Sunday, 28 April 2013

Inexpensive Fabrics

Quite a few of the visitors to my blog and the Felting and Fiber Studio Site are students doing textile courses such as those offered by City and Guilds. I know that supplies can be very expensive, especially when you have to buy a lot of them for course work. I use quite a lot of fabrics in my felt work, both for nuno felting and for using as lining fabrics. I also buy lots of fabrics just because they're gorgeous :) The main place I get my fabric supplies is Abakhan, and the majority of fabrics in Beyond Nuno (apart from the silk) were bought from there. If you're in the UK, especially the North West England, you might have heard of them. There are 8 stores in the UK: Birkenhead, Chester, Hanley, Liverpool, Mostyn, Preston and Bolton. They also have some stores in Estonia and Latvia.

On Thursday I went to the shop in Manchester. Luckily, the Post Office I went to beforehand had shut down, and I didn't have much money on me, so I stuck to what was on my list and just got a few extras :) The Manchester branch has pretty much everything I need; apart from the fabrics, I get my DMC thread from there, sewing machine thread, zips, bag fasteners, clasps, bobbins. They have items for all kinds of crafts, scrapbooking, cardmaking, handles for handbags, purse clasps, knitting and crocheting supplies and more dyes than I knew existed :) If you look on the website at the list of stores, it gives you a list of products available in each store.

In Manchester at the shop on Oldham Street, they have a selection of fabrics on the roll, bolts of fabric and a massive selection of remnants sold by weight, though these aren't 'scraps' or small pieces, they are all at least 1 metre in length. I only had organza and DMC threads on my list the other day and I got a gorgeous selection of organza colours off the roll, I also got some gorgeous organdy. The golden piece next to the copper cost me 64p! I can't wait to use it.

I did buy a couple of things that weren't on my list, but they caught my eye and weren't huge pieces. They are both georgette fabric, this one was the biggest piece and cost about £2.30.

And this gorgeous patterned piece cost £1.80:

If you have a store near you, it really is worth going in to see what they offer. Just don't be surprised if you end up with enough fabric to re-upholster your couch and make new curtains for every room :)  I remember going for a family day out about 20 years ago to the store in Mostyn, and I noticed on their website that if you're planning a group visit to Mostyn, there are lots of offers and discounts available. If you don't have a store near you, the website has lots of great things to offer and postage prices are one standard delivery charge depending where in the UK you are. Have a look and hopefully save yourself some money :)

If anyone knows of any other great fabric stores, please feel free to mention them in the comments :)

Friday, 26 April 2013


 I did try to post this yesterday, but Blogger won't let me upload pics from my computer to add to the post, I hade to use Flickr URLs and Picassa. Is anyone else having problems?

On my last post I showed you a sneaky peek of the ripples and ruffles of the nuno felted piece I made for Ann's challenge on The Felting and Fiber Studio site. Well, here's the finished piece in full:

Here it is from another angle:

It's kind of double-nuno because I started with some pieces of cotton gauze that I'd dyed a while ago. I wanted it to be extra sturdy to make a camera case out of it:

I really liked how it turned out, so I thought I'd make a similar piece. I measured this one carefully to make a book cover out of it. I also added some wisps of orange, beige and white to the merino at each end to match the patterns and colours of the fabric.

You can see the texture more from this angle:

And of course, a supermacro close up :)

I have just one more piece I made from this fabric, but it is still drying. If you're interested in learning more about felting with synthetic fabrics, nuno felting in general or the techniques I used, please have a look at the info about my e-book, Beyond Nuno here, thanks :)

Friday, 19 April 2013

Coppery Bronze Felt

I hadn't handmade any new felt for a few months until this week. I knew I'd have a spare couple of days for doing layouts and felting, so I went through my supplies and got a few things together. I wanted to make a texturey piece in coppers bronzes and metallic tones, so I chose some commercial art yarns, ribbon, silk tops and silk throwsters waste in those shades:

I also looked through my organza and found a few different gold shades:

I mainly used a shade of Merino from World of Wool called 'Rust', but used a few other shades and blends as well so it wasn't too 'flat'. I really like the way it turned out.

I can't resist a couple of Supermacro close ups of the texture  :)

This is one of the organza pieces.

Another piece I felted yesterday was a nuno felted piece for Ann's challenge on The Felting and Fiber Studio site. I found a quite gaudy vintage pink synthetic headscarf in my supplies and thought I'd make a piece using that. The weather was great yesterday: storm clouds, lightning, thunder, hailstone, but it kept going too dark to take good photos so here's a sneaky peek at some close ups and I'll post the whole piece soon. Ripples:


If you've joined in with Ann's challenge or would like to, post a link to your work in reply to the challenge post or if you have a flickr account, tag your photo with 'felting and fiber studio challenge' and add it to the flickr group, it will show up on the Studio site's main page.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Grrr! Buttonholes!

It took me a while, but I finally finished the two purses I was working on made from felt with nuno felted strips of cotton gauze. I don't like doing buttonholes, they're so small and fiddly, so I put off doing them. I could practise with the sewing machine, I suppose, but I think I'd just make a mess of it :)  I can't remember now which was the one I first started working on, but this is the first one I finished:

Where possible, I kept the natural edges of the felt. I'm sure to some people this makes it look 'wonky', but I prefer 'unique' :) I bought quite a few new embroidery threads recently, so I had lots of colours to pick the right ones for sewing the different parts.

