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Wednesday, 5 December 2012

AND... from the other side of the world!

I've been following Elizabeth Armstrong's Studiofelter blog for a while now, attracted by her style and her fantastic way with colour! Elizabeth is a textile artist, felt maker and teacher based in Melbourne Australia and recently she generously offered one of her wonderful felt birds as a prize in a give away draw - open to all her many blog followers (which are considerable!)


Imagine my amazement, shock and frank disbelief when on December 1st she announced that the winner was…. well ME!!! I had to read the name several times for it to register. I've never ever won anything quite like this before, let alone anything quite so "international"...  I hope that explains why I've had a permanent smile for the past few days!

This little bird is winging it's way half way across the world to the Island as I write and will come to rest on my Christmas tree one day soon.

What with the other exciting news that my Shibori cushion design is featured on the cover of the Australian FELT magazine this month - suddenly Australia doesn't seem so far away and our world (of felt) is that much smaller, cosier and a very friendly place to be in…

Thank you very much Elizabeth...

And FELT magazine too!




And you can see more of Elizabeth's work by following this link...


Thursday, 1 November 2012

FELT MAGAZINE article...

Today marks the second anniversary of FELTING matters...

Two years on, and what better way to mark this auspicious day by mentioning some really thrilling news...!

FELT magazine, the Australian publication is featuring my Shibori Cushion in their next issue 8, available on-line from 1st December. The cushion project was originally designed for one of my summer workshops and was featured on the blog in May. It's been a very popular post with lots of views and you can see it again here...



The magazine editor Michelle asked if we had an alternative photo of the cushion that they could use and as we are literally minutes away from the Bay we thought it might make a good setting, better light, interesting textures... However it's been very autumnal here and every time we planned to take the shots it was either rainy, windy, gloomy or high tide! The slightest breeze causes the felt to move resulting in that fuzzy out of focus look, but KC took this lucky shot and it will be featured in the magazine along with all the step-by-step instructions to make the cushion.




FELT magazine has such a wide following across the world, with contributions by many internationally respected felt makers all sharing their expertise, so I feel very honoured to be included. And it's a such marvellous way to mark this anniversary!

The other piece of exciting news is the launch of my new "Felt Jewellery" kits. Many people have suggested I made them available especially with Christmas coming up as they will make ideal gifts!


Each kit contains enough Merino fibre to make a couple of felt flowers or plenty of felt beads for necklaces and bracelets, plus soap, beads for decoration and brooch pins. The simple techniques have been tried & tested in my workshops and the kit contains a 8-page leaflet with full step-by-step instructions and photographs. Making small items of jewellery is a perfect introduction to felting and is great fun for all ages and abilities.

The kits are £8 each and come in several different colourways. They will be available for sale on-line in my Folksy shop and at the Christmas events, with the first coming up this weekend...

The Dimbola Christmas Fair is this Saturday 3rd & Sunday 4th November, open each day from 10am - 4.30pm. There is FREE admission which includes entry to the Museum & Photographic Galleries, so you can browse amongst the craft stalls and enjoy the permanent photographic exhibitions and displays. The tea rooms also offer wonderful lunches & home-made cakes.

The weather forecast isn't too promising so where better to spend a few hours this wet weekend! Christmas shopping at Dimbola, Freshwater Bay...


Friday, 26 October 2012

"UNDERWATER MOSAIC" Part 1 ...

Today saw the launch of an exciting new community project based at Brading Roman Villa. The aim of the project is to reproduce an enlarged version of a sea painting by Island artist Pat Clarke in as many different media as possible….



"Underwater Mosaic" is an amazing fantasy picture painted by Pat about 4 years ago.  It's full of imagery, movement and extraordinary detail and for this project has been divided into 9 sections, three times making 27 panels in all, each approx 15.5" x 10" (40 x 25 cm).



Participants will each take a section to reproduce in any craft or medium, any way they choose - from oils, watercolour, pastels or felt tip pens to textiles, ceramics, mosaics, or collage... Then the finished panels will be returned to the Villa in January 2013 to be reassembled into the completed pictures, which will be on permanent display.

