Playing catch up, sea slug and loads of felting workshops!

I’m going to be playing catch up all this week, paperwork, emails, tidying, medical (to renew my 10 year C1 driving liscence), paying car insurance and a host of other essential but non fibre related stuff.  Finishing my latest nudibranch (sea slug) last night was fantastic, I really put myself under pressure to have it ready to deliver to the Crafts Council today but hopefully as we say in Ireland, all’s well that ends well.

Gently working the protrusions through a net

I can’t upload pictures of the completed creature yet until I hear back if it has been accepted for the exhibition but here is a shot of me working on the protrusions, I added the hot orange tips with a needle (I know, me and needle felting!!!) and then contiued to wet felt.  Overall I am happy with the results but I am sure there must be a simpler way to make a piece like this, I’m still working on it though!!!

This afternoon I’m starting another series of workshops with Borris Active Retirement Group and last Friday I started some similar sessions with the Carlow Wheelchair Association.  On Saturday I have a wet felting basics day schedualed  here at Clasheen so please check out the details on the workshop page and email me asap if you are interested in attending, this workshop is suitable for total beginners as well as improvers!

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I never thought the day would arrive ……

Many of you know that any kind of sewing has always brought me out in a dreadful sweat and for donkeys years I have sworn NEVER to stitch for pleasure.  I did however break the habit of a lifetime this summer in order to participate in Lisa Klakulak’s wonderful workshop at ‘Felt in Focus’, it was time to stretch my mind!  I always admired Lisa’s beautifully detailed sculptural pieces and free machine embroidery on thick pieces of hand rolled felt just seemed to attract my attention this year, once I actually got to grips with it I actually found that I quite enjoyed the experience!

Selling 4 of the 5 stitched felt seascapes I had on exhibition during Kilkenny Arts Festival made me realise that there is definitely an appreciation for this type of textile art.  I never thought the day would arrive but I decided this week to invest (heavily as  it turned out!) in a specialist straight stitching machine which has the capabilitiy to stitch through amazingly thick layers of felt effortlessly.  This means that not only can I sew through multiple layers of wool but I can also stitch right up to and around thick sections of felt and in this way emphasise and enhance highly textured surface details.    John from Sewing Machines Ireland in Waterford provided expert assistance in my choice of machine.  He said that he wouldn’t dream of supplying me with a machine unless I subjected it to rigorous testing and see if it would be suitable for the type of work I was thinking of so off I went armed with felt on Wednesday afternoon, the intention was to try out a second hand industrial Pfaff complete with knee lift.

Felt prior to stitching

In the event the Pfaff was great but John suggested a new machine he had in stock might actually be even more specifically suited to what I had in mind, drum roll please for the Janome 1600P QC!!!  It is like sewing with a Rolls Royce, incredible, even I liked using it!!!!!  I’m not going to bore you with all the features which make this machine so special for me but suffice to say I can stitch over CRATERS and MOUNTAINS effortlessly and I suspect it would take a total blundering idiot to break it, it weighs a tonne.  For anyone intending in sewing anything other than a straight stitch this is not the machine for you.  Because I knew that the only other possible use I would put it to would be to stitch up the seams of some simple nuno felt clothing it appears as if it is a match made in Heaven!  Anyway, I bit the bullet and invested in the Janome, I am not regretting my descision and have already finished stitching one piece as per the posted pictures.  I will however have to get my finger out, making a return on such a big investment (big for me!) means a heavy work schedual over the coming months and getting my Big Cartel shop stocked but you might ask what’s new???  I love my work!

Felt with free machine embroidery

Musings from the exhibition to date and new nuno felt wrap today

It’s been very interesting and revealing invigilating at Grennan Mill Craft School, each of the 6 artists needs to either man the show for 3 full days or 6 half ones, I have chosen to do 3 full days.  If I wanted I could nominate someone else to do my stints but for me a lot of the pleasure at this stage of the process is to meet the public and see how people engage with all the work on display.  It has become increasingly obvious as the days go by that people either love the felt or hate it (maybe hate is too strong a word!), there doesn’t seem to be any middle ground at all.  I love watching everyone’s expressions when they first enter my space, many people are totally surprised when they discover the vessels and sculptures are wool, they know that they appear tactile but they often think that they are ceramic none the less!

