Home, natural dyeing/printing, unexpected presentation taking up my time…..

I’m home safely after a wonderful time in California! It was great to be back at The Tin Thimble catching up with old friends both before, during and after the three days of workshops plus put faces to the friends I’ve previously been in touch with through the blog, FB and various other forms of social media, I’m not going to mention everyone by name but you all know who you are!!! My intention had been to write a long and proper post yesterday about the workshops and my trip with Merridee and Keith to Lake Tahoe, unfortunately I just don’t have the time so apologies in advance to those of you who were expecting all the low down about the exciting work that was created during my three days of teaching. An unexpected opportunity arose while I was away (thanks Paula for getting in touch to alert me!) so yesterday I had to make a presentation in relation to an exciting art project and this morning I got a call asking me to come back in tomorrow and discuss a few of the points raised during this session. Fingers crossed everything will work out, I’ll keep you posted once I know the outcome!

My own naturally printed chiffon with goodies I bought at The Tin Thimble, glass beads by Toni Lutman and beautiful hand dyed merino by Carin Engen and Laurie Simoni

As regards other work since I’ve been home I printed two lengths of silk chiffon on Monday evening then last night I filled two pots with silk and leaves in preparation for a natural printing and dyeing session today. One of the pots contained a tea solution, the other a vinegar and water mix. I’ve now bundled everything up and all the pieces are simmering on the Rayburn, most of the bundles contain a variety of eucalyptus leaves but two I wrapped using Cotinus leaves from my garden. I also sprinkled some of the fabric with tea leaves and wrapped one of the pieces in rusty metal, I LOVE opening these bundles, pictures next time, I promise. During my stay in CA I spent time with Merridee, Sharon and Nika Ivanoff experimenting more with this method of colouring fabric, thanks Nika for the wonderful leaves you brought last Saturday for us all to share not to mention the wine, chocolate and strawberries, we loved them all!!!

Emma and I are just sorting out dates for workshops in The Tin Thimble again next spring, keep an eye out over the next week or so as we hope to have everything sorted by then!

Felt bowl, room to improve!

I should have started a commission yesterday but after a long morning trying to sort something out on the phone (getting passed from pillar to post then just when I was getting somewhere being cut off accidentally!) I decided to call it a day and shelve the start of the project until today.

Gathering my materials, goodies from Merridee!

Instead, I decided to felt a little open topped bowl using some grey and rust coloured needle felt which was a gift from Merridee and combine this with some light chocolate coloured French landsheep wool and an unusual shiny metallic woven net knitting tape (at least I think that’s what it is), also a gift from Merridee! It was quite interesting working in colours that I wouldn’t usually put together, initially I decided to felt a wide topped bowl using the open resist method and I wanted to include a piece of my eco printed silk as detail on the silvery grey inside. I’m guessing that I need a lot more practice with this method determining the size and shape of my template because the finished bowl is not as wide at the top as I expeced and I also think that I should have used fewer layers of wool but started out with a much bigger resist. In addition to these issues, the eco printed silk didn’t combine well with the prefelt so I pulled it off mid way through the fulling process and the metallic mesh didn’t gleam as much as I expected once the bowl was fully felted.

The outside is now the inside

I think that this is primarily because the French wool is 28 micron and therefore quite hairy, I do like the texture of it however and as I was working and shaping the bowl I decided to turn it inside out and have the design on the inside and the simple brown edged grey on the outside. The French wool felted really easily and was gorgeous to lay out, I think it would be wonderful for large totes or weekend bags so if you’re interested in ordering any it’s code numbet 1464 from Wollknoll!

Anyway, enough for now as I really have to get the sleeveless jacket started, here’s a picture of the finished bowl, it’s much better this way out even if it does look a lot like a flower pot.

The finished bowl, not quite what I expected so plenty to work on

Felting extravaganza in Portugal, part three!

As promised yesterday, I’m going to continue blogging about our wonderful residential week felting in Portugal and today concentrate on our trip to the Museu de Tecelagem dos Meios (the textile museum in Meios) and the pieces we made using the natural Bordeleira fleece from Dominio Vale do Mondego.

