Creativity in Isolation

After months of planning, panicking and packing we finally landed in Auckland on Saturday 20 March 2021. This post is about my experience of Managed Isolation and Quarantine in New Zealand, on the surface a very specific situation but thinking about it, our 2 weeks in isolation has many correlations with the shielding so many people in the higher risk groups have been doing for the past year.

Before we left I knew I would need some supplies to keep me occupied in Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ), I packed a selection of watercolour paints, paper, and a sack of wool tops and some pencil roving to crochet with on the 26+ hour plane journey.

Having such minimal supplies with me, I felt challenged to use / reuse what we had in the room. I saw this limitation as a good thing, sometimes having too much choice can be overwhelming and to be honest I still enjoy the quizzical looks and eye-rolling from Chris as I gleefully retrieved what he thinks is rubbish from the bin.

For my first piece of felt in New Zealand I thought I would experiment with adding a hole to a book resist. I started with a simple, 3 page, egg shape cut from a plastic chocolate bar wrapper.

Laying out wool on such a small resist was very fiddly but with patience I achieved this shape (apologies for the very poor quality photo).

I probably should not have been, but was surprised that I could not persuade the top of the egg (around the aperture) to expand more, the act of adding a hole to the resist, severely restricted the space inside the egg around it.

Taking influence from Maori symbols and tattoos I added a spiral motif which symbolises new beginnings, growth and harmony; an appropriate sentiment at this juncture in my life. When I cut it, I had intended the spiral to sit on the base of the sculpture but now it is finished, I see a bird with a flamboyant plume of feathers on its head and it makes a small pot.

The meals here have been very good and interspersed with pastries, cakes and fruit salads making it hard to go more than 2-3 hours without eating something, not good for the waistline but with every meal delivered in a paper bag we were accumulating rather a lot of bags so I set about trying to up-cycle some of them with mixed results!

A pencil box designed to fit our narrow windowsill
This woven “platter” defeated me in the end, I just wasn’t happy with how the edges folded.
My favourite use for the paper bags… 😉

After some fiddling I discovered the “string” handles on the paper bags could be unravelled and they contained some really lovely textured paper strips in a surprising range of colours.

I haven’t made anything with the twining techniques I learned from Mary Crabb for a few years so set out to see how much I could remember….

I was pretty happy with this little pot (I am sure the weavers will be able to spot the mistakes).

As it turned out, I could not have timed my incarceration better, there have been a host of free tutorials and videos posted over the last couple of weeks to keep me entertained. Too many in fact, I haven’t been able to find time to engage with the textile.org stitch-along.

The IFA had their AGM last weekend and published a series of videos from 4 renowned makers for their members (these will be available for another 6 months if you are dithering about joining). I was a bit limited with my colour choices and did not have half the materials suggested for Fiona Duthie’s tutorial but am still really pleased with how my interpretation is coming along. I plan to work on it some more once our shipping container arrives in May and I can see myself rearranging the tiles ad infinitum, these are 2 of my favourite arrangements (so far!).

I have been watching some of the Sketchbook Revival videos too. This is a free annual event were approx 20 different artists give a 30-60 min presentation. Most are “how to’s” or sketch / paint-alongs, I find some of them can be a bit hit and miss but am sure there is something in there for everyone! It is still running for another week or two this year, you can sign up here.

It has been nice to have the space and time to draw and paint mandalas too, not something I do very often as I doubt any of them will make it beyond the pages of my sketchbook but they are very meditative to do and a good option if you have lost your creative mojo.

While I didn’t manage to crochet on the plane, after a dubious first attempt I did manage to complete this crochet pot from Corriedale pencil roving. I will felt it, dye it and add a face (fox?) before using it as a planter.

The hotel we are staying in have gone out of their way to make our stay as bearable as possible, each meal was delivered with a little inspirational quote (apologies if I have duplicated any), if you click on the photo it should enlarge for you to be able to read them.

As I write this we are in the final 24 hours of our stay, the sun is shining and we have just received my final covid test results (negative), 1 more sleep to freedom! See you on the other side!

Heoi anō tāku mō nāianei (that’s all for now) folks 🙂

Free Video Tutorials!

Covid has had a negative impact on so many areas of our lives but the joy of human ingenuity means that the solutions we find to these unwelcome problems can lead to some unanticipated benefits.

