Yesterday Alan came with me for a drive to the beautifully sited Avoca Handweavers in the picturesque village of Avoca, Co. Wicklow, the small country village where the popular television series Ballykissangel was filmed. Once a year Avoca Handweavers have a monsterous sale of buttons, handwoven fabric, odd cones of yarn and a selection of odds and ends of scarves and rugs.
For some reason WordPress is playing up this afternoon and won’t allow me to insert Avoca as a live hyperlink but if you want to check out about the business the website is www.avoca.ie/ and the information about the woolen mill that I actually visited can be found when you click on the section about the history of the company. Basically this is the location where most of the weaving is done (as opposed their main retail outlets dotted all over Ireland) so in addition to the working section some outbuildings have been transformed into a shop to showcase their finished products and there is also a super restaurant/coffee shop filled with the most yummy savoury foods and cookies. The materials, findings and yarn are only on sale to the public once a year and the prices are AMAZING!!!!! I scored the most incredible pure wool tweed in a fantastic check colour scheme, incredible value so I obviously just HAD to buy whatever was left on the bolt, 6 1/2 metres @ 5 Euro per metre! There was also about 3/4 metre which had been damaged in a couple of spots and I was able to get that for 1 Euro, the width is so great that I will have plenty to play around with for felting or use to line a bag, I suspect it will melt into fibre like butter if felted. My intention is to make (or have made if I could afford to!) curtains, cushions and a bed spread for my main guest room, I think the modern design of the tweed will really update and show off the traditional style of my farmhouse! I also bought 3 metres of a stunning printed fabric which we thought was a very fine silk chiffon, 141 big funky buttons in various styles (10 cent each), a handfull of colourful zips (in case I ever get into the swing of sewing!) and 26 D rings which I hope to use for some new felt belts as well as an adjustable shoulder strap for a new style of bag I am planning. I also met up with some of the ‘Wicklow Knitters’ group on Ravelry, hi girls, how brilliant the internet is for bringing like minded people together, amazing! All in all it was an brilliant day, Alan bought me a gorgeous cream jacket for Valentine’s Day (and I might have bought him something but that is a secret until tomorrow night), it’s too dark now to take any pictures but providing the weather is good in the morning I will be out with the camera and give you a taste of the style Avoca has to offer.
Only a few words today because I used most of them up with sixth class this morning!!!
Having fun adding the surface decoration
I was blown away by how creative everyone was. Each pupil was asked to choose two colours to use as a base, then they could select from all sorts of yarn, fibre and fabric to add to the surface layer. A lot of the girls had brought in beads, buttons, pipe cleaners and all sorts of glitzy embellishments with them and these will be stitched on next Monday before the felt gets stuck to the front of their journals. A tip for anyone wanting an easy way to decorate a copy, why not stick velcro to the book and then just press the felt to the barbed side of the velcro??? No sewing, I like that!
Anyone see a favourite colour combination here???
Some of the pieces were fully felted by the end of the session but others will need a little more fulling at home before they are ready to embellish with stitches, beads and buttons. It is always interesting to see how different people felt at different speeds, one of the last girls to lay out her wool was in turn one of the only girls who ended up with a fully felted piece at the end of the session!
Metallic mesh fabric, thick and thin merino, little buttons to be stitched on afterwards
There is no right or wrong way to felt either as many ways to end up with a good finished result but I always like to share with pupils what I was shown when I started because I feel it gives a good foundation to build upon. You can check out my flat felt tutorial if you want to see what we did today.
Yarns and inspiration for the Jane Thornley mini KAL
Alan and I are off at 2.30am for a short holiday break to beautiful La Gomera! This small Spanish island is a relativly unknown and unspoilt part of the Canaries and thanks to felting buddy Carmen we will be staying in an apartment belonging to her friend and meeting her brother who lives in the main town San Sebastian and runs a small local bar/restaurant. Obviously I will not be able to felt over the next week (and I am also not sure how much internet connectivity we will have) so earlier this morning I gathered an assortment of yarns together using pictures of La Gomera for inspiration and am intending on knitting a funky piece as part of the Jane Thornley triangular KAL on Ravelry. Hopefully I will find an internet cafe somewhere and be able to write a post or two while we are away but if not please forgive me in advance and I look forward to catching up when I return, hopefully bronzed, relaxed and raring to organise those last minute items prior to my departure for my American felting adventures!
One of the highlights yesterday was being able to complete my first felting project of the New Year thanks to the resumption of my water supply! Due to the really cold spell of weather we are in the middle of, coupled with my lack of heat, I have been wearing a pair of knitted fingerless mittens around the house a lot and been thankful for the extra warmth that they are providing. With this in mind I decided to make a simple pair in felt and post them to a friend in Slovenia as a thank you for a wonderful surprise Christmas present.
