Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Dyed Wool and Fibres

A few weeks ago, I decided to dye some wool and fibres. I used up quite a lot of my dyed texturey wools when making batts recently, so I wanted to to restock those and thought I'd do a few fibres while i was making a mess. I ended up having to do it over three days, and it made a right mess, but it was worth it in the end :) I bought some white Kent Romney lambswool to try for adding texture, I had a little bit of scoured Falkland fleece left over too so added that:

I've bought commercially dyed silk noil before, but it really isn't good compared to the small amount I dyed once, so I thought I'd give that another go:

I also dyed some Tussah Silk tops - a good tip for anyone wanting to dye small amounts of fibre tops is to separate the amount you want to dye while the tops are dry, and soak them separately, it isn't easy when they're wet!

I used the same shades to dye some Soy top as I had on the Silk, and though they look similar, they soy definitely looks a lot shinier:

Neither of them come close to the colours and shine of the Milk though, but I did do these on a separate day and they weren't the same lot of dyes:

At the last minute I decided I wanted to dye some Gotland, Teeswater and Wensleydale locks. These were all raw, unwashed, so the night before my last lot of dyeing I gave some locks a shampoo and rinse. This is the Gotland:

I do have some more stuff waiting to be photographed, some Bluefaced Leicester wool and locks, soy staple fibre and carded lambswool, I'll add those to my 'supplies' album on flickr when I get good enough light. The last one I've got for now is Trilobal Nylon (sometimes labelled as 'Firestar' and sold at exorbitant prices) cheap nylon tops. The photo hasn't really picked it up, but it has a lot of sparkle and these dyed really well:

 If anyone is interested in dyeing smallish amounts of fibres, I did a small tutorial on it a while ago: http://feltingandfiberstudio.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/direct-dyeing1.pdf  luckily this time, I had my fold out table for a larger work area!  I used acid dyes which are good for protein fibres (animal fibres, soy, milk, silk, and nylon too as it is a synthetic version of silk). I have tried it on bamboo before too and got some nice, pale results, so it's worth trying a sample or two :)   

I did a 'Year End Round Up' post on the Felting and Fiber Studio today, having a look back over things I've made this past year. What did you enjoy making this year? Come and add to our discussion on the forum.

Monday, 22 December 2014

4th Quarter Studio Challenge - Land Art

Every quarter we have a challenge on the Felting and Fiber Studio site. As December is coming to an end, I didn't think I'd ever find time to do the 4th Quarter Challenge. When I chose Land Art, I thought it had a really good scope for some interesting felt sculptures. I really liked the work of artists using twigs and branches, whether they were abstract, patterns, designed by colour, or like Tom Hare's work in willow, sculptures of plants, leaves, seeds, or even a sliced apple. I really liked this lotus seed head: http://www.tomhare.net/files/cache/6241679806767b541ec85e7977677c16_f44.jpg

I had a vague idea of what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it. Something sculptural based on the things I'd seen with holes and stems and curves. I even thought I might do a series. Well, time was running out and I hadn't started, and I was thinking about what I could do to take part that wouldn't take as much time. For a few weeks I've had a piece of felt with a balloon inside, hanging in my living room doorway, it was the result of me thinking I'd try felting a winter woolly hat, and it ended up looking more like the start of a balaclava or fetish mask! So, I thought I'd improvise and use that. It wasn't far off the shape I'd pictured, and though I would have preferred to work with wet felt not fulled, I thought it was worth a try. So, I started cutting, wetting and shaping, and I was happy to see it was starting to look interesting! I rinsed it and put another balloon in to keep its shape while it dried. I thought it looked really good, it was nice and firm and kept it's shape without the balloon. I attached some string to get a photo, and this is what I saw when it spun around:

A ribcage! My fancy felt sculpture was meant to look plant-like, but it looked like a carcass! I took the string off and put it on the table, but it sunk a bit and that didn't look less dead either!:

I reshaped it, the way it was meant to be, and that looked much better! I know it doesn't look like any plant or seed in particular, I wasn't copying anything, I just had a vague idea of shape, lines and holes:

Different angle:

It does look much better hung up, less flat and more round. While I was messing around taking photos, I stood it upside down and squashed it, and that looked really interesting!:

Saturday, 20 December 2014

2015 Diaries

If you're stuck for a last minute present I've just added a load of handmade felt diary covers at special prices to my etsy shop. If you are in the UK and order this weekend, I can get them in the post on Monday and fingers crossed they'll arrive by Wednesday. (I obviously can't guarantee that though).

