Thursday, 18 December 2014

Beginners Spinning and Felting Workshops

Hi, just to let you all know I have 2 workshops coming up at the start of February 2015.. 

Tudor Rose Brooch
Each session is 4 hours long and materials will be provided.  The cost is £20 per session, and you are welcome to do just one or the other, but if you book both sessions the overall cost will be £30 - saving you £10!  

**if there aren't enough bookings by 12th January they will be cancelled**


Friday 6th Feb 2015 - 10am - 2pm
An Introduction to Spinning..
Will be hands on!  We shall look at cleaning and preparing a local fleece for felting and spinning..  with a look at some of the tools you may find useful.
Then we shall start having a go at spinning on a traditional drop spindle..  I'll talk you through the process with everybody having a go.  Learning to spin is all about practice.. once you know the basics technique it is a matter of putting in the hours practising it until you get better.  You are not likely to walk away from this workshop able to spin yarn..  unless you really are a natural or have prior experience.. but you will go armed with an understanding of the basic technique and notes to refer back to.

* If you are pregnant, or there is any chance that you may be please have a quiet word to let me know.  Pregnant women are advised not to handle raw unwashed fleece.. you will be fine to take part in the session but will need to avoid handling the dirty fleece.

Each participant will take home comprehensive workshop notes and some of the local white wool fibre.

There will be an opportunity to purchase your own handmade drop spindle and extra fibre if you wish.



Friday 13th Feb 2015 - 10am-2pm
Wet Felting Workshop
Everyone will felt a Tudor Rose Brooch (as shown in the picture) and have the opportunity to take part in a communal felting project where we shall create a picture panel that will be exhibited in Oak House later in the year.

Each participant will take home their own Tudor Rose Brooch and workshop notes.

There will be an opportunity to purchase further wet felting kits and fibres if you wish.


During both of these workshops I shall also have my peg loom set up nearby, so if anyone doesn't fancy the rigours of spindling or felting they can have a go at weaving a small piece on this simplest of looms.


This is the venue
Oak House Museum
A beautiful 16th century timber framed building
Oak House Museum
Oak Road
West Bromwich
B70 8HJ

0121 553 0759

Bookings need to be made with the Oak House, but if you try and can't get hold of them please contact me an I will sort it out for you.

So if you are nearby and fancy joining me please get in touch :)  I'd love to see you there  xx

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Challenge accepted..

I couple of weeks ago a customer - who over the last couple of years has become a pen-friend, asked if I could felt him a hat inspired by his favourite character on the game Mortal Kombat.. Shinnok (a wizard).

image found onlineShinnok - whose hat is red and black..
My friend wanted one in GREEN and black instead
This week I got to work on it.. and I was quite methodical with this one :)   

Planning..
Resist for the first attempt..
3 layers of superfine (from UNshedded sheep!) black merino for the crown and point -
4 layers of 24 micron emerald green for the brim
Far too weedy!
He'd look like a mad pixie in this one (it was too small too.. it'd shrunk
 more than I expected - possibly because I used SF?  I don't usually use it).
Resist for 2nd attempt was much bigger
There were lots of silk inclusions on both sides of this hat..
cos the brim is turned up I had to lay out the outside of the point and inside of the brim in the first layer..
Then 3 layers for point and crown and 6 layers for brim with the final layer being the inside of the point and
outside of the brim

As always I worked it HARD.. to get a really strong, tight felt.

Drying.. I stuffed plastic carrier bags in between the crown and brim to get the angle

Having the 6 layers in the brim worked much better.. the bifurcated brim is much stronger, with the points stand proudly now :)

Does it suit me :)? (no lol)
Looks much better with a chunkier point
and more volume in the crown..

And now it is winging it's way across the Atlantic to its' new home :)  


Saturday, 6 December 2014

Fibre of the Month PROJECT - Estonian Batts

As mentioned in the sampling post for the Estonian batts, the fibre blend is Gotland and merino.. with Gotland being the main fibre I would think from the feel.  Gotland is great for thing which need to be hard wearing.. so I decided to make BOOTS.

At this time of year I absolutely love watching the skies.. winter is my favourite time for watching the sun rise and set.  ANd the solstice is just around the corner.. I love winter solstice, always have as far back as I can remember.  Maybe it's because I was born just a few days before, but I've always felt very 'in tune' with it.  Anyway.. someone happened to mention boots in sunset colours a few weeks back and WHAM.. my mind went into overdrive forming these boots in my head.. I just had to make them to get them out!

Estonian Batts in Sunrise/set colour palette
The main colour used was this gorgeous terracotta orange..
with the reds and purple touches in the final layers.  I added slubby red yarn too.
Building sun-spirals
Drying out..
I added bluey-grey slate coloured leather soles.. and Italian wood toggles..

