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

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Tactile felt hearth rug!

I forgot to mention yesterday that I did weigh the Icelandic wool and divided it into two piles.  There was just over 400g per layer and interestingly enough not much shrinkage overall by the time the rug was complete, possibly even less than 20%. 

Starting to lay out the Jacobs fleece

Cotton fabric between the layers of wool

I should also have said that I used green silk hankies both within the fleece and at several points near the edge of the rug but that the white silk tops around the outside might not be silk at all but is more likely to be tencel.   It felt quite different in the hand but as I don’t know where I got it from so this is just an uneducated guess!

Initially I worked the rug hard (several hours) by hand and sander on the reverse and eventually was brave enough to turn it over and work directly on the top.  It took ages for the fibres to start coming together, possibly if I had laid two layers of wool on top of the fleece and then the fabric as the last layer it would actually have been a lot quicker.  Whatever, another couple of hours later and things were beginning to hang together nicely.  When I was absolutely sure that the fleece was not going to come apart I chanced wrapping the rug inside a piece of cotton and putting it through a wool wash in my washing machine!  With the exception of rinsing Osman technique rugs or making beads from waste felt I never use my machine for felting, I prefer to do everything by hand.  This time however since I was in an experimental mood and the Jacobs is extremely slow to felt I decided nothing ventured, nothing gained.  After it came successfully out of the machine I worked it by hand again without any soap.  Another while later I put it through a 40 degree wash and again worked directly on the surface by hand for approx another 45 minutes. 

My finished hearth rug!

The finished rug is extremely tactile and will make a great fireside rug or else something to keep my toes warm during those cold Irish mornings!  More detailed images of the final result are available in my Flickr photos.

Another felt hat, answers to questions

I had great fun yesterday finishing the raspberry ripple felt hat and then was inspired to adjust the template slightly and make another, this time with a fresh green and white colour scheme.  I also wanted to try incorporating silk chiffon and silk hankies into the Icelandic wool to see how they would felt together, I was very happy with the result!  I have now posted pictures of the second hat to Flickr and if you click here you can see some notes which I have added to the close up shot.  Move your mouse over the image and the notes highlight areas that clearly define the chiffon, the hankies and how the wool migrates through both.

Now to answer some questions ….. the wool doesn’t seem at all scratchy to me although it does have a very tactile texture, the raspberry/red highlights on the green and white hat are from the printed silk chiffon, scrim is a natural open weave fabric softer than jute but coarser than muslin, my Etsy shop is called Clasheen like the blog and the actual url for those of you who are technologically minded is http://www.clasheen.etsy.com and no, I am not going to shave either of the hats!

Creating nuno felt incorporating cotton gauze and beautiful silk laps

As mentioned previously, I was furious with myself for not buying any hand dyed silk laps at the Knit and Stitch Show in Dublin last year.   Basically they are like a really huge silk hankie and perfect for adding vibrant colour and texture to any felt project but especially felt wearables.

Hand dyed silk laps and cotton gauze

Hand dyed silk laps and cotton gauze

This year I didn’t make the same mistake and although the photo doesn’t do the silk laps justice (they are sitting on top of the hand dyed cotton gauze) I am sure you can see why I was attracted to the colours!  To make my nuno felt wrap I stretched the hand dyed cotton gauze on my kitchen table and then laid out a thin and uneven layer of short fibred merino on top.  The gorgeous peacocky purples and pinks of the gauze and the silk seemed to cry out for complimentary and contrasting colours of merino so I used various shades of plum and blackberry along with a couple of splashes of hot orange to up the ante! 

Silk, merino and cotton gauze wrap

Silk, merino and cotton gauze wrap

There was a lot of rubbing and rolling involved to finish the wrap but I love the final textures and sheen from the surface.  Obviously the wrap is reversible and may also be worn tied around the waist like a sarong!  Possibly I could have ended up with even more texture if I laid out the merino even lighter but I did want to make sure that it would be possible to wear the wrap around the waist and if worn this way didn’t want the fabric to appear see through!  More images on Flickr.

Cropped felt top, submission for ‘The climate is Changing’ and recommended magazine to buy

My flu appears to have abated somewhat so I am taking this opportunity of posting about the very exciting top that I felted for myself this week while getting fed and minded like a baby at Carmen’s!  I really hate sewing and for a long time have wanted to make some stylish felt wearables for myself but until Sigrid Bannier’s recent trip to Ireland have always resisted the mental thought process that needs to happen before confidently handling such large scale clothing projects.  In tandem with this, for the last 5 months I have been desperately trying to think up my response to the international call for submissions for a juried travelling exhibition portraying the impact of human actions on the environment.  ‘The Climate is Changing’ should be a challenge that I can rise to given the Green Party aspect of my background but until I finally crystallized my thoughts during a recent hike through Lassen Volcanic National Park my brain seemed absolutely dead as to how I could interpret my ideas into a piece of felt.  Without giving too much away I have also been totally inspired by an interview with Thomas Horst (my absolute favourite American felter to date!) and his details of how to make a felted coat, I can’t recommend enough buying the Fall edition of ‘Living Crafts’ to check this out for yourselves.  Thomas uses an electric sander a lot in his work and for the project detailed in the magazine the wool used shrinks by 25%.  This got me to thinking that if I rubbed or sanded my work for a significantly longer period of time than I usually do and coupled this with cooler water and less rolling would I achieve a strong and finished felt garment with less shrinkage than I usually build in?  The answer is YES!  This means that now I have a felting method that achieves a gorgeous surface finish and doesn’t need the gigantic resists that I was always imagining would be required if I needed to allow 50% shrinkage for larger wearable articles.  The unusually styled cropped top that I made for myself during the week is a generous size, has a gorgeous high neck and is made from just over 200g of the softest merino.  I laid it out on a backing of cotton gauze for drape and stability and used some of the gorgeous silk hankies and twists that I got in Denmark as surface decoration, with a little manipulation (read more concentration cutting up the cotton gauze!) this would have made a wonderful reversible nuno top.  Now I have a clear idea of how I am going to proceed to create my submission.  Forgive me if I don’t give a total step by step description or an idea of the shape of my garment but I need to get the application sorted out first and one of the conditions is that no details or images of the work have been talked about or published prior to the juried stage of ‘The Climate is Changing’.