I'm delighted to be taking part and I've been given a central piece, with some lovely colour and interesting detail. I've already started planning...


I shall make a series of pre-felts to block out the main shapes, felt these together and then needle felt the pattern and fine details, possibly adding some stitch and beading? It will be important to keep all the shapes and colour as accurate and close to the original as possible as they will need to match up with the surrounding panels when they're all put back together.

I have known Pat and her artwork for a while now but I didn't realise her background was with the National Trust, specialising in Japanese & Chinese restoration work. This explains her attention to detail and her love of colour, especially gold! She is a member of the 'Society for Art of the Imagination" and regularly exhibits amongst fellow artists of international acclaim.

"Underwater Mosaic" is perfect for this project! There's plenty of interest & detail in every corner and the entire surface of the painting is linked with swirls of colour and texture. Having divided it up into the 27 panels it’s going to be really interesting to see how the new "mosaic" all fits back together again in the New Year…

If you would like any more information about how you can take part in the project please get in touch with Joy at Brading Roman Villa by email bradingeducation@hotmail.co.uk or ring 01983 406223


Tuesday, 16 October 2012

And more SCARVES...


The enthusiasm and energy generated at the recent Scarf Workshops was very contagious! It spurred me into action over the weekend - helped by a delivery of some wonderful fibres from Woolyknit



I just love the subtle blends of colour in these mixtures. All the colour choices are already made, so there's no wasting time deliberating over what goes with which - you can just get straight into the laying out with no excuse for any procrastination!

Scarves do take time to lay out. As with all felting, that time taken in the laying will always reflect in the finished piece. It's really important to aim for consistency and evenness, blending in the colours along the whole length. I personally prefer the subtlety of these blends as for me they make the scarves much more wearable.



They also need quite a pounding in the final stages and at this point I usually hand them over to KC - being stronger and taller really helps. Throwing the scarves onto a hard surface really shocks the fibres and achieves the tight 'ruched' effect which sometimes causes the fabric to almost disappear.

As for fabrics I use any type of sheer scarf as a base, with a colour that works with the fibres or an interesting pattern. They're not always silk, some polyester chiffons work just fine as long as they are sheer and not too slippery. Most of my fabrics are recycled or charity shop finds! 


  
We are holding another Scarf Workshop at Oliven the Patchwork Café in Newport on Wed 24th October and there are still places available. I will be showing how to make nuno scarves like these, plus how to lay out the lattice scarves.  More details about the workshop here and to make a booking contact Wendy on 01983 554 934...  

And all the scarves featured here will be available for sale at the Christmas Shows coming up fast...




Monday, 1 October 2012

September SCARVES...

I seem to have missed out a month this year! I'm afraid September came and went without any posts. It's not that there wasn't anything to write about - quite the opposite - I just simply ran out of days!

Last Saturday saw another wonderful Scarf Workshop at Oliven in Newport! The great thing about making scarves is that they can be felted, finished and wearable in a day BUT they do take a lot of effort.  This class is for all abilities and there were some great results, with everyone experimenting with different textures and fabrics as you can see from this small selection of photos of work in progress...


We have another Scarf Workshop planned at Oliven for the end of October and there are more details here.

As well as the usual programmes of workshops at Newport & Brading we are holding a couple of workshops with a distinctly Halloween theme at the Alpaca Farm on the 31st October. It's also half term so these workshops are aimed at young felt makers. We have  morning and afternoon sessions making 'Felt Pictures' and 'Felt Jewellery' and there are more details and booking information here...

With Halloween in mind here is an appropriate picture to finish… 


Dorothy's Wolf is felted entirely from Alpaca fibres!


Monday, 27 August 2012

SUMMER Showcase 2012...

It's been a very busy summer and it's hard to believe that September is just a week away. Thank you to everyone who came along to 'Rosie Ribbons Vintage Fair' on Friday at Bembridge Village Hall. We had an amazing day - it was great to end the summer shows on such a high point, at such a lovely venue. And the live music was a brilliant touch!

