My super soft yak scarf and preparing submission for an Arts Act Grant

I seem to have picked up a bad cold over the last few days and it didn’t help that I had three individual meetings at the golf club today which were totally necessary to attend.  Following on from another excellent ‘Pick up your Needles’ at the Courthouse Art Centre in Tinahely yesterday (more details and photos to follow from my felting participants over the next day or two as soon as my cold abates) I decided to stay in my p-js this morning and not get dressed until just before my first meeting at 2pm this afternoon!  To wrap myself snugly I wore the yak and silk scarf that I felted with hand dyed fibres purchased from Urban Fauna Studio in San Fransisco and at the risk of boring everyone this fibre is an absolute dream to work with, beautifully soft, warm and flexible to wear.  If any of you have access to Blas and Jamie’s wonderful studio/shop do look out for this stunning yak fibre.  I know that it had only just arrived in stock for the first time when I visited last September but I guess that Blas should have it regularly now considering there must be a big demand for such a beautiful fibre.

Tomorrow I am going prepare my submission for an ‘Arts Act Grant’ from Carlow County Council.  Last year they awarded me E200 for professional development and this was extremely welcome funding which went towards my expenses for the international symposium Felt in Focus.  Finances are very tight here in Ireland and it is brilliant that the local authorities are still prepared to fund certain individual and group artistic indeavours to benefit our local community.

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My niece’s first time felting!

This morning my four and a half year old niece and I sat down to create her first piece of flat felt! 

Working directly on the wet felt

I had brought two large bags of Icelandic wool with me (the same wool as I use for the flat felting kits which I sell from my Etsy store) and we decided to draw a butterfly on top of a bright red background.  Even though she is so young we had no problems laying out two even layers of red wool and then I created an outline for the butterfly using strips of black wool which I rolled slightly against my leg first. 

Rolling the felt together

My niece then had great fun filling in the outline with purple wool overlaid with sparkly pink and white acrylic yarn.  We decided that the butterfly needed a head so she choose a nice turquoise for this and then I added fun black feelers to complete the picture.  We rubbed and rolled for a little while together and within a very short space of time had created a wonderful piece of flat felt to frame, wasn’t it a great first effort?

The beautiful finished butterfly!

For those of you who might be interested, the scarf that I am wearing is made from the softest yummy yak that I bought from Blas and Jamie from Urban Fauna Studio in San Fransisco, buy some if you can!

Yummy yak!

Tha yak was absolutely yummy to felt with!  If I remember Blas correctly it was an 80% yak 20% merino mixture but I am going to check this out again.  Although the fibre is quite a bit more expensive than merino it is worth every penny and I definitely will be ordering some more for myself in the not too distant future!Detail of yak and silk scarf  It was gorgeous and soft to lay out but due to the short fibre length totally different than working with merino.  Initially I thought that I would have to be very frugal with the fibre as I only had 61g but in actual fact I made an extremely long but fine scarf and had quite a bit left over!  I had kind of decided to try it for cobweb felt but as soon as I discovered how short the fibres were changed this for 2.5 thin layers (2 layers and a bit of topping up in thin areas!) with a lot of silk fibres on the surface.  The yak was super quick to felt, within about 50 minutes from start to finish (including laying out and no use of the sander!!) my new winter scarf was ready!

Electric blue hand carded merino and silk

Continuing with my destash, I came across some stunning hand carded rolls that I created one day when I spent some hours hidden away with Carmen’s drum carder.  Hiding their light under my table is what these lustreous fibres have been doing in the meantime so off to Etsy they’ve gone to find a slightly more appreciative new home!

Off to tangle with some super soft yak (and short film to watch)

It’s wet and windy outside today and I can quite see why those yaks need to grow a soft undercoat during the winter months to keep themselves all warm and snug!  Luckily I was able to buy some beautiful soft yak fibre from Blas and Jamie at Urban Fauna Studio recently and now is the afternoon to put it to the test and make a soft and chic winter scarf or cowl for myself.  I had brought two colours home with me, Carmen choose an unusual blue which means that I am left with (ha, ha) a beautiful blend of olive green, just 61g which is not a lot to spare but I hopefully by the time I post tomorrow I will have some pictures taken to show you the results. 

This morning was spent tidying up more of the studio but a body needs a break sometimes and since the wind is blowing up a storm disallowing any outdoor phtography today the felting table calls, wouldn’t you agree??  Still no sign of my own camera under all the mess and at this stage I am beginning to wonder if it will ever turn up again.  It is especially frustrating as not only did I love the camera (it was a present from Alan) but my pictures from my trip to Felt in Focus were still on the card as were some from another friend who had problems with her own camera in Denmark as well.  I wanted to finish posting about making the large felt sculpture and was hoping the pictures would say it louder than words!

