Sunday, 20 July 2014

Making Soft Cotton Labels..

For months and months I have been wanting some labels to sew into my hats. I didn't want just any labels though.. I wanted soft, off-white good quality cotton with a simple design.  Which wouldn't of been difficult to find. But I wanted them bias cut so they wouldn't fray without the need for zig-zagging stitching the edges or fray-checking (which I've found to be scratchy in the past). I felt like I was searching for a needle in a haystack.. the only labels I liked worked out really expensive with postage costs factored in.  

The answer? Was waiting in my stash..

Bubble Jet Set & Rinse, freezer paper and
good quality cotton fabric
I didn't take photos of the earliest stages.. in a nutshell I cut the cotton on the bias, into just smaller than A4 sized pieces.  Which I soaked in the Bubble Jet Set solution for an hour or so, then let drip dry.  The great thing with BJS is that you can reuse the liquid.. just pour it back into the bottle after use.   I ironed the cotton flat then ironed it onto the freezer paper.  Now it was ready for printing on :)

I used a blank label template which gave me 50 labels per sheet.. picked out a font I like, typed the first one then copy pasted the rest.

I printed 3 sheets.. then left them a while to settle
I peeled the freezer paper off
Rinsed them in cold water with the Bubble Jet Rinse in,
let them dry and then ironed 
Time to trim
I started off cutting the columns
Then trimming each label
At this point I realised just how long it was going to take..
So started cutting across several columns at once :)  
Which was much faster :)
And in no time at all I had 3 lovely little piles of labels.. 
The first one sewn into a hat
Now I have 150 labels to keep me going for a while, and all it cost me was materials from my stash and some time :)

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Back to Alpaca #2

Now for my second alpaca rug :)  This one is made from the coarser parts of the brown fibre.. the leg and neck hair which is shorter and hairier.

Cutting the design from white commercial prefelt
Using the box picker.. close-up of the 'out tray'
Finished batts.. I made 6 really thick, dense ones.
I used my new drum (thank yiu Classic Carders :) for these,
with the extra long pins so I got really fat batts!
Worked upside down again.. laying my prefelt design straight on to
the bubble wrap - back to front so it would be the right way round on the finished rug
Covered with batts.. then a layer of purple cotton scrim on top
Folding the wetted edge over the scrim
Partway through.  The design was incorporating really well.. 
see the brown fibres creeping through?  There was still quite a long way to go at this point.
I worked this rug in exactly the same way as the white rug.. being careful to ease out any wrinkles before they could get set in (the white one didn't try to wrinkle, for some reason this did).  I needed to be careful that the design didn't wrinkle too.. my felting needle helped here.

I did have a panicked moment when I took it out of the washing machine (cool rinse & spin only).. it had become insanely hairy, the design was almost obscured by it.  My initially moderate panic was made worse by my lovely husband :) being convinced that I had ruined it!  I forced myself to stay calm and proceeded to SHAVE the rug.. I have never needed or wanted to shave my felt before.. but boy did this piece need it.  I didn't take photos at this point, but really wish I had now.  I carefully shaved the whole front surface of the rug using a new, and very sharp, stanley knife blade.  Several hours and aching fingers later..

Finished.. very slightly shorter than the white rug,
but a little wider and thicker - this one is just over 1cm thick
Another Nordic petroglyph inspired piece..


For the two rugs, taking both directions into account it averages out at 30%
For this one it was 28% in length x 33% width


At one point there was a possibility of me getting 15 whole alpaca fleeces.. which I was a little unsure quite where I was going to store them and just how I would manage to get through them (though I'm sure I could of found good homes for a few of them :)  Luckily my sister in law has found a buyer, so I can take my time and finish these 2 off as and when I fancy.

