I'm having a busy but productive time of it lately, many things are coming together at the one time so please forgive me if I just post a couple of pictures today. As soon as I have a minute I'll write a longer blog post, I'll also have time then to full and shrink this beaded felt vessel a little further.
Thanks a million Jan for the gorgeous beaded silk chiffon and thanks Dianne and Mike for transporting it to Ireland!
Being inspired by Dagmar’s fine art wall hangings on exhibition in Odense, Denmark during ‘Felt in Focus’ 2009 I swore then that I’d take a workshop of hers when this was one of the projects that would be offered for participants to explore.
Working on the back of my natural white wall hanging with ‘The Modest’ felting roller from ‘niki & niki’
Thanks to US friend Susan (who didn’t manage to get into Dagmar’s 2 day Irish workshop!) who alerted me to the 6 day masterclass at Big Cat Textiles, I booked asap and in turn alerted our mutual US friend Merridee, the die was cast and the three of us all had a marvellous time!!! I knew before I headed to Scotland that I wanted to make my wall hanging in natural white with various undyed fibres for the surface decoration, this left me free to make decisions about what attachments to add and how I wanted the piece to appear structurally after I had time to mull over all the different options. The soya, silk, linen, milk protein and sea cell fibres that I used on the surface gave a nice tone on tone effect and opting for a simple style meant that I was free to try a complimentary vessel with a spiral attachment on day four.
The almost finished wall hanging, sorry about the poor quality photo
Working with an open rather than a closed resist for my vessel was a eureka moment for me!!! Strange isn’t it? Dawn uses this method almost always for her beautiful hats and it never once occurred to me to do so for a vessel. It’s a hang over from reading somewhere (a beginners felting book I think, early in the days) that it was always preferrable to totally cover the template, something to do with the pressure the edges are put under during the felting process. Well anyway, chatting to Dagmar and actually trying an open sided resist has totally changed my perspective on how I’ll felt vessels in the future, I loved the way I could manipulate the shape and the quality of the open edges was very uniform and smooth! I’m not saying that I’ll always use this method but I can now see my way clearly to felting some vessels that I’ve been itching to try but to date have only existed in my imagination, watch this space. Finishing my vessel by the time day four’s advertised time was up meant that I had several hours free that evening to measure myself (with help obviously!) and work out how large I needed my template to be for the sleeveless vest with attachments that were scheduled to be felted during the fifth and sixth days of this marvelous workshop. I’ll leave you with a picture of the finished vessel, note the subtle colour and texture from soya fibre inside the neck. Next time, the vest.
My largest ArtL!nks vessel is now underway and I thought I would share this picture with you all, it’s not got the best colour contrast but it does give an idea of the size involved when you see the template beside my washing up bowl and sprinkler!
Putting the vessel size in perspective
Eventually I decided to lay merino on the inside and mohair waste on the outside for this experiment. I do really want to have a large vessel with the chocolate and orange design but for the first one this will be a less costly experiment if anything does go wrong! More pictures of the vessel in progress are going up on Flickr but I don’t know how many I will have time to upload before I have to pack the truck for my session with Borris Active Retirement this afternoon.
I also promised you a couple of pictures of the goodies I scored at Avoca on Saturday, well here they are, one more to follow tomorrow!!!
The vessel I started during the week needs a couple more hours work and then hopefully it will be fully felted and fulled. I realise from some of your comments here, on Facebook and via email that it might be helpful if I wrote down the steps that I am using for this process one by one so here goes, (PS this is not a definitive way to felt vessels just the one I am using for these!) …..
Determine the size of the vessel and cut out the template, I use 2mm thick laminate floor underlay by choice although any type of flexible plastic or bubble wrap will work just fine
Make my prefelt from 3 even layers of merino
Cut out some prefelt shapes
Lay my template on top of bubble wrap, bubble side up
Lay my initial shapes directly onto the template, for these vessels I am working with the design inside method. I think that this is keeping the edges clearer and helps me get a seamless edge around the resist
Lay 2 fine layers of white merino up to and about 1.5cms (half an inch) over the edge of the resist
Wet the fibres with soapy water, rub lightly either through a net or by pressing another piece of bubble wrap on top
Turn the package upside down when I am happy the layer is wet through (but not soaking) using a second piece of bubble wrap, bubbles against the fibre as usual
Fold in the prefelt pieces that are draping around the edge of the template first, lay out more template shapes to complete the design. By using the laminate floor underlay I can see the colours from my prefelt through the resist and this helps me determine where I want to position the rest of the prefelt
Fold over the white merino from side 1 and then lay 2 layers of the same wool in side 2 this time just going up to the edge of the template but not too far over
Wet, press and turn over back to side 1
Fold over small edge from side 2, lay out 2 more layers of white merino going approx 1.5cms over the edge again, wet out and turn over
Fold over edge and lay out 2 more layers of white before wetting out and folding over any stray fibres to the other side
Place piece of yarn or different coloured fibre in the centre of the side where I will be making my cut to remove the resist
Gently working around the edge of the resist
Start to felt the vessel by rubbing gently on top of the bubble wrap and then delicately directly on the fibres themselves paying special attention that the edges are pulled up tightly around the resist
Keep turning the vessel over to work on both sides and rotate to ensure all the package is worked evenly
When I am happy that the felt is holding together firmly and starting to shrink I cut a circle in the centre of my top side and work the cut edges to seal them before removing the resist. Note in the picture how you can see the design on the inside at this stage, I love this first glimpse!
Sealing the cut edges of the opening
Tomorrow I will post the rest of the process as well continue with the stiffening debate. Thanks so much for all your comments to date on this topic and the tip about using a yoga or exercise ball for my next vessel, I have borrowed one from a friend (thanks Cathy) so my largest vessel will be underway by Wednesday at the latest!
This morning I started my largest ArtL!nks vessel to date, the template I am using is a couple of inches bigger all round than my dustbin lid or trash can lid as those of you would say in the USA! I know that part of my original proposal was to set up a seperate blog to write exclusively about the project but to be honest I have decided that it makes a lot more sense to document my progress here, it is felting after all and this is the place all my friends come to when they want to discover what I have been up to during the day!!!
One side laid out with prefelt and two layers of white merino, two more layers to go
Anyway, I need to buy more laminate floor underlay and a fresh roll of bubble wrap later in the week because while this vessel will be large it is still not going to be as large as my final work and I need more resist material to draft out the biggest template. I want this largest vessel to have a finished diameter of approx 1m (just over 3′) and when I am in town I think it would be fantastic if I could find some huge balloons over which to shape and dry the piece, it would be so much easier to finish if there was already a shape inside to felt towards. Thanks to everybody who is leaving comments here and on Flickr about the vessels I have felted to date, it is interesting as well to have a debate about the merits of stiffening felt versus shrinking and working without stiffener and hardening the piece by hand. We might talk about how I am shrinking and firming up the vessels in the next post, for now I am going to get a quick cup of 3 ginger tea and then off to do some more rubbing and felting!
Inspired by the flowers in my herbaceous border and being extremely short of time this week I suddenly realised on Monday that I had the perfect coloured batts in my studio coupled with just enough time to felt a simple cylindrical vessel.
Detail from aquilegia felt vessel
Last summer at Felt in Focus there were some wonderful suppliers from which participants could purchase fibres, yarn and fabrics from. One of the smaller Danish producers Henrik Hjelholts had the most amazing coloured leicester/merino and gotland/merino batts, I couldn’t help but drool over them each day and just before he closed up shop at the end of the symposium I succumbed to the lure of the fibre! This wool was a little bit more expensive that I had been used to buying hence my unusual hesitation but as I have discovered it is absolutely gorgeous to felt with I now consider it totally worth the extra cost. Since then I have been gazing periodically at the wine and raspberry gotland/merino batts that I bought (most of the green leicester/merino has already been put to good use in a bag!) and once I decided to felt the vessel on Monday everything just seemed to come together in my mind pretty quickly.
Back of aquilegia felt vessel
For the inner layer of green I used the leicester/merino mix and the outer layer of wine is the gotland/merino cross, combining these two blends of fibre has created a very stable felt vessel. I wanted to expose an ‘eye’ of colour at the front of the piece so after laying out the green I positioned an oval shaped plastic resist near the top of the vessel. This I covered with two layers of gotland/merino, colour ‘Karry’, before adding another slightly smaller oval resist and completing the vessel in the wine. When I had everything almost completly felted and fulled I exposed the two ‘eyes’, originally I had thought about beading one of the layers but on reflection I like the felt just as it is!
Sunday was the second and final day of our complex bag workshop and the end of three brilliant days felting with Lyda Rump. Because Cristina and I had worked well into Sunday morning to complete our bags we had a great opportunity to try something else whilst watching Elaine and Carmen’s bags taking shape as they felted and fulled. I decided to make a small felt vessel which had been in my mind for a while and Lyda showed me how to design the template to give me the result I was aiming for. Sometimes another brain or a bit of lateral thinking makes all the difference because I would have used a round resist myself and cut the opening down the middle in a wave, Lyda suggested an oval resist with a wavy top edge and this proved to be an entirely better option. What it is to have artistic ability combined with years of experience!