The sun rises on the left ankle
And sets on the right toe :)
****************************************************************
For comparison to sampling data

Layout size: 73cm x 36cm
Finished size: 54cm x 27cm (pressed flat to measure / 54cm is length of both boots added together)
Weight: 220g

Shrinkage: 26.5% x 25%
****************************************************************

Observations

The shrinkage is less than that of the sample..but 'more fibre = less shrinkage'!  - The layers are thicker and there are twice as many as used in the sample, so I'm not surprised that the shrinkage is less.  

Also I did really stretch the length of the boots back up as I wanted them fairly tall.  That's something I like about these batts actually the felt is nice to manipulate in the final stages.. just get it good and hot.  It does shed hair a quite a bit in the final stages, I find Gotland always does.

I also found that it seemed to really want to form ridges at the edges. Constant vigilance - as Mad Eye Moody would say :) - was needed to prevent them from developing and becoming a problem.

It's made a lovely thick, sturdy felt.. I think they will be really comfortable and cosy boots.  The feel of the finished felt is different from Gotland alone.. it's much softer against the skin.  But I don't think this will effect how hard wearing the felt is.  

In fact, Jane (of Jane Flanagan Textiles) tells me it is commonly used for footwear and other hard wearing products in Estonia, when laid down thickly and felted well.  She says it is also used for more delicate items when laid finer etc. but I haven't experimented with that..

I definitely plan to use it for more slippers in the future!


This pair are destined for my Etsy shop tomorrow.. they're a UK size 6 if anyone is interested :)


Tuesday, 2 December 2014

A Goodbye..

Today is a very sad day here.. one which we knew was in the not too distant future, but that doesn't make it any less upsetting.  We lost Jesse this morning. My lovely little matie, who was always at my feet.. wherever I was and whatever I was doing she was the one who was always there.  


In her favourite place
We were told at the beginning of September that she had cancer and that it was incurable.  It was a bolt out of the blue as she hadn't been unwell at all, seemed as fit as a fiddle in fact, but at a routine check up the vet found a lump deep in her tummy.. there was no way it could of been found sooner.  Well after scans, tests and biopsy surgery we got the unwelcome news.  We were told that she would soon become very unwell, most likely only having weeks left.  

We were so glad that once she had recovered from the surgery we had our happy, healthy little Jess back.  Running and playing as always, eating well.. nothing to give any clue as to what was going on with her..

She went to bed last night with a waggly tail as always.. but when we got up this morning she was a very poorly girl.  

We think she'd started having seizures early this morning.  We knew as we were taking her to the vet that it was a one way trip.  She was in obvious pain, I don't think she could of been worse to be honest.  I'd been pretty scared in the weeks coming up to this, knowing I would stay with her but frightened about what would actually happen to her.  In the end it was with relief that we watched, stroking her all the time..  she had the injection took a few more big breaths and relaxed.. and was gone.  It was touching that she went out in such typical Jess fashion.. with a grumble.  She always did this funny deep grumble of pure relaxation when you scratched her ears and you knew she was really enjoying it.. she gave 2  of these grumbles as she slipped away.

Trying to just focus on remembering all the happy times now...

Sisters.. like a pair of bookends!
Last time we had a good snow fall they were determined to eat it all up
 Time has flown since..


the first day in her new home..
Twelve years ago..

In my mind now she is on our favourite beech, chasing seagulls and piddling on seaweed, it's a gentle summers day with the wind blowing her ears back... we'll join her there when it's time.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Fibre of the Month November - Estonian Batts

Getting in during November just by the skin of my teeth - though the project will follow in early December (cos it isn't finished yet!)

This month I'm using Estonian Batts from Jane Flanagan Textiles - the batts are a blend of Gotland and merino.  Jane was unsure of the proportion of merino to Gotland in the blend.. but having used them to me they feel and behave like they are mostly Gotland.  I think maybe they are a little softer to handle than if it were just Gotland...

And as this is a blend I'm talking a little bit about both breeds :)

Gotland Sheep
Love the natural colours and wonderful curly fleeces
image from GotlandSheep.com
Just look at that face!  What a beautiful sheep!
image from edengotlandsheep.wordpress
According to the British Coloured Sheep Breeders Association:
Gotland are a Northern Short Tailed breed, originating from the island of Gotland, where primitive examples still exist.  The modern Gotland sheep is famous for its' furskin in attractive shades of silver grey.  This is a sheep which yields 3 crops; good flavoured meat, a soft silky fleece, and its' furskin.

