Pictures from day two of our intensive felting workshop

Rami arrived safely to Ireland on Saturday night/Sunday morning, bed time 4.25am!

Rami adding some three dimensional elements to his second piece of felt

Yesterday was spent chatting about the basics of feltmaking, laying out and felting his first piece of flat felt, exploring a lot of different natural and manmade surface embellishments, checking out images of work he is inspired by and discussing the large fibre related project that Rami will be working on once he returns to the Lebanon.

Today we explored felt balls, cords, loops, working with raw wool, creating texture, basic needle felting and including resists within the lay out of a piece. This may sound like a lot of different techniques to cover in one day but during the course of our intensive week together Rami wants to learn how to create specific end results and is not concerned with heading home with a perfect, artistic ‘finished piece’. Rather he’s been creating samples and learning about the various ways of achieving the look he wants, it’s exciting seeing how things come together, intensive work but invigorating and creative!

Little sculptural experiment at large in the garden!

I really don’t have time to write much this week, instead I’ll just try and post pictures as the time progresses, enjoy them.

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Another busy day ahead

I’ve another busy but satisfying day ahead at Duckett’s Grove today. This morning I’m going to continue felting more jewellery to bring with me as samples to The Tin Thimble later this month and in the afternoon I’ll be giving my god son Jack and his friend Denis their first felting session! The new flower bolos that I designed recently have already been a success from a sales point of view, I love the fact that they’re fun to make and I haven’t seen anyone else making them yet so that’s another plus. I’m just going to pop in to Madeleine in the tea rooms and grab a take out coffee and then I’ll start felting, where would I be without a good cup of joe?

Sleeveless felt vest, days five and six of Dagmar’s wonderful workshop

While not all the participants decided to felt a sleeveless vest I really wanted to get to grips with creating a custom-made template and felt one under Dagmar’s expert supervision. Being accurate with measurements etc. is just not my favourite thing but learning tips from Dagmar about how best to scale up ones body measurements and create personalised templates was a really good exercise for me. I prepared this on Friday evening and weighed out my wool so that on Saturday morning I was ready to start laying out my vest right from the get go.

Wet silk hankies stretched around my resist

Once again I choose to work with short fibred merino as opposed to one layer of fine needle felt followed by two fine layers of merino tops. This meant that I needed to lay 4 fine layers of wool, for an outdoor vest in my size we reckoned an approximate weight of 360g excluding any optional attachments I might choose to add. I also had the idea to make my jacket reversible and had a clear idea of how I wanted the colour to be achieved, black on one side (with silk hankies from the wonderful Roo Kline of Moonwood Farm for surface interest) and a complex green with a darker green border on the other ‘main’ side. This I intended to achieve by laying the first layer in black, the second in my favourite green with a black border around the armhole, neck and perimeter areas and the third and fourth layers all in green, I have to say that I’m thrilled with the resultant colour!

Working on the front left hand side

I liked one of Dagmar’s sample vests, it had a cross over front which I thought would be warm for Borris market and Duckett’s Grove in the winter so aside for making it quite a bit longer (to cover my kidneys) the only other design choice I needed to make was what sort of 3D attachments to add. Being someone who likes strong shape and form I opted for a simple detail down the front opening panels continuing around the neckline. I did toy with the idea of pockets but leaving these out meant a totally reversible jacket that doesn’t have bulk at the sides, the final descision was easy, no pockets or frills for me. I’m not going to ramble on about the actual laying out and felting of the vest, suffice to say that while it did take me two full days to felt it properly I loved the whole process and am so pleased with the result, the vest actually feels a little like soft suede! Each of my crossway measurements ended up the exact size I had wanted (to the mm!), neck, shoulders, armhole, waist and hips, strangely enough the length didn’t shrink quite so much so I’m thinking that must be something to do with the fibre, alternatively maybe I needed to roll it a little more in this direction. I actually love the longer length anyway, when I make another vest (I’ve already had a commission, thanks Mary!) I’ll just need to take this into account when calculating the dimensions of a new template.

I’d really like to thank my local Arts Office and Carlow Co Council for awarding me an Arts Act Grant to go towards funding the cost of this masterclass. It was a wonderful experience, I feel that I learnt a lot and really have a far greater understanding of how I can translate some of my sculptural ideas into practice! I’ll leave you with two pictures of the almost finished vest, although it does fit well now I just want to try it on with a light woollen polo neck and tighten up around the armholes a little.

