felt luminary

Friday, September 30, 2011

Just for Wet Felting!

  Sometimes you come across an actually amazing tool for your craft and I have!  In felting we use so many tools that were meant for something else; bubble wrap, pool noodles, sponges, plastic bags, wash boards~I could go on and on!  These little multicolored tools to the right were created just for wet felting.  In the other pictures you will see that they have raised ribs along the sides.  You use the colored ribbed side to rub on your wet felt during the fulling or shrinking stage, be sure you have plenty of water and soap so you don't pill your felt.  They are so cool!  I just used one on a pair of boots I'm making and they shrunk down the instep and heel part wonderfully.  Because of the glazing on the working side it slides across the felt with out ripping up the felt or pilling it like some of the other fulling methods out there.  They fit perfectly in the palm of your hand and are great for getting in those tough spots.  They measure three and a half inches by two and a half inches and come in about four or five different colors.  A friend of mine, Carin Engen, has them made and sells them on her blog site artfullyfelt.blogspot.com.  If your interested in one just contact her.  And they are actually really nice looking, we deserve to have nice tools for our craft !

Friday, September 23, 2011

Make A Wish

  I had such a great week last week at my Etsy shop!  All in the same day......someone from London purchased my sunflower pillow for a nice sum and  the Make A Wish Foundation contacted me and asked me if I would contribute my other commission flower pillow to their upcoming auction that is being held at Clint Eastwood's Tehama Golf Club in Carmel, CA on October 22! Pretty darn cool!  Of course I agreed to make the pillow. I just finished it last night and it's all boxed up and ready to ship.

  This is a picture of the finished pillow for the Make A Wish auction.  You'll recognize it from the side column of the blog, that pillow was one of two that was commissioned by my friends client for her new home.  I decided to put the same design up on my Etsy site as a commission piece since I love how it turned out.  Here is the link to my shop: http://www.etsy.com/shop/terrysifeltlikeit?ref=si_shop 
Below is a close up of the center of the flower, the gold center is a piece of silk from a scarf I found in a charity shop in San Diego.

  While there is a simplicity to the design it definitely wasn't simple to make.  For those new to felting I'll briefly describe the process, this is what I did to end up with this 16" square pillow....The petals are a hand dyed blend of 50% merino wool and 50% silk.  To make the petals I first had to make to large sheets of partial felts (or pre-felts).  To do this you lay down two layers of the fleece in a 26" square on top of an extra large piece of bubble wrap.  I wet it out, gave it a bit of soap then rolled it up around a 2" wooden dowel, tied it up then rolled it 200 times.  I opened it up to flip it and turn it, give it some more water and soap then rolled it back up and rolled it another 200 times.  Repeat and 200 more times.  Now that it's been "felted"-all the fibers have been interwoven from the layers of wool, it's time to "full" it.  This is where you get all those interwoven fibers to move closer together and become more dense.  Since the fibers are moving closer together that means the piece will begin to shrink.  When you make a partial felt you only partially make a piece of finished felt.  I shrunk the 26" square down to about 21".  Out of these partial felt sheets I cut out the shape of the petals exactly the shapes you see on the pillow only larger.  Hang on, you'll get it soon.  My next step was to lay out four layers of black merino wool in a 26" square on top of the bubble wrap.  On top of this I placed my design just how it looks on the finished pillow only to the scale to fit a 26" square, remember the felt is going to shrink.  First I place down the center piece of silk then around that I laid two rows of sari silk yarn-look closely and you'll see it.  Then the petals went down.  I placed a piece of netting over the top of the pillow cover and wet it out and then soaped it.  I gently rubbed with soapy hands over the flower petals, coaxing the fibers in the petals to mesh with the black merino.  Once I was sure they had begun to mesh I rolled it up in the bubble wrap and, yep, rolled it 200 times.  I opened and moved the piece, gently, wet it and repeated this until I had rolled it (one roll is forward and back) 800 times.  The piece was completely felted and now I fulled it to shrink it up. Fulling is where I roll the sheet up cigar style and roll it back and forth and this causes the fibers to move closer together and the sheet becomes thicker and stronger.  This process of fulling took about 45 minutes.  When it was done it had shrunk down to about a 17" square, that's close to 10" length and width wise!  From start to finish it was about 6 hours. 
   This whole process that I briefly described never fails to thrill me.  I was able to take loose, light & flimsy wool and with some soap, water and agitation I made a beautiful yet durable and strong piece of felt!  I just love this craft!  I'm hoping someone will bid high on my pillow so it can make some money for the Make A Wish Foundation.  This is the first time I've been involved with them but I do know they bring a whole lot of joy to some very sick children, I'm truly honored to be able to participate in this event.  If you want to find out more about the foundation in the San Francisco Bay Area you can go to www.SFwish.org.  I know they are always accepting donations for their auctions from artisans so all you crafters and artists out there give it some consideration!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Natural Fiber Fair & Natural Colors to Dye For

