Saturday, 29 December 2012

Loose ends

The course I am doing in arranged in three parallel modules design, sampling and making felt . A good blend with a coherent theme. In the process of doing this it is quite easy to forget one element. I thought as I was nearing the end of month two and finishing my final month two piece, I should check if I had forgotten to do anything. I have in fact a have a number of loose ends,

I had forgotten to paint anything using tints and tones. After all my trials without using tint and tones , you would have thought I would enjoy using them and not just forget them. Luckily that is quite easily resolved.

More difficult is that I have forgotten to keep any records of how long it has taken me to do the design work for my final felt piece, If I do not know how long I took me , I have no way of costing this activity. I will have to imagine is again and then assign a realistic time. It is always very debatable I think how much time is allocated to design activities, as in the end you might make more the one final pice from the design work.

I have not competed my research into Pat Sparks method of felting, This was because I could not work it out from anything in the public domain. So I decided she was keeping it secret and bought her book. Now I know and I am not going to reveal the secret but I can now finish the work. I am trying to use elements of her techniques in finishing my final piece.

And finally I have not written anything about the challenge from making a background batt. !!! I think this is extremly tricky to write about. The challenges of a background batt out if the natural shades if BFL were small. The white was too white for my piece , I should not have used it. I should have used the two browns shades. I think this was the only challenge . I am not sure this is quite enough so I will have to think of something else to say

I can during use the holiday period complete these few loose ends and finish month two. This blog is unusually about all about things I haven't done I am sorry there can be no photographs.



Friday, 14 December 2012

Density matters

Well I am slowly learning the importance of density. Density differences is what allows oil to be separated from water, allows cyclone vacuum cleaners to work and make sponge cakes light and airy. I never imagined it would come into felting.

When I talk about density. I mean fibres density , measured by me in mg/cm2. Not the same units as you would measure the density of an oil or air. So why does the fibre density matter.? Well first you lay out your fibres before felting , thinly or thickly, two , four or more layers and this is the starting point of the final density. Then you felt , and effectively the gaps between the fibres shrink , the overall area of the felt reduces and the fibre density increases. The more you felt , the denser the final piece is. Exactly the same as boiling a sauce to make it thicker or more dense.

Why am I even discussing this. Well I made a piece of felt to show the migration of dark and light fibres into colours. Sounds simple but I thought it looked terrible. The fibres did not seem to migrate and I felted and felted until I had a stiff inflexible piece of felt, like a small doormaat. I felted another piece testing out a few pieces of prefelt I had made and it was lovely , fibres migrated and piece was soft and flexible.

What was happening?

My first piece started with 36 mg/cm2 of fibre and ended up after 56 % shrinkage with 81mg/ cm2. My second one, started at 20 mg/cm2 and finished at 33mg/cm2, with 40% shrinkage. Less than half the density of the first. The first far to dense , the second if I am honest not dense enough, as it has some very thin patches when you look at it. All these density figures disguise thick and thin patches as they are only averages. Very tetchy I am sorry!

So I designed a third sample. I want it to end at 40 mg/cm2 with 40% shrinkage and a starting size of 30 cm X 30 cm. So I needed 22g of fibre to start . Divide in three layers , the bottom two made out of three different colours and the top one , out of six. Well this is a challenge for the sensitivity of my kitchen scales. So it was all bit approximate, but I think it worked.

Start point mini rainbow door mat

Final flexible Fibre Rainbow

Both samples show if you look carefully the migration of the different coloured fibres from underneath.

You know I think there was a lot of information about this in my course notes, but I guess this is one of those things you have to lean for yourself.


Thursday, 29 November 2012

A good boat trip

Oh I do like a good boat trip!. Thinking about river edges and looking for the inspiration for the next month of my course has really brought this home to me. I wonder why do I like boat trips so much?

Well I grew up within sight and sound of the river Mersey . The ferry across the Mersey was a reality for me on many occasions. The most recent time about fifteen years ago, was when I insisted my family accompany on the now commercialized tourist Mersey ferries as part of a family history weekend in Liverpool.

