Getting in a Spin

Creative Fibre in New Zealand are hosting a series of workshops next weekend, one of which is a beginner’s spinning workshop with Pat Old. She is quite the celebrity in NZ spinning circles but I’m not sure if that is also true internationally…. have you heard of her before?

I dithered about signing up for this class because one of the prerequisites was that you need to bring a wheel in good order, bobbins and lazy Kate. I wasn’t sure how much I wanted to learn to spin and buying all that equipment up front was quite an investment, so I put out some feelers to see if anyone had a wheel they would like to sell. I was (and still am) keen to make art yarns so was ideally looking for a wheel with a jumbo flyer. It took a few weeks of asking around but a friend from Auckland Fun Felters came through for me, she had an Ashford Traditional and best of all, it was already fitted with a jumbo flyer! 🙂

I took delivery of my new toy at the end of May and have been watching far too many Youtube videos ever since 🙂 These are my first efforts….

Autumnal colours spun from a Merino art batt full of textured bits and pieces, probably a bit ambitious for a first go but I was pleased with the results:

Aoifa says it makes a very nice pillow…

After reading Ann’s post on FFS a few weeks ago I had a shock of inspiration and added some orange to the singles I planned to ply post dying with purples and blues:

This is the plied yarn:

After plying I had some “single” left over on one of the bobbins so thought I would have a go at chain-plying (apparently it’s not very PC to call it Navajo plying any more). This method produces 3-ply yarn and in theory you can line up the colours on a gradient dyed yarn so you loose the stripy, “barber-pole” effect. I succeeded in places but definitely need more practice!

I am really enjoying spinning with Polworth (a Merino-cross breed that is better suited to the wet NZ climate), it is a lovely, soft wool. I crocheted this cowl but was not keen on the hot pink.

So I over-dyed it with blue:

One month into my spinning journey, a beginners class in Auckland came up so I toddled along with a friend (Margaret) who was curious but not really interested in taking up spinning (she couldn’t knit or crochet). They gave us some mystery brown and white wool to play with, I am pleased with the results but it is very coarse, too coarse for anything wearable so I am crocheting it into a bowl.

Margaret ended up buying the wheel she had been practicing on in the class (from the same person who sold me my wheel, I am starting to imagine Shirley has a house full of wheels that she has to climb over to move between rooms) 🙂 Margaret is also learning to crochet now she is enjoying spinning – another convert to the wonderful world of fibre!

I have also been playing with making slubby and chunky yarns and then dyeing it:

I found a few books on spinning at the library, the first one I read, Hand Spinning by Pam Austin was a bit disappointing, it didn’t cover anything I hadn’t already learned from watching YouTube videos. Frustratingly it mentioned a limited selection of art yarn types but didn’t offer any information on how you might spin them.

I found Spinning and Dyeing Yarn much more useful, jam-packed with technical, how-to information and lots of drool-worthy photos of beautiful yarns by different artists to give the reader inspiration and something to aspire to. For me, I was very taken with the art yarn chapter – I had no idea there were so many different species of art yarn and for each one there is at least one page explaining how to create it yourself.

I have only just started reading Yarn-i-tec-ture but I find the concept behind it intriguing, that you can spin a yarn with exactly the properties (stretch, warmth, shine etc) and colours you want…. Can’t wait to see if it delivers on that promise 🙂

I had to share these with you, there are several of them along the Wellington waterfront, they were very popular for selfies so I only managed to get photos of two of them but they are so cool I just had to share. Something for me to aspire to on my learning to knit journey! 🙂

Following several requests, I have posted my Concertina Hat and Snail Hat tutorials on Etsy. If you enter code FAFS30 (before the end of July) you will receive a 30% discount at check out. Alternatively, if you prefer a more interactive learning experience, the full online course, including the “taking it further module”, will be starting again in October, for more information and to sign up for notifications when registration opens please follow this link. Or for the bag class this link.