Gotland ewes are good mothers, easy to lamb, prolific and milky.  Lambs are fast to suckle and fast growing from birth.  They are a medium sized friendly sheep that is hardy and adaptable.

Fleeces weight  3 - 3.5 kg
Staple length 13 - 18cm
Averages 35 micron but can be as low as 18-20  /  Bradford count 48 average

Merino Sheep
image woolpower.se
According to Canadian Co-operative Wool Growers Ltd:
Merino are the oldest established breed of sheep in the world, the breed is named after a nomadic Berber tribe in North Africa who brought their sheep with them to Spain in the 12th century.  After 1786 the Spaniards relaxed their ban on exporting breeding stock.

Fleece weight 4 - 6 kg
Staple length 6 - 10cm
Micron count less than 24

I have a history in history :) I spent many years working for my local museum service and had a particular interest in textiles..   Considering how important the domestic wool industry of Britain was, it may be surprising that as well as exporting an aweful lot of fleece, our ancestors actually IMported it too!  The softest, most expensive and highly prized wool (only available to the rich due to it's cost) was imported Spanish Wool.  Which of course must of been merino..  These days in the UK we get most of our merino from Australia, New Zealand, Africa and South America.. you wouldn't imagine merino being here back in the medieval - until you hear of the history of the merino breed.. wonderful.  This made me really happy when I worked for the museum 'cos it meant I could get away with using merino fibre when I wanted.. it was Spanish Wool :)


And this is what Jane Flanagan says about the blend on the webshop:
'The wool is collected directly from farmers in Scandinavia and Estonia, and is then gently washed in a bleach-free liquid soap.  It is dyed to a beautiful range of colours without the use of harsh chemicals, so that it retains some lanolin and the natural feel and smell of pure wool.'

Sampling:
As you can see I haven't had time to embroider the details on as yet..
Laid out the same as previous samples: 20cm x 20cm square, 3 layers and felted hard to achieve maximum shrinkage.

Observations
These batts come as a cut edged square measuring about 20" square (from memory, I didn't measure).
You can feel that there is a nice amount of lanolin in there.  There wan't much veggie matter in the batts I brought.  

It's very easy to peel even layers from the batt to work with!

The sample is made from a very strongly coloured dark orange which I can report was pretty colour fast!  I had a small amount of colour run when I used very hot water in the last stages - but I'd of been more surprised if I didn't.

Findings
Finished sample size: 13cm x 12.5cm
Weight: 9.7g
Shrinkage: 35% x 37%

This has made a nice strong felt, now that it is finished it has a softer surface texture than I'd expect from Gotland alone.  But this doesn't detract from the strength of the felt..  It has a slightly hairy finish (actually I noticed while felting that it 'sheds' like Gotland usually does).


Next time: Estonian Batt Boots :)




Thursday, 27 November 2014

Facebook..

Setting up a Facebook Business page has been on my list of things to do for the longest time...  But I have finally done it :)  YAY :)

If anybody would like to pop over and join me there I'd be over the moon ...



I do have a personal profile but as I rarely use it, I really am a total Facebook novice.  Any words of wisdom, advice or shout outs if I manage to screw up will be very much appreciated :)   ... I have so much to learn :S

xx

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Industrial Felt

Whenever I've used felt soles or insoles in the past I have always made my own felt.. but think I may just buy the industrial felt from JoesToes in future for them.  When I think about how long it takes to make such a thick hard piece as I would for soles, and how much fibre it uses I'm sure it works out cheaper to buy the industrial..

And as I said last time, Amanda stocks it in some really lovely colours and she very kindly sent me a sample swatch of all the different colours she stocks.

Really pretty felt colours..
The stars are samples of vibram
I wanted to show you this swatch in yesterdays post.. but forgot to take the photo until after it got dark :)

I've got a piece of red and a piece of green waiting to be used.. 

Saturday, 22 November 2014

BOOTS

Thank you everybody who commented on my last post!  I really do appreciate you taking the time to offer you opinion.. you all made my decisions very easy :)  

I went with RED..

hope the colours show up ok.. red tones are always tricky
Buttoned up
and open :)
It's the first time I've used industrial felt for anything.. I must say I thought they'd be easier to sew on than leather soles but it was harder!  My fingers were soooo sore by the time I finished.  I didn't want to punch holes 'cos that would weaken the felt, where as I always punch holes in leather.. and I guess the 5mm thickness may of had something to do with it too.  But I think they look lovely.. and I wouldn't hesitate to use it again (I'd wear leather thimbles next time though lol).  I'll post again quickly tomorrow about the industrial felt, I want to take a photo of the sample swatch and as it's dark now shall have to leave that bit till tomorrow.