Then there were the many trips on ferries from England to Europe. Dover to Calais, Hull to Zeebruge , Portsmouth to Santander, Ramsgate to Dunkirk, Traveling down the UK over night with two small daughters in the back of the car to catch the first ferry of the day to go camping in France. Today there are the trips home , from Rotterdam to Hull. I get on the Pride of Hull in Rotterdam, with its car decks , cabins, cinema, cafe , bars , shops and karaoke nights, I watch all the lorries loading and I instantly relax.

I have had many wonderful boat trips in Scotland. From KIlchoan to Tomerbory, Oban to Craigmure, and Ardrossan to Brodick. Think about the wonderful Calmac Hopscotch rover trips . Some of their boats are quite rusty and weather worn, but my experiences of Hopscotching around the Outer Hebrides cannot be beaten.

But maybe it can ! Aboard the M.V. Frances Barkley from Port Alberni on Vancouver island, trips on the Mekong in Thailand , Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.... Here are the brick kilns on the edge of the Mekong photographed from yes of course a boat, which will be my inspiration for my next felting assignment , and has started me on this travelogue of watery trips.

Close to home now in Rotterdam, there is the tourist Speedo boat , with its riverside views of the orange dock, import point for Europe's vast consumption of orange juice, the container terminal and the floating dry docks , the fast ferry to Dordrecht , and the little black and yellow boat taxis , zipping in and out of the barges going up and down the Maas.

Enough enough , I could go on , I think its the wonderful memories that make me like boat trips so much. Please let me know your favorite boat trip.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Colour blindness

Well I think I am going to have to go colour blind.

I need to make a prefelt picture based on river edges in fully saturated colours. Well such a thing does not exist in the natural world. I have lovely pictures of rocks and Autumn leaves with swirling water, and drippy moss covered rocks with ferns hanging over them. Which need to be depicted in the colours from a rainbow and using colour values instead of shades and tones. I really do not understand the advantages of this colour value approach. I know Henry Mattise used it , but I am not sure I am up to it.

It calls for a radical approach. First I must forget the natural colours.

Orange leaves will become red , browny rocks will become warm yellow with blue to show the texture and the moss. The water needs to stays warm blue with cold blue and cold yellow to give movement.

Here is what is looked like in real life.

A painting , trying to get a grip of my colour blind scheme, and cheating a little bit by using white.

The completed prefelt. For me the beauty of felt is the way it blends together , when only prefelted this has not happened yet. So this is definelty not my favorite piece of felting .


Friday, 16 November 2012

A first date

Doing a online course is great, it gives the complete flexibility of when you work and allows someone like me, living in the Netherlands to take part in a UK course. The disadvantage of course is you are on your own. You have your tutor in my case Kate , who is really suportive and helpful, but it is not like having a classmate , who you can share ideas with, discuss concerns with and learn from.

So when I started Level 2 and Kate introduced me to a fellow class mate who was interested in sharing ideas with, I jumped at the opportunity. We shared a few emails , and then she suggested we have a phone call, early days she said , but why not. Just like an Internet dating said my worldlywise , eldest daughter. She would know , I did not.

So our first date went ahead. How was it . Well good, in fact very good. We talked about how we had got into felting , how we both missed having someone to talk to about the course. We talked about our themes, river banks, trees or beach and the sea. All really fantastic , the sea especially a great love of mine , but here in the Netherlands totally boring and grey, nothing like the beautiful UK coast line. We discussed suppliers of felting material , felting books , our lives outside felting etc etc. All in all a very good first date. We will be having a second.

We also agreed to share some felting projects , so I thought I share a few here.

A crazy teacosy just looking for a red teapot.

A detailed shoot a a new Starkless picture , that is waiting to be framed.

A small picture testing out needling and then wet felting and my framing techniques
Some baby boots made for Dexter.

Here to lots more dates with my new felting friend.









Friday, 9 November 2012

Avoidance strategies

Well I can't put it off any longer. I have to put pen or paint to paper for real. Enough , enough of my avoidance strategies. I have a A2 sketchbook. Right hand side for painting and left hand side for felt samples and I have an A4 notebook for analysis ,record, notes, ideas and digital images. So what is the problem , well.........