The fingerless mittens laid out
Bearing in mind that the Icelandic wool dosen’t shrink quite as much as merino appears to I used a simple rectangular resist which was just a bit wider and a little bit longer than I wanted the finished mittens to measure. I laid out two layers of fibre around the resist and then added a simple swirl in pink, blue and green yarn for decoration, unfortunately my camera hates photograping raspberry for some reason so you will just have to imagine a rich deep raspberry wool for the background. The mittens really didn’t take too long to felt, once I was sure that the fibres had entangled well and were felting together I opened the resist and cut the rectangle in two down the centre.
Resist removed and gloves cut in two
I continued to roll and full the mittens together and when they were almost the right size cut out the thumb hole and then fulled each one individually. This is a really nice project as an introduction to felting around a resist and I am now planning to offer it as my first felting workshop of 2010, details to follow of dates and times tomorrow!
Close up of the finished mittens!
As you can see from my dry looking hand, I need to apply some of the gorgeous natural beeswax hand cream that was a great present from Ann and Alison at our last felting session before Christmas!
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!
My first batch of felting kits are finally up for sale in my Etsy store as of this afternoon. I can’t believe how long it has taken to get to this stage, really I am kicking myself they were not up earlier but truthfully I just seem to have been totally snowed under with other important things as you may have guessed from my recent posts!
Some of the wool for my new flat felting kits
Each kit contains between 110g and 120g Icelandic wool in mixed colours, a small bag with various embellishments which might include beads, buttons or fancy yarn, bubble wrap and full written instructions on how to make your flat felt masterpiece. The kits make ideal presents for crafty male and female friends, both adults and children alike.
After Christmas (not going to be too ambitious about the date this time!) I will also be offering nuno felt kits, felt jewellery kits and simple felt vessel kits. Realistically I need to write up clear instructions for all the tutorials, order in more silk for the nuno kits, cut out resists for the vessel kits and basically take some good images of each individual kit to upload to Etsy. The weather has been so bad here recently that I have not been able to take individual shots of the flat felting kits (they kept flying off the table this afternoon in the wind!), at the moment I only have the one photo but in the absence of any others I guess it will just have to do for now!
As well as fantastic scenery and lovely people one of the great pleasures of holidaying in another country is picking up little notions along the way. Moving on along the coast Alan and I had a great time at Elk beach just a little south of Mendocino and I was lucky enough to find some gorgeous pieces of abalone shell which I am going to incorporate into some felt jewellery when I get home. I have also been on the look out for small interesting pieces of driftwood and these are plentiful to collect at some of the more wind swept beaches all along this stunning stretch of the coast. Alan bought a picture called ‘Lemons on the Table’ by Peter Suezek from Sunshine at the Mendocino Arts Centre and also another painting on board at the Arcata Artisans Co-Op. We have been extremely lucky while staying at the Fairwinds Motel, 1674 G Street here in Arcata that the owner Al Lukiman just happens to be a computer guru who used to work for Warner/Chappell Music. Al very kindly showed Alan exactly how he can connect to wi-fi wherever we go so hopefully now communicating every couple of days won’t be such a problem as it was before! As a result Alan has been able to concentrate on a bit of paper work that he needed to get out of the way while I was able to trawl some fantastic fabric and fibre shops here and in Eureka.
Buttons, ribbons, yarn and cowls
Talking you through the image on the left some of my booty from Arcata included hemp twine from the natural store on the square (sorry there is no name on the receipt and I just can’t remember what the store is called), the gorgeous ram’s head and horn buttons on the bottom left from Fabric Temptations while in Eureka I picked up the fabulous large buttons, the heart buttons and some amazing colours of pure silk ribbons from Heather at the North Coast Knittery, email address firstname.lastname@example.org. The two cowls are part of my travelling crochet project, the cowl on the left is made from some gorgeous soft merino I received in a Ravely swap while the shell pattern cowl on the right is from the Noro Furisode that I blogged about in the last post.
Last Wednesday I attended the opening of Sculpture in Context with my friend Sheila Ahern (Feltmakers Ireland and board member of the Crafts Council) and despite the dreadful rain we had a great time looking at the various exhibits and enjoying a glass of wine. The work throughout the garden and in the various green houses looks amazing so if you are anywhere in the area don’t miss this great opportunity to visit this beautiful space and view top class sculpture from all over Europe, admission is free and the exhibition continues until 16th October. That evening I drove back to Clasheen and at 4.40am Alan and I caught the airport bus before our flights to San Fransisco, we are now officially on vacation!