I haven't painted the latex on as yet just incase who ever buys them wants them left 'naked'.  I have some customers who ask for bare felt soles so they can slip and slide around the hard floors in their homes :) it always makes me smile imagining them. 

If anyone is interested I shall be listing these boots tomorrow in my Etsy shop.. they're a UK womens size 7 to 7.5

Thanks again for your help folks :)
xoxo

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Your advice would be appreciated..

I was recently asked to felt a pair of rainbow fade boots using red, orange and yellow.. and to incorporate a spiral into the design..  this is what I came up with

Just finished drying..
They still need the closures sewing on so look a bit 'naked' at the moment..
The customer wanted latex soles rather than leather.. well you know I don't like painting it directly onto the slippers.  So I suggested a separate felt sole with the latex painted onto that.. and I decided to go with an industrial felt from Joestoes - she has it in really pretty colours.  I ordered the red and green so the customer could choose which they prefer.

Trouble is it turns out this wasnt at all what the customer was envisaging.. so they are going into my Etsy shop at the weekend.  And I have to decide which sole will go best..  decisions decisions..

The green will pick up the spiral beautifully..
making a really vibrant, funky pair of statement boots
 while 
The deep red picks up the dark part of the variegate red yarn in the spiral..
and I think it will ground the boots, mellowing them and giving them a cosy character.
In short I am torn.. I think they'd both look nice but can't decide which would look best..if either would look better than the other - I think it may just be a case of being different.  So the decision is what character these boots should have; bright & vivacious, or mulled wine and log fires cosy...?


HELP please..  I would really appreciate all suggestions.  As mentioned I want to get them listed at the weekend, so I've got 2.. 3 days at a pinch.. to make a decision.

Friday, 31 October 2014

Fibre of the Month October - Black Welsh Mountain Project


I decided to make a bag again this month.. and the pattern was rather influenced by my new thermal socks :) which have nice diamond patterns on. There seem to be a lot of diamond patterned things in the shops this autumn..

This was definitely an experimental bag!  I tried out a new handle technique.. new way of inserting a zip.. new shape.. and of course - new fibre...   And I remembered to take photos at each stage.. good going for me :)  


Firstly I made the handle.. basically a cord with a metal ring at each end
The resist has extensions at the top to make loops for attaching the rings..
and a flap taped on at the bottom to make a wide bottom
I must confess I didn't have enough Black Welsh to make this.. so I cheated a little
by using white Falkland inside.. which will also make it easier to see what's inside
I cut diamonds from prefelt.. the green is commercial, the red and orange my own
carefully arranged :)
I did both sides the same
Then added a row of gemstone beads (Judit style)..  the wool yarn they were threaded on
was covered with fibre
Part way through..
The light looks funny 'cos it was dark now so I had the light on
Inside pocket.. thought a little prefelt detail would be nice :)
I wanted to add a zip to the top of the bag, but wanted to try another way I'd thought of doing the internal flaps to fix it to (rather than the resist method used last time).


I made strong prefelt, stronger than prefelt really.. more an unfinished felt -
and cut a couple of strips.  
Which I pinned in place then hand stitched with woollen yarn..
The bag was not fully felted at this point but it was well on the way 
(both the bag and flaps were at about the same stage of felting).
- I wanted the two to felt together so paid plenty of attention to the join.
I worked this HARD.. I mean really long and hard.. with boiling water etc. till it was fully felted.

Drying out.
Notice the wide flat area in the middle of the handle for sitting on the shoulder.
Lots of pins used to hold the zip in..


All sewn in :)
I hand stitched it with upholstery thread
the finished inner pocket
Stitching the extrusions..
I threaded the ring on then stitched it down to form a loop
Finished :)
I'm really pleased with how this worked out..
This way of doing the zip flaps worked just as well as the other..
 I don't think it was less work or faster, but it may be easier

and open..
I just LOVE these Picasso Jasper beads.. they are so pretty and colourful
Perfect for wearing across the body..
(think I need to steam and block it again to get those creases out)
Very comfy on the shoulder
****************************************************************

For comparison to sampling data:

Resist size: 50cm x 55.5cm
Finished size: 35cm x 37.5cm
Shrinkage: 30% x 32%

Weight: 470g (this includes gemstones, metal rings and the zip)

****************************************************************


I used 2 layers of white Falkland inside and 4 layers of Black Welsh outside. Even though it was slower to felt with than most of the other fibres I use I really do love the finished felt and would use it again.  I found (carefully) using boiling water in the final stage really tightened things up and finished it off very nicely.

The cords were also a little slower but they did felt well!