The shows are a wonderful way to meet new people who are interested in felt and keen to learn more in the workshops, but it's also very rewarding when my students come back to show me what they've been working on.

I thought I'd just showcase some of the amazing achievements of the summer workshops in this series of photos...


"Painting with Fibres" including some very first pieces...


... some monochrome felt pictures using alpaca fibre...



...lots of soft pots, bowls & bags...



...and hats, scarves, tea cosys, cushions, slippers & kindle cases...

This is only a very small sample. I'm sorry I don't have the space to include everyone's work here, but I must just squeeze in Jacqui's amazing row of cosys taken at Quarr.



There are more workshops coming up in September through to November at Oliven in Newport, at Brading Roman Villa & the Alpaca Farm in Wellow. You can click on the names for more details and to make a booking. A number of the workshops are specifically aimed at ALL abilities, which includes beginners.

For more details about all the workshops at the different venues you can also follow the links in the right-hand column... 


PS. If you live on the mainland and plan to come across to the island to take in a workshop a wonderful new guest house has just opened it's doors in Freshwater Bay...  
More details here 



Sunday, 12 August 2012

Following RUPERT 2012...

One of the jobs I've been working on recently is preparing the artwork and all the printed material for the Followers of Rupert Annual event that takes place each summer. Last year I posted up a couple of features about the work for the 2011 Annual and you can catch up with Part 1 and Part 2  - but to avoid too much repetition I'm just going to include some of the artwork stages this time and you can click on the pictures to enlarge…


The 2012 theme was again chosen by Tony Griffin the Annual organiser. One of his favourite Rupert characters is the Gooseberry Fool, rather an obscure and mischievous chap first featured in the 1951 annual. For the first piece of artwork I adapted the story's title page, introducing Rupert into the frame and enlarging the Fool. I particularly love the overall 'gooseberry' shape of the design used here...



For the second piece of artwork I took the end-sheets from the 1951 annual (a really lovely sepia watercolour drawn by Alfred Bestall) and placed Rupert and the GF into a coloured version, looking out across the lake at the cloud castles, with the Imps of Spring close by. I love the gnarled tree trunk with the secret door leading to another world...


As I've mentioned before I only draw Rupert once a year, and then just copy and re-jig existing Alfred Bestall illustrations to suit the new purpose. I start by working out rough sketches for the new designs - they're not exact copies as I alter and move various elements to fit the new A4 formats, plus leave space for headings & text.



These pieces of artwork will be used for all the printed matter for this weekend event - from badges and T-shirts, to programmes, menu cards, committee badges, lunch tickets and posters.



One of the enjoyable aspects to the job is the calligraphy - the badge and place names are all handwritten! I don't have much call to do this nowadays, but it was part of my training. It's lovely to have the chance to use my old pens, even though I need several days of practice to get the eye, hand & pen co-ordination flowing as freely as I'd like….


... and haven't some people got such interesting names!

I do hope they all have a wonderful time at the 2012 Annual at the end of the month!

The brand NEW Rupert Bear website was launched at the end of August, where you can find out more about the Followers, and lots more Ruperty info. Follow this link...    


Saturday, 21 July 2012

Between the Shows...


It's been a hectic time preparing for the Isle of Wight Open Studios and the weekend came and went SO quickly. A very big thank you to everyone who visited us at the Freshwater Parish Hall, where seven of us were exhibiting together and we had nearly 700 visitors through the door...  

This is one of the busiest times of the year for me. It's a great opportunity to show new work and to introduce felt making to a brand new group of people as interest in the workshops continues to grow, especially with the new venues.

Over the last few days I've been busy replenishing stock, including some of the knitted felt designs pictured here...


They are another aspect to my feltwork - made using Shetland wools, knitted up into swatches using the knitting machine and felted in the washing machine. The fabric is then made into all types of functional items. Small bags for mobile phones & ipods, pencil rolls, book jackets, kindle cases, scarves and appliqué flower brooches. Plus there's the felted lavender birds and lavender pincushions, and I will be bringing them all along to the summer shows.