I am just used to felting, taking photos and adding them to a file, editing the text until I am happy with it and then sending it off for assessment.

Level 2 and I need to write in a book!!!. This seems I bit backwards to me. :(

My problems with this are : well for a start I don't like the look of my writing and then I can't spell, and I can never keep hold of the same pen for more than a day , so the ink colour changes all the time, and...... No that enough crazy reasons . I must stop procrastinating and get on with it.

So today , in faint pencil writing I wrote title, on the first page , ( not the actual title you understand just the word title) and I wrote river on the second and three page of my A2 book. I intend to paint a river and add photos of all my river bank inspirations on the banks - one day. This is OK , as I do not yet know what they all are yet. Don't laugh it's a start but I did not continue to page 4. I went and researched Henry Matisse , artist and Jenny Cowern, feltmaker instead.

But I did write in my notebook . I wrote down where all my supplies had come from, so that I do not forget and can restock. I stuck in samples of my fibres , and I made a fibre rainbow. This actually took a huge amount of effort of hand carding , so I am quite proud of it.
Here it is and below is the samples in the book. Just to prove I have written something in my notebook.

Tomorrow I will, I really will paint some leaves and ferns in my sketch book.





Sunday, 4 November 2012

Knitting Hats

I continue to get organized for my course, collect yet more fibre and learn how to mix paint. In the meantime time I have been amusing myself by knitting hats.

First is the Campden Cap. This is a Woolly Wormhead design and the first of her patterns I have knitted. Woolywomhead is a hat architect. I can really recommend her patterns. They are clearly written and come in multiple sizes and are often just a little bit different . This cap attracted me as I was keen to see how to make a peak in a knitted hat. It actually has a small piece of Ikea draw liner knitted inside it.

Next has come two head warmers , knitted first and then with the addition of felt flowers. One for each of my daughters to match the cowls I made for them last winter.

Finally in this hat marathon , I started a KAL - A knit Along . This is for a Woolly Wormhead mystery hat and there are lots of other people knitting along all round the world. I am using some sublime yarn , made from angora and merino, that I have had in my stash for years. The KAL takes place during November and here is my first days work , about half way along the brim. Interesting to see how this will develop into a hat!

For more of Woolywormhead designs go to

Friday, 26 October 2012


I have spent the last week studying autumn leaves , trying to find some that meet the specification of being in clean saturated colours in red, yellow, blue , orange ,green or purple.

This is the instruction from Kate for items to first paint and then felt. Well first find the items . Most of river banks are not very portable , and there are no flowers at this time of the year. So I decided on leaves. What I knew, what everyone knows, is that the leaves look glorious en mass on the trees, and the ground , with beatiful shades of yellows, oranges, browns and reds. What I have discovered is that look up close and the individual leaves are twisted and full of holes and rarely just one colour. Of course this is not really as surprising as they have been siting in the weather for months. What I have also discovered is that if you search out some beautiful specimens and bring them home to paint, within hours they are completely dehydrated, curled up, and not the beautiful specimens you thought. I tried pressing , this worked reasonably well, for some kinds of leaves, but somehow in their desiccated state , they seemed very lifeless.

So this has had to become a speed challenge , call it speed painting. Pick the leaves , close to home , rush home, photograph immediately, for a record, and then paint. Not a very relaxing occupation for someone who is a bit of an amateur painter.

Here are some examples

Different techniques, from careful painting on the right, to reckless dabbing of colour in the left.

A magical mirror image !

So that the painting items challenge accomplished I think. What will be next?


Sunday, 21 October 2012

Beautiful autumn morning

Today at 8 o'clock I could see nothing but mist , but by 9 o'clock the sun was driving off the mist at the start of what was a glorious warm autumn day. Here are some photos I took while watching the mist disappear and the start of a really beautiful autumn morning.




As you can see I am making the most of the good weather and I am also preparing for some new experiments with painting at the start of my Level 2 course.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Onwards and Edgewards

Well today I have decided, I will go on and do the Level 2 Felt course with Arty Bird. I haven't actually parted with any money yet , but I am going to.

