Monday, 19 December 2011

Mekong Memories

Well I am coming to the end of 4 months of sunsets which has been really enjoyable. Now it's crunch time I must bring  together the dying , the painting , the felting, and the monsters.  In one big picture.

I have at least one limiting factor that's the size of my table. It's actually pretty small , but the biggest I can fit into my little attic felting room. Ikea best. So my big picture is limited to the height of the wide of my table , because I cannot look at it sideways and make sense of it. And even with this size I have had to gaffer tape two sheets of bubble wrap together. Big enough I think !

I want to incorporate every fabric and stitch I know. Over kill ! I know  Less is more maybe....

Planning is required. I am an bit of a planner at work , but a hopeless planner at home . I get carried away and ignore whatever little plan I ever had. 

I forget I am supposed to photograph every stage
I forget which fabrics and colours I had planned 
I forget where things were suppose to go
and I use what comes into my head. 

This piece requires discipline ! so I make a plan and a picture of the final idea. . Do I stick with it ? Mostly , just a few elements of artistic license, small developments and enhancements.  Is this allowed - I hope so.
So here is the final piece

 Did all the planning work -  I think so. 

To me its very evocative of the Mekong , where of course  it all started.  Of the colours in the sky , the swirling heat and insects, water everywhere in sight, the bright coloured temples  and the smells.  It makes me want to get the incense out.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Making monsters

That's what I have been doing all week, making felted monsters!

I have lived in the Netherlands for more than 3 years and I have a long way to go before I am a fluent speaker.  Some Dutch words  just don't stay in
 my head, and other I can't forget.

MONSTER is unforgettable, it's translation is simply - sample. 

It's far more dramatic a word to me than samples, far more exciting, and definitely the right word in this case, for my monstrous felted monsters. 

I have been incorporated threads fibres and fabrics, ranging from silk to linen into small felt monsters . Some are from my dying and some yarns from my extensive knitting yarn stash. I have been trying out the impact of lying the fibres in different direction to find it really makes a massive different.  To both the final size of the felt monster and to the threads and fabric , which are either pulled in two directions or just one.  Both directions gives a more compact and effective monster.

Thread on the surface are my favorite effect. You can see here the way the silk threads concertina up , the wool sinks into the felt and becomes blurry and the cotton thread looks great like waves on the sea.
So now having finished testing, there nothing for it I have to make a final sunset piece how scary!

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Choosing a sewing machine

Well thats a bit of a joke in my house, as there is so many to chose between.
The youngest of my family of machines is like all the rest is a hand me down.   In this case from my quilting mother , who moved into the electronic sewing machine age with a really sophisticated machine.  Its a Bernina!
My own well used far less auspicious make, an Alfa, which I used many years ago to make my wedding dress, is handed down to my youngest daughter.   I don't think it will be making many more wedding dresses - but maybe some curtains. 
I am the proud owner of many other rather older sewing machines. 
It all started with Frister Rossmann treadle- no Singers for this European citzen only German engineering is good enough. A beautiful piece of machinery and a present from my husband. Always reminding me of the one the stood in my Grandmother house. 
It was closely followed by some hand machines.  The engineer in me loves the mechanisms ,and the artist the lacquer work.

The collection got a little out of hand when a friend, who claimed to have 60 machines, moved to live abroad and had a clear out. That's when the babies arrived, wonderfully pieces of simple basic design .
 I find it so amazing that these were once so common, time saving devices, what every women wanted, and today all are virtually worthless. 
A hard choice for today's task ,but it has to be the handed down modern Bernina. 
It's a little neglected and needs some new needles, bobbins, and probably oiling.   
The purpose of all this frenetic sewing and machine revival ,sewing on my felting and fabric samples. 
But for now I am just remembering how to to thread the machine and sew
a trial sample,,,,!!!!

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Sheep to Sheep

This week I have been flying around too much to think.

I saw this wonderful sheep in Belgium enjoying the sunshine like me on the banks of the river       Leie, after a walking tour of the city. 
Nearby was a shop ,found out on Ravelry , that wonderful knitting site , that sold fabrics and knitting yarn . The mother and daughter were very friendly and helpful and I chose some wool to make a shrug. I also managed to buy some more fibre in my three hues.

I few hours later, after a quick drive through the Netherlands and a plane trip,  I was back at the site of if my return to knitting after a 20year layoff, the heart of student territory in Liverpool's Smithdown road. The knitting cafe is long gone. But returning to knitting started me on a fantastic journey of discovery and has made me many friends.

I was in Liverpool as my daughters house needed a clean and clear out prior to selling and I had the short straw. 

