Sunday, 17 August 2014

BLOG 211


I can’t really get in my workshop at the moment as I am in the middle of the continuing the ‘sort out, clear out and chuck out’ session. It is very untidy but ultimately it will be cathartic.

                                 Workroom clutter

So I am justified in continuing with my felting journey and here we go again! I am trying to ‘paint’ with the fibres and the next couple of samples illustrate that. Here I was attempting to emulate a panel from blogger: ‘Renatos-veltinis’ (Renata-felt).

                 Background fibres

Rather than constructing the flowers straight onto the background, I decided to try and work the poppies independently on foam, by hand with a felting needle, before dropping them in situ. This way I thought I could ‘work’ a better and more accurate flower.

                                Start of poppy

                            Poppy complete

                   Poppy panel unfelted

                     Poppy panel felted

Another poppy panel was influenced by artist Sheila Gill. Paintings that you really like are a good source of inspiration because their creators have already made decisions about what colour looks better where, and they have also created light and shadow to create form. My drawing skills are adequate and they will come in to play at a later date when I have explored the felting techniques and decided what suits me best.


                           Poppy on netting

                             Reverse of netting

                                      Poppy in situ

                                     Unfelted panel

                  Felting with netting

And what did I learn?

Felting the flowers gently on netting worked well. They can be made in advance and peeled off easily. I can imagine myself making flowers ‘on my lap’ in front of the TV.

I like the look of the felting best at the fluffy fibre stage but that is just me and it’s not a viable option.
For the first time, I used netting over the fibres to soap them with my hands. I had avoided this advice on some websites as I thought the fibres would be disturbed; they weren’t. I shall definitely use this stage in future.
Some balls of wool that I used for stems didn’t felt well; mohair seemed to perform the best.

And by way of a diversion, I started to draw patterns from a metal floor in my sketch book. This led to me asking myself how I could interpret it in patchwork. Chenilling came to mind and I thought I would give it a try as a great way of using up fabrics.



                           Divisions of pattern

                                   Sewn channels

                                     First cuts

                                   Washed layers

And what did I learn?

It was very painful to cut all these small channels with small scissors! Even if I had the right tool, which I searched for at the FEC without success, I doubt I would like to continue this exercise.
I found that the top fabric always retains its character but will be a hint of what it was.

The colours of the layers are important. The second layer emphasises the cut and outlines the colours underneath which tend to emerge from the cut.
Machine washing was a bit drastic; there were too many threads to cut away afterwards!


Sunday, 10 August 2014

BLOG 210

I had another couple of felting sessions this week. I am motoring now, producing samples and really enjoying the learning process. I found some light, medium and dark bags of felting wool tops on line and now have enough to really play with the technique.




                                       Layer 2

                                          Layer 3




                                Pansies stitched

                              Sunflowers fibres

                              Sunflowers felted

                            Sunflowers stitched

                 Needle felted for comparison

And what have I learned?
I have always enjoyed colour so I think I want to try to be quite ‘painterly’ with the fibres.

The wet felting technique can be messy so needle felting by machine has its attractions (apart from the holes left by the needles). I did a comparison with the sunflower panel with wet felting and machine needle felting. What I found was that I had more control over the fibres when working by machine.
I am not sure at this stage whether the machine stitched detail enhances the finished felt. Hand needle felting the details to flower centres definitely helped the finished look.

Now this is all great fun for me but my daughters brought me to an abrupt halt by saying ‘But what are you going to do with them all?’ And here we have the age old dilemma for the one who is doing the creating. During my entire quilting career I have sewn with a purpose; things were made as samples for workshops, or for competition quilts to promote myself or as innovative ideas for books and the like. So playing for playing’s sake is hard for me and this question has made me ask myself whether I should frame them or make things from them to sell. Then common sense clicks in and I realise that no one would particularly want to buy them at this stage any more than I am confident enough to sell them. So I am going to make for making’s sake because I can’t put a price on my own enjoyment!

I have just returned from the Festival of Quilts at the NEC. Our group always has a wonderful couple of days together and this year, as ‘Les Q-ers’, was no exception. Perhaps you can make out from the picture below that our theme entitled ‘Q 4 Quilters’ was about queueing. Our characters are going to the show and from the show and we attempted to capture the difference between the beginning of the day and the end of the day. And that comparison aspect was the whole point of the quilt, so imagine our horror on arrival when we saw that the quilts were hung back to back. This made no sense at all and was contrary to our instructions. It took us 2 days and very heated discussions with the organisers to get it altered for day 3 of the show. That said, we did receive a ‘Highly Commended’ for our efforts and we were thrilled about that.