Vessel in progress
Carmen and Elaine worked on the various parts of their bags by rolling, pulling, stretching and spot fulling with a felting mouse. When the bags were almost finished they were rinsed thoroughly in clear water and then put to drain in my washing machine with a towel to add a bit of friction and weight. Doing this does not shrink the felt any further but it does remove a significiant amount of water and then you can work the felt further if you want or just stretch to shape and leave it to dry if you are happy that it is fulled enough.
Elaine, Lyda and Cristina showing off the felt bags!
I don’t have a picture yet of Carmen’s finished bag as she decided to do the final shaping at home and felt a beautiful scarf during the last hour or so of the afternoon. More about this in my next post and also some discussion about the various handle options when creating a felt bag.
I would like to say a really big thank you all for leaving such lovely comments about my own complex bag! It is great to be able to feel so connected to everyone through the medium of the internet and I really appreciate you taking the time to leave your thoughts, tips and advice!!
I’ll leave you with an image Lyda took as I was preparing my small vessel on the gravel for a photo, it gives a good overhead view of the scalloped edges of the opening.
It’s really unusual to have snow this early in the year on the ridge opposite the front of my farmhouse. Sometimes, the larger peak Mount Leinster does have a dusting in mid November but normally we only have it on the whole range in the thick of winter (if at all) so I was delighted to wake up to this pretty picture first thing this morning!
Hilary joined me just before half past ten to felt for the first time, our project was a simple felt vessel. We had a chat about the basics of felting over a warming freshly ground coffee (part of a Going Green swap package from Chaimama via Ravelry) and then got stuck in selecting and weighing fibre. The Icelandic wool batts (available from my Etsy store) are excellent for sculptural felt and it is important to have roughly the same amount of fibre on each side of your resist hence the weighing! Hilary decided to make a round vessel with the main colours being my favourite apple green in combination with a gorgeous turquoise. We sub-divided the wool into four equal piles giving us two layers to lay out for each side prior to any surface embellishment. Once the two layers were laid and wet out lightly Hilary then added some turquoise mulberry silk and some swirls of wool in another complimentary turquoise/greeny shade. As I have mentioned before using more soap than usually advised coupled with a lot less water seems to work really well with the Icelandic wool.
Hilary sealing the edges
Once Hilary’s vessel passed the pinch test I cut out a very small hole to release the resist. As you seal and work the cut edges the opening will always widen so a good tip is never to make the initial cut too big! When sealing the edges use a lot of soap on your hands, this helps you to make a nice clean edge. Now the vessel was worked by hand both on the bamboo blind (we had started with bubble wrap and progressed to the blind as the fibres started felting together) and in very hot soapy water in the sink. Hilary also threw the felt onto the table to help shock and full it, then kept stretching it to form the final shape and help the wool form the memory. Finally all the soap was rinsed totally out of the felt, the vessel was reshaped, the texture and form admired and all that was needed were a few images to mark a great mornings felting!
Hilary with her stunning first piece of felt!
For some reason the image uploader is playing up this evening so check out my Flickr images for a larger shot of the finished vessel, the texture is beautiful!
I have had a very busy day today rushing around the place and packaging orders but at last I have some time to rush off a quick post. Tomorrow is going to be another tidying up and destashing day in preparation for my first Winter workshops this Saturday. To remind you here is what is on offer …..
Saturday 7th November FELTING TASTER SESSIONS
Take some time out for yourself and join me for either a morning or an afternoon felting taster session. Using wool, silk, fabric scraps and other embellishments explore the basic technique of flat felting. Discover the fun and freedom of creating with fibre and leave at the end of the session with a beautiful piece of felt suitable to frame, stitch into a bag or use to cover a favourite book.
Workshops cost €25 incl materials and times are either from 10.30am – 12.30pm or 2pm – 4pm, please note that all workshops will start on time! Email me asap if you wish to reserve a place.
Once the studio and house is finally totally tidy (will it ever be???) I will be free to start work on a new series of felt vessels and sculptural pieces. Making the large bowl yesterday has really whetted my appetite for the Icelandic wool and I can’t wait to have some time and mental freedom to create some more unusual shapes and sculptures. I love the natural browns, greys and white but the dyed wool is also beautiful, choices, choices!
The other great news today is that I have got full financial and grant approval for planting approx 8.5 acres of deciduous trees. My vision for the future is to have a beautiful amenity woodland complete with yurts (in selected clearings once I start thinning) for all those felting friends who come here to have fun and learn with me and all the great invited international felting experts who take time out to visit this rural part of Ireland. It’s really going to be full steam ahead now as the grant approval is dependent on all the fencing and planting being totally completed by 31st of December THIS YEAR!