Watching a weaving demonstration at the Museu de Tecelegam in Meios

We started Wednesday morning by heading off to nearby Meios, this is a small village approx 1km away from Trinta, site until recently of 40 different wool processing and weaving factories. At Meios there’s a very interesting small museum with wonderful old tools and pieces of weaving equipment on display as well as huge working looms on the upper floor. Eelco and I had already been there on the Saturday prior to the workshop commencing and had found out that Wednesday morning would be the time to go if we wanted to see one of the largest old looms in action! These big looms were only ever operated by men, having seen one working I would never presume that a female could work one (even though I usually believe in equality for all), the physical effort required in the upper body to move the heddle was enormous!!! Alan and I went back for a further visit when he arrived to join me, we learnt that traditionally women did all the spinning and loading the flying shuttles, the men did all the weaving. Back downstairs after our demonstration everyone had fun trying on some of the gorgeous locally produced clothing and browsing the rugs and blankets for sale. The simple floor rugs, shepherd’s blankets and marriage blankets are woven at the museum, if they are to be brushed (as in the case of the natural white wedding blankets) they go one of the remaining working factories at Trinta and then come back to be sold on site. I also discovered some wonderful locally produced hand forged knives (you could easily cut off your finger with these!) and scissors, I bought two knives and a pair of scissors for myself plus some knives to bring home as gifts to Ireland.

Someone wanting a little bit of early lunch too!

Once we returned to base we had an early lunch so that everyone could have a head start in the afternoon selecting and starting to work with the freshly shorn Bordeleira fleece. We headed down to the stables and had the pick of gorgeous brown or white fleece, some people choose to felt smaller pieces while others wanted to felt a whole fleece. Because the climate and terrain is so different to Ireland there were lots of seed heads and various bits of dried vegetation in the fleece. At home our wool may be muddier but we definitely don’t have anything like the amount of little bits to pick out before we can get stuck into the serious besiness of felting! Once participants had selected their fleece everyone worked outside cleaning and sorting, this took quite a while depending on each individual animal that the fleece had come from.

Picking through the raw fleece prior to felting

Next two very fine layers of carded Bordeleira wool were laid out on the side of the fleece that would have been next to the sheep’s skin and everything was felted together using a lot of soap at the early stages of the process. Depending on previous experience and the size of the pieces some of these pieces took a lot longer than others to felt, this in normal, it’s not a race!!! I had laid out a slightly trimmed smaller fleece the night before and was able to finish it late on the Wednesday afternoon. Here’s a picture of it as it’s finishing drying, it’s on my chair at the kitchen table at Clasheen now and is a delicious contrast to the shaggy Norwegian wild mountain sheep fleece I felted last year!

Tomorrow I’ll write about nuno felting and our wonderful time eco dyeing with Terriea!

My fleece felted and drying in the sun

Fun, friends, food and felt!

I’m just grabbing a minute at the end of a very busy but satisfying second day of our residential workshop at Dominio Vale do Mondego to jot this post, the atmosphere is one of fun, friends, food and felt! Internet connection is a little sketchy and for once my phone doesn’t seem up to the task, I’d love to post some pictures but I think it will be tomorrow before I get a chance to upload them via computer to the net. Everyone has arrived now and it’s just been such fun meeting up, starting out felting and eating and drinking all around us!!! The people, food, scenery and wool are all amazing, everyone yesterday and today completed amazing projects. Tomorrow we start to work with the raw wool,’till then, adieu!

More felt incorporating up-cycled materials

I’ve been continuing to work combing off cuts of silk and mohair into my base wool while felting. My intention today had been to felt all morning and stitch all afternoon but then I realised that one of my New Year’s resolutions was to keep updating my Big Cartel store so that process ate into my time too!!!  Deciding the price for the little embroidered pouches I uploaded was not the easiest, finally I settled on E18 each, only time will tell if this was the correct descision. Anyway, here is a picture of some embellishment laid out prior to felting and hopefully by tomorrow afternoon I’ll have cut, stitched and be able to reveal the finished pieces!

Mohair off cuts and silk scraps laid on top of short fibred merino

Hectic time felt and life related …..

I have just spent a really busy time down in Cillin Hill setting up for my weekend workshops at the Sheep and Wool Festival (E25 for either a morning or an afternoon session incl materials, a bargain!) as well as bringing down three of Horst’s fabulous garments and collating everything for the presentation girl’s display. Alan’s father may not make the night so if that is the case Carmen has very kindly offered to step in for me on Sunday so that I can drive to Sligo to meet with Alan and be there for the funeral. Now I am heading out again to deliver a comissioned scarf (why did I say I would make it for today???) and then drive to my mother’s house to collect the wool and raw materials for the weekend. Stephanie from The Yarn Room has kindly sponsored the fibre and my sister Suzanne is collecting it in Wicklow on her way down from Dublin to visit my mother.  My mother will have roast stuffed loin of pork followed by fresh Wexford strawberries and cream waiting for us, I can hardly wait.  Thanks Stephanie, Suzanne and mum!!!

