Tuesday, 14 July 2015

I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles...

...Pretty bubbles in the air.

Sorry, I will stop singing now [sheepish look]

Over on the Felting and Fiber Studio Forum, there was some confusion between washing soda, soda ash and bicarbonate of soda / baking soda. This last one got me thinking, bicarb will raise the pH (as do the other 2) but being a raising agent should create some bubbles when wet too - I wondered what effects could be achieved with the dye forming patterns around the bubbles?

So I devised a little experiment...

Firstly I wetted out some cotton strips with soda ash and urea solution and tried to create bubbles by different methods:

  • bicarbonate of soda
  • baking power (this contains bicarbonate of soda along with other things)
  • washing up liquid (frothed up)
  • no bubbles (this was the control - aren't I a good little scientist? :) )
I dripped procion dye solution over the bubbles.

These 2 are the bicarb and baking soda - overall rather disappointing, neither of them really produced any bubbles (perhaps my stocks are too old?).

The washing up liquid was more promising though:
At least there were bubbles, even if all the dye ran round the side of the bubbles and spread across the fabric. The right hand side was a slightly different approach, I mixed the dye with some washing up liquid, frothed it up and applied it.

These are the rinsed and dried samples in the same order, with the control at the end:

Well that didn't work as I hoped it would, back to the drawing board....

I concluded the washing up liquid might still work but if I used dry fabric the dye would be less likely to spread.

I soaked some cotton and silk in soda ash solution, wrung it out (but didn't rinse it) and allowed to dry. 

After a bit of practice I found creating a small pile of dye-free bubbles and then carefully piling a few bubbles mixed with dye was the most effective approach. Less (dye) is definitely more.

Although the silk looked promising at the bubble stage, unfortunately the dye spread across the fibres a little too easily I ended up with splodges again.

The cotton was better though with some really pretty patterns:

Saturday, 11 July 2015


It's been a busy week but my challenge piece is finally finished! :)

Since my last post I added some embroidery to sharpen up the edges of the orange prefelts. First I had to choose some threads, I'm a big fan of the Gutterman Sulky threads for machine embroidery, they are reliably strong and have a lovely sheen that looks wonderful next to felt.

I started with the orange stripes in the top left quadrant.

I'm really pleased with the colour blending of the threads and the beautiful 3D effect you get from this style of stitching on felt.

Of course, it's impossible to stop at one small area when you start with free motion embroidery....

 When I went to bed it looked like this:

When I woke up this morning I looked at it again and took it back to the sewing machine - spot the differences....

I have been planning to hang this piece on stretcher bars from the start. Most of my felt hangings are sturdy enough to stretch directly over the frame but this one is a bit finer, it might be alright but I don't think it is worth risking it stretching and sagging in the middle so I hand stitched some poplin cotton to the back for extra support:

Before stretching it over the bars ready for hanging:

Finally some close ups from the finished hanging:

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Q3 Challenge Part 3

Before I went to bed last night I laid out some prefelt shapes made from the carded batts, and not one to waste anything, a few of the discs cut from the silk cocoons too.

I am loving the orange against the blue (I knew I would) but now I am worrying that the colours will all blend together as the piece is fulled. Thinking about it, I have unwittingly managed to include all the primary and secondary colours from the colour wheel except red, I'm quietly praying it doesn't turn into a muddy brown mess.... :(

Starting to fix the design, I rather like how the bubbles and plastic overlay the design underneath, the stark lines are created by the silk cocoon bumps.

Removing the plastic to rearrange some of the prefelts that have moved while rubbing

After lots more rubbing and a bit of throwing I gingerly opened up the cocoons, some of them had rotated so that the holes I had so neatly cut to let the dye in were no longer at the top.

I'm a little bit disappointed the edges to the orange prefelts have gone rather fuzzy (I should have made the prefelt firmer before cutting it up) but I think I can visually sharpen them back up with a bit of machine embroidery.

Some close ups of the felt while it is still drying:

I love how this cocoon produced a tail of loose silk as I opened it up:

Next time, adding some embroidery and thinking about how to hang / frame it.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Q3 Challenge Part 2

I have been spending every spare minute working on my challenge piece, and unusually for me, I have been remembering to take lots of photos so you can follow the journey of the piece. In my last post I shared photos of the carded batts and dyed silks and yarns, well, this is story of what became of them...

Laying out a two-tone merino base

Laying out the batts over the base

Adding silk cocoons and wetting out the growing pile of fibre to regain some control before adding some strips of hand-dyed silk
I like the bumps at this stage, it's like the felt is pregnant and waiting to pop out lots of little felt babies :)

Close ups of all the lovely textures

Adding some yarns to lead the eye around the hanging

And some splashes of yellow chiffon and a few more bumps

I made some prefelts out of the left over batts and plan to incorporate those, there's still a way to go but it's definitely making progress. Unfortunately an irresistible distraction was waiting for me on the door mat this afternoon, so I'm not sure how much further it will get this evening...

And none other than our very own Lyn and Annie of Rosiepink have an article in this copy too :)