For those of you interested in climate change and how it impacts on our environment you may be interested in viewing my friend Cathy FitzGerald’s new short film  ‘once i counted birds’.  This short has been entered in the UK Guardian Newspaper’s worldwide 1 minute to save the world film competition and selected films will be screened at the Copenhagen Climate Change summit in December.  If you enjoy the film please please vote for Cathy by rolling your cursor over the stars  (you can vote until the 7 November) and please feel free to forward the link to any friends you think might like it!

Fantastic nuno mosaic felting workshop at Urban Fauna Studio

I had a WONDERFUL time at Urban Fauna Studio on my last full day in the States!  Blas and Jamie have a superb set up, wonderful fibres, yarns, books and notions etc. all neatly laid out in a small but practical space in a quiet part of the Mission district in San Fransisco.  Alan and I arrived in the city during rush hour (I guess that should be rush hours!!) on Wednesday evening and I have to say it was only then that I discovered how far downtown San Fransisco actually was from the studio, although we had driven through the city at the beginning of the holiday I really didn’t realise that it was so big.  Luckily Alan is someone who likes to study all the local maps from an area as soon as we arrive and boy was I happy when he found out that the Muni light rail system could practically drop me from our hotel on O’Farrell Street to Urban Fauna’s door, all for the cool price of only $2, a lot less stressful than driving! 

Blas outside Urban Fauna Studio

Blas outside Urban Fauna Studio

I duly arrived on Thursday morning looking forward to meeting proprietor Blas and scoping out the facilities in advance of the participants arrival for our class at 10am.  Unfortunately Blas’s wife Jamie was tied up so I will just have to wait until next summer and their trip to Ireland before meeting the other half of this great fibre duo.  I was very impressed with the quality and selection of fibre and yarn available to purchase as well as interesting books, notions and other covetable items and more than impressed with how Blas manages to keep this relatively small space totally clean, tidy and organised, if only my own studio was half as tidy I would be in 7th heaven!  While Blas headed off to the local shop to pick up some fresh fruit and teas I made myself at home, first selecting some yummy and unusual fibres to bring home with me and then setting up the tables and laying out a couple of samples of my felt that I had brought with me from Ireland.  First to arrive was my online friend Nancy Schwab, the person actually responsible for putting me in touch with Blas and Jamie in the first place!  Nancy is a great nuno felter and had brought some of her beautiful scarves for everyone to drool over and this was interesting for all the participants to see as neither Flo, Nancy W-B or Laura had actually wet felted before.  We had a really fun group (two Nancys, Flo, Laura and Blas) and everyone was totally more experienced in dying fabric and fibre than I am and between them there was a gorgeous selection of hand dyed and bought silk to select from to create the nuno mosaic with.  I explained how Sigrid Bannier pioneered the technique and suggested that for the total beginners a double ended scarf would be a good project to tackle, plenty of opportunity to experiment with colour but not as large a piece to lay out as experienced felters Blas and Nancy S were going to attempt. 

Laying out the mosaic design - Nancy Schwab

Laying out the mosaic design - Nancy Schwab

Using a guideline of three different colours everyone started to chop up their silk and lay out their patterns, a bit like making an overlapping jigsaw!  As you can see from the image of Nancy laying out her design everywhere the silk colours overlap another colour is created.  In this way a complex design is created and additional depth is acquired from whatever colour wool is used on the reverse to felt everything together.  As we started to work everyone began to appreciate that this method of working opens up the door to amazingly complex details, particularly as everyone seemed to be a dab hand at dying silk in the first place a whole new avenue of textile design is now on the horizon.  Before lunch I showed everyone how I would lay out two fine layers of merino on top of the overlapping silk and everyone managed very well with varying degrees of thickness and different qualities of wool.  Blas actually used a yak/merino mix that has to be one of the softest fibres I have ever touched, needless to say I bought some to bring home for myself and some as a present for Carmen as well!  Anyway, we wet out the first end of the scarf and started rubbing and massaging to help the fibres migrate through the silk.  After lunch around the corner in a super Japanese place (FANTASTIC food and amazingly cheap) everyone got stuck back into their work and continued to lay out more silk to complete their piece before rubbing and then rolling in bubble wrap around a short piece of pool noodle.  Once we were totally sure that the wool was migrating through every layer of silk the felt could then be dipped into extremely hot water and then either thrown on a towel or rocked and rolled on the table to continue the felting process.  Once I was happy that the work was fully felted each piece was given a final rinse and then proudly worn for a fun filled photo session!  The nuno mosaic technique does use a lot more elbow grease than straight nuno felt and takes longer to create but I am sure you will agree from the photos here and on Flickr that the amazing results were more than worth the effort! 

Beautiful results form our nuno mosaic workshop

Beautiful results form our nuno mosaic workshop

I promise that tomorrow I will put up the post ‘American wrap up – Yosemite, Castle Air Museum and fantastic killer whales!’ but for now I am off to create a nuno felt scarf all for myself!