Stitched seascape

It has also been interesting to discover that even if people do like these non functional pieces they may not have a place in their homes to display them.  After I sold my only stitched seascape on the first day several people said that they were interested in hanging this type of work in their home, in fact I actually got a commission for a framed piece during the course of the opening evening.  As a result of this I decided to spend Monday and Tuesday working and finishing some more wall pieces, I framed them yesterday morning at Grennan and two of the four sold during the day, actions speak louder than words sometimes!

Today I spent a lovely time at Carmen’s with her and an Argentinian fibre friend Patricia, we started with a big breakfast, felted all morning, had a delicious stew for lunch and then stuffed ourselves on pancakes before more fibre related fun in the afternoon!!!  Getting totally away from vessels and seascapes for the day I planned and felted a large wrap using some of the beautiful silk my Auburn friend Merridee dyed for me at The Tin Thimble in Loomis, CA recently.  This was an experiment using the tumble dryer method, a technique I want to work on further before offering it as an option for workshops but this might be a good time to say that it entails NO rubbing or rolling making it perfect for larger projects and anyone who might find the methodology of traditional nuno a little time-consuming or dare I say it even boring!  I would like to stress though that I don’t find rubbing and rolling boring, relaxing and therapeutic would be my personal take on this process but I suppose it’s horses for courses isn’t it and who doesn’t want to make a larger piece but with a lot of the effort removed and in a fraction of the time???  I’m not going to blog further about this method until I have fine tuned my timing but I will definitely include a couple of projects in the next book Chrissie and I are publishing (nuno clothing, out before Christmas!), for now here is a picture of todays finished wrap.

Nuno felt wrap

Exhibition set up at last and sneak look at latest Wikio rankings

This morning I made the final adjustments to my space at Grennan Mill Craft School and decided enough was enough, 7 vessels, 2 sculptures and 1 framed piece with a little free machine embroidery.  It’s always nerve wracking but exciting participating in any show and since this is actually my first solo exhibition the stress and worries about the felt I am showing and how the work is displayed are amplified about a thousand fold! Alan was brilliant setting up smart little spot lights on industrial looking tracks for me and Eileen’s plinths look great now that I have given them another couple of coats of paint.  The little holes in the wall are all filled in and painted again as is the radiator and this morning I finished cutting up hundreds of business cards which I printed last night, of course if my house and studio were tidy and organised it would be possible to locate my beautiful professional cards which are just lurking somewhere in all their pristine glory, that’s another story!!!  Fellow exhibitior Brendan Brennan and I helped Grennan Mill director extrodinare Alex Meldrum put up directional signs in Thomastown and now all our fingers are crossed for warm weather tomorrow afternoon to get everybody in a good mood for the official opening at 5.30!  I’ll try and take some pictures then but hopefully we’ll be run off our feet and they might have to wait until another day.

I’m delighted to say that I am still in the top 10 for the latest Wikio knitting blog rankings, here is the sneak preview for this month …..

1 pennies per hour of pleasure
2 needled
3 Daisie Days
4 Confessions of a YarnAddict
5 ysolda
6 The Woolly Adventures of a Knitting Kitty
7 Clasheen by Nicola Brown
8 Wendy Knits
9 Little Cotton Rabbits
10 Lixie Knits It
11 The mogs blog, the meanderings of a cat through yarn and life
12 Dyed in the Wool
13 glittyknittykitty
14 Northern Lace
15 Carolee Crafts
16 Chatiryworld
17 mooncalfmakes
18 Art Yarn
19 Quelle Erqsome
20 Purlpower

Ranking made by Wikio

Felting and stitching …..