I have to decide on a theme. A broad theme that will keep me inspired for two years and which I can sometimes bring elements home. So I first thought woodlands, but I think it would be just to green for two years. I like urban decay but I think that could be a bit depressing . So I think I am going to use river edges. It's so broad - it can cover just about everything and can be anywhere.

I can bring home driftwood, flowers, pebbles, reeds etc if needed , and I can explore both the countryside edges , the suburban edges and the city edges. Add to that mix the UK and the Netherlands and I think I am inspired.

Today I have been to the photography museum in Rotterdam, to see the photos of Lewis Hine. 1874- 1940 He photographed immigrants to the US on Ellis Island, tenement houses and extremely dangerous looking working conditions all from the early 20th century. Very interesting and to think of just how difficult it was to make the photographs then.

Walking outside , on the edge of the river Maas in the heart of Rotterdam , we came across a old Russian tall ship tied up at the river edge. Luckily I had my camera and luckily technology has moved on since Lewis Hines day.    Here are my shots , perhaps inspiration for forthcoming felting if my theme gets approved.

Final shot , through the wonderful Erasmus bridge , to the city of Rotterdam, on the edge of the Maas.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Special day

Well today is a very special day for me. Sorry it's not because it's Felting day. Although that's important and I am very excited that I have two pieces in the exhibition dying of the sun . I am loving everyone elses fire pieces.

No it special because my youngest daughter is getting married today So all thought of felting will be banished while I focus on this special occasion . To be honest I am quite nervous about the whole day. But I am sure it will be lovely and we will have a lovely family party .

My infamous felted bag should be making an appearance so it not a complete felt free zone. I have also made some bridesmaids shawls and will show a picture of them being worn by the bridesmaids after the event as that should show them at their best.

So I will have to catch up with the submissions for international felting day after the event , here is my fiery felted hand.


And the details of one of my starry pictures that are in the exhibition in Perth.









Thursday, 27 September 2012


Well as I am in a bit of a lull feltingwise whilst I wait for the final assessment from ArtyBird of my course work. I decided now was the time to revamp my small felting room. I have extended the table, courtesy of Ikea and almost painted all the walls white. This was a real slog , and I have never known pale blue paint be so hard to obliterate .

Here it is almost ready and too tidy for creative thought and my first and biggest WIP

In the meantime to keep my creative thoughts flowing I have been working on my knitting WIPs. Time to try and finish a few. I can't admit to the real number of knitting WIPs I have. That is a secret. Here's just two.


A Camden hat by WoolyWormhead. I was going to take part in the KAL for this hat on ravelry but somehow have been distracted by the painting. This will be a Christmas present for the hat lover in my family.

The start and possibly the finish of a blanket, unless I get on and order some more wool. This is also a present for an undefined date in the future , so no need to hurry with the ordering.

One things for sure I need to finish something before felting overtakes me again. Which will win?




Saturday, 15 September 2012

One year on

Today is the anniversary of the first blog I wrote over my adventures with ArtyBird.

What an voyage of discovery it has been, always something new and challenging to think about and to make.

I have drawn and painted . I never imagined I could draw at all. I have dyed fabrics and yarns and even experimented with making my own colours by mixing dyes together successfully.

I have made lots of felt and started to explore the world of different fibres with their different properties. I can even name quite a few different sheep breeds.

I have made and given felted gifts and have requests for slippers, hats , pictures and bags waiting until I have more time to do them.

I have written 45 blogs, nearly one/week and have more than 1000 views - mostly my mother.

But I think most amazingly I have started to look at the world around me in a different way and to explore with my eyes the texture and patterns in nature and in man made objects. To record this I have taken many photographs , often times looking into the micro landscapes that I year ago I would not have even seen . From this I already have a wealth of ideas I would like to use in designs and I see more all the time !

Here is just a few examples of ideas for the future.





So overall it's been a fantastic year of discoveries and I think I will continue my journey by signing up for the next course , which will give me the excuse to continue this blog which I have also really enjoyed writing .