Monstrous Felting Retreat

A few weeks ago I experienced the delight that is the Auckland Fun Felter’s Retreat, 2 full days of felting bliss! 🙂

We were 13 like-minded ladies at a retreat centre, tucked away in a quiet and leafy corner of west Auckland, we had the entire centre all to ourselves and were blessed with some lovely weather.

Jenny, our organiser extraordinaire, asked if anyone would be willing to teach / lead a short workshop on Saturday morning. Due to the pandemic, I haven’t had the chance to teach face to face since 2019 so jumped at the chance and then immediately panicked that I had nothing to teach this incredibly creative and experienced group (most of the members have been felting at least as long as I have!).

After several weeks mulling it over and talking to other AFF members I settled on “animal textures in felt”, I thought this would lend itself to a series of pre-prepared samples that we could discuss the potential pitfalls and then each member could incorporate one or two into their own project. This group is so experienced I couldn’t imagine any of them wanting to waste their precious felting time watching me laying out fibre over a resist.

We all arrived on Friday afternoon, settled into our rooms and started playing with our fibres in the main hall. After talking to a few members I realised not everyone would be happy for me to share some samples and tips on how to achieve different effects, they wanted a project to follow…. my heart sank, I hadn’t planned for this, how was I going to come up with a project that included, fur, scales, eyes and locks before tomorrow morning?!!

So it was that Fugly was born….

A little pod critter, with eyes, scales on his back, a lambs tail and an unfortunate ear-hair problem – for the record I would never normally recommend trying to cram so many different techniques onto one item but now he is finished I do find Fugly quite endearing 🙂

To my surprise most of the group also made pods that incorporated most or all of the techniques and we ended up with a ?gaggle, ?fright, ?laughter <insert collective noun of your choice here> of funny little monsters:

A couple of members applied to techniques to small bags with great effect…

This weekend was such a success we agreed to do it all again in just 6 months time! 🙂

Something for the garden

With the weather warming up, we have been looking for some garden furniture ever since the most severe lockdown restrictions began to lift in September, but almost all of reasonably priced wooden furniture has sold out and no-one knows when more will be delivered. Living at the bottom of the world has its advantages but access to products and materials while shipping containers are in disarray all over the planet due to the pandemic is not one of them. Most imported items, from cars to sofas, have been subject shipping delays of a year or more.

We ended up settling for a garden lounge set that isn’t as comfortable as some of the display sets we looked at, the seats are a little too long in the base but that is easily fixed with some additional cushions. I spent this weekend making a set of cushions and some matching fabric coasters / “wrist-warmers” for the the chairs.

Cushion covers are very easy to make and a great beginner’s sewing project so I thought I would share my method with you. I hope this isn’t too patronising for the more experienced sewers among you.

  • I started by cutting 2 squares of fabric, the same size as the cushion inserts, plus a 1cm ./ 0.5″ seam allowance on all 4 sides. A 60 cm sqare cushion needs 2 pieces of fabric measuring 62 x 62 cm.
  • Placing right sides of fabric together I stitched along what will become the bottom edge of the cushion cover, leaving a 1 cm seam. If the pattern on your fabric has a right way up, making sure this seam is on the bottom will ensure your zip is out of sight on the finished cushion.
  • Press the seam open with front of the cushion facing towards the table (I was lazy and pressed it open with my fingers rather than getting the iron out, as you can probably tell from the crumpled state of my fabric! 🙂 ):
  • Lay the zip, right side down, so the teeth line up with the line of stitching. Pin into place and using a zipper foot, sew down both sides of the zipper tape. Tip – the zip does not need to be the full width of the cushion, I think the zipper looks more professional if it stops an inch or two before the edge of the cushion. You can cut the nylon zips to make them shorter if you have one the right colour but it is too long.

Sew across the bottom of the zip so the zipper will not be able to run as far as the metal staple.

Using a seam ripper, remove the stitching holding the two sides of fabric together, stopping approximately 2 inches before each end (and before the line of stitching you placed across the zip).

Open the zip enough that you can easily pass your hand through the hole.