Normally the International Feltmakers Association (IFA) holds their AGM as an “in person” meeting in the second quarter of the year. This year I was very much looking forward to spending a few days with lovely, like-minded fibre enthusiasts at Felletin in France, the workshops organised by the IFA are always excellent and you are guaranteed to make new friends at the social events.

Then Covid raised its ugly head and a plan B was needed….

This year, for the first time, the IFA has commissioned a series of free videos, for their members’ exclusive viewing, from four internationally renowned feltmakers. We will have opportunity to “meet” them live during the AGM weekend in advance of the video launch on YouTube.  

If you are not already a member I can thoroughly recommend taking out membership, especially if you are based in the UK, as membership includes free Public Liability Insurance among other benefits. This link will take you a page detailing more of the benefits of membership and at the bottom is a button where you can sign up.

Below is an outline of the 4 tutors taking part, their bios and what they plan to share. The AGM will be over the weekend of 27/28th March 2021.

Nancy Ballesteros 

Nancy lives in Australia and is artistic director and founder of Treetops Colour Harmonies. For over thirty years she has immersed herself in the science and study of wool, felting and colour theory. As an international tutor, she specialises in Nuno felt techniques and her recent focus is applying Fibonacci’s Design principles to feltmaking. 

How Fibonaccis Design Principals can help Reconnect your Creativity

There is a Natural Rhythm in things we consider beautiful. Leonardo Fibonacci, a 13th century Mathematician wrote about it, Leonardo Da Vinci used it when he painted Mona Lisa.  The Golden Ratio, Fibonacci’s numbers… how could this help your creativity? 

Nancy’s video will explore simple, practical ways to apply this powerful design principle to your felting and no maths is required! 

www.treetopscolours.com.au 

Nicola Brown 

Three words describe my textile practice: simple, natural, crafted. 

Since my introduction to felt and eco printing I’ve been on an exciting journey of discovery. Over time the sustainability of my work and teaching has deepened leading to new connections online and in person with like-minded individuals. The advent of Covid-19 means that keeping safe, staying local and living in harmony with the environment has never been more important. 

For ReConnect I will share a series of 3 videos: where this journey began, an introduction to eco printing and an eco print/natural dye tutorial using locally sourced vegetation. 

Fiona Duthie  

Fiona Duthie is a Canadian feltmaker recognised for her dynamic, sculptural clothing and artwork. Fiona strives for excellence in design and technique, while furthering the medium of felt through the use of new material combinations. 

Creative Sparks looks at reconnecting with simple techniques and familiar materials in a playful and exploratory way. Perfect for uplifting us out of a creative slump, or to refresh our existing design process. We explore sixteen creative prompts while making a beautiful, harmonious set of felt tiles. Each prompt can be taken beyond this project and used to add creative sparks to any felt project. 

www.fionaduthie.com 

Judit Pócs 

Spatiality, Material Use, Recycling 

I’m a Hungarian felt artist, who experiments a lot to develop felt in 3D and to achieve new, interesting surfaces. 

It has always been a challenge for me to see how felt can be transcendent, whether stone-like or metallic. I find it very exciting when a particular substance goes beyond itself. When designing a surface, I usually push these boundaries. 

Recycling is also a feature of my work, I often cut old, used clothes and incorporate the pieces into my wall hangings and other creations and more recently I also recycle coffee capsules into my works.  

www.pocsjuditstudio.hu 

Reflections and New Beginnings

Here we are in January 2021, with Covid vaccines being approved for use and hope for brighter, more normal days just over the horizon. January is traditionally a month for reflection and making plans for the future. This year more than ever and I have an additional reason to be focussed on the year ahead….. my partner has accepted a job offer from Aukland University, so we will be moving to New Zealand in March / April.

Part of me thinks, the middle of a pandemic has to be the worst time to make such a drastic move but then, is there ever a good time? At least New Zealand is one of the few countries in the world who have a managed to control the virus on their shores and, consequently, are leading a relatively normal existence.

We made the decision to move in November and have been decluttering ever since, I am horrified by how much STUFF we have accumulated in our 10 years in this house. In many ways it has been a lovely trip down memory lane, finding trinkets and photos that have languished in a cupboard or box for 10, 20, even 30+ years.

While my felt samples aren’t quite that old (the oldest might be around 10 years old) they did bring back many happy memories as I was sorting through them, trying to decide which ones to keep.

