Thursday, 28 February 2013


A few years ago I had the opportunities , all from my friends from Rotterdam Stitch 'n Bitch to learn to make felt and to learn to spin. I dabbled with both and then decided there was not enough time in my life for both and anyway I preferred felting. One thing led to another and thats how I ended up taking this course with Arty bird.

This Christmas Laura gave me beautiful spindle and a book called "Respect the spindle " by Abby Franquemont . I thought I'd just remind myself how to use the spindle. So I asked an expert spinning friend of mine for a short lesson. I practiced a little bit , read my book and concluded yes my decision had been right, I preferred felting. The spindle was beautiful but ....

I have now been faced with a dilemma. To finish my Shyrdak piece I either had to find some yarn to edge it or I had to spin some. My Shyrdak is made from Shetland wool , in beautiful natural colours. My yarn collection , extensive though it is , had nothing that was going to fit in and add the finishing touches to this piece. The yarn really needed to be made out of undyed Shetland fibre. So I decided to give it a go. I needed about 100m of yarn , with 'z, twist and the same length with a 's' twist. Luckily following my recent lesson , I at least knew what this meant.

It took me a while and I have to say it not so very even , but here are my first two balls of yarn ready for using to cover the joins and edge my Shyrdak.

So maybe there room in my life for felting and spinning after all. Thanks Laura and Usch.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Felt paper

This week I have enjoyed myself making and using felt paper. This was a new experience for me and one that I had not thought about until I tried. It was easy enough. Take a small piece of mosquito net and spread out a thin layer of fibres, place a second piece of mosquito net on top. Using a sponge saturate the net sandwich with wall paper paste. Then leave to dry. Once it is dry the nets can be peeled off leaving a felt paper . The paper can be cut into shapes and incorporated in to a felt item. I made papers from merino , silk fibres and mixes of merino and silk.

In my case I use lots to try and mirror an effect I got when making a collage with tissue paper. The consequence was that once the paste was wet again , it turned very sticky and I had to add a lot of water and carefully rub the surface for a long time to remove the paste . The skill must be to do this without moving anything. I found this very hard to do and everything started to slide around and head off the prefelt I had made as the background.

Here is a piece from my collage and the same piece represented in a felt with both some low relief and a lot of felt paper.

I will use felt paper again , and next time I will be more prepared for the wallpaper paste slide effect .

Thursday, 14 February 2013

The angel of the North

In the late 90s there was a lot of controversy in the north of England over a large Antony Gormley sculpture called the angel of the north. This sculpture. Is 20m high , with a 54m wing span and was made from steel for which the area had a long industrial working tradition . According to Gormley it had three purposes, to signify that beneath the site of its construction, coal miners had worked for two centuries, to grap the transition from industrial to infomation age and to serve as a focus for our evoling hopes and fears. Over the years in has rusted as intended and slowly gained a place in people hearts and it has become a symbol for the strength of the people and raw beauty of the area.

This week I have been trying my hand at the beginning of shyrdak felting techniques. This is where a negative and a positive image are made and felted together. This technique comes from Kyrgyzstan. The patterns they make are based on symbols from their culture.

I chose to try and reproduce a symbol based on a rams horn. Here it is as a paper image and before felting

This symbol in the size I was making was a little to complex and it was hard to retain the exact shape. During felting the edges naturally blur making the shape become less distinct.

I looked at it and immediatley thought of the Angel of the north. Multiples of course. Fascinating. From one symbol to another.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Washing machine felt

One of things I like about felting is it is handmade. Quite literally. Using the force from your hands along with soap and water you make the felt. So I am not at all sure using a washing machine gives me the same satisfaction,even if I like the results.

But one of the really good things about dong this course is you try things you would otherwise dismiss.

So I took my troublesome dyed prefelts and made washing machine felts out of them. The process was quite simple, work out the design , needle felt the pieces in place and then add to the washing machine , along with some of your normal washing. It needed washing twice , first time at 30oC to ensure the needling had taken and then at 40oc to consolidate and shrink. Being a bit of a geek, and a control freak , I did loads of tests with sample pieces to try and predict the outcome, but probably this isn't really necessary , I should have just thrown it in the machine and been happy with the outcome whatever it was.

My first piece was just felt and turned out quite well. I feel it is calm and subtle and the felt itself is fine and soft.

My second I first made a centre piece incorporating thread and yarns and pices of silk to try and capture the chaos from inspiration of my river picture.

I then added silk , shetland wool yarn , silk fibre ,and prefelt shapes to a plain olive green background to set the piece in context. What a lot of needling this was by hand ! It I am going to do this more often I think I will have to contemplate a conversion of one of my vintage sewing machines.

This piece I am really pleased with . Even though it was not truly handmade and maybe now I have got over my fear I will try felting by washing machine again.

Friday, 1 February 2013


This week I have been really challenged trying to dye prefelt blue. Not yellow or red that was easy just blue. The problem was disguised at first. I successfully dyed a yellow and a orange piece along with and a mottled pink. I then mixed some blue into yellow and orange to make I hoped a brilliant lime green, an olive green and a brown. They were rather disappointing , in that instead of making green , I made shades of dirty yellow and instead of brown a rather reddish orange. But I thought I could make it work and continued to try and make a dark blue and a pale blue. What I made was two quite large pieces of very pale blue. It was then I realized that the problem with the green and brown was that the blue in the mixtures was virtually invisible. This was happening to both brilliant blue and turquoise. This is overall colour combination I had made. A totally dire mixture I am sure you will agree.

So I began to think about what had gone wrong. Was the concentration of the blue dye too weak, had it not dissolved properly, was the vinegar solution not acidic enough, had I not steamed the prefelt for long enough , had I rinsed it too soon... Endless possibilities of were the process could have gone wrong.

So I tried increasing the concentration , slightly better but still nothing like the effect I was looking for. Testing different vinegar concentrations, no discernible difference. Steaming longer and cooling down in dye mix before rinsing. At last this seemed to have cured the problem, perhaps not the vibrant blue I hoped for , but not a total wash out. So I have now redyed all the samples containing blue except the olive and now have this collection of prefelt to work with.

Now I only have the challenge of making a piece and felting it in the washing machine !