I have been flat out this week trying to finish my work for Kilkenny Arts Festival which opens next weekend.  Most of my pieces are totally wet felted but a couple have some free machine embroidery to add surface detail, I know, I can’t believe I am actually writing that!  The exhibition takes place in Grennan Mill Craft School, Thomastown and I am one of 6 individual artists who all have solo shows under one roof, the setting utilises the various floors of a wonderful grain mill poised on the banks of the river Nore.  For anyone within striking distance of Thomastown please do call in during the exhibition and say hi, I will be envigilating on some days (not sure when yet) so if you are interested in meeting up please do email me in advance and I can let you know my schedual!!!

Exhibition Invitation

Apologies to those of you waiting for the final review of the new printing techniques I learnt at Felt in Focus, it is going to be a week or so before I can really relax and get stuck into writing posts properly!

Wrap up from Lisa Klakulak’s felt jewellery workshop and book review in Living Crafts Magazine

Another few days have gone by since I promised to post more pictures of the pieces I worked on at Lisa’s felt jewellery workshop, time just seems to be running as fast as ever so sorry if any of you have been waiting.  I had debated a variety of large neckpiece options but finally decided on an oversized ‘pendant’ to be worn either on a thick felt torc or with a scarf wrapped through the bail, a new word I learnt and you can check out the meaning here if you don’t already know it too!

Oversized torc and neckpiece

Because my first piece didn’t have the shrinkage I was hoping for or expecting I did have to revise my ideas for the pendant, I still made it oversized but that’s OK, I like my pieces to make a statement!!!  Unfortunately I didn’t ask anyone to take any pictures of me wearing it with my own camera but to get an idea of the scope of the project there is an image of me and my friend Birgit Kiems taken on the night of the gala dinner at Felt in Focus on Facebook, you can have a look at Birgit’s pictures here.  Be prepared, it’s not the most flattering image of me, eyes half closed and tummy sticking out!  Iam also in the process of uploading more images to Flickr, these show a little more detail of various parts of the free machine stitching, now that I am home I will also take some pictures of the torc minus the pendant.

Thanks to Pardis and all at Living Crafts Magazine for giving Chrissie and I the thumbs up for our new book ‘From Felt to Friendship’ in the summer 2011 issue!  Here is what they said ….. “This gem of a felting book is for those who are beyond the beginner stage and are looking for inspiration for more adventurous projects.  It is written as a guide to encourage the more experienced felter to experiment and ‘play’ more freely.  It is rich with many beautiful projects and diverse techniques.”  THANK YOU!!!

The next time I post here I am going to talk a little about the fascinating time I had participating in Kirsten Lundbergh’s printing workshop, the possibilities are now endless with creating my own designs on fabric especially when you combine these new methods (new to me!) with the dying skills I learnt from Horst

Packing my bags, link to pictures and new workshop announcements!

Well, I just need to spend about another half an hour on the computer and then I am off to pack all my workshop supplies as well as sort out some clothing for my imminent US trip!  I can’t believe the time has finally arrived to hit the road but really with all the work on the book recently as well as trying to sort out things for my solo show in August my brain has just been stuffed to the brim.  I have also just finalised everything in relation to the house and Rex, thanks Alan and everyone else who will be taking turns staying here, walking Rex and keeping  things safe during my travels, you know who you are and you are all MUCH appreciated.

Now, I had been going to write a post about felt accessories and nuno mosaic in advance of my workshops at The Tin Thimble CA, Plainwell MI and Lexington KY but you are just going to have to forgive me, I have no more time.  Instead I am going to direct you to the various sets in my Flickr photos (don’t forget there a couple of pages of sets!),  the images there are by no means an exhaustive grouping of what it is possible to felt but at least if anyone is sitting on the fence about making a last minute decision about travelling to Loomis (there are a couple of places left at The Tin Thimble) this might help you make your mind up!  Please email Emma if you would like to join us or Dawn if you might be able to make Plainwell.