On Thursday night we stayed near the airport at the Quality Inn and Suites (clean, relatively cheap and convenient) before collecting our ‘Green’ rental car and setting out on our road trip through northern California. Our first day we drove through the Sonoma Valley, a premier wine producing region near Napa taking our time and just enjoying the scenery before heading cross country for the rocky coastline near Bodega Bay. Once we got near where we had planned on staying for our first night it soon became apparent the due to Labour Day weekend lodging prices were extremely high. Eventually we headed back inland a bit and ended up staying in Santa Rosa, not ideal but actually not the worst. As we left the following morning I was delighted to see a knitting store called Village Knitters by chance and what do you guess, we had to stop so that I could get my fibre fix. The store was a little like Stephanie Kennedy’s new shop ‘The Yarn Room’ in Ashford, Co. Wicklow, gorgeous yarns, loads of books and a knitting workshop in progress at the back of the store! I bought some gorgeous new Noro yarn in a black and lime colourway, it is a 45% silk, 35% cotton and 20% wool mix (hope I have the proportions right) which feels beautifully soft and tactile in the hand. This is earmarked for myself, I am making a crochet cowl and in fact I have already made a wool cowl on the flight, a great opportunity to complete some Christmas presents during the time I am away from felting! We then ambled along small rural roads and arrived in Bodega, a pretty little village where Hitchcock filmed ‘The Birds’. The village had some interesting antique shops as well as a great artisan’s co-op where I was delighted to buy some locally produced wool yarn as well as some gorgeous soft combed alpaca tops, also local I think. We ate some tasty barbecued oysters and had a beer for lunch and then visited the schoolhouse where much of the movie was filmed before heading out to the coast and continuing north along route 1.
The only difficulty that we have had so far in the States is that internet access appears to be a problem for us. Alan did bring his computer but for some reason doesn’t appear able to connect to wi-fi anywhere that it says it is enabled so unfortunately my posts may be sporadic and constrained by finding locations where there is an internet cafe. Apologies in advance for the sketchy posting, I will keep you as up to date as possible but it may be with intervals of 4 or 5 days between posts. To be continued …..
On the Wednesday before Sigrid returned home I was facilitating two children’s felting workshops for the Kilkenny Arts Festival and she was kind enough to give me a hand! The organisation was supurb from the festival committee side of things and when we arrived in the morning Sigrid and I found every help available that we could possibly need to ensure the success of the day.
Participants and their great felt from the morning workshop!
We were lucky enough to be working in the Parade Tower of Kilkenny Castle, a beautiful building that is actually the oldest part of the castle complex. With some friendly help from the festival volunteers we set the tables up in a U formation and got the wool and bubble wrap all set up before the first children arrived for the 10.30 workshop. The morning session was actually supposed to be 7 to 9 year olds and the afternoon 10 to 12 year olds but in actual fact ages got a bit mixed up along the way and we had a cluster from all the ages attending both sessions.
Inspired by a mobile phone
As the children arrived Sigrid manned the weighing scales and asked each of them to choose two colours, these would be the colours for the background of their piece of flat felt. We had some gorgous colours of Icelandic wool and what was most interesting to observe was that many of the children in the first session choose green and teal. None of them choose red in the morning whereas in the afternoon session several children choose a red and purple combination, quite an unusual observation we thought as we didn’t prompt anyone in any way! I gave a quick demonstration of how to lay out the background explaining how the colours mixed and then the children were able to start experimenting themselves. Once the background was laid out in several layers (we had weighed the wool to make sure that everyone would have a thick enough background and used batts as they are easier for children than tops) the children then had the fun choice of what they wanted to select to embellish their work. I had various scraps of prefelt which we had cut into shapes, loads of different wool fibres in a range of colours, plastic onion sacks, wool yarn and some artificial hairy yarn which incorporates into felt amazingly well.
Mother and daughter
Initially I asked each child to choose three pieces of prefelt and two or three other embellishments, as only one of the participants had every felted before I didn’t want them to be too swamped with all the choice. Once they started to add the extras if any child needed more of anything they were free to collect it from the materials table but in general limiting the embellishments proved a good idea! Once everyone was happy with the lay out of their piece we started wetting out and rolling the work. This proved to be an area where all the volunteers were excellent, little hands sometimes find the rolling difficult to begin with but everything really went along very smoothly indeed with a small bit of adult assistance.
Swirls and spirals
As per usual the wetting out and soaping proved very popular with the children although nothing compared to the last process where I let them all throw and thump their felt onto towels laid out on the floor! I explained simply how the rubbing, rolling and throwing all helped to felt and full the fibres and by the end of both workshops we had some outstanding work for all the children to show off to friends and family. All in all Sigrid and I thought that the workshops were a great success and thanks to Sigrid for taking the photos, you can check images of every child’s felt by clicking through to Flickr.
Children with their brilliant work, volunteers and me at the afternoon session!
Thanks so much to fellow felter Nancy Schwab for helping me organise my first felting workshop in America. Nancy contacted Jamie from Urban Fauna Studio and hey presto, we are up and running with a nuno mosaic day on Thursday 1st October at her gorgeous studio and fiber boutique! I must say the images on Jamie’s website make me want to drool so I can only imagine what I will be like in reality when presented to all that gorgeous fiber and yarn. Isn’t it amazing the virtual connections that the internet enables and how wonderful it will be to actually meet some online friends in the flesh at last! Thanks also to Tobie, maybe we can get together anyway at Jamies and hopefully this will be my first felting experience of many in the States. If any of you are interested in securing a spot in what promises to be a fun day please just click here to go directly to the booking page!