I'm now looking forward to our summer exhibition at Quarr Abbey which starts next Thursday 26th to 31st July. Brother Duncan from the Quarr Benedictine order will be joining us and showing some of his new paintings. Lis Toft will be there with her porcelain & jewellery, photographer Dale Durfee will have her amazing horse & dog pictures and Barry Ecuyer will be showing his latest drawings & paintings.
  
The weather forecast looks promising for the week ahead with temperatures expecting to be almost back to normal, so hopefully we can leave our wellies behind for a change… 


Thursday, 5 July 2012

OPEN WEEKEND at West Wight Alpacas...


Just a quick reminder that the Alpaca Farm at Wellow are having their official OPEN WEEKEND celebrations on Saturday 7th & Sunday 8th July from 10 - 4pm. Michelle & Neil are inviting everyone to come and look around the farm and see the alpacas, including the new arrivals. The shop will be open and stocked with an amazing range of hand-made alpaca products. Refreshments will be available and throughout the weekend there will be demonstrations of felt making & knitting using the alpaca fibre. You will also have the chance to walk with the alpacas around the paddock, with donations going to Freshwater Lifeboats. 
West Wight Alpacas is at Main Road Wellow PO41 0SZ and there's more information here.

We've also got more dates arranged for felt making workshops taking place at the farm during July & August, click here for dates and details. 





There's lots to see and do and it should be a fantastic weekend!
Let's hope the weather stays dry...



Sunday, 24 June 2012

TOOLS - Old & New...

This week found me at Ventnor Botanic Gardens in the Echium Room taking part in the Island Feltmakers exhibition. Part of my display was this wonderful old hat form, recently given to me by a lady whose father owned a tailors shop in London in the 1930s, where this hat form was used to steam and stretch felt hats into shape. I understand it's made from tulip wood, a dense hard water-resistant wood traditionally used in the millinery trade for this very purpose….


It had been left forgotten in her garage for years and was in desperate need of some restoration. KC completely stripped it apart to rub down and clean all the parts. He managed to get the mechanism working again and treated the wood with lemon oil to bring out the grain, restoring it to this magnificent state.


There's even a size gauge on the base which has been almost worn away with use, but you can just make out the first 7¼ hat size. I'm sure 1,000s of hats have been stretched on this and hopefully more to come as I intend to use it in the hats workshops.

I've been using 'tools' of various shapes & sizes to work my felt for years and more recently in the workshops. These have been anything curved - from golf balls and plastic shapes to rolling pins ends - using the curve to help create a shape. But working with a local wood turner we've developed some hand tools that are a real pleasure to hold and work with…


Made from seasoned oak and sealed to protect the wood from the warm soap and abrasiveness of the fibres these particular designs are beautiful to look at, lovely to hold (not too heavy) and easy to grip with wet soapy hands, making them extremely practical.  When making a 3-D form like a bowl or bag, once the resist has been removed the tools can be used to rub against to produce an even curve around the sides. They've been tried & tested in the workshops and most felters find them very useful. They're now available to order so let me know if you'd like more details...


Finally, pictures of the magnificent echiums on the Terrace at Ventnor, with the enormous flowers just about to bloom...


This one had taken a bashing from the wind, but I was able to get a good 
close-up.   It was full of bees!

The weather wasn't brilliant all week but it didn't deter the visitors!

As always it's wonderful to catch up with all feltmakers, to share the enthusiasm 
that so many of us feel about this fantastic process and to be able to 
introduce it to so many who hadn't seen any felt before ...


Thank you all for coming along! 



Friday, 1 June 2012

Summer EVENTS...

It's the beginning of June and the Bank Holiday weekend. Of course, the weather forecast is terrible... Summer has arrived! We've been really busy making stock for the summer events and local galleries. In particular lots of nuno scarves, using some wonderful hand-dyed silk, layered and felted between hand-dyed merino/silk blends. 