Before heading off I want to remind everyone in Ireland about the fun short workshops I will be facilitating at the Sheep and Wool Festival for the June bank holiday weekend as well as announce a series of workshops for the summer which are going to take place at The Yarn Room in Ashford, Co. Wicklow.  I am pasting the details for these workshops at the bottom of this post but please check the workshop page at The Yarn Room over the next week or so to check the price and further detalis and to book a place, alternatively email Stephanie and she will sort you out!

Finally I want to thanks all of you who have ordered our book, as mentioned before Chrissie and I are THRILLED!!!  Thanks for the wonderful comments we are recieving from those of you who have already recieved your copies, I am SO JEALOUS as I have not got my own copy yet, but roll on Tuesday, it should be waiting for me at The Tin Thimble!  I do intend to blog throughout the time I am away so this is not a firm goodbye, just be prepared my posts may be a little patchy for a while!!!  Adieu.  Now for those workshop details …..

Saturday 16th July 2011

WET FELTING – REVISITING THE BASICS with Nicola Brown

At this one day workshop beginners and improving felters will have the opportunity to revisit the basics of wet felting and learn some simple new techniques to add to their repertoire.  Working with a selection of colourful merino and adding beautiful silk, linen and other vegetable fibres to enhance and embellish the surface design participants are encouraged to bring along any old beads, buttons, ribbons, yarn and other found objects to incorporate into their felt if desired!  Nicola will have a selection of glass nuggets, embellishing fibres and unusual fabric with her and everyone is welcome to include these as surface detail in their felt too.

NB Beginners and improvers wishing to participate in the nuno felt workshop on Saturday 23rd July are encouraged to attend this ‘revisiting the basics’ day as it will be an excellent opportunity to practice laying out the very fine layers of fibre needed to master the nuno felt technique!

Saturday 23rd July 2011

NUNO FELT SCARF with Nicola Brown

At this one day workshop participants will have the opportunity to discover for themselves the wonderful technique of nuno felting.  Learn how beautiful textured effects and ultra lightweight yardage and accessories are achieved by felting together very small quantities of wool with a fabric such as silk or cotton gauze.  A basic silk or cotton fabric is included in the price for this workshop but if participants would like to bring along any additional lengths of silk (minimum 1.8m in length) or rolled edge silk scarves with them Nicola will help them transform these into beautiful textured nuno felt!

NB It is advisable for participants to have some previous felting experience prior to this workshop so beginners wishing to attend are urged to try and make the wet Felting workshop on Saturday 16th July if at all possible.

DATE TO BE CONFIRMED

UPCYCLED, RECYCLED AND FELT ACCESSORY AND INTERIOR ACCENT WORKSHOP with Nicola Brown and Cristina Garcia

Working with materials as diverse as plastic, paper, leather, vinyl, metal, old woollen jumpers, denims and hand rolled felt (to name but a few!) learn how to create wonderful wearable accessories or interior accents for the home.  Nicola and Cristina have a wealth of experience reworking old loved clothing and found objects into beautiful, functional and decorative objects such as jewellery, bags, mobiles or other interior accent items!  Plenty of raw materials will be provided for participants to work with on the day but please bring along items like old beads, buttons, ribbons, yarn, broken jewellery and other found objects from your stash as well as previously felted jumpers and old denims if you have any!  Fancy paper may also be brought as Nicola will have a laminator on hand to help with the creative process and although we will have one to share if you have a sewing machine please bring this along too.

NB To felt a jumper in the washing machine and get the shrinkage you are looking for it is necessary for it to be made from a high percentage of hand washable wool or a wool/mohair/cashmere mixture.  Just bung it and some other clothes in a 40 to 60 degree wash and if you feel it hasn’t shrunk enough run it through a second cycle, when felted you should be able to cut the fabric without the wool unravelling!