Just to finish off I wanted to share with you these gorgeous flowers 

Aren't they lovely?  I love sunflowers and snap dragons -
and this is the first time anybody has given them to me :)
These were a gift from Gill - local blog reader and new friend - who came for a visit this Monday to talk felt, eat cake and drink tea.. we chatted like we had known each other for years it was lovely :) 


Sunday, 6 July 2014

Back to Alpaca #1

Earlier this year my sister in law gave me a couple of fleeces from their herd of pet alpaca.. one white and one brown.  A couple of months ago I featured my first couple of alpaca makes as Fibre of the Months projects.  Well, I had a rather large bag for each fleece containing coarser, shortish fibre.. and what I really wanted to do was felt mats with it.  Problem was it took me so long to pick & card the fibre there was no way I was going to have time to prepare enough to felt a rug!  

Until I got my hands on a box picker :)  Since then I've felted 2 rugs.. this is the first one

Box picker in action.
I don't like the nail heads sticking up around the handle!  Most of the time I laid a cloth over them to protect my knuckles.. one time I forgot and regretted it (with bloody knuckles!)
I wasn't worried about it being perfect, so only did one pass through the carder..
though I was careful to get it as even as possible
Some of the 6 big fat batts I made
I worked upside down, laying out my abstract design (in petrol and mallard green merino) on the bubblewrap
Then covering it with the batts and adding a layer of cotton scrim to the top.
Once it was thoroughly wetted out I folded the very edges (you know how it often goes thinner at the edges) back over the edge of the scrim.
And in my typical style didn't take photos of the actual felting.. probably because it was such hard, heavy work!  It was of course far too big to go in the sink so I used the bath.. my goodness it was heavy when wet!  And I was amazed at how dirty the white fleece had been, first time it went in the bath the water went black you couldn't even see the bottom of the bath.. it was lovely and clean by the time I finished though :)

After many hours or rolling, massaging, throwing and pummeling.  All finished of most unusually by rinsing on cool and spinning in my washing machine (I was totally knackered at this point).  To dry I alternated between laying it flat on my table top and draping it over the deck rail in the garden when the weather was fine and sunny.. it took a couple of days.

The last step was to iron it.. 

Measures about 4 1/2 ft x just over 2ft
I love how misty the design is now the white fibre has come through the green.
If I was doing this again I would carry the spiral on to the top edge..
Next time the brown rug :)

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Fibre of the Month June - Finnwool Piiku Project

I just loved making my patchwork top hats.. and the Piiku certainly felt soft enough that it would be comfortable.  I had also been lucky enough to see some beautiful Piiku felted vessels at Wonderwool Wales, so already knew that it was good for sculptural pieces.  I decided to make a colourful top hat!

I brought 4 differently coloured, variegated batts.  When I unrolled them they were more variegated than I had realised.. so I split each one into the strong colours (from the outside) and the softer, more heathery colours (which were inside).   I did find that there was a fair amount of veggie matter to pick out.. but they are such lovely colours, and the fibre is so soft and lovely, that it is well worth it!

I used the strong colours for this hat.

Though I decided not to use the lovely fresh ocean greeney blue in the bottom corner..
I know this just looks like a heap of fibre but it's
2 layers laid out on top of the resist.. I promise :)
Wetted, flipped, rays folded in, then 3 layers on,
flipped and put 3rd layer on the other side
 The strangeness at the top is the rays of the third layer in the top gusset sticking out under a separate piece of bubble wrap.
Part way through.
Lovely rich red, orangey red and smoky purple.
And then guess what happened..  I forgot to take photos of the rest of the process DUH!

Modelled by my baby :)

I love these vibrant colours..  But they are only half the story, I still had the other half of the batts left.. 

the softer colours from batts - my left overs

Which I turned in to:

Another top hat..
this one is a lovely turquoise, coral red and heather
- an unusual combo but really pretty
I think Rachael rather likes Top Hats :)

For comparison to sampling data:
Resist size: 18" tall x 19.5" across bottom (46cm x 49cm)
Finished size squashed as flat as possible: 10.5 x 12.5" across brim (27cmx32cm)
Shrinkage: 41% x 35%
Weight: 100g

They felted beautifully - fast and easy.. I'd even have say faster and easier than merino!  It was a pleasure to work with.

