Monday, 16 November 2015

Artificial Stiffener

I don't normally use any artificial stiffener for my felt hats.. I just make it thick enough to have the required substance, and work it hard to make it as stiff as I can.  But I did start thinking and wondering a few months ago, after making the Rincewind hat. It had such a wide brim and was artfully tattered about the edges.. it would of been nice to have a good stiffener to keep it exactly how I wanted it.  And maybe to add a bit of extra strength to help support the weight of the sewn on details on the crown.  What's always put me off using any artificial stiffener is the possibility of changing the texture and character of the felt..  this would be a big no no for me.  

WELL.. all these thoughts were lurking in the back of my mind, when I spotted stiffener for sale from a felter who has a shop on Etsy..  And she uses it for her own hats!  You can't get a better recommendation for a product than seeing it happily used by a fellow felter so I decided to give it a go.  

The product is called Solvitose and is from Zavesfelt in Lithuania, and I believe it is made from starch.  It comes in a 100g packet - I mixed 2 teaspoons with 200ml water and it  made plenty so this pack will last a long time.  Once the powder absorbs the water it becomes a sort of smooth wall-paper-paste consistency.

I put the left over solution in an old preserve jar..
not sure how long it keeps once made up, guess I'll find out
I decided to test it on this hat with a determinedly wonky brim!  

Please excuse the horrible photo!
Using a sponge I dabbed the stiffener solution all over the under side of the brim, pushing it down into the dry felt.  Then stood it on a towel to dry, I was a little concerned that it may become 'glued' to the table top.  

Light objects weighting the front of the brim down
It took a couple days to dry, after the first day I separated it from the towel (it did stick just a little so I was glad I'd used it).

Nice straight brim.. much better :)
The thing I am really happy about is the effect on the felt - it hasn't really changed the texture or character!  The feel of the treated side is just a little different, but not enough to worry over, it still has a soft touch.  And as you can see the brim is much better behaved now :)  I don't plan to use stiffener regularly on my hats, but I do think this is a very useful tool for a felters stash :)

Monday, 9 November 2015

Under the Beech Tree - November

We're well into November now - but I did remember to take my photos right at the start of the month :)

Changing leaves and light quality
We had a very foggy start to November.. a week where it barely lifted, as you can see from the second photo showing the misty higher branches.  Some days/nights visibility was about 20/30 feet and at night no lights were to be seen.  Very suitable and typical weather for the time of year.  The fog did clear in time for Bonfire night though, and standing on our hill top balcony we watched all the fireworks in the valley :)

Gemstone - Topaz
Flower - Chrysanthamum

Anglo Saxons called this Wind monath - because the strong winds start to blow (very appropriate) or Blod monath because it was the time when they slaughtered cattle.

I love this poem..

November by John Clare
The landscape sleeps in mist from morn till noon;
And, if the sun looks through, 'tis with a face
Beamless and pale and round, as if the moon,
When done the journey of her nightly race,
Had found him sleeping, and supplied his place.

5th of November - Bonfire Night
In 1605 a group of unhappy Catholics decided to assassinate James I King of England, by blowing up the Houses of Parliament with him and his Government inside.  It's quite an involved and very interesting story, complete with modern conspiracy theories (aren't there always lol) that the plotters were pawns of James' chief advisor in a bid to make James eradicate Catholicism completely..   
Anyway, there were 14 known plotters.. 

Image of a contemporary engraving of the plotters
They managed to hide 36 barrels of gunpowder in a cellar of the House of Lords.  Guy Fawkes, the explosives expert, had remained in the cellar to light the fuse but was discovered while he was waiting by a group of guards.

Guy Fawkes was taken to the Tower of London and tortured using 'whatever means necessary' by order of the king to get information.. eventually he gave up the name of his co-conspiritors.

Guy Fawkes signature on his confession
The near illegibility of the signature stands testament to the horrors inflicted on a body.

The conspiritors were hunted down, some shot trying to escape were the lucky ones, others were briefly imprisoned in the Tower before being convicted; hung, drawn and quartered - as Guy Fawkes himself was in January 1606.

King James ordered the people of England to build great bonfires and celebrate on the 5th November.  The bonfires originally had effigies of the Pope burned upon them.  Over time that changed into burning Guy Fawkes upon the fire.  Also fireworks became part of the tradition. 

There's a very old rhyme..  
' remember remember, the 5th of November, gunpowder, treason and plot'

When I was a little girl it was a common thing to see children with a 'guy' out in the streets asking for a 'penny for the guy'.. it was as common as trick or treating is now.  

I've never been comfortable with the Guy Fawkes effigies.. I think because even as a child I thought he'd been through such an awful ordeal that I couldn't help feeling sympathy that he should be trotted out year after year to be hated and reviled instead of left in peace (though in truth the 'guy' has lost meaning to most these days).  I don't want to dance to that old tune..

