Thursday, 31 July 2014

Fibre of the Month July - Swaledale Project

Just about scraping in for July!

I brought 300g of Swaledale to play with.. but when it came time to decide what to make for some reason my mind just filed up with vessels...

I used 3 fibre layers to make a simple 'pot'

Some lovely dyed silk hanky 
with a tiny resist placed over
(I added a couple of layer to form a patch over the resist)
First 2 layers were perpendicular, 3rd layer radiated out from the centre
simple design elements
merino fibre and prefelt
And some lovely Wensleydale curls placed so they would fringe the opening when cut.
The resist on top was just to stop them felting in
(it was too thick really, bubble wrap would of been better)
After cutting the opening & leaving a tab -
I worked the edges well with soapy fingers
This spot marks the resist over silk - to remind me where to cut
Again, I worked the edges really well with soapy fingers
 And then in TRUE FeltersJourney style I forgot to take photos for a while!  I worked the felt really well, rubbing and rolling, pummeling and throwing.  Using lots of very hot water to felt it as hard as I could.

Finished pot standing on the resist I used
With one of my smallest branch button sewn on
Unfortunately some of the water I used was SO hot (boiling in fact)
that it has faded the silk a little.. still pretty colours though I think
For comparison to sampling data:
Resist size: 25cm diameter
Finished size squashed flat as possible: 17.5cm
Shrinkage: 30%
Weight: 50.1g

It's made a nice little pot.. Though I think using 5 or 6 fibre layers instead of 3 would of made a really nice sturdy little pot.  Think that's what I would do next time.. but you know how much I like my thick felt :)

Next time: Even more Swaledale..

Fibre of the Month JULY - Swaledale

A little later than anticipated.. I'm just in time for July!  I had a request a little while back to look at Swaledale.. so here we go :)

websearch photo from
A medium sized, hardy breed of sheep which thrives in hilly and mountainous regions.  Gets it's name from the Swaledale Valley in the Yorkshire Dales.

Just look at that face! Adorable
websearch photo from World of Cumbria Carpets
Kept for their wool and meat.  Swaledale produce an off-white wool which is very hardwearing and often used for carpets and rugs.  Staple length ranges between 10cm - 20cm, and micron count is 35 to 45.

My Swaledale came from World of Wool and is a lovely light grey.. much lighter than I had expected, with a staple length of 16cm.

oops made a mistake embroidering the measurement here!

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

Feels quite a coarse fibre.  It's fairly lofty when you lay the fibre down.. best to wet between layers to help avoid it spreading.  Felted fairly quickly.. I found it easiest to work fairly soapy, more so than usual but I often find that with coarser fibre.  Made a lovely, strong, thick felt that although you can feel it is strong and firm it's actually soft, slightly fuzzy and very pleasant to touch.

Finished sample size: 13.8cm x 16cm
Weight: 22.2
Shrinkage: 32% x 20%

Nice fibre for felting projects that need to be hardwearing.  I have only found it available in the natural light grey, which I think is really lovely for a natural, even slightly rustic look.  One of my friends dyes this light grey wool and achieves absolutely gorgeous colours!

Next time: Swaledale project

Monday, 28 July 2014

A finished Lizard

I really didn't have much more work to do when I got home.. just hot water and rolling from nose to tail and vice versa.  
After rinsing and spinning
I stuffed him with wool fibre & pinned his tail in position to dry
Dried and released.. love the curl :)
Now some beady glass eyes.
these have been in my stash for about 9 years and were just right for him
A finished lizard
101cm / 40" from the ends of his fingers to the tip of his tail
Basking in the sun by the pond
I love the raised features..
I think 'Oscar' suits him for some reason :)

I'm so glad I did this workshop!  It was actually the first one I've attended but won't be the last I hope..

And I brought goodies home with me..

Judit's book 'On Gentle Threads'
and some gorgeous Piiku batts

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Making lizards with Judit Pocs

This week I had the great pleasure of attending a 2 day workshop with the lovely Judit Pocs :)  Not only is Judit amazingly talented, but she is a very good tutor!  My advice - if you get a chance to take a workshop with Judit, don't think about it just sign up and do it!  
Judit's lizard (stunning colours!)
A slightly smaller version of the ones we were to make :)
I didn't take many photos while I was there.. I was too busy taking it all in, making notes and getting on with things.  I did manage to snap a few though :)

Covering my resist.. purple inside
with red and green bits added as the layers went on
getting rubbed well prior to rolling
It took a long time to build our lizards.. we were all felting like fiends through day 2 to try and finish.. I'm not sure how many were completely finished, but I do know that mine wasn't quite. Here are a few pics showing some of the lovely lizards produced by the end of day 2

I hope nobody minds me picturing their lizards here..
 if you do please shout out and I'll take 'em off
It was a really good couple of days!  Spent in the company of a group of lovely and very talented felters.. it was so nice to just spend time with people who love felting as much as I do.  The course was at Felt in the Factory which is just over an hours drive away from me.. I stayed overnight at the Factory and it was very nice.  Judit and Angela (hello Angela :) were also staying there so we got more chances to chat :).  I was really glad to be staying there 'cos I got to spend extra time in the studio working on my lizard.. I did an extra 2 hours in the evening to try and catch up - I was the slow kid in the group I think.  But I was back on track for the next day so everything was ok :)  

Next time.. a finished lizard 

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

I was wondering why the shrinkage rate was greater in the rugs than in the sample and trivets... I think it's because I folded the edges in on the rugs thereby reducing the size more than if I'd left the edges natural (the edges of the sample and trivets were not folded in).


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 :)