I'm really enjoying my top hats at the moment :)  These two are in my Etsy shop if anyone is interested..

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Fibre of the Month JUNE - Finn sheep / PIIKU

This month I am working with another of my Wonderwool Wales 'treasures'.. PIIKU.  Piiku is Finnwool..  reared, sheared, cleaned, carded and dyed on a family run farm in Finland.  

I brought mine from Felt in the Factory, unfortunately they don't have many details on the website, but they do carry the full range of beautifully dyed batts - which you can see here on the Piiku website.  If you're in the UK it's probably more cost effective to buy from FITF (postage from Finland pushes the price up) if you email Nina I'm sure she will be happy to sell you some :)

I love this picture!
This Finn ewe in the USA gave birth to 7 lambs.. aren't they all beautiful?!
Finnsheep landrace sheep are renowned for being prolific, it is common for them to have 3 or 4 lambs at a time.. with the record being 9 lambs born to a ewe in Finland.  

Their fleece is classed as medium grade, but it is fine and lustrous with a micron count between 24 & 31 and staple length between 3" & 6".  Colours; black, grey, white and brown, piebald & spotted.

Finnwool Piiku sample

Laid out to the same size as previous samples (20cm x 20cm), with three layers of fibre and thoroughly felted to achieve maximum shrinkage.

The layers peeled off easily and were nice and even.  This is such an easy felter it's unreal!  Very, very nice to work with.. the finished felt is strong and feels like it will be hard wearing, while still being soft to touch. It has a nice tight finish, very tactile.   

Finished sample size: 13cm x 14cm
Weight: 9.3g
Shrinkage: 35% x 30%

I will definitely be using this again..  In fact I am planning to buy more batts in July when I shall be attending a workshop at Felt in the Factory.  (I'm making Lizards with Judit Pocs - I'm so excited!  I have been told there are a couple of places left if anyone is interested..)

Next time:  My Piiku project

Tuesday, 27 May 2014


I often use fibre blended on my drum carder for felting projects.. and if I have any fibre left over it goes in my 'compost' bin - fibre compost that is :).  I let all the odds and sods build up, then use them usually making a crazy batt or 2 and felting them.   

This time I decided to spin them!

The bin had actually filled to over flowing.. after sorting and taking out the coarser fibres this is what I was left with..  I didn't card it, just worked with what was already there.

Ready to begin..
my 'compost' bin :)
I started about a week ago.. whenever I had a few quiet moments just spinning a little more.  I really enjoyed it, spinning is so therapeutic!  The only sorting I did was to roughly divide the colours into lights and darks.. apart from that it was completely random, whatever I pulled out of the basket was the next bit used.

I love chunky, textural yarns.. so spun my singles in a very relaxed manner, there are thicker and thinner bits and that's fine.. it's what I wanted.  Once I'd filled a bobbin I Navajo plied it into a 3 ply yarn..  with Navajo ply if you are careful to spin nice and evenly, and carefully control your plying it's hard to tell that it's been Navajo (chain) plied.. but since I like texture I just kind of go wild with it :)

4 nice skeins..
all together 200g of yarn
My favourite is the dark yarns..
When I have enough I shall crochet them into something nice :)  My happy little spinning wheel is going to stay downstairs for a while.. I enjoyed this far too much to stop just now.  I will definitely do this again in the future, I really like how random it was just taking a lucky dip into the basket and spinning whatever came out.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Fibre of the Month May - Haunui Project

The Haunui is such a lovely soft fibre, and once felted it's still deliciously soft to touch but strong and quite structural.. I had been told by the lovely Zara of InnerSpirals that it is excellent for hats!  And after talking to Zara at Wonderwool, surrounded by her glorious hats the urge to make full sized top hats hit me strong and hard again..  But they really needed to be as different as possible. 