I can't believe that this is my penultimate Under the Beech Tree post..  one more month to go, will the tree be bare? 

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Down time..

And then everything went pear shaped!  (If you are not familiar with that saying it means things went wrong).  Mom's dementia took a turn for the worse and as she is still at home it was doubly hard.  I spent a lot of time at my parents home, and even when not there my mind was whirling... 

Again I was looking at fibre and just not feeling it.. preferring to do housework than felt.. WHAT?!  That's just wrong..

But knowing myself, I know that trying to push through and felt anyway (which is usually the best medicine for me) could be detrimental and lead to this block becoming a real issue, as it did in the summer.  SO, I needed something that would keep my hands busy and calm my mind, but be no more taxing than putting things together which pleased my eye.  I decided to crochet a thick blanket for my son.. to keep in his car and take along on adventures and camping trips and what have you.

I have a big box full of yarn.. so great I could destash at the same time!

Using three strands of yarn.. 1 aran and 2 double knit and a 10mm hook
I really enjoyed working on this.. just putting colours together, working row after row of plain double crochet.  

Infact I enjoyed it that much, and as I still had quite a bit of yarn left, I decided to do a second - this one will be for Rachael.

They're approx 4'6" x 5' really snuggly and warm.
Some of the yarn used was passed on to me by my Nan, and I
recognise some of it from childhood cardigans and jumpers :)
I'm glad to say things have settled with Mom this past week, she's on meds which seem to be helping. And so things have been better with me.. I've been at home and actually felting again :)

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Season of the Witch..

With Halloween approaching fast I had to make some witches hats :)  And for the first time ever (no idea why I haven't done before) I made WHITE witches hats..

The first one:
in the making :)
 This 1st one is now with my dear friend Jane - who's been fancying a felted witches hat for ages.. turns out she just couldn't resist a white one :)

The second hat:
Wider in the brim
And yet another selfie :)
As you can tell there hasn't been anyone around to help with pics lately..
This 2nd one has gone to it's new home in Devon.. bound for a spooky ball at a castle this All Hallows Eve. I'm hoping I get a photo of the wearer in her full costume.. I do love to see them being worn by new owners :)

Sunday, 25 October 2015

More Fungi..

More photos than words today..

The second 'fungi scarf' was a little shorter.. and bolder :)

I don't have a photo of this one 'on' yet.. and the weathers too dull this morning to take one.  It does look pretty round the neck though :)

The third was autumn coloured.. I was working with the fibre shades I had to hand.

This was the fungal inspiration..
I now know this is turkey tail fungus - thank you Kerry :)
Laying out the layers with bubble wrap between 
Wetted and carefully rubbing..
forgot to take progress pics after this :)
Close-up of finished ruffles
I love seeing them rolled up like this :)
Another terrible selfie!
This is a pretty long one.. it loops round the neck 3 times
This one seemed to take aaaages.. I was so glad when it was finished!

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Lovely Fungi :)

At the start of October I was still full of enthusiasm and energy for felting!  And since September was all about animals I felt like carrying on being inspired by nature.. this time flora rather than fauna :)

I found images of the most beautiful fungi on Pinterest..

Turkey tail fungus (thank you Kerry for the name :)
I love the colours, pretty bands and rounded ruffling shape..
I've made berets with ruffles on in the past.. and a few years ago made cushion covers shaped like flowers with ruffling petals.  I decided to try a scarf using the same technique for ruffles as I had in the past..
Laid out fibre layers separated by bubble wrap 
(apart from a thin strip along one long edge
- where I wanted the layers to be joined)
Wetted and carefully rubbed
After lots of rubbing and rolling.. when it was holding together well.
Using my painters tray 'washer board' to firm up the ruffles
After rinsing and a gentle spin I stretched and formed the ruffles
- leaving it in position to dry
Unfortunately I had to take the photo myself and it isn't very good -
But you get the idea :)
Really happy with the shape and how the ruffles turned out.. and I like the colour.  It doesn't have the coloured band effect of the fungus though, my fibre colours went together too well for that; they've blended into a subtle variegation from light to dark.. which is fine - but next time I was a bit braver :)

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Under the Beech Tree - October

Another month has flown by...   And for me September was much more pleasant, I'm getting back to my usual self - got a nice amount of felting done - and I'm FEELING the felting mojo still :)  October is off to a good start!

If you look closely some of the leaves are starting to turn.. 

I usually take photos of this tree in the morning.. this was taken in the afternoon,
notice how the light is different..?
We are seeing the squirrels a lot more now.. performing amazing acrobatics in the tree tops :)  They leap across an at least 6 foot span between this tree and it's neighbouring birch.  We're still getting lots of beautiful warm sunshine - a real treat this late in the year.  But there's a definite chill to the air, mornings mostly begin misty then a gorgeous golden glow creeps across as the sun comes up :) That's one of the things  I love about Autumn.. the light quality - apart from when it's dull, rainy weather of course.