Fold the 2 squares of fabric so the right sides are together again, pin into place and stitch around the 3 reamining sides, leaving a 1 cm seam allowance from the edge.

Open the zip the whole way and turn the cover the right way out, I like to use a chopstick or pencil to push the corners out so they are nice and square.

Insert your cushion and close the zip! et voila!

I also made some fabric, wrap-around coasters to protect the arms of the new furniture from the condensation cold drinks often shed in our warm, humid climate. I started by making a sheet of felt and cutting it into four rectangles.

Then, using the chairs as a guide, I cut out a rectangle from each end so they would wrap around the arm either side of the upright piece of wood.

I cut a slightly larger rectangle of fabric and trimmed it so it was about a cm wider than the felt shape (see the piece on the left) before using fabric glue to fold over the edge of the fabric and tack into place on the felt.

Once the glue had dried, I stitched around the edge of each shape before attaching a piece of velcro to 2 tabs on each coaster and wrapping around the arm of the chair.

I am looking forward to spending the rest of the summer sitting in our “granny and grandpa” chairs on the veranda now 🙂 Fingers crossed the chickens don’t roost on the chairs and poop all over my new cushions….

You can never have too much felt art

Since we moved to our new home in May we have been steadily adorning the walls with the pieces of art that moved with us, as we were deciding what to hang where, Mr TB pointed out that more than half of the art work on our walls is made from wool. I couldn’t disagree but still felt compelled to make a new piece to hang in the hallway, opposite the front door. Something colourful and cheery to greet any visitors. Much to my surprise, instead of complaining that we have too much wool on the walls, Mr TB helped me hang it.

I really wanted to play with a piece of silk purchased at Fibretron (a fibre festival in Hamilton, NZ), it has this wonderful wavy texture and can be peeled into fine sheets a little like silk hankies. I used some to decorate a large sheet of felt, layering and blending different colours as I went.

Once felted, I cut up the sheet into large petal shapes and continued felting them while shaping and blocking them, before laying them out to find an appealing arrangement.

At this stage I felt like the centre really needed something, a complimentary colour perhaps? So I had a play with some different colours…

But they didn’t quite feel right.

I have recently been playing with making different sculptural flower shapes and had one sitting on my bench. This looked much better, this is the piece after I had started gluing and sewing the petals together:

I tried making another central flower in the same blues as the large petals but it didn’t look half as good, it’s funny how some, unplanned, random elements just work together isn’t it? More on the blue flower at the end of this post…

Here is the final piece assembled and hanging on the wall:

It had been hanging on the wall less than a week before one the fluffy terrorists discovered that, if he jumped really high (4 feet off the ground), he could rip the petals off and add to his collection of toys. So far the hanging has lost 2 petals….

Floki with his “prizes” – if you look closely you can also see muddy paw prints on the wall

There were quite a few pieces of felt left over after making this hanging so I re-purposed them to enlarge the small blue flower:

Now I feel inspired to make a whole bunch of these to create an artificial flower bouquet….

Summer has finally arrived here in Auckland, I hope the weather is being kind wherever you are.

Going Dotty

A few weeks ago I was indulgently scrolling through Pinterest, as you do, and came across a ceramic vase with a pretty, colourful pattern around its rim.

This inspired an experiment to see if I could achieve a similar efffect in felt…..

I made a collection of cords in different colours, cut them to rougly the same length and sandwiched them between 4 layers of wool tops.

These were felted to the prefelt stage before cutting into strips and laying out on 2 more layers of wool:

Then covered with 2 more layers of wool before felting to the firm prefelt stage.

I wanted to shape it into a bowl, so draped it over a hat block and rubbed it vigorously to make the sides shrink onto the shape of the block,

The colours from the cut ropes were already migrating through even after a few minutes of rubbing.

After lots more rubbing and a trim it was holding it’s shape well.

I had always intended to shave the finished bowl bring out the colours in the spots but found shaving hasn’t made that much difference to the colour intensity of the spots:

Before shaving
After shaving

I am really pleased with the colourful effect from this experiment and will persist with the shaving.

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