While Heather was here she was telling me about, and showing me pictures of, some lovely hats made at one of her workshops combining brown wool fibre with very bright silk fabrics,.. the resulting hats were gorgeous, the brown fibre really mellowing out the brightness of the silks.  And it hit me.. I NEEDED to make a nice and colourful nuno patchwork top hat!  And using the haunui it could be my FOM project too :)  So.. here it is:

My bag of silk scraps.. mostly pure silk sari
Covering the resist..
I laid a few scraps down to go on the inside of the brim
followed by 3 layers of haunui
'Patches' of brightly coloured silk sari fabric
Part way through.. giving it a good throw
I worked it HARD, rubbing, rolling, pummelling and throwing, shrinking it down and stretching it out, teasing it into the right shape.
I LOVE the colour.. the effect of the slightly fuzzy haunui
and the textured nuno patches.
Modelled by my lovely little lady :)
I pull it down further at the back.. but it looks good on Rachael like this
Side view
For comparison to sampling data:
Size of resist: 41.5cm x 40.5cm
Finished size: 27cm x 26cm 
Shrinkage:  35% x 36%

I was delighted with how it turned out.. definitely plan to make more hats from haunui and nuno silk patchwork -got a couple of ideas for other things to make in this combo too :)

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Fibre of the Month May - HAUNUI

This month I'm playing with one of the fibres I brought for the first time at Wonderwool Wales in April.  This month Haunui - I am told it is pronounced: Hou-noo-ee - thanks Elmtree :).

I have more photos than usual, Alan at Wingham Wool (this is where I brought the fibre from) was kind enough to send me photos from their visit to the farm a couple of years ago.  The information I'm passing on has come from Wingham and much more can be found here on their website.

Haunui comes from Taranui Farm, South Island, New Zealand.  The flock name Haunui translates as 'place of the winds'.  
Part of the flock..
and just look at that fabulous scenery!

The flock is a fusion of New Zealand Halfbred and Fine Romney which has been line bred for generations to provide the qualities which make is so appealing to spinners and felters.

Each fleece is meticulously checks and tracked to ensure the very highest quality.  If a sheep produces fibre that is below standard it is sold on outside of the flock, to keep it out of the breeding program.  Animal welfare is of prime importance here, the sheep are not mulesed.  I don't have the vital statistics for this breed (like size and temperament etc).

All of the animal care, shearing and grading is done by themselves to ensure the best selection of quality and colour.. then the wool is baled and sent for processing.

John Gardiner sorting
Wingham carry 31 & 34 micron fibre in a nice range of colours.. white, grey, black, moorit and browns.

 I used the 31 micron in brown
Laid out to the same size as previous samples (20cm x 20cm) with three layers of fibre, and thoroughly felted to achieve maximum shrinkage.

When laying out the 3 layers I foolishly didn't wet it until all 3 were down.. I had a wonderfully fluffy, and fairly tall pile which I had to be very careful when wetting that it didn't slump and go out of shape.  Entirely my silly fault, ideally I think I should of wet it after each layer (or at least after 2!).  

Finished sample size: 13cm x 15cm
Weight: 14.3g
Shrinkage: 35% x 25%

I must say this is now one of my favourite fibres.  It has such a lovely handle in its fibre state.. is a pleasure to lay out (I can't wait to spin some!)  and it felts like a dream!  Felts quickly and easily into a strong felt which feels so soft and slightly fuzzy that you just keep stroking it.  Really lovely.

I love the character of this fibre!  Plus, it's very rare to be able to track and trace the history of 'brought' fibre in the way that you can with Haunui.. to me that is also pretty special.  I really do think the guys at Taranui do a fantastic job, and I am so glad that Wingham stock it here in the UK!

Next time:  Haunui project