Some of them document some interesting ideas, techniques and experiments that I thought might be of interest to you too….

Colour blending techniques:

When we felt, we are encouraging the fibres to mix and mingle, so when we apply layers of wool in different colours, the colours also migrate and mix, a little bit like mixing paint. This first technique is something I try to get my bag class students to incorporate as it makes for an easy way to achieve subtle tint / tone graduation on the outside of the bag:

The front with colours yellow through burnt orange running left to right
The reverse side with black (tone) and white (tint)

The more this piece is fulled the greater the effect the black and white fibres will have on the colours on the front. By adding a mid-grey between the black and white you can achieve a more subtle change of tone to the coloured side of the felt.

Mixing different colours is also possible and this is so much fun for anyone interested in colour-theory. For this next sample I laid out 2 fine layers of different colours of merino over a green base. Up close (if you click on the image it should enlarge), you can still see the distinct colours in a random marbled pattern but from a distance the colours blend and because I have used colours on the opposite side of the colour wheel, the resulting blends are dulling the top colours and edging them towards greys and browns.

Devore

This sample was made by nuno-felting some hand-dyed cotton muslin to merino wool. Then painting on devore paste, leaving it work its magic for a few minutes before washing the paste out. The paste dissolves / etches away the plant-based fibre (cotton) but leaves the animal fibres (wool) in tact, the grey wool can be seen where the violet / red cotton has been removed.

Layering different materials / fibres

This next sample is one of my favourites although the technique is nothing particularly ground-breaking, it is strips of hand-dyed prefelt, laid over hand dyed habouti silk on a merino base.

This is the back, I really like the way the prefelts on the front have created a subtle, embossed effect on the back.

Adding locks for texture

When most of us think of adding locks to a piece, it is to add lots of fluffy texture with the locks only attached to the base felt at their base but on a workshop I took with Heidi Grebb we explored laying out locks much as you would a final layer of tops….

The bolero jacket that resulted from the “lock texture” samples.

Fake tweed

By laying different coloured yarns (ideally different weights too), it is possible to create felt that looks a lot like tweed. If you use yarns with a high wool content, they will felt into the wool base on their own. If using yarns with a higher synthetic content you will need to add a very fine layer of wool fibre over the top to help anchor the yarns into place.

Inclusions

This last sample is my favourite, perhaps I should stop calling it a sample and think of it as a mini work of art instead… It is three, silk cocoons felted between several layers of Bergschaff.

I hope you found these samples / techniques interesting, if you have any questions about them, please ask!

As part of my mammoth clear-out I have a couple of items listed on Ebay that UK residents might be interested in:

A vintage, fedora / trilby style wooden hat block: https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/333849774234

A whole Wensleydale fleece, I am gutted to be leaving this behind but I know NZ border biosecurity will incinerate it on sight and that would be even more heart-breaking: https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/333851163732

Fun with Foils

Like many of you, I belong to some textile groups that would normally meet in person but this year have needed to find alternative ways to work together. One such group is the Farnborough Embroiderer’s Guild (EG). This EG group is quite unusual in that rather than inviting speakers to talk about their practice, we all take it in turns to teach each other new skills. Three months ago we started meeting via Zoom and I have to confess in some ways I actually prefer it! We aren’t a large group but when we meet in person I often end up only talking to the 2-3 people I am sat nearest to, on Zoom the whole group shares the same conversation which is nice and feels very inclusive. The other advantage is the lack of commute, for me, this means I get to eat before we gather and I can have a glass of wine while we play together 🙂

Last month Sue took us through a technique to create foiled pictures; I don’t know about you but I can’t resist a bit of bling! As we are approaching holiday season it also feels very appropriate to share this with you now. I hope you enjoy it and feel inspired to have a go!

Although I have played with foils before it was only as decorative finishing touches never as the basis create a whole textile picture. Even so, I still managed to make every mistake in the book but was pleased to find foils are remarkably accommodating, if you make a mistake, it can (mostly) be rectified with layering more foil over the top.

Unfortunately it did not occur to me to take photos of the process until I was half way through my picture, I apologise for the lack of photos covering the initial stages of the process. The first few photos are where I went back and reapplied the bondaweb on the beak as my initial application had not transferred completely.

