Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Review of 2014

I started 2014 with a handful of objectives:
  1. dedicate more time to creative activities (I have already "bought" some extra annual leave at work that should allow me to spend 1 day every 2 weeks dedicated to felt making and other creative interests)
  2. create at least 50 good quality pieces for sale
  3. find alternative sources for selling my works, including at least 2 craft fairs and improve marketing of my work
  4. complete my City and Guilds felt making course before August
  5. post at least once per week

Here's how I feel things went (with a few pictures of my favourite pieces to break up the text):
1. I haven't really spoken about this on my blog but mounting stress at work combined with a family bereavement and months of legal battles trying to get rid of the tenant from hell led me to have a bit of an emotional wobble in the middle of the year that saw me signed off work for 4 weeks.  I am more grateful than I can express that my employer also let me take a couple of months of unpaid leave, especially given the rest of my department have been leaving in droves and there is a hiring freeze. Long story short, I spent 3 months almost exclusively being creative and making felt. It was heaven and just what I needed! 

2. Taking 3 months off work was a bit of a cheat here but I was doing pretty well on this one, averaging 2 or 3 pieces per week. Towards the end of the year I set myself an additional goal of listing 90 items on Etsy by Thanksgiving, it was close but I did it and my sales have increased in the last quarter but I can't be sure if that was due to the Crimbo rush or my increased presence on the site.

3.  I did scout out a few craft fairs and was shocked to find that fair organisers will charge upwards from £20 but provide very little or no advertising (they apparently expect the stallholders to do that for them!). I felt really sorry for the handful of jewellery sellers at one fair, quietly waiting for customers to arrive. Needless to say I didn't sign up to those fairs. Of the events I did sell at, those I attended with my local Guild of Spinners and Weavers were the most enjoyable and lowest risk (they just ask for 10% of any sales, so no sales = no charge).

4. Regular readers of this blog will already know I did achieve my C&G qualification and received my certificates in November. It was an interesting course and I learned a lot and did some strange things with paper and card that I am sure I would never have done if left to my own devices. I also feel blessed to have spent 3 days with Yvonne Habbe in May and 6 weeks with Fiona Duthie in October her online SDO course. Both are excellent and generous teachers, and come highly recommended. I would like to study feltmaking further but think I would benefit from more face to face teaching. 

5. July was a struggle with only 2 posts but most other months my enthusiasm for blogging has shone through and this blog reached its centenary just a few weeks after it's first birthday (that's an average of nearly 2 posts per week). This goal has had the unexpected benefit of pushing me to make time to be creative, even when I feel overwhelmed by the rest of my life and just want to curl up into a ball, knowing that I needed something creative to share on my blog has proved to be a useful tool to drag myself out of self pity. On a related note, and after much encouragement from friends I finally set up a Facebook page too. So now I have 2 portals to keep me out of the doldrums :)

The New Year is just round the corner, I need to put my thinking cap on and decide what goals I would like to reach in 2015. What are your goals? Where would you like to be in 12 months' time?

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

New Nunofelt Top Design

A couple of weeks ago a friend from my day job approached me and asked if I would make a top for her. We had a bit of chat about what colours she liked and what shape the top would have. She was clearly besotted with the dress I was wearing at the time:

This front panel of this dress is parfait dyed haboti silk. This became the basis of her top.

Instead of just having a panel of silk we thought it would be interesting to cover the entire top with silk so I set about dyeing a few metres of haboti in similar colours to the dress:

Then set about laying out the silk and wool over a template cut to Karin's measurements.

The wool colours were graduated from white at the top to chocolate brown at the bottom.

After lots of rolling, massaging and throwing, the wool started to contract and the silk puckered.

I added a few darts to help with the shaping, these photos were taken at the second fitting, I think it looks beautiful already but will add a couple more small darts around the collar.

I'm chuffed to bits with how this top has turned out. The silk has the most beautiful sheen (the photos really don't do it justice) that gives the top a luxurious look without being "in your face" bling. I'm already planning a purple version as a Christmas present to myself, and Karin has asked for another with a 3/4 length sleeve... I guess I will be a little busy for the next few weeks!

Wishing you all a wonderful, woolly Christmas and Happy New year!

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Kittens Playing in the Twilight

Last weekend I started work on a long-sleeved top, Galina (aka Felicity) very helpfully suggested this site on the Felting and Fibre Forum as a possible solution to the "baggy armpit" problem I encountered with my jacket.

It looked like an interesting approach so I gave it a go.
laying out the first layer of roving over some dyed cotton scrim

Adding the sleeves
This was where it started to become challenging, although I had laid out the wool on the inside of the sleeve before laying it on the body, I had to carefully fold plastic between the layers of wool, cotton and resist to prevent the front of the sleeve felting to the back and closing the armholes.

Adding some prefelt kittens
The colour of the wool reminded me of the light you get at twilight so I added some playful kitten silhouettes. By adding the black trim along the bottom this longish top became a short dress but I think it looks great with a pair of black leggings and knee-high boots.

This is the wool I used, it contains a small amount of white tussah silk so the finished dress has a subtle sheen to it.

