with at the moment.  It did take a lot longer to work the fibres through the silk/linen mix but hopefully you will think that the result was worth the effort!

'Hot Shot' nuno felt wrap

'Hot Shot' nuno felt wrap

This scarf will be the first to go up on my Etsy shop this evening (computer willing) and over the next few weeks I hope to add new work, wool, felting kits (still waiting for the Icelandic wool to arrive) and goodie bags filled with odds and ends of both fibre and embellishments.