The back of the vest, black side out

The front of the vest, green side out

U.S. workshop updates plus pictures of nuno felt from yesterday

I’m SO EXCITED that my spring trip to KY and MI is really starting to take shape!!! It’s taken quite a while to get a materials list together for the sessions organised in Plainwell MI by Dawn Edwards (25th and 26th May) and in Lexington KY by Jan Durham (11th and 12th May) because with the title ‘Fantastic Felt Inspired by the Natural and Built Environment’ participants are free to decide during the course of the workshop what direction they would like to explore, vessels, bags, sculpture, nuno felt, wall hangings, the list goes on. In a way I’ll be acting like a conduit for ideas, help and inspiration, the one constant is that the starting point and the theme will be the same for everyone. As a result it’s been a lot more difficult for me to write out a definitive list of what participants should bring with them, however I hope that the guideline below will be of some help for people with specific projects in mind and if anyone has a particular question that they would like me to answer personally please just email me and fire away!!! My workshops at the Kentucky Sheep and Fibre Festival have also gone live on the festival’s website so head on over there if you would like to join us on either the 18th, 19th or 20th of May! Now for the details for Plainwell and Lexington……

  • Small vessels, sculptures and bags will need 80 – 150g of fibre.
  • Larger and more complex vessels, sculptures and bags will need 200 – 350g fibre, for bags I like this to be divided into 2/3 merino and 1/3 a strong coarser fibre such as C1 or Icelandic wool.
  • A simple textured nuno scarf will need either a pre rolled silk chiffon or ponge silk scarf as a base, a long length of silk cut from a roll or alternatively a cotton cheesecloth or muslin length, the longer the better in all cases!  This project won’t need anything like a big amount of fibre but at a rough guide anything between 40 – 60g will be fine for a highly textured end result!
  • A large textured nuno wrap/bolero (two day project!) will need 2 – 3 m (yards is fine) silk chiffon, ponge silk, cheesecloth or muslin for the base and at least 40 – 100g good quality merino depending on size.
  • A large collaged nuno wrap, wall hanging or yardage for clothing (this may be made using the tumbler method and if so requires no rolling!) will need a piece of base fabric approx 35 to 40% bigger than the desired finished size. I like to use muslin, cheese cloth or my favourite cotton gauze for this but you can use silk chiffon or ponge silk too! In addition to this base fabric you need at least the same volume of fabric in a selection of colours and mixture of weights and texture, i.e. if your base fabric measures 180cm X 40cm you need about 2m X 50cm fabric comprising a mixture of silks, cottons and/or some metallic mesh plus at least 200g good quality merino (for wearables) or alpaca/other fibre for a wall hanging.
  • A large table runner will need less fabric than the large collaged nuno wrap above but a higher percentage of wool to fabric, this it to make sure that the runner will actually protect the table from heat or water and is not just decorative, decorative’s OK too if that’s what participants want!

As you can imagine different projects require different techniques and heaviness of hand when laying out the fibre. For wearables I usually but not exclusively use merino with some surface silk/banana/tencel/firestar fibre so I would just encourage particiapnts to sort through their stash and we’ll work together with whatever they bring. The figures above are a minimum guideline, I don’t want anyone to feel pressurised to buy more fabric or fibre than they may realistically need but to be honest where felting is concerned, can one ever have enough fibre or raw materials??? Each participant will also need to bring their usual felting equipment to the workshop. This may include bubble wrap, towels (please bring a few!), hard olive oil/goats milk/glycerine soap, sprinkler, bamboo blind, pool noodle, net, whatever they like to work with themselves, people wishing to try the tumble dryer method need to bring an additional lightweight roll of builders plastic to use instead of bubble wrap.  Anyone felting a bag, vessel or any sort of three dimensional project will need some flexible plastic to use as a template/resist, I prefer 2 or 3mm laminate floor underlay but in an emergency we can use bubble wrap or whatever flexible plastic you have to hand.  NB I love working with batts but roving and tops are perfect too, bring whatever you have and like to work with yourself.  I will also be bringing loads of embellishing goodies with me for everyone to share!