The new sleeve method didn't really work as planned; there were several holes where the sleeves joined the body when I first remove the resist. Not a big problem, a little bit of needle felting soon resolved that.

No matter how much I worked and fulled the armpits the arm holes were ENORMOUS. I had to resort to lots of tucks and darts to make the dress fit. It was a lot more work than I expected but I think it was worth it in the end and the colour is a delightful bluish purple.

All is not lost though, Nada posted another option for making sleeves on the forum, so that will keep me out of mischief over Crimbo :)

Friday, 12 December 2014

Woolly Shipment

My wool order finally arrived today, it should have been here on Wednesday but it appears the Interlink drivers aren't capable of following their sat navs. Interlink have a really nice system where you can watch your driver going from drop to drop as it counts down to your delivery. For 2 days running I watched the driver come within 50 yards of my address only to click "cannot deliver / cannot locate address". Utterly exasperating!!! I can't help but wonder if he was behind schedule so couldn't be bothered to stop?

Anyway, here is my bag of woolly goodness :)

The large white bags are merino and corriedale top, most of which I plan to dye, above them are some commercial merino and silk blends, a bit of a novelty for me as I normally blend my own. The dark grey in the centre is Gotland, it always amazes me how heavy and dense Gotland is, this parcel is 500g, most of the others are only 200g but are a similar volume. 

I have already started to play with some of the merino/silk blends, I chose the purple-blue mix for starters:

And have been laying out over some cotton scrim I dyed yesterday:

I am trying out a new design for the sleeve attachments after making a jacket last week. If it doesn't work this top will go from being long-sleeved to a vest :)

This is the jacket, I love it and have worn it every day this week but feel there is a bit too much fabric in the armpits, while this allows great freedom of movement I think it looks a bit bulky when my arms are down, hence the experiment to find alternative designs.

Here are some more shots of the blue-green top this time on the mannequin so you can see the shape.

This fuzzy effect was created by needle-felting green merino through from the reverse side. I rather like it, it reminds me of lichen.

Linking up to nina-marieoff the wall Friday

Friday, 5 December 2014

A new Nuno-Felted Top

Last Sunday was our monthly get together for the Sonning Common Felters. After the success (and aching muscles) of my nuno dress I really wanted to try a nuno-felted top using different decorative techniques.

I started with some rainbow dyed silk chiffon (I'm afraid I forgot to take photos but it was a mottled green, yellow and blue). I folded the chiffon over the same resist I used for the dress and laid a very fine layer of green and blue merino over the top. Over one should I laid a diamond pattern resist with more wool over the top of that.

I have added a couple of darts and some top stitching around the neckline with the sewing machine but that was all that was necessary to get the shape and fit I wanted.

I'm really pleased with how the resist has worked and am totally besotted with this electric blue wool (it is a new colour World of Wool have just started to stock). You can expect to see this making more appearances in my felt... :)

Some close-ups of the diamond pattern:

And close-ups of the chiffon peeking through the wool, it's lovely how it has puckered up as the wool shrank.

Linking up to nina-marieoff the wall Friday

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Guildford Soroptomists

If you are anything like me you are probably thinking "soropto-what?"

I first encountered the soropotmists through a friend's post on Facebook a few weeks ago and promptly went off to look them up. It turns out they are a charitable organisation focussed on empowering and enabling women across the globe. While the Western world has seen the benefits of the suffragette movement and decades of feminism, although we may sometimes feel less valued than our male counterparts, there are dozens of countries where women really are still treated as second class citizens and the soroptomists have made it their goal to help these women.

If you would like to know more about the soroptomists you can access their website here.

Purely by accident, I was looking through listings of upcoming craft fairs trying to identify the ones that I would like to attend and noticed that the Guildford soroptomists are organising a fair in a village hall not too far from here. Their table price is a little more than I would usually pay but when I discovered the proceeds from this fair are going towards the Ebola crisis in West Africa, it was a no-brainer for me.

If you are in the area I would love to see you there, approx 30 stallholders selling home made food and gifts will be there supporting this cause:

10 am to 4 pm Sat 29th Nov at, Cranleigh Village Hall, High St, Cranleigh, Surrey GU6 8AF

On a more light-hearted note, I shared this picture with you last time and asked what you thought it might be:

Ruth was the closest, it is indeed a pod. I had some hand-dyed silk left over after completing my dress a couple of weeks ago and it was so pretty I wanted to use it rather than resign it to my inspiration bag. I settled on making a decorated pod. This is the result, it's about 25 cm (10") across:

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Fingerless gloves

This week I have made a start on something that has been on my to-do list for over a month. I have several Christmas markets coming up and fingerless gloves have been popular at previous events so I wanted to make some more.

Obviously they need to be strokably soft, so I decided to use some hand dyed alpaca I had left over from another project and combined it with some lovely merino for the green and orange pairs.

Here they are after laying out the fibres.

And once dry:

I also made a "rainbow" pair from merino, they are a little bit shorter than I planned but are quite wide so will suit larger hands.

And I started this piece too - can you guess what it is yet?

Linking up to nina-marieoff the wall Friday