  This past weekend I attended my first fiber fair.  The Natural Fiber Fair is a Northern California event that was a two day event held in Arcada this year.  There were weavers, spinners, felters, fabric designers, dyers, knitters, rug hookers.......it was fantastic.  There was a main area with vendors selling all types of fibers and products made from fibers or to make fibers as well as demonstrations and classes.
  This is a photo of Carin Engen and Sara in Carin's booth Artfully Felt.  Carin is a dear friend and one of the organizers of the fair.  This year she asked me to have a few things in her booth.  I put in a few scarves, bags and luminaries.  It was a first for me having my work for sale in a public venue, it was great to hear all the positive comments about my work from buyers and sellers alike.  Thanks Carin.

  On Sunday I took a class in natural dyeing from Linda Hartshorn.  It was so amazing!  I was in wonder of all the colors available from nature!  We dyed wool yarn, most of the instruction covered dyeing wool, or protein fibers.  You begin with soaking your wool in a mordant, we used Alum, which was then dissolved in water.  A mordant creates a chemical type of reaction with the wool that will allow the wool to absorb the dye.  While that is going on you make up your dye.  Some things need
soak over night while some can be made up right away.  They need to be  heated and allowed to "cook" a bit, then strained and re heated.  When the dye is ready the wool is removed from the mordant bath and excess moisture is squeezed out.  The wool is put in the pot of simmering dye and allowed to remain in the dye pot until the color reached is slightly darker than what is desired-rinsing will remove some of the dye.  You have to be careful not to boil your wool yarn or roving other wise you'll felt it and ruin it.
After you remove your wool you let it cool off a bit then rinse out the excess dye and hang to dry.

The dye pot here is a dye made with Logwood.

Here is a variety of the colors of yarn that the class dyed on the drying racks.

Here on the right are the colors I dyed.  Here is a list of the colors and what they were made from:
green=marigold blossoms
yellow=onion skins
orange=madder root
light purple=cochineal
red=brazil wood

  I thoroughly enjoyed the class!  I can't wait to make some white felt and then dye it from some of the natural dye stuffs I picked up at the class.  Now I get to roam the forest for things to make my own dye from. 

Friday, September 9, 2011

I've Been Wanting to Make This For Awhile......

  I have seen these scarves in books and on etsy and have always wanted to make one, so the other day I did.  I didn't have instructions so I just did what I thought would work.  If any one wants detailed instructions I'll be happy to write them out, just ask.  I wouldn't recommend someone who was new to wet felting try it first but it wasn't too difficult, just had to make sure fleece stayed where you put it-both laying out as well as rolling it. 
  Here is some photos of the lay-out:

I used a 50% merino and a 50% silk blend that I got from Capistrano Fiber Arts on Etsy.  After rolling and rolling and fulling here is what it turned out like.  I'm quite happy with it, looks real interesting wrapped around the neck with one end hanging down. If I try it again I want to have smaller holes in it.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Natural Dye Class at Fiber Fair

   I am so excited to be taking a natural dye class this Sunday.  We'll be dyeing wool skeins of yarn using dyes made from plants, minerals and insects.  Some of the more exotic materials are madder, Brazil wood and coachineal, we'll also be using more common ingredients like marigolds and onion skins.  It says we will dye six skeins of red, orange, yellow, green, purple and magenta and if we  have extra time we can dye things we bring ourselves....I already have different types of wool felted up to experiment with and I will bring some roving too.  I have tried to dye roving before and ended up with a matted mess so I hope she has time to give me some tips on doing that.  Natural dyeing has always fascinated me, and I even have a book on it, but have been intimidated by things like mordants and fixers.  When I am shown how to do something I learn so much more! 

   It is being held at the Natural Fiber Fair in Arcata, California-just north of Eureka.  The class is called Natural Colors to Dye For and is being taught by Llinda Hartshorn.

  I'll be sure to post details of the class as well as pictures of what we dyed.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Where This Felter Works

  I thought I'd share with you this amazing space I get to felt in.  My husband and I recently fulfilled one of our dreams and moved up to the Santa Cruz Mountains to live amongst the redwoods.  I am so fortunate to live in this amazing space and be able to stay here and felt during the days.  My husband, Jack, is so great and supportive of my work, man~am I a lucky woman!
  There is a little redwood cabin on our property and I've turned it into my felting workshop.  There is a little wood burning stove to keep me warm in the winter and Jack built me a felting table that is the perfect height for rolling out felt and saving my back.


 Here is my buddy Kaia, who is always by my side.  She loves our new home too!

These are the results of my venture into wrapping glass with felt then cutting out an opening on both sides so the light can shine through.  Some of it is glass from an old stained glass door and most of it is beach glass.  It was so much fun figuring out how to do this and making these!

Lost In Translation

  Part of learning to felt is experimenting....and it always doesn't turn out like you had hoped.  Here is one example.  I started making felt stones early on, they look just like the one's we find at the beach (pictured below).  That was a good experiment, they turned out looking like the real thing after a couple of tries.  For awhile now I've had it in my head that it would look cool to make a vessel that looked like granite with the white veins running through it, similar to the rocks.  I thought since I've got the rocks down I should be able to translate that into a vessel.  Well, I wasn't able to pull it off this time.  It's the color of granite (the photo isn't so hot) and there are white veins but this doesn't resemble granite.  So now I have to evaluate why it didn't work and what can I do to make it look better next time.  A couple of things come to mind: the veins aren't very realistic-they're too linear and too chunky and to have thinner veins I'm going to have to reduce the size of the vessel so they don't get lost and maybe put some darker gray along one side of the vein to make it look inset.  I'll have to think about it for awhile to work out all the angles.  Back to the felting table.

  One bummer about working big and having it not turn out is not just the time spent but it gets expensive. It's all a learning experience though.  A friend said I'm being too hard on myself, it looks pretty good.  Well, I don't want pretty good, I want a more realistic piece that looks great!  I don't think any artist/crafts-person who is any good lets just average work go out there.  If I'm not hard on myself I'm not going to get to that level of talent to produce the type of work I'm striving for. 
  Which brings me back to the subject of the rocks, a fun little thing to make but hardly much effort to make.  Can you guess what my most popular selling item on my Etsy shop has been, yep, the rocks.  While I've sold a few scarves and other things I'm much more proud to say I've made, I keep struggling with the decision to keep selling the rocks or not.  Unfortunately, I have to think about business, it does bring people to my shop and so I have to hope they'll see the other things and maybe buy something else.  And they are fun, I do have to say, they look cool all gathered together.  I love seeing peoples reactions when they pick them up and realize they aren't really a rock!

Monday, September 5, 2011

No, I did not knit this first...

  I had an interesting conversation with a woman in a local yarn shop today.  I was wearing a bag I made, similar to the one pictured below, and a woman complimented me on it then said "that's felted, right?"  I said yes it is then she asked me a question I was totally unprepared for: "what type of yarn did you use to knit that with, I can't even see the stitches?" I can only wonder at the confused look that must have been on my face while I was processing her question, no one has ever vocalized to me before that they thought my work may have been knitted first.  I explained to her that it was not knitted, it was made by wet felting using roving, water, soap and some agitation. Now it was her turn to look confused.  She had never heard of wet felting.  Completely dismissing the subject of wet felting she went on to tell me how she had knit several purses then "felted" them in the washing machine and said how great they had turned out.  I just nodded and said how nice, I wasn't about to get on my soap box about the difference between felting and fulling. 
  How many other wet felters have had this happen?  I will admit that over the last year I have become what my friend and I call a felt snob.  No, I don't feel bad about it at all.  There is a place for knitting something with wool then fulling it to shrink it down-some bags I've seen look really good, but don't call it felting.  When that woman asked me about knitting my bag I was surprised that my defenses went up, I almost felt like I was being insulted.  To be fair, she didn't know the difference, but it was the snob in me being proud for my craft.  What is the difference?  Let's see if I can get this right.  After you have laid out your wool and wet it the next process is felting it. I roll my work in bubble wrap and roll it about 800 times, stopping numerous times to re-wet it and turn it.  Some people cover it with plastic and rub over it.  Whichever, what you are doing is getting all those little fibers to interlock with each other by keeping them wet, slightly soapy and agitating them-this is felting.  Next is the fulling stage, getting the interlocked, felted fibers to move in closer to each other creating a denser, stronger piece of felt and in doing so the piece becomes smaller than when it started out.  There are so many ways to do this!  I take my piece out of the bubble wrap, remove a template if I'm using one and place it on a slightly ribbed piece of rubbery plastic and roll it up jellyroll style and roll back and forth, doing this from all angles. Occasionally I use a felting stone, the ridges on my plastic mat, I even have a rice paddle I use.  As the fibers move closer together the piece it getting denser, creating a strong piece of felt.  Some use a wash board or throw the work against the table or roll it up in a reed window screen and roll it.  Without this process you would have a weak, flimsy piece of felt.  This fulling is what knitters are doing with their knitted work, they knit the fibers together-not felt them-then by throwing it in a washing machine of hot soapy water that is agitating the wool yarn it is causing it to become denser by moving the wool fibers closer together-shrinking it basically and creating a denser fabric. 
  Am I being too picky?  Over sensitive?  Maybe.  I just want to clarify the difference.  To me felting is a rather magical art form.  Taking loose wool in the form of roving and creating felt is amazing and it is hard work too.  I think any wet felter will agree with me on that.  I never tire of the feel of wet soapy wool and watching the transformation from the loose fragile beginning stage of felting to the finished piece of good sturdy felt, soft and flexible as well.  Go on the internet and type in "felt artists" then spend some time looking at what some incredibly talented people are making, it truly is an art form.  There is a new book out this past month called 500 Felted Objects, check it out and you'll see some felt that will blow your mind.  I'm anxiously awaiting my copy, but I've seen some of the work that is in the book and am really impressed.  As soon as I figure out how to do it I want to have links on the side column to some of my favorite felt artists.  Ok, I'll list my favorite felt artist and her site; I have yet to see any other felt that has impressed me like hers, her attention to detail sets her apart.  Her name is Lisa Klakulak and her site is Strongfelt, just google it.  In fact the bag below was inspired by her work.
   I would be interested to hear your thoughts about this difference.  Being new to the world of felting this subject just amazes me.  I probably pissed off some knitting felters.  I'm not saying it doesn't create a good looking piece of work, it does, it's just not felting.  Has any one else run into this?  Let me know.

this bag is available on my etsy site: terrysifeltlikeit.etsy.com

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Necessary Tools

  I'm not talking about the typical tools used in felting here.  I'm talking about this very lovely dress form that is helping to display my beautiful nuno scarf.  This one belongs to a friend, Sam, who lets me borrow her for photos.  Recently I've moved to the Santa Cruz Mountains and Sam isn't so close any more.  When you're in love with making felt you need to have an outlet, so to say, for all these lovely things your making.  A girl can only have so many scarves or bags and you don't want to overload your family with felt so you do the next logical thing, you sell your work.  I had my things in a few shops locally and sales were so so, then people started telling me I should open an Etsy shop.....I was probably one of the few people in California who had never heard of Etsy!  I checked it out and after that I was hooked.  There are so many wonderful artisans in one place, what a brilliant idea. (Sam has an Etsy shop too~Inklore http://www.etsy.com/shop/inklore?ref=ss_profile)   It can also be a bit dangerous, so many original works to tempt you! Well, I was impressed with what I saw so I decided to open a shop.  They made it so easy to get up and running, they also have a great support system and advice to get your shop noticed, which can equal sales.  That is the one drawback with Etsy, there are so very many shops and goods being sold.  Search for felt purses and there are over a thousand pics!  How do you stand out, how do you attract buyers?  There are lots of strategies but one of the most obvious to me is have a good picture.  This brings me back to the necessary tools.  I think the scarf is shown off beautifully on the dress form, your eye goes straight to the scarf, not someones face.  I've already sold two scarves since opening my shop in April of 2011, not bad.  Recently I made three more scarves and I need to photograph them, Sam and I haven't been able to hook up so I just did the next most logical thing~I purchased a dress form just like the one Sam has!  She's coming Fed Ex all the way from Tennessee, I can't wait for her to arrive.  If I'm going to have those great photos I'll need the right tool, a dress form!  Where did I find one just like Sam's.....on Etsy of course!  If you want to check out my etsy shop go to:   http://www.etsy.com/shop/terrysifeltlikeit?ref=si_shop 
Tell me what you think, I love constructive feed back.

Friday, September 2, 2011

My first post!

  Here begins my adventure into the world of blogging!  I hope to share with you my love of felt, what I have created, learning new techniques and sharing my discoveries related to felt.  Here is a quick history of my felting experience......I started out felting in December of 2010, I saw a program where a woman was demonstrating how to make a piece of felt by wet felting.  I was fascinated, this was so amazing.  I immediately went out and got a book on how to make felt, "Uniquely Felt", great first time book.  I ordered some wool on line and a wet felting kit of netting & a matt.  I still have that little red piece of felt.  I kept experimenting with different wools and techniques and was just making so/so felt.

At the same time as I was discovering felting I was also learning how to knit again.  I was in my local yarn shop, Yarn Dogs in Los Gatos, and I saw a felted vessel up on a shelf.  It was wonderful, I had to know how to make it!  Luckily the next week there were classes scheduled.  The instructor was out of the area so they book 3 or 4 classes in a week while she's here.  I signed up for three classes, one for a vessel, one for making a wall hanging and another for a purse.  I just had to know how to make these amazing things that were in the shop, I was so jazzed!!  That was the real beginning of my love affair with felt.  The instructor was fiber artist Carin Engen from Garberville.  She is an incredible teacher and artist.  On the first day of class she had examples of her work to give us an idea of what we would be making and to inspire us, and wow, did it inspire.  I really was in heaven.  Carin has a natural ability for teaching and explaining the how's and why's so a beginner understands.  With her coaching and encouragement I ended up with a beautiful vessel.  The next day we made purses, I still have mine and it remains one of my favorites.  In that class I met my now good friend Jodie Stowe, she's my "felting buddy" and fellow felt enthusiast. After three days of Carin's teaching I was able to go home and start creating and designing my own felt and I'm still going!  Over the past year I have taken numerous other classes with Carin, building on my knowledge of felt.  We've developed a friend ship over the months and I consider her a dear friend.  She has generously opened her home and studio to myself and fellow felters for week long felting marathons where we stay up felting and gabbing into the early hours of the morning.  Carin was the perfect first teacher, she set a good foundation for me.  The picture is of a wreath pillow I made at one of our felting gatherings at Carin's. Visit Carin's blog at http://artfullyfelt.blogspot.com/