Now for some pictures and chat about the pieces I was nuno felting yesterday.

Texture from Heather's hand spun yarn

Those of you following me on Facebook (click both links on the sidebar to the right if you’ve not already done so!) may have seen the image I uploaded yesterday morning showing some chocolate merino, gauze and beautiful hand spun yarn from my great buddy Heather which I gathered together and was in the process of felting into a simple nuno scarf. This is one of the projects I’ve been completing for the new book with Chrissie, basically it’s an easy first piece for anyone to try using the tumble dryer method. The image here shows how this particular hand spun felted beautifully to the surface of the gauze, I love the texture and colour of it on the surface of this scarf, it’s well felted together but you still have amazing texture from the slubby yarn! Pictures of the completed scarf will be revealed when the book is finished, hopefully not too long because I’m working on it every day now and hope it will be finished before Dawn arrives for her holiday and workshops here at Clasheen in April!!!

The other scarf that I felted yesterday (I also started some felt landscapes) is an even simpler piece, one fine open layer of short fibre merino on top of a long piece of ponge silk. I also added a lot of hand dyed silk fibre on top of the merino, I like the way this scarf can be reversible and only wish that it had been less windy when I was trying to take pictures of it this morning!

Plenty of silk fibre on the reverse

A tip to enhance texture in nuno felt and KY and MI workshop details are finally online!

I have managed to get through a lot of the clearing, re-organisation and tidying chores that I blogged about on Monday, not all of them obviously but I have made a dent in the never-ending pile! Thanks for all your encouragement both via comments and through FB, they are definitely much needed to keep me going, I HATE tidying!!!

As promised, the full workshop descriptions for the KY and MI workshops in May are now up on the workshop page and I am hoping that we will have a mix of both experienced and improving felters attend. Beginners are really welcome too so please don’t feel you don’t have enough felting under your belt to book a place, everyone is welcome and it makes for a really fun and creative time if we have groups of mixed experience!

I have also started to transfer some of my felt pouches across from Big Cartel and into my Etsy shop, only time will tell if this has been a wise descision.

Finally for today, Rhonda was wondering how I achieve so much texture in some of my nuno felt pieces. This is something that I will be writing about in the new book with Chrissie but a great tip is to wet out and soap your fibres before you lay out any of your embellishment. Taking this idea a little further for projects such as nuno bags or cushions (items where you have a couple of layers of wool in addition to your fabric), try rubbing the base layer of wool through your bubble wrap to create a ‘skin’ on the surface before laying out your fabric on the top, then wet and soap the fabric lightly and rub again through the bubble wrap. By working like this the wool fibres underneath don’t have as much opportunity to travel through the fabric and this helps to create more texture! You do need to be careful though to rub longer than roll however using this method, otherwise you could try fulling with the tumble dryer, this elliminates both the rubbing and the rollling process!!! I’m going to be discussing my experiences nuno felting using the dryer thoroughly for my section of the new book and I will also be talking about it at the workshops in Lexington and in Plainwell!

Textures in a nuno felt scarf

I’m nuno felting like crazy, or am I just going crazy???

Yesterday evening I felt as if I had finally lost the plot. I have so many things that I need to be doing as well as so many things that I should be doing but my brain just went into melt down and I didn’t seem able to get anything accomplished! Finally and with a sense of relief, I realised what the problem was. Chrisse has the most amazing wearable nuno projects to share with everyone in our next book (just wait until you see some of her clever designs!) and I had got stuck in a great big rut since Christmas feeling that I needed to felt some large, stylish garments too. With my impatient temperment and total lack of sewing skills I am never going to be able to draft patterns like Chrissie and the miriad of fantastic seamstresses out there, why was I trying to be someone that I’m not??? The new designs that I was working on have been floating around in my head for well over a year and are all based on simple shapes and rectangles, easy peasy in my mind but not easy peasy to bring to fruition as things have turned out. My eureka moment came last night when I realised that I had been nuno felting these new wearable designs like mad over the last few weeks but just wasn’t enjoying myself, it was way too stressful and I couldn’t concentrate properly or relax and just settle in to the process. Having fun and enjoying my felting is what it is all about for me. I love sharing tips and techniques when I teach and to not enjoy my work was a new experience for me, as a result I have decided to go back to basics and write about the sort of nuno felting I most love to create myself! I’m leaving the larger garments to others at the moment but I have decided to take lessons this year and get to grips with pattern drafting and using my sewing machine to the best of my ability too!!! Taking the amazing workshop with Lisa Klakulak last summer inspired me to stitch into my felt and lose my greatest fear of sewing so I think that with a bit of determination there should be no reason I can’t master a few really basic patterns. From my perspective there will be plenty of new projects and ideas in the book that I haven’t written about before and loads of helpful tips about the various tools I find that make life easier. As with ‘From Felt to Friendship’ the new book is about our experiences nuno felting, where we get our inspiration from, what we find works and what we find doesn’t. I hope that it will give people an insight into how we work as well as being inspirational and fun, I know anyway that I can’t wait to try out some of Chrissie’s ideas and projects for myself!!!

