Monday, 21 December 2015

Happy Holidays!

Although I haven't been able to blog much recently I have been working! Below are a selection of pieces I have been working on over the last few weeks...

These are a few brooches / pins inspired by a session with the Region 2 IFA ladies, they are just so much fun to make and one of the few things I can make relaxing in front of the TV :)

I finally finished the icicles / snowy night wall hanging that I started nearly a year ago! This is a fairly large piece, measuring approx 3ft x 2 ft.

I finished (and photographed) a new pair of gloves. I don't know about you but I seem to be waiting for days if not weeks for enough daylight to take photos this month. Roll on spring!

The fishy reef nuno felt made a reappearance from the UFO box too, this is how it looked a few months ago.

Just adding some darker blue tones where the reef meets the water made a world of difference to the sense of perspective.

Then I got a bit paint happy...

It still needs some work, but it's making progress, I foresee a trip to the sewing machine to add some tiny fish in the distance....

Some dyeing, the red and orange wool is corriedale that I expect will become a bag. The blues are merino which I have carded into batts and plan to use with the blue variegated blue silk pictured below.

My technique for variegated dyeing is totally random, I just scrunch up handfuls of fabric and stuff it into a bag, hence I was surprised to see a distinct pattern on this piece of silk:

I'm hoping to make a dress from the blue materials and combine it with some screen printing techniques from Ruth's online class in January (click here for more information). If I can get the idea in my head to work, I plan to submit this dress to the Spinners Weavers and Dyers National Exhibition next year (no pressure Ruth! ;) )

Whatever your faith or denomination I hope you have a wonderful break, filled with fun activities and surrounded by the people you love.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Sewer's Friends

This week I have been making a selection of "sewer's friends", essentially a cross between a pin cushion and a felt bowl, I have a larger one of these and find it invaluable when working with beads; the bowl part keeps the beads under control and I can thread up a few needles in the pin cushion, all ready to go.

I also started a waistcoat / gilet / vest using some more of Zara's Gotland locks, more on that next time...

Friday, 6 November 2015

Gotland Locks - Messenger Bag or Backpack?

Zara from Sweeden is selling some absolutely gorgeous Gotland locks on the forum, if you are quick there may still be some left! Of course I couldn't resist and now they have arrived I'm so glad I didn't, they are soooo shiny and soft!

Now I have Gotland locks from 4 different sheep (2 from Zara and 2 from UK sources) so its high time I did something with them. I decided to make a messenger bag using the same Gotland resist technique I used on a cat cave a couple of weeks ago.

I used a couple of layers of Corriedale and laid out some pockets over a resist before adding 2 layers of Gotland tops, my plastic resists and some vibrantly blue merino on the outside.

I only used the locks on the front flap and used a mix from all 4 fleeces as they varied from black/white to grey and almost jet black and are different lengths.

It's interesting to see the Gotland invade the coarse Corriedale wool too:
Only the pockets remained white where the resists prevented the Gotland from going walkabout.

Where the resists were placed between the Gotland and merino the blue of the merino can still be seen.

The blue colour was brightened by a little bit of shaving.

It was interesting how the Gotland shrank (fulled) more than the merino, causing the merino to pucker slightly:

The locks were a little bit matted after I had finished fulling the bag so I combed them out which made some of them go rather fluffy, I used some leave in hair conditioner to try to tame them. Have you ever tried to hair products on your wool?

This is quite a large bag, about 40 cm wide by 40 cm high, now I have to decide what handles / strap to put on it. I was toying with the idea of an adjustable shoulder strap made from felt ropes but now I am leaning towards back-pack style straps, simply because it is so large it will weigh a tonne when I have filled it with everything bar the kitchen sink. What do you think?

Monday, 2 November 2015

Stained Glass Felt Hanging

The lovely Ruth Lane from the Felting and Fiber Studio Forum is creating a book of contemporary designs and posted a request for interpretations of a couple of designs in different art forms, this is my interpretation of the Nature design in nuno felt.

I started by increasing the size of Ruth's pdf on a photocopier to make it more manageable for felt and traced that design onto the dull side of some freezer paper. This was ironed onto a piece of black prefelt.

Then cut out the internal sections to leave a black felt frame. I wetted out the prefelt to help the silk pieces stay in place.

Then I started laying out pieces of hand dyed silk chiffon, trimmed so that they overlapped the black prefelt.

Once all the cut-out areas had been covered with silk, I laid a piece of white prefelt over the back, if you want to hang your piece in a window so that it will be seen from both sides you can carefully place black wool over the chiffon edges to cover them.

When I flipped it over the freezer paper was still attached to the front, this was very carefully removed so as not to pull the black prefelt out of position.

Then I gently rubbed the surface through some decorator's plastic to fix the silk and wool into position before rolling it.

Take care to check the prefelt has not moved off the silks after every 100 rolls.