 You can still order them in time for the New Year to do your resolutions, though! They come with 2015 UK diaries, so special dates and listings are relevant to the UK, but the days are still the same! So if you're overseas and don't care about Saint's days, bank holidays or the Queen's birthday or other stuff they put in diaries, I've included overseas postage prices too.

 The diaries are standard A5 size, and the covers are removable, so you can replace the diary each year. Or swap it for a standard thick A5 notebook/journal etc.

Because they are big, they are quite heavy, so overseas postage is a bit pricey. I you are interested in just the cover, contact me on etsy or facebook and I can weigh the cover without the diary and adjust the price/postage. 

There are 7 altogether

 Last one:


Saturday, 6 December 2014

Plaid and New Nuno

I didn't get a chance to do a blog post last week, so this is a longer one than usual. A few years ago, I tried a kind of plaid design felt, which ended up recently being made into a diary cover. I thought I'd give it another go, put a bit more thought into it. I thought I'd laid the wool out thinly enough to work how I wanted, but it's not as see through as I'd imagined. It still turned out alright though.

I blended some fine 18.5 micron Merino recently to make a scarf for my Dad for Christmas. I used what was left of a blue/purple/green blend I'd made for another scarf, and ran it through the drum carder with more green. This is one of the batts:

I had to go into town on Wednesday, so I wanted to try out a scarf I'd bought from a shop there when I last went, so I could see if it was worth getting more, since they were only £1 each. The batts I made for my Dad's scarf were the perfect colour so I 'borrowed' some of them to try a piece out:

It's probably just over a third of the size of a full scarf, or a full sized small collar:

It made a really nice texture, which is a shame because the shop had shut down recently :(

And, of course, a supermacro:

Those of you who go on the Felting and Fiber forum will have seen this piece, it's a sample I made using some georgette fabric I got from Abakhan last time:

I knew from other similar fabrics I've used that it would only attach loosely, the weave isn't particularly open, and one part of the bottom edge didn't attach at all. Even though I was fairly certain it would felt like it did, I like to just try a sample on top without wisps etc at first to get a good idea of how it felts, sometimes fabrics like this attach well around the edge if they are quite frayed.

I haven't decided what I'll use it for yet, but I did make it big enough to make a coin/zipper purse out of, I thought that might look nice.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Felt Rainbow and Yak Sample

In my last post, I had a photo of a  rainbow piece I'd laid out for felting, I reworked the green and yellow part a little bit then felted it.

I'd used a top layer of drum carded batts I'd made from texturey wool, so the surface has an interesting texture:

Supermacro showing one of the wool locks:

I got a World of Wool order last week. One of the things I ordered was de-haired Yak fibre. A while ago, Marilyn sent me some Yak fibre to try and I loved it before I even felted it, it was so soft! After felting it, I knew I had to get enough to make a scarf, so ordered some. That was before I spent three hours on my knees making a scarf and vowing never again! :)  I realised a few days ago though, I have an old door I can put over my table, which should do for scarf making until I find something better. So, I thought I should make a sample to work out shrinkage and see if my Yak feels as good as Marilyns. I laid out two fine layers, which is not as easy as laying out Merino. I added some of Marilyn's fibre as surface decoration:

Sorry the pictures aren't great again, but this is it after felting. I haven't worked out the shrinkage rate yet (I had accounts to do this week and have had enough of maths!) but there wasn't much, it started out 20cm x 66cm and ended up 18.5 x 61.5cm. This is after felting:

And this is a slightly better photo of it close up.

My girlfriend (who has never felted in her life, but has no idea how much useless felting info she has absorbed) said the way it felted in soft ripples reminded her of Karakul. (just the felt, not the slaughtered/skinned lambskin hats/coats) In case you've missed it, The Felting and Fiber Studio site is having 3rd birthday celebration posts all week, with all 4 of us hosting giveaways.