 

 

Closures for felt pouches – the results of all our thinking!!!

Thanks so much Deb, Linda, Elizabeth, Lyn, Mary, Heather, Shirley, Ellen, Irene, Kirsten, Chrissie, Terrie, Carole, Karen, Dawn, Sharon, Juiliane and all my FB friends for enthusiastically entering into the debate after I posed the question about a closure for my little starburst pouch. In the same post I also posed a question about photographing certain colours, again thanks for all the helpful replies! I needed a little time to mull over the closure response and finally I think that I have assessed the answers and can give you my own thoughts on the suggestions offered. Do please bear in mind that I an not an experienced or  happy sewing gal, I really appreciate the beautiful added dimension stitching may lend to felt but in selecting an option for one of my own pouches I want something that is practical, looks good and doesn’t mean I lose pints of sweat (on second thoughts maybe that would be a good idea too!)!!! Here is a recap of the various ideas suggested, hopefully I haven’t left any out! In no particular order …..

  • Velcro – circles or possibly strips.  Since Velcro can be difficult to sew Heather suggested stitching the strip to another piece of felt and then stitching this to the pouch
  • Press studs/poppers
  • Magnetic clasps sewn or punched into the felt, alternatively felted in at the layout stage
  • Felt tie closure
  • Slashed cut and toggle closure
  • Tie and toggle
  • Loop and button, I liked Irene’s idea of using a hair elastic for the loop because I have TONNES of them in my stash!
  • Felt rope combined with a toggle, possibility of adding glass beads to the toggle
  • Grommets
  • Upcycled closure, possibly cut from bicycle tyres (again in my stash!)
  • Braided leather
  • Glass buttons

and finally an idea from Hilary Williams on FB, adding the traditional button and button hole to the pouch under the flap. If I understand this suggestion correctly it would mean sewing the button to the inside back of the pouch and making the slash in the front piece as you would be viewing it when you lift up the flap.

Now for the main potential problems identified …..

  • Velcro is difficult to stitch and can get fuzzed up with felt
  • Magnets may effect the battery life of certain mobile devices (although in my internet research this seems to have been almost eliminated as a problem by now with most makes of device)
  • Press studs or poppers often prove difficult to open and might tear away from the felt

All in all Hilary’s suggestion is probably the best solution for me with the starburst pouch, the stitching on the front flap has compressed the felt so much that it would be pretty difficult to sew any of the other suggested closures onto it and I don’t want to do anything that spoils the starburst effect.  Obviously by using Hilary’s method the actual usable size inside the pouch is reduced slightly but that’s OK, I’m going to try and have a go at it anyway first thing tomorrow morning and I’ll post pictures of the results then!

The rest of today is going to be spent continuing with my studio clear out and reorganisation. I may get to do some felting (as a reward obviously!!!) although I might not have the time, I do intend to put some felting kits together however combining wool, silk and mohair off cuts.  After all my hard work yesterday (updated via FB) I can now actually see my first felting table and walk unimpeded into the room, today I want to clear out and restock one of my supply cupboards as well as try to sort storage for some of my many embellishing fibres. For now I’m going to leave you with a picture of another piece of highly textured felt awaiting stitching, this pouch is felted from a combination of black NZ merino and ruched pieces of floral fabric.

Detail from another wet felted pouch