The finished wall hanging:

I think it looks a lot like looking through a window into a garden full of vines. I'm toying with the idea of adding some embroidery and squaring up the frame but I also quite like it as it is and don't want to ruin it! What would you do?

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Effect of Gotland on Merino

A recent discussion on the Felting and Fiber Forum reminded me of a technique I haven't used for a while, it relies the quality of some coarser wools to migrate through (engulf) finer wools, Gotland is a good example of this.

For this cat cave I laid out 3 layers of Gotland, some thin plastic resist in a scroll pattern and 2 layers of teal merino.

Here you can see the Gotland already starting to invade the merino after just 100 rolls:

The pattern on the finished cave before shaving, the Gotland has engulfed the merino except where the plastic resist was placed (even there it has tried to migrate over the merino (it really is the Japanese Bind Weed of the wool world):

And after shaving:

This is the resist and the finished cave, it shrank just a little during the fulling!
The finished cave is about 60 cm across.

Friday, 23 October 2015

Embellish Stitch and Felt Book Review

Does anyone else take the approach of thinking of how much you are saving rather than how much you are spending when you see a sale?

Last week  I was a little bit naughty, I found a Simplicity embellisher on Amazon, reduced from £300 to £100, normally I am a bit sceptical when I see such discounts and think they have previously hyper-inflated the price just so they can offer incredible "discounts" but a quick look around the internet revealed £300 is the standard price for an embellisher and it appears this particular model is about to be superseded, hence the reduced price.

Acknowledging that I know almost nothing about using these machines I bought a book at the same time, Sheila Smith's Embellish, Stitch, Felt, Using the embellisher machine and needle punch techniques.

These are my thoughts on the book....

First of all the likes:
  • She presents a couple of unusual ideas for "materials" to use, although the majority are rather predictable.
  • The initial "getting used to your machine" projects are well explained
  • There are some beautiful and inspiring photos.
  • She offers some useful tips on how to avoid breaking the needles.
  • The section on creating tucks and folds is interesting and has me reaching for my fabric manipulation manual.
  • There are some basic wet felting instructions, I think it is useful to create your own prefelts as backing fabric / embellishments.

The disappointments:
  • She says you cannot turn the fabric while embellishing, this isn't true, so long as the needles are moving at a reasonable speed you can move the fabric in any direction, including turning it.
  • I was left with the impression that Sheila had only been using her machine for a couple of weeks when she wrote this book.
  • Although she talks about shading by needling from the reverse side, there was no mention of adding a different colour to the back and needling through to produce colour mixing on the front. I consider myself to be a complete novice so thought this was a very obvious omission.
  • I would have liked to see more samples showing the effect of the embellisher on different fabrics and materials. 
  • For those expecting an element of "stitch" as the title suggests, I think you will be disappointed, there are only a handful of photos showing pieces that have been stitched and there are no explanations accompanying the few examples there are.
  • There is a brief section about fibre reactive dyeing but no mention of acid dyeing, given that most of the projects recommend prefelt as the base and yarns for decoration I find this a bit odd.
  • The 3 projects in the back of the book, a bowl, a lattice scarf and a bag recycled from a jumper did not inspire me at all, only the scarf looked like it had been made by an adult.
Overall a good starter book for a complete novice but anyone who has used an embellisher before will probably be disappointed.

My intial thoughts on on the Simplicity 12-needle embellisher:
  • The throat plate has an individual hole for each needle - this is good because it means the fabric / wool does not get pushed through the plate.
  • It doesn't have a finish with the needles up facility - this is a bit of a pain because you have to turn the hand wheel to bring them up before you can move the fabric.
  • The presser foot will not raise more than 5 mm making it really difficult to feed 2 layers of medium weight prefelt under the needles. While I appreciate it's not wise to feed multiple layers through at once, you really should be able to feed 2 layers of felt at once.
  • You can use anywhere between 1 and 12 needles, the latter allows really quick coverage of large projects.
  • Each needle can be replaced individually, I understand there are some machines that expect you to replace the entire head when you break the needles.
  • The replacement needles are quite expensive (about £2 each).
  • The machine is small and light-weight, the carry handle on the top makes it very transportable.
These are the results of my first experiments with the embellisher, I can see it being most helpful using up my thicker fabric remnants and the synthetic organzas that don't nuno felt that well. Some of the fabrics in these pieces have metallic qualities that catch the light very nicely.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Productive Weekend

It's not quite finished but now the sleeves are attached the hooded jacket looks a lot closer to finished.



It just needs a button and some top stitching down the front and it is finished

Yesterday I made another cat-eating fish, cat cave from some hand-dyed Corriedale.

Feeling inspired by this pine cone:

I made a bowl:

And I finally finished these 2 scarves, originially I put a rolled hem on these but did not like the finish so removed the hems, reshaped the scarves and felted the edges to stop them from fraying.

The silk is still very shiny, the photos really don't do it justice at all.

What have you been up to?