The results are always surprising...



I used one of the scarves for the poster design for the first exhibition I'm involved with this summer. "ISLAND FELTMAKERS" is a unique celebration of textiles, felt art and design by a number of the Island's feltmakers who are exhibiting together for the first time...




It's a great opportunity for anyone interested in felt textiles to come along, meet the feltmakers and see a wide range of styles and work on display in the wonderful Echium Room at Ventnor Botanic Gardens. The exhibition runs from Monday 18th to Friday 22nd June. I hope you can make it, I shall be there each day from 10am - 4pm so it will be good to catch up.

Latest news from West Wight Alpacas... They are having their official OPEN WEEKEND celebrations on Saturday 7th & Sunday 8th July from 10 - 4pm. Michelle & Neil are inviting everyone to come and look around the farm and see the alpacas, including the new arrivals. The shop will be open and stocked with an amazing range of hand-made alpaca products. Refreshments will be available and throughout the weekend there will be demonstrations of felt making & knitting using the alpaca fibre. You will also have the chance to walk with the alpacas around the paddock, with donations going to Freshwater Lifeboats. West Wight Alpacas is at Main Road Wellow PO41 0SZ and there's more information here.

We've also got more dates arranged for felt making workshops taking place at the farm during July & August, click here for dates and details.

One of the high-lights of the summer is the Isle of Wight OPEN STUDIOS, taking place in West Wight on the 13th - 16th July. I shall be at Freshwater Parish Hall with a group of six artists exhibiting paintings, photography, ceramics, fused glass plus my felt designs, and you'll find lots more information about Open Studios here. It coincides with the Olympic Torch passing through West Wight on the Saturday, so you could combine both momentous events! We will be producing a map showing the studios of all the artists taking part, plus the torch route and I shall post details nearer the time.

I'm also taking part in an exhibition at QUARR ABBEY from the 25th - 31st July, but again more details will follow.

It's going to be a busy summer...!

Monday, 21 May 2012

Shearing ALPACAS...

Saturday was Shearing Day at West Wight Alpacas and with over thirty alpacas to shear they needed extra people to help out, so I volunteered my services. Having felted so much natural fleece and fibres over the years I'd never seen the shearing process first hand and close up so I was really excited to be involved.

When I arrived at the farm the afternoon had already got off to a dramatic start with a baby alpaca just born and barely 20 minutes old when I took this picture…

Itisha with baby Tinkerbell

With 33,000 alpacas now in the UK a team of expert Australian alpaca shearers had come over to do the work. They arrived having been shearing on the island all day with another farm to visit afterwards.  They tackled the task with great efficiency and professionalism, making sure each animal was sheared cleanly. The alpacas are tethered whilst the shearing takes place. It's up to the helpers to collect the fleece as it is cut, folding the main saddle piece together, labelling it and carrying it to the skirting table for sorting, whilst also collecting and keeping the secondary cuts separate. 

Vince and Berlin waiting their turn...
Kaiser being shorn...
Fleece on the skirting table

Shearing is obviously a very necessary process, together with the toe nail clipping, teeth checks and vaccinations that are all done at the same time. Observing from the side-lines it made me appreciate the terrific responsibility that comes with owning and caring for these magnificent animals. It is a traumatic time for everyone involved - I know I was shattered after just a few hours of helping out... 

Little Summer without her coat...

But the shearing relieves the alpacas of a heavy winter coat (Kaiser's was over 8 kilos) and they are soon back in the field, light-weight and grazing as if nothing's happened…  

Bella & friends back in the field...

The end product - the wonderful fibre that these animals produce is of a fantastic quality and I'm really looking forward to using it in the felting workshops this summer. You can see the drum carding in action here and click on any of the photos to enlarge... 

The new workshop dates have been posted here.


POSTSCRIPT (1st June) :


I learned some very sad news today about little Tinkerbell. Apparently she was born with certain problems and had to undergo an operation when she was barely a day old. She received the best possible care over the past two weeks but she didn't pull through. It's understandable that everyone at the farm is devastated...     