                                                                                         Q 4 Quilters

Sunday, 3 August 2014

BLOG 209


Continuing with the felting journey, I many have bags of fibres, threads, wool and ribbon which I have accumulated over the years and rarely used. So I felt that another useful exercise would be to make some reference samples for myself.

                                  Wool tops

                             Needle felting

                   Controlled placement of colour

                   Silk and Angelina fibres on wool

                                 Wool and threads

                            Scrim on velvet

                                 Fibres and silk RS

                               Fibres and silk WS


                                 Working samples

                   Felting with different base layers

 This journey of discovery has been very enlightening. The samples will be stored with the felting machine when not in use, so that I can refresh my memory of the effects that I have and can achieve.   Now I want to am see how detailed I can be when I am creating a felt picture. My first try was by hand but I soon went back to my felting machine.

           Still life on batting and hand felting tool

                   Still life and machine felting

                       Still life with cherries

And what have I learned this week?
Some threads and fibres are much easier to blend than others.

The hand felting tool was useless when working the fibres onto a batting layer as it was too closely woven and the tool wasn’t man enough for the job. So an open-weave base layer is essential if I am going to use one.

I still prefer the WS of a needle-felted item and will need to experiment to see whether it is possible to add fibres to the WS, perhaps with netting placed next to the machine to control the fibres.

In the meantime, I am about to start wet felting. I have read loads of information and watched umpteen tutorials on the computer, watch this space!

 ASIDE: Some of us are wrapped up in the Commonwealth games and are really enjoying the spectacle. My favourite part though was the delight and happiness of the weightlifter from Kiribati in the S. Pacific. He won a gold medal for his nation, the first that had ever been won. And what a delight he was, singing and smiling with pure joy. I lived for 2 years on Tarawa, the main island of Kiribati, when I was 21 and he reminded me just how lucky I was with my VSO placement there and how fortunate I was to be amongst these gentle majestic people.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

BLOG 208


The official UK summer holidays for schools are now on and many groups take a well-earned break from their routine meetings. I think this is a good idea because you start again refreshed and eager in September. So I too have decided to take a break from my usually ‘quilty’ things.

Over the past few weeks I have continued to sort out and throw out, emptying files and cabinets of all the things I no longer think are worth keeping, like all the magazine projects and articles that I have accumulated over the years. Some of the detritus goes back to my very early quilting days 30 years ago and much of the detail and most of the methods have been long superseded by more up-to-date approaches. I had kept articles on quilters that I admired and there were files of pictures of quilts that I loved, pages of tips and wrinkles, advice on quilting supplies …. And so it goes on. Now there is Google and I have all the information I could ever want or need at my fingertips as well as any amount of advice, comment or demonstration videos that I could wish for. And I also own shelves of books. I have over-load on a grand scale!

So a break is a good idea and during this precious free time I am going to work my way through projects and skills that I have wanted to try but never got round to having a go  at them. I am interested in processes rather than an end product which was my only aim in the run-up to the Gresford craft show. Look in often over the summer and you should see a plethora of ideas (some successful I hope, and some not I dare say). I will just go wherever the creative wind blows me and see what comes out of it! It is a rare chance for me to play.


I have had a go at simple wet felting once and this is what I made from a mixed bag of fibres. It feels very soft to the touch and surprisingly tough.

                          Wet felting

 Then, 2 years ago, I bought a needle felting machine and I have made precious little with it apart from copying a couple of landscapes. This one is made on a double background layer of felt with cotton batting on top. It is very strong and stable.

                     Needle felted landscape

Then a good friend recently gave me some wool tops (roving) that she bought and never used. These are the recommended fibres for felting and this gave me the impetus to start exploring what I could use them for. But first, I need to make something as a thank you for my friend so that I didn’t have a guilty conscience about using her fibres!  

                                  Wool tops

 I started to pull tufts of wool from the tops and mixed the fibres together under the needles of the felting machine without any backing fabric. I continued to add more fibres and pound them together to make felt which was surprisingly easy. From the sequence below you will see that there was no attention to what colour goes where, it was all totally random.


                               More fibres


                                 Felt detail RS

                                    Felt detail WS

When I inspected this first attempt closely, I found that I was distracted by the needle holes punched into the felt; I much preferred the texture of the WS. That said, I used the needle-punched side to create an A5 book cover for my friend. I made extra felt and cut out a large and small flower which I added by needle felting them to the front.



                               Completed WS

                                   Completed RS

What did I learned?

The process of felting with the machine is safe and easy. There is no danger of getting your fingers under the needle and apart from the using colour in a more thoughtful way for future projects, it is simple to do.

I prefer the look of the WS of needle-punched felt. (Can a piece be made in reverse I ask myself?)

I like the fact that there was no backing layer, this was pure felt made with the correct materials.

This first attempt made me ask myself whether I would like to try to use felt in a more painterly way.