After a few hours of frantic work, I returned tired but happy to my bolt hole. Glorious cold but sunny weather and a saw this other wonderful sheep enjoying some frosty morning grass.

Back to reality now and time to get back to normal.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Ahoy there

Not the nautical term but the name of the big exhibition centre here in Rotterdam, which this weekend hosted the "handwerk beurs" This is the Dutch equivalent of the knitting and stitching show at ally pally , but rather a lot smaller.

Its a good oportunity -- only a short Metro ride away to see what new in the world of wool, embroidery , quilting etc. 

There is always a lot of sock wool, as the Dutch are very dedicated sock knitters. I treated myself to two nice plain sock yarns, one of which the shop lady was determined was made with nettles and wool of course. This seemed a little surprising to me , but as the word is not in the dictionary or on a google translate, it wil have remain as nettles. It is a lovely Autumn colour.

I bought a small,amount of felting wool, for a bag I have now made for a posh dinner outing later in the week
I had lunch with some friends and it was great to catch up with all their good news. After lunch another spinning friend introduced me to a electric spinning wheel. I am not sure that is much of an improvement for me , if I was going to spin I think I'd chose a traditional wheel. But there is not time in my life for spinning and felting.

My purchases were complete with a random selection of fibres to incorporate into felted objects , some silk , including threads and some linen and a ball of Rowan yarn for my adventures into an online KAL for a hat which starts on the 1st November.

 Here's a photos  of my purchases, a bit of a random collection , but all purchased with a plan. 

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Mixed Media

I think I am having a mixed media week. 
I have been cutting and sticking copies of my collages and then painting then. Some were sucessfull and some terrible .  I have also been crumpling them and then and stitching paper copies. 

I have also been dying again, still banished to the garden , but now having to wear a hat because it has got so cold. The purpose was uneven dying , I struggled to decide between , yellow, purple or blue. Eventually I decided for the blue , with green and red highlights. The unevenness was very marked, which I think was the intent and the deep turquoise  was just as I had imagined.
All this dying is going to come together in two fabric representations of of course SAM mountain.  One just a collage with the recently dyed material and one using the original with stitching both very different and neither anything like the real thing. 
So definitely a mixed media week.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

A Bolt Hole

Not for me a place in the sun but a a quiet and peaceful location in the hills, with a view of a lake and fields of sheep. 
So we set off to our retreat with our old dining room table and four chairs in the car, along with our waterproofs and walking boots on the overnight ferry to the UK. 
The hills have held a magic for me that has never faded I love to climb up and look down at the countryside below me, I love the way the clouds swirl around the hill tops. I love the way the light changes as the rain clouds blow across the sky  and at this time of year the colours are especially beautiful.
This weekend the weather was kind, and for once I did not need my waterproofs.   
I am looking for many more days of walking with friends and family over the next few months and lots of inspiration for my felting.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

A felted picture

At last back to my love - felting! 
A painted felt picture, I am not sure about this. I am more into impressions of things and letting my imagination run wild. I have a bit of passion for the texture of rust and some people might remember me rambling on about one Saturday night after a glass or two or ...  But when I was told to draw a picture at school, my brain and hands could not make anything and I am worried this is going happen now.
On reflection this picture will have to be an impression as the much discussed mountain view is far to big for me to turn into any kind of a picture. 
So with the collage strip of the view from Sam mountain as inspiration.
I had fun with Usch's carders (thanks for the loan) making tones from of my bright orange and dark blue merino. Pretty hard work ,though to get just a small heap of fibres. 
I assembled my ingredients : merino carded and virgin, some hand dyed silk from last week dye in, some orange ancient Lambswool Pride left over from a knitted then felted bag, and just a little bit of my favorite blue silk threads. 
Inspired by the collage and these materials this is the result. 
I think now an impression of the view is possible with these lovely fibres and yarns and in some ways I'd like think to it even turned out to be a picture - certainly more of a picture than the sticky collage that inspired it.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