This was the reference photo I used for inspiration:

Some useful tips before you start:

  • set your iron on a low to medium (1 to 2 dots) setting without steam
  • always use a sheet of baking parchment to protect your iron
  • work on an ironing board

1: Cut a piece of medium weight, iron-fusible interfacing / fabric stabiliser slightly smaller than the background fabric and iron it to the back of your fabric. We used black cotton velvet but most non-synthetic fabrics will work (synthetic fabrics are best avoided for this technique as they might melt when heat is applied).

2: Draw out your design with a pencil on the paper side of a sheet of bondaweb. If you aren’t confident drawing freehand, you can trace the design from a printed image. Cut out your design, either as one solid shape or in sections if you plan to create a stained glass effect. For the hummingbird I cut out the whole bird as a single piece.

3: Transfer the bondaweb design onto your backing fabric.

If you are using the stained glass technique you might want to transfer one piece at a time, foil it then apply the next bondaweb shape.

4: Once cooled, carefully peel off the paper backing from the bondaweb.

5: Lay a piece of foil (coloured side facing you) over the exposed bondaweb and cover this with a piece of baking parchment, using the tip or edge of your iron, apply gentle pressure to the areas where you would like that coloured foil to appear.

Allow the piece too cool before peeling back the foil backing.

Tip: you can cut out pieces of baking parchment paper to mask off areas where you do not want that particular colour to appear.

If there are areas where the bondaweb has not transferred so well, or you have already applied several layers foils and want to lay a different colour over the top you can reapply the bondaweb but cutting a shape to match the area, I did this for the edge of breast where I wanted the purple to form a solid line:

If you want a sharp edge in a specific shape, it is also possible to cut the foil to match the shape you desire:

6: Continue adding different coloured foils to your design. If using cotton velvet for the backing it is possible to build up layers of different coloured foils without applying more bondaweb.

Tip: keep the scraps of partially used foils, they can be used to overlay different colours on top of each other very pretty marbled colours.

It is possible to “draw” lines of foil using just the tip or edge of your iron, I used this technique to create the feathers on the wings:

It is not very easy to capture foils in a photo, especially the holographic ones so I shot a short video that I hope shows all the different colours more effectively:

Our group will meet again online later this month to add some embroidery to our designs, I can’t wait to see what everyone else has created! 🙂

Danish Style Shawl

Every few months (before Coronavirus blighted our lives) I used to meet with a couple of friends for felting play dates, where we share what we have been working on, discuss ideas for future projects and teach each other new skills. Last month we had our first felting play date for more than 6 months. It was just so lovely to chat woolly gossip while working on our own projects, Janine all but had to throw Nancy and me out of her gorgeous studio at the end of the day!

During our show and tell Janine shared a gorgeous wrap-around shawl she had knitted, it was based on a traditional Danish design that is tied behind your back so you do not need a hand or shawl pin to hold it in place, ingenious!

I took one look at Janine’s shawl and knew I wanted to make a nuno-felt version.

As the pattern of this shawl is symmetrical, it was an ideal candidate for laying out over a resist. Unfortunately I did not have the foresight to measure Janine’s shawl but manage to fudge my calculations based on my own body measurements and created a resist allowing for 50% shrinkage.

I laid out a very pretty piece of blue and pink silk chiffon over both sides of the resist, wetting it so the fabric adhered to the resist and then trimmed the silk to the size of the resist.

Then I laid out 2 layers of merino on each side of the resist, adding a felt rope to each side of the pointed tip before rubbing and rolling until the wool was starting to shrink.

To remove the resist I cut along all of the curved edges, leaving only the straight edge intact.

Some more fulling and trimming later, this is the result:

It is far from perfect, I have a long list of changes to make for the next iteration but this design definitely has possibilities…. coming to an Etsy shop near you before Christmas! (sorry, I know I should not mention the C word this early in the year! 😉 ).

Speaking of shops, another piece of good news is that the Craft Coop in Camberley are hosting a mini exhibition of my work this week (on now until Sunday 20th September), if you are in the area please do pop in, we are in the Square Shopping Centre.

Online Classes

A friendly reminder that registration for the Concertina Hat and Felted Bags classes is now open. This will be your last chance to take these classes this year, please email me ASAP at teri@teriberry.com if you would like to participate.

More information on these classes can be found here:

Happy Felting!

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