Oh so soft merino scarf

Sent this really soft scarf with organic edges and dreadlocks off to a secret swap partner this week, felted from 16 micron merino and using the storm clouds overhead as my inspiration.  Unless you live in Ireland it’s quite impossible to describe how an otherwise sunny and warm day can have this stormy looking sky too!!!  Speaking of swaps, many apologies for being so behind with the Clasheen Crafty Swap on Flickr, hope to pick up the reins on Monday but been just so tied up with computer and the book, sorry.

Stormy skies over Clasheen

American workshops – a guide to the raw materials required by participants!

My flights are booked, new linen trousers purchased and I am SO excited now about my upcoming workshops in America, meeting old friends, making new ones and simply having the best of fun with like minded fibre nuts!!!  From 13th to 16th May I will be participating and teaching at The Tin Thimble’s wonderful Mother’s Day Fiber Retreat, on Friday 20th and Saturday 21st May I will be with my amazing friend Dawn for two days of workshops in Plainwell, MI and then on Friday 27th and Saturday 28th May I will be meeting and staying with online fibre friend Jan Durham and facilitating two days of workshops in Lexington KY, how fantastic is that for an adgenda???  

On the Friday participants in both MI and in KY have the option of taking a workshop titled ‘Simple vessels, purses and other three dimensional objects incorporating found objects’ and on the Saturday a workshop titled ‘Nuno mosaic and other interesting possibilities for wearable felt accessories’.  Participants attending both workshops have the option of designing and felting larger and more complex vessels, bags, sculptural items, bigger nuno projects or indeed an art piece for the wall.  As a result I have been toying with the correct materials list to publish for each workshop, eventually I have decided to provide a ‘minimum fabric and fibre requirement’ list for some of the projects participants may want to make and hopefully this will cover most potential eventualities!  In this way each individual participant will decide for themselves what exactly they want to make and what materials then need to bring with them at a minimum,. I know from personal experience that I can never bring too much fibre and embellishment items with me when I attend any workshop so limiting myself can be a challenge, it may also bring unexpected rewards at times!!!  Each participant will need to bring their usual felting equipment, 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.  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 laminate floor underlay but in an emergency we can use bubble wrap or whatever flexible plastic you have to hand.  For participants felting nuno mosaic or large nuno wraps it is really best to have two long lengths of bubble wrap bigger than the starting size of the silk used, plastic trash can liners are OK too in an emergency so if you have a roll of them please just bring them along!  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 embellishments, inclusions, leather off cuts and artificial glittery fabrics with me for everyone to share as well as some of the mohair waste which I am currently experimenting with in some of my three dimensional work!  Enough of the waffle, hopefully the following will be a guideline and I am always happy to answer any questions directly so please feel free to email me if you have a major concern …….

Clutch bag, vessel, iPad cover and smaller three dimensional items will need 80 – 150g of fibre.

Larger and more complex bags will need 200 – 350g fibre, I like this to be divided into 2/3 merino and 1/3 a strong coarser fibre such as C1 or Icelandic wool.

A 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 nuno wrap (two day project!) will need 2 – 3 m (yards is fine) silk chiffon, ponge silk, cheesecloth or muslin for the base and 40 – 100g good quality merino depending on size.

A mosaic nuno scarf will need a total minimum of 1m silk chiffon but this needs to be in at least 3 colours ie. 1/3m from a roll of three different colours, adding a small amount of a clashing colour can work wonders!  Incorporating vintage scarves into nuno mosaic is wonderfully effective and a beautiful way of bringing old fabrics back to new life, to see what I mean check out Marni’s wonderful scarf from last year’s Tin Thimble workshop, isn’t it beautiful?  These scarves will also need over 100g good quality merino preferrably in two colours.

A large nuno mosaic wrap will need 2 – 3m silk fabric in mixed colours and a total of up to or over 200g good quality merino, again two colours of fibre is ideal.

As you can imagine different projects require different techniques and heaviness of hand when laying out the fibre.  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???

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

Largest ArtL!nks vessel underway and pictures of my stash from Avoca!

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!!! 

My Valentine's Day jacket from Alan

Gorgeous tweed and new stash of buttons!

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!!!  XXX