A slippery diversion

Felted slippers for four well there a challenge for a rainy Saturday in Rotterdam. So armed with a tutorial from Grazim Etsy shop and the lovely book Feltmaking and Wool magic by Jorie Johson for reference we set out to give it a good try.
First big question to make them right side out or inside out. I am a big fan of inside out myself, its more magical, but on this occasion decided just following the instructions would be enough. And then there was the choice of colours  and number of layers of each, so many different decisions.  Between the four of us, with our different ideas and experiences, we made a medley of the instructions . We like to use grated olive oil soap for the good of our skin and plastic bags on our hands for a delicate touch ,and we like inside out constructions and using many colours and different number of layers and layout patterns.  The list is endless of the things we did different from our very comprehensive instructions. 
It was so hard to keep track on where you were  with two items, and to control the lying of the fibres in all the right directions. Next time we need a better way for this, but perhaps less talking would have helped. Cutting the opening was also tricky and I have had to have a number of alterations to get my opening big enough for my big feet.
Inside out resulted in nice twirls and medieval like opening - these were not quite finished due to the extra work with the twirls. One pair quickly recovered from a near disaster with some beautiful home dyed fibre that seemed not to felt- and now you would never tell. It was quite hard to tell right from left so one pair cleverly resolved this with an L and an R. My pair were very purple, and my choice to go for 8 layers for hard wearing was maybe a mistake. Too much overlap fibre at the join but they are drying up well. 
Overall a success. 
Lets do it again.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Sunny Dyeday

I was banished to the garden for my first experiments with dying. 
Lucky for me we were having such amazing weather. I had to set up the umbrella in order not to get sunstroke. I chose orange and turquoise two of my favorite colours and in full protective gear started to dye.

Stirring two washing up bowls with chop sticks constantly for 10 minutes is quite challenge . But after that I sat back , continued my twisted sock knitting , that been giving me so much stress and stirred randomly.
I was allowed to rinse in the bath, otherwise I am sure I couldn't have managed at all to rinse, as I discovered dying uses alot of water.  
I loved the colours I had created. But what tangle my fabrics and yarns were in. I think I had been too vigorous in my stirring, probably a lot too vigorous. I was able to unravel the fabrics but the yarns were and still are in a complete knot. My 5 subsequent batches of dying a got stirred in a more gentle wafty type of a way.
What a mix of shades and colours, yet to be ironed and analyzed, but don't they look lovely.
A wonderful way to spent a sunny Sunday

Friday, 30 September 2011

Sticky fingers

How can I turn the view from Sam mountain that was so big and atmospheric into a collage that needs to be less than 20 x 20 cm and has just three colours????. 
I squint at the photo and try to see the critical elements and the way they interact together, straight lines and wobbly lines, colours and texture. I try to decide where to use cut paper or torn paper.
Tearing is good for the sky whereas I think cutting gives the feel for the reflection in the flooded fields. Tearing also has the big drawback that it's very uncontrollable.

I need tiny strips of paper and they move every time I breath. 
I cannot lay them out to check if they look good or if they are the right shape as they will not stay still. So I glue as I go along getting stickier and stickier. 
Perhaps I should have just put glue all over the background rather than on the strips.   Too late for that now.  But I quite like the flexibility and stickiness of one strip at a time. 

Finished result a slice of the view from Sam mountain.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Sam Mountain

One month ago today I stood in the late evening heat on Sam mountain as the sun set over the Mekong delta. 
Sam mountain is a holy mountain with many statues, shrines, pagodas and temples along with strangely the odd dinosaur. At the top the smell of incense hung in the air from the offerings left at the empty site of the Lady Xu statue.  The statue has according the legend been carried down the mountain in the 19th century by 40 virgins, in order to build a temple.  The temple site was chosen at the point where the statue became too heavy for the 40 virgins to carry it anymore. 
As the sun slide down the sky the details of the flooded rice in the bright green fields disappeared and miraculously the sun reflected in the water. The photographer took many shots but I just breathed in the atmosphere.
Faced with the assignment 2 challenge of making a sunset collage , I knew it had to be the view from the atmospheric Sam mountain. As I light some incense sticks, bought the next day from a lady hand making, in a treadle machine, them in front of her house and look at the small photo which captured such a vast and beautiful scene I wonder if it is possible. 

Thursday, 15 September 2011

White out

This blog is to record my adventures and discoveries during my year long felting course with artybird

My first course in over 30 years,  and my first online course ever.

For two weeks now I have been reading my instructions but not doing anything - a bit like making and colouring in a revision timetable!

Last night was time, I had prevaricated long enough - September was nearly half way gone and I was yet to start - panic panic.

First task .
Make a white piece of felt.  Following simple instructions -this is always hard for me as I always think I know better already.  But I tried the new ways , and tried to forget my bad habits.

One really fundamental mistake.
If you lie white fibre onto bubble wrap on top of a white towel , you can't see what you have done.  I didn't recognise this flaw and sort it out , when I could ......  I just carried on, the problem became even worse once I had added some soap , now white fibre , white towel and white suds.   Its a white out.

A reasonable piece of felt , bit ragged around the edges , eventually emerged after much rolling and turning.  Once dry it will be in the post to be checked.

Learning lots already !