Ruth's post was 1st, you have until the 24th if you'd like to win a copy of her book 'The Complete Photo Guide to Felting' . Just leave a comment on her post via this link: http://feltingandfiberstudio.com/2014/11/17/happy-birthday-give-away-1/

Ann is giving away one of her Workshops in a bag - full instructions and everything you need to make a nuno felt bracelet. You have until the 25th to enter by leaving a comment on the post: http://feltingandfiberstudio.com/2014/11/19/happy-birthday-giveaway-2/

I'll be doing my giveaway tomorrow, and Marilyn will be doing hers two days later :)

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Batts, a Rainbow and a Scarf

Firstly, I'd just like to say thanks for the comments and suggestions on my last post, they were really appreciated.  After a lot of thought about Social Media, especially after a comment and advice from Leonor on The Felting and Fiber Studio, I caved in and made a Facebook page   https://www.facebook.com/pages/Felt-by-Zed/867287306648868  There's nothing there yet, I'm still trying to work out how to follow people etc, so if you have any tips, helpful hints etc, they are very welcome. Also, what's the 'etiquette' on groups, can you just 'join' ones you like, or follow or whatever it is, or should you be invited?

I wanted something soothing and relaxing which didn't require much looking after doing lots of sewing, so I thought I'd make some batts. I made them all a bit different, some with just different shades of Merino and some matching fibres, some had a lot of texturey wools blended in and I made a couple with lots of different fibres , shades and textures.

I also made some single colour textured batts to use on rainbow pieces, these didn't photograph very well because there wasn't much colour difference and it's been really dark here the last couple of days. I did use them on this piece though, I'm going to add a little more green to where the yellow blends into the green, I don't think the band is quite so defined in real life, but it does look like it needs more green on this photo.

I finally got around to making a scarf yesterday. It took all week to 'prepare' for it as I had to do it on the hall floor, so cleaning the hall floor, working out shrinkage, drawing out the template, etc. When I did get around to it, I was regretting it an hour in. 2 hours in I was regretting ordering 4 more packs of 18mic Merino last week thinking I'd get into scarves for a bit. 3 hours in I just wanted to curl up on the pillow I was using for my knees and have a nap. Today, every time I look over at my scarf and think 'Ooh, it was worth it though' every muscle in my body disagrees :)  I do like it though. I couldn't get a very good photo, I'm afraid. Like I said, it's really dark here, and the blue and purple are quite dark, and my camera seemed dazzled by the shininess of the silk. So, this will have to do for now:

I started with a template 25 cm wide and 200cm long (roughly 10 x 79 inches). I did alternate sections of purple and blue for the first layer, then the opposite colours on top for the second layer. I then added some matching colours of silk to the top, then contrasting colours:

It finished up being  19 x 176cm or 7.5 x 69 inches. It weighs 55g

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Advice Wanted and Some New Items

I did my 2nd proper craft fair on Sunday, and I don't know if my expectations have been too high, but this one didn't go very well either. I was lucky enough to cover the cost of the stall by selling quite a few greetings cards and felted soap, but apart from some nice comments and a lot of people stroking my felt pieces, there wasn't much real interest.

After the last fair I talked it over with my girlfriend and with others on the forum, and came to the conclusion that my stuff isn't instantly recognisable as handmade felt or even made from wool to the average person, and also that people need encouragement to see the versatility of items. In preparation, I made some felt using lots of natural wools with locks and texture to make into Diary covers, and lots of display cards with info about all the items and ideas for uses.

I'm kind of stuck now knowing what to do. I've spent the last few years trying to find a way to possibly eke out a living  and establish a business from felting/fibre art. I do have limited opportunities because of health problems; I don't have the time or energy to promote/market myself on Facebook or other social media and do all the 'networking' needed either online or in real life, and can't get out and about. Even all the work involved in listing for etsy and having to go out to post any potential sales (not that experience has shown there would be many) seems like a lot of wasted time and effort for little return. Also, because of not being financially secure, I can't just take risks and keep wasting time, energy and money on trying new things which ultimately fail. It's really quite demoralising too.

One thing I have learnt is that when people are looking to treat themselves, they don't want 'practical', they want silly, frivolous or a bit of luxury. So, novelty items, gimicks, things that are trendy at the moment (moustaches, owls, 50's whimsy) seem to win over well made and affordable.