It actually turned out a lot bigger than I thought, and my chunky camera fits into it! Plenty of room for lots of cash ;)

This is the second one I finished. It's slightly smaller than the first one, but still my slimmer camera fits in easily. They both look very similar to each other, the biggest difference being the natural edge on the flaps. This is the back, with the flap open:

As much as I always want to keep everything I make, I often find it hard to use things I make. It sounds silly, but I hate to 'waste' things, it's that same kind of feeling you get when you have a nice new notebook or journal, and don't want to spoil it by scratchy handwriting and wonky sketches. So, rather than stockpiling things 'too nice to use' in a box, I'm going to put them on etsy. The first thing I listed was a shoulder bag I finished earlier this year:

I made it using spare pieces of felt and offcuts that I saved, and a gorgeous piece of fabric to line the inside flap. It's a flat 'passport' style bag and fits a camera and coin purse comfortably.

I keep being told I shouldn't feel embarrassed or awkward about self-promotion, so if you're interested in either of the purses, the bag or maybe you were thinking of buying a handmade notebook cover or camera case, please visit my etsy store :)  The bag is already listed and once I've measured the purses and weighed them for postage, I'll add those too.
And if you don't see exactly what you want, I'm happy to take commissions for custom orders :)

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Slow Sewing

I had a comment on my previous post from Ali (Random Wooliness) about my nice blanket stitching (thank you!) and that I must have 'oodles of patience' :) The truth is I have dodgy vision, my eyes flicker and get worse with patterns or when I concentrate, so I have to sew really slowly and kind of  'slide' the needle across the felt for each stitch, as trying to poke it through in the right place would have me there all day with shaky hands and vibrating eyes :)  I have managed to get another couple of projects finished though. Last year I made a piece of rainbow coloured felt, made with merino blended with crimped nylon I'd dyed myself.

I really liked this piece, it feels really nice, kind of 'spongy'. And has a really interesting texture to it, and it almost looks like it's still damp if that makes sense? Well, I measured it and it was the perfect size for making a notebook cover, and I got to keep the natural edges too. This is it all sewn up before putting a notebook inside.

 I decided the orangey side would be the front.

And the greeny side the back:

It's a shame the back of the felt on the inside won't be seen, I liked the way that turned out too:

I mentioned in my last post that I used the blue flowery piece of nuno from my e-book for making camera cases. I managed to get one of those sewn up too. Is it just me, or does everyone who makes things want to keep them all? Is that really narcissistic? :)

I did put them both on etsy (in GBP at last, thanks Deborah I was being so dense about that), but if anyone buys them, don't be surprised if I've 'lost' them ... just kidding!! :)

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Making Things

I mentioned recently that I had a look through my box of felt pieces to make things with. I think I put as many pieces back as I kept out (I think anyone who makes felt knows how hard it is to cut pieces up to make things!) so I went through it again telling myself it's a waste to keep them all packed away in a box :)  I had quite a lot of pieces this time. I started looking at some of the bigger pieces to see how many notebook covers I could make. Some of you might recognise this flowery piece from my e-book, I'm trying to convince it it's big enough to make a notebook cover from! In the end I decided to make a couple of camera cases from it as it had a base layer of muslin.

I cut out a placemat and two coasters from a thick felt piece I made just before Christmas and found some pieces perfect for making into glasses cases and coin pouches. I added some stitching to these to make the felt stiffer. I tried to find the perfect embroidery thread to blanket stitch them, but I wasn't happy with what I had to waited for the threads I ordered from Rainbow Girl on etsy. They are just like DMC coton perle but with more colour variations. I also finished sewing together my other cotton gauze purse, but haven't sewn the button holes yet.

Quite a few of the pieces I had were perfect for gadget cases (camera, phone, iPods) so I ended up with a huge pile of cut out felt pieces waiting to be sewn up with the machine. I finished them by Monday, though I think half that time was spent trying to thread the needle, just as I thought I was about to get the thread through, my eyes would flicker and I'd miss :)

Machine stitching might make me feel like the cases are secure, but I never feel anything is finished properly until I blanket stitch it, so out came the threads again.

One thing I did manage to get finished this week was a notebook cover. This piece of felt really was hard to cut up!

When I made a pot pouri case last year, I kept the natural edge of the felt for the flap, I really liked the uneven edges. I liked them so much that I try to use the natural edges as much as possible now instead of cutting, and luckily this piece of felt was the exact width I needed for a book cover and I left both the inside flap edges natural and just finished them with blanket stitch. When I've managed to work out postage prices and convert to US $, I'll add this to etsy.

Talking of etsy, I'm trying to add a variety of different things to my shop there and this last week I added some more collage sheets. They are all A4 sheets with 9 ATC size (3.5 x 2.5 inch) images. There are a couple featuring English census returns images and I'm working on a series of sheets featuring altered versions of my original artwork... oils, pastels acrylics and gouache.

UK readers probably know that postage prices have gone up again, and not only that but the weight categories have widened too, so the prices/weights jump quite steeply. The new price list is available online now, but it seems they've tried to make it as complicated and as clumsy as possible. I went through it and made myself a couple of charts to simplify it. I think I copied all the info correctly, so if it helps, here's a PDF of prices for letters and small packages.