The last few months have been life-changing, first moving to New Zealand in March, two weeks in quarantine, buying a new home (complete with 12 chickens), starting a new job, adopting two kittens and finding Auckland Fun Felters (AFF) the wonderful felting activities on the North Island.
AFF are affiliated with Creative Fibre, I first found Creative Fibre online before we left the UK and confess I was worried when I read their interests lean heavily towards spinning and weaving, having belonged to a Spinners Weavers and Dyers group in the UK where felting was a dirty word and the committee behaved like felt-makers were contaminating the purist application of spinning, weaving and dying I was a little hesitant about joining.
I am so glad I took the plunge and went along to my first meeting in May, AFF are true to their name and such a fun group of ladies, and everyone is obsessed with felting and the associated skills. I immediately felt like I had come home 🙂
Each meeting involves a show and tell and announcements of upcoming events we might be interested in, at my first meeting that was Woolfest in Kumeu (held annually north west of Auckland). I arrived after lunch and most of the crowds had already been and gone, it was rather lovely being able to get to all of the stands without having to fight my way through:
Back to the AFF show and tell, Lynn took us through a collection of gorgeous items our members had made:
These tiles will be crochet together to make a blanket that will be raffled at next year’s Woolfest:
I managed to make one during our session on Saturday, the only rule is that that the design had to use just straight lines, I can’t tell you how desperate I was to add a red dot to the middle, some of my triangles became a little curved during fulling too:
After the show and tell, Lynn demonstrated how to make silk paper using spray starch:
These elegant little bags are an example of what can be made with the papers:
Another benefit of belonging to this group is the extensive library, including the back catalogue of my favourite magazine, I think I have died and gone to heaven!! 🙂
And just to show what a small world this is, I discovered Robyn (a fellow FFS member and a former student of my hat class) is also a member of AFF! Robyn is working on a blanket square for her own personal blanket.
That reminds me, lots of keen felters have been asking when the concertina hat class and the felt bags classes will start again, I am delighted to announce the next iteration of both classes will start on 19th August (registration will open a couple of weeks earlier on 4th August). If you would like to receive a reminder when registration opens please email firstname.lastname@example.org saying which class you would like to join.
More information about these classes can be found here:
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 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.
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….
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.
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 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
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! 🙂
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.
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 email@example.com if you would like to participate.
More information on these classes can be found here: