felt luminary

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

This is one fuzzy bag !
 I suppose I could only write posts where I show my best work and have lovely photos of it, then you might believe I am such an amazing craftswoman.  Well, lets be honest, not every piece I or anyone else makes turns out perfect all the time.  There is a reason some sayings have been around a long time, like "we learn from our mistakes", "practice makes perfect"..... Both apply here so lets go with it.  Here is what happened and what you can do to make it better.

I wanted to try out a new shape for a purse that's been dancing around my head for a bit.  I will use Corriedale wool for the bag, it is a more durable choice for purses and boots or clogs - it felts up strong and sturdy and it doesn't tend to pill up on the surface like Merino can. I am in love with a new color way my dear friend has created: PANSY by Carin Engen Fiber Arts.  Well, I only had one ounce of it.  I had loads in a natural grey. But I really wanted it Pansy......once my mind is set on something.  So I decided I would use the grey on all the inner layers and for the last outer layer I would use the Pansy........I knew that some of the grey would work their way to the surface during the felting and fulling process, thus lightening the colors of the Pansy outer layer.  Ok, it was a test bag.......it would be cool if it turned out to be something I could use or sell in the end...not.  The giant top photo is the back side of the finished bag taken in the sunlight to show ALL the grey fuzzies

that came through the top layer.  The next one down was taken out of the sun, still fuzzy but not as dramatic in the photo but it still looked horrible in real life.

What to do, what to do?!?  I am going to point out here just one of the many benefits of taking felting classes......you learn great little techniques to make your felt look more polished-well finished.  If you can, take a felting class!!

 Well, when we get kind of fuzzy and unruly in the areas we don't want excess hair, what do we do........get out the razor!  Think about it, felt is wool which is essentially hair.  Now this is important!  Go buy a cheep-o single edge razor with NO moisture strip on it.  Double/triple edged razors just increase your risk of gouging your felt, and the moisture strip........that's for your skin.......it just gunks up the felt.  The picture above here on the left shows the flap of the bag, the right side and the center have been shaved, the left has not.  Before shaving you honestly could not distinguish the center horizontal yarns or the yarns creating the center band! 
A small chunk of wool taken off by pressing to hard


- your felt should have been rinsed clean then rolled in a towel and most of the moisture blotted out.
- put one hand under the area you are going to shave for support or you can lay it on a hard surface, I prefer my hand because I can tell the amount of pressure I'm using.
- use a short, repetitive motion, don't press down hard, a bit lighter than you would press down on your own skin.  start out in an area that's a bit more out of the way, better yet practice on the inside or back of the piece.  Once you're confident and have a feel of the needed pressure begin on the main area.
- go either horizontal or vertical and stick with that direction and do your shaving in blocks.  It is alright to gently go over yarns or silk fibers-fibers, not silk fabric,  as long as they have felted into the wool correctly.  If they aren't fused to the wool well shaving may just pull them off.
- pull the fuzzies off as you go.  You should only need to go over an area once.
-  here on the right is most of the fuzz I got off this bag and the razor I used, just a cheep bic razor with just one blade, no more!
- take your time, don't try to rush it.  The picture above on the right shows an area where I over shaved, spent too much time in an area.  If there had been multiple layers of the Pansy it wouldn't have been so noticeable.  If it's really obvious you could go in and with a thin felting needle and some wool of the same color, fill the hole by gently needle felting it in.  I would then wet around it and with a dab of soap gently wet felt that area so you can't tell it was needle felted.

A few side notes about shaving your felt:
*any piece of felt can be shaved to give it a neater, cleaner look
*all types of pure wool felt will handle a shave, this doesn't include locks
*NOT so with blends of wool and silk or bamboo or tencell or hemp.  If you feel it truly
   needs it, experiment on a practice piece or where it won't be seen or matter it if
   makes a gouge or even a hole.
*silk fabric that has been nuno felted into your work should never be shaved! ! !
   a razor and silk should not come in contact, it's never good-yep-I made that mistake

Below are the before (on top) and after (on bottom) photos.  Honestly, the camera didn't do justice to the dramatic difference.  I made the photos as large as I could so you can see the change, hopefully.  After shaving the richness of the colors came through and the bag had, well-a much smoother surface, much more appealing.
I will end up just using this bag as a practice surface to do free motion embroidery on but it was a good lesson in patience or lack there of!  Next time I hope I will have more patience before I go through all the time and effort it takes to make a good piece of felt.  It ended up being a well felted & fulled bag, I like the shape, inner pocket placement, on my next bag of the same shape I will change the flap design.....so I did learn a few things and hopefully my flop taught you a thing or two.  It is rare that I don't learn something new with each piece I felt, good or bad......and sometimes ugly. 


I mentioned that I used a hand dyed wool called Pansy in Corriedale created by Carin Engen.  I want to give her a bit of a plug here........her hand dyed wool really is beautiful and very well crafted.  I have been using it for years in my work and always love the results.......unless I mess it up with grey wool that is!
She has a shop site on Etsy called CarinEngenFiberArts where you can purchase her hand dyed wool.  She sells nuno scarf kits and also, she found an artisan to make the most amazing felting tool, it's called a felting stone and it works wonderfully!  I use mine constantly, I even wrote a post about it earlier on.  Carin teaches throughout the country, mostly in California though, and you can check her blog site, listed on her Etsy shop to find out where she is teaching next.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Too Busy To Blog......Doing What?!

Well, this January my husband, Jack, got me a spinning wheel for our 32nd anniversary.   He's such a great guy.....  I've been wanting to try spinning for years, as with felting, for me-there is a great sense of satisfaction  in being able to create a useful item from basic materials, things people have been using for thousands of years.  Keeping old ways alive in the fast paced, instant gratification world we live in today grounds me and makes me happy! 
My first spin.....

...then it got better....

The wheel I ended up getting was a Lendrum Original.  A few of my friends that spin all said this was the best wheel for a beginner and that it would also be a good wheel as I got better.  They were so right!  I'm surprised at how quickly I picked this craft up, it's been such fun spinning all different types & colors of hand dyed rovings and hand carded batts of wool then try to decide which would look good plied together , I just love creating this yarn!!  While I taught myself to spin I have to give a great deal of credit to my friend Lori Lawson.  Lori is one talented lady, she dyes her own wool, spins beautiful yarns, knits equally beautifully, felts, weaves....you get the idea.  She has a great blog :   http://paintspinknit.blogspot.com/
as well as one of my favorite Etsy sites:  
Via emails she gave me invaluable advice, after writing and getting to know each other she invited me to her home while I was in So. Cal this spring for a one on one tutorial.  I had such fun and picked up some great techniques for spinning!
Thanks Lori! 
and better yet!

of course I had to knit something with my yarn...a cowl
 So for a few months I did very little felting and loads of spinning and knitting.  Yeah, you could say I was obsessed. And it was (is) so much fun!

But felting is my first love and things have evened out lately and I am now spending about an equal amount of time spinning and felting.  Well, there is another avenue I have ventured down this past month but that is another blog entry!
 These last few photos on the right are some of my latest yarns.  The one on top I am currently using to knit a shawl, I had two skeins of it.

 The yarn on the bottom was the yarn I learned how to correctly ply on at Lori's.  That was an "ah ha!"  discovery and so key to a good yarn!  I'm currently using it to knit a hat pattern that Lori wrote.  I feel pretty good about these, while I would love to be able to get these thinner, sock weight, I
realize it will come with time
 and practice.  Couldn't tell you
what weight these are, I'm not a 
seasoned enough knitter/ spinner to know that just by looking at it!  Usually the nice label on the skein of yarn tells me that, guess I better get with it and figure it out.

So that and life in general has been keeping me busy enough to have neglected my blog. 
I'll try and do better............

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Time For Carin's Felting Retreat

  I know, it's been way too long between posts!  It's been a busy year so far........
I just returned from my good friend Carin Engen's retreat at her workshop and home in Garberville, CA.  Carin is an amazing felter and felt instructor who teaches all over the country as well as has her own line of hand dyed wool for spinning and felting.  For three years now she's had numerous three day retreats in
Garberville where nine felters can go and have the run of her workshop, Carin
is there as a "technical adviser" AND you get three yummy meals a day....yes, it is
a felters nirvana.  It was great to see                                                
friends I made at last years retreat and
make new friends.

  Here are the things I worked on:
The first day was this bag ,the three pictures here on the right and below is a bag I did, I've had this idea in my head for months now... it is fun to see it finally materialize.  I wanted a simple image on both sides of the bag and for
some reason spoons kept popping into my head....and a bowl goes with spoons.
First I made partial felts in the colors I wanted then drew & cut out the images.
After wrapping my bag template with four layers of white merino I added the cut out spoons, bowl & trim.  Next was, yes, much rolling in bubble wrap.  I use the larger, heavier blue bubble wrap when I'm doing something large and rather heavy, it handles the bulk better.  It's actually pool cover insulation, fyi.
Fulling was done by rolling it on itself
while keeping it wet and soapy, working the desired shape all the time.
In the next few days I'll find the right thread and do machine free motion embroidery around the spoons, bowl and maybe the edge. 

I'm especially excited with how the bowl turned out...

I'm very happy with the way it turned out, now I need to decide what I want to do for
straps.....I'm thinking purple leather, but can I find the right shade of purple!  I would
do one thing different though.....instead of four layers of white merino for the base of
 the bag I would do six.  I lay out quite thin and just feel the sides could be denser. 
 Next time.  Always something to learn with this craft.

 This I did on the second day, it's a red triangle scarf.  The three pictures below are it.

This one on the left is the first layer of my lay out.  The variation of the colors was so beautiful I just had to take a photo!  You can barely see the shiny plastic resist running along the edge, this made a type of overlapped edge, the bottom layer is plain burgundy and the top is the multi-colored reds and golds.
What you can't see is a triangle of cotton cheese cloth under the whole thing, it makes a great texture on the fabric, it can be seen on the turned over top edge.
The "design" along the edge and in the middle of the scarf was made with silk hankies that were dyed by Carin, the wool also was dyed by Carin, one of my favorite colorways, Drama.  You can buy her hand dyed wool on Etsy at Carin Engen Fiber Arts.  If she doesn't have it stocked, write/convo her and she'll tell you when it will be available.  

Finished Scarf

And finally day three.....this is a shawl I made from a beautiful light green vintage silk sari.  This shawl actually took me the longest to make, from 9am to 8pm, a real "all dayer".  The photo on the left was taken after the second go around at rolling; usually I do 150 rolls each time, switching ends after 150...I do this four times, usually.  This silk was a bit more stubborn and needed lots of extra rolls, how many?  I lost count.
Anyway, the main body of the shawl has a long piece of silk on either side, wool on the outside edges that was felted to make a slight ruffle and then two layers of silk on the ends.  As much as I dislike having my picture taken I ended up doing so, you can really see the length and, I feel, beauty of the shawl.  I really happy with how this came out.....I can promise you it won't end up on my Etsy site!  This will stay with my stash :)

great crinkle effect!

What a productive three days I had, such a blast.  Thanks again Carin!