So, now I'm stuck with a load of diaries which will soon be out of date - I could always put notebooks in, but notebooks are even more practical; lots of camera cases, which are useless because everyone has a smartphone with a camera on, and lots of pieces of felt which everyone agrees 'would look great on the wall' but can't think of anyone whose wall they could buy it for :)

So, does anyone have any suggestions where to go from here? Is anyone the owner of a gift shop selling artisan gifts who wants to pay me a living wage for well made items? Or maybe I should cut up my phone cases and make lots of greetings cards or just start felting cosies and covers for everything I own and stop inflicting my tat on the world? :)

All suggestions gratefully welcome, especially humorous ones!

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Recent Work

I mentioned recently that I'm doing a Craft Fair soon. It's this coming Sunday at Victoria Baths on Hathersage Road in Manchester. They also do guided tours that day, so if you're interested, have a look at their website.
In my post last time, I showed a faintly plaid felt piece which I'd started to make into a diary cover. Here is the finished cover:

I also mentioned a piece of silk I got for £3 a metre. I did manage to use it on a felt piece, but i haven't made it into a cover yet. It looked a bit nicer and brighter just before the final fulling, but I wanted to make sure it would stand up to years of handling:

I don't know if you remember a couple of pictures I posted as part of the Felting and Fiber Studio site's Jackson Pollock challenge from a bag I was working on, well, I never did get around to finishing the bag, and when I saw it recently, I thought I could cut it up and turn it into a nice sturdy diary cover. So, I did :)  This is the front:

And, this is the back:

I always forget just how long it takes to do those covers! Also, because I didn't have any coloured threads which I thought would be just right, I 'blended' my own. I took a strand each of Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue and Violet embroidery floss and made a 6 strand rainbow. I had to do that for each part I stitched, and I was starting to regret it by the end :) 

One of the things I wondered after the last fair was whether it was obvious that my stuff was actually handmade felt made from real wool. A lot of my stuff is well felted or nuno felt, so to anyone who doesn't know felt, it could just be commercial fabric I've bought. So I thought I would make some obviously wool natural pieces for book covers. They are made from lots of different breeds of wool and embellished with locks, some mohair boucle from Marilyn, some silk noil, and viscose and bamboo. This one has the most added embellishments:

I did actually use the same size template for these pieces, but with all the different wools and embellishments there was different shrinkage. For this piece, I tried to stick to wools which were more similar: Merino, Bluefaced Leicester, Finn and Corriedale, and there are less embellishments:

If I get chance before the fair, I'll upload the finished covers to ipernity or the forum.http://feltandfiberstudio.proboards.com/

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Sewing and Bargains

I'm doing another Craft Fair at the beginning of November so I wanted to make a few diary covers. This usually involves my desk getting covered with embroidery threads, and the only exception this time was that I decided to tidy them up too. I made cardboard 'bobbins' for some of them and spent ages untangling and winding and then putting duplicate spares in a bag. Then a couple of days later I decided to clear some more drawers and spread the threads out a bit, make them even tideier and easy to choose. These are all the drawers:

One of the pieces I'm using for a book cover is a piece I made years ago. I wanted to see if I could make a subtle plaid design by laying out bold stripes of colours on my two layers, it was more subtle than I thought, but I like it. I've cut to size and sewn the inside pocket edges so far:

You might remember this next piece from when I tried some commercial pre-felt from Heidi Feathers. The silk hadn't attached in a couple of places so I added blanket stitch, then decided to add some more simple stitching in the blocks of colour. I'm still working on this, and have added a bit more since I took the photo:

I went in to Manchester city centre this week, which I don't often do, so made the most of it looking for bargains. I found a couple of elasticated summer dresses for £1 each so got them because I liked the pattern, they were only tiny though, so once I cut the top off, the bottom was a bit bigger than a pillow case, but well worth £1!

In the same shop (Primark) I treated myself to a 'scarf' because I liked the pattern, it's actually the size of a door!

I saw this scarf in a bargain shop and thought I'd see if it nuno felts well:

And, I couldn't go to town without a trip to Abakhan fabric shop, where I got some more braiding:

And probably the best bargain of the day, I found a roll of silk fabric, down from £10 a metre to £3, so I had to get some :)