Gemstone - Opal
Flower - Calendular

Anglo-Saxons called this Wyn Monath - Wine making month :)

Of course the main event in October is Halloween / All Hallows / Samhain. Whatever you call it, the origins of festivities on this particular day are ancient. There's absolutely masses of information about the history and evolution online.. so I'm not going to go on about it here.  But if you are not familiar with how Samhain became Halloween it's well worth half hour googling and reading.. it's very interesting!

What I will mention is the dates relevance in the Celtic country calender. Samhain was the first day of winter.  Crops like barley and oats, turnips and apples should of been gathered by now. It was thought that faeries would ruin it if left in the fields, same with berries in the hedgerows.   

Samhain was the date the livestock would be brought in from summer pastures.. any beasts which were to be kept through the winter went to winter quarters.  The rest were slaughtered and preserved. This practice continued well past the end of the celtic period, and the evolution from Samhain to Halloween. It's only really modern farming that'll of had an effect on this ancient wisdom - obviously I'm not thinking of faeries ruining things but rather the effects of our weather:) 

The more recent Christian version of the earlier pagan belief is; 
'Don't pick blackberries after Michaelmass, on this day the devil puts his foot (or spits on) on blackberries'.  

Michaelmass Day is 10th October and is the day the Christian calender celebrates Archangel Michael's defeating Lucifer, it says when Lucifer was tossed out of Heaven he landed in a thorny blackberry bush - which he duly cursed and spat on. 

Anyway.. Enjoy :) xx

Thursday, 1 October 2015

More September makes...

And then feathers joined fur and prickles :)  Time to make another set of retro wall ducks!  

Laying out..

Close-up of the smallest
They have flown over to my Etsy shop :)
I wonder where they will find their home..
Not sure if I ever told you, but the first set (made in 2014) were brought by Google for one of their meeting rooms :)

Anyhoo.. that's all my September critters

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

September makes...

Inspiration struck this month, making me want to make CRITTERS!  So that's what I've spent my felting time doing all through September..  

I've made hedgehogs and reindeer for the first time in more than 2 years :)

The animals went in two by two...
Just drying out here.
Sewing prickles onto the first hedgehog - HARRIS the big one.
I used a nice Harris tweed fulled in the washing machine for this one
Harris and the Hoglets :)

The Hoglets aren't Harris Tweed, their prickles are vintage wool tweed remnants - again fulled in the washer,  Their names are Remy the Light and Remy the Dark.  They all have rice packs and leather bottoms.. can be used for doorstops or the little ones can be bookends.  

This is the darker coloured reindeer with more 'grass' showing through the snow
Lighter coloured reindeer up close n personal :)

Both reindeer are teacosies..

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Catching up a little more..

I also got a jump on Halloween in August!  This was nothing to do with me being organised (I'm sure you will not be surprised to hear that lol) but rather because I was contacted through my Etsy shop, by a lady who wanted to feature my witchy hats in a magazine this Autumn.  It would be absolutely LOVELY if they do make it into a mag, but on the back of my photography they may not.. we shall see.

Anyway, I spent a week playing around making tiny witches hats - the ones I already had are in a bricks n mortar shop at the moment and I wanted some to put in my Etsy shop incase the feature does happen.

This is one of the pictures I took - quite pleased considering I not only managed to get my hair the way I wanted it :) but took the photos all by myself too.  Using a timed delay - what fun that was dashing back and forth and trying to look relaxed and natural for the snap! :)

This is my own witchy topper made a while back
but the size of the new ones are similar and they're same size.

I did start out with the intention of recording the felting process and adding it as a time-lapse video.. didn't quite work as expected though.  I was quite puzzled to find it had stopped recording part way through.  So I tried again with the next hat, taking up where the first ended.. only for the same thing to happen again!  For some reason it seams that my camera will only record 20 odd minute chunks. 

Laying out the fibre

It looks like my hands are just vibrating on this video but I was actually rolling back and forth, faster movements are lost in the the time-lapse.  I did 75 back and forth rolls each time between turns.

I just watched and noticed that I was holding it off camera part of the time while I 
was rolling the brim!  And a lot of smaller movements don't show up due to the time-lapse.. :(

I finished up with a nice little collection..

Gathered black lace veil / train

Gathered iridescent organza -
cut edges sealed over a candle then heat distorted and tattered.

I LOVE how you get flashes of colour change with both of the organza fabrics, they pick up the colours in the witches hats nicely.  Wonder if I could/should do a full sized hat with veil (or is it a train being as it's at the back?)...?