Tuesday, 1 May 2012

SHIBORI Flower Cushion...

With the first 'Felt Cushion' workshop coming up in a couple of weeks time I've been working on a new design.


This cushion is decidedly OTT ! Colourful and bold, the design incorporates some exciting new techniques and can be dressed up or down to compliment any sofa! The flower is constructed with layers of pre-felted petals, some completely felted into the background square, others partially needle-felted together, giving the cushion a real 3-D feel. A separate centre piece was felted using a 'shibori' technique, needle-felted onto the flower and decorated with wooden beads.



'Shibori' is a term used to describe the Japanese techniques of shaping and embellishing fabric by knotting & binding. When applied to pre-felts it can create interesting textures which remain in place after further felting.

The flower centre was created by knotting felt balls into a pre-felted circle. This was fully felted by hand in warm soapy water. After felting the knots were untied and the felt balls were left completely felted together creating the bobbly texture. (This piece would actually make a wonderful felt corsage in itself!)



The centre was needle-felted onto the petals and beads were sewn in place. The finished felt flower square was then sewn to a fabric backing to make the cushion cover.

This has been a really fun project to work on. There couldn't be a greater contrast to all the natural alpaca shades I've been surrounded by recently.  

I'm looking forward to seeing how it works out practically in the classes and seeing all the variations my students will come up with. The 'Felt Cushion' workshops will take place in Freshwater & Newport in June so for dates and booking details follow the links...




Monday, 23 April 2012

Drum Carding ALPACA...


A really interesting aspect to the workshops at the Alpaca Farm is using drum carders to prepare the fleece for felting. Previously I'd had limited experience using these machines so it's wonderful to have them and I've been able to get lots of practice in...


I hadn't appreciated quite how straightforward it is to use the sheared alpaca fleece without any preparation. I started using Desdemona's - a lovely white Huacaya - pulling clumps of it straight out of the bag, just finger picking it to fluff out the fibres, removing any bits and feeding them straight into the carder tray.


It seemed such a shame to get these marvellous carding machines dirty!!! They're  hand-made in Shropshire by Paul Brittain of Classic Carders. We have TWO available in the workshops and they are an absolute pleasure to use.


It didn't take long to fill up the large drum - these are jumbo size and produce a lovely large batt. I've been experimenting with blending some natural coloured Shetland wool in with the white alpaca - the possibilities are infinite. 



I also tried felting the batt as it came off the carder and it gave me a lovely (half length!) scarf, washing all the dirt from the fibres in the felting process. I also used the batts to make a bag blending Desdemona's white fleece with the Shetland colours. One of Jude Allman's wonderful raku buttons compliments the natural coloured fibres and just finishes the bag.





This year's shearing starts in a couple of weeks time so there's going to be plenty of new fleece for us to use in the workshops. I mentioned in the last post that alpacas come in over 20 natural shades...



This is the official colour chart !!!


(And you can click on any of the photos to enlarge...)




Tuesday, 27 March 2012

FELTING with ALPACAS...

These are exciting times...!  As I mentioned before I've been invited to hold a series of workshops at the West Wight Alpaca farm in Wellow starting after Easter and I'm able to confirm the dates here. West Wight Alpacas is home to both a herd of rare coloured Suri Alpacas and the more common Huacaya Alpacas (pronounced Wacaya) and makes a perfect location to hold felt making classes in their brand new workshop facility, surrounded by all these amazing animals!


As you can see I've been experimenting with the alpaca fibres and they do felt very differently to the wools I'm most familiar with. The Suri fibres are beautifully soft and silky to handle, which makes them quite difficult (but not impossible) to felt as the fibres do take quite a bit of working. I did use them to make some of the examples here like the black lattice scarf and the bowls (click on the photos to enlarge). However these fibres are better suited to hand spinning and produce a luxurious knitting yarn.


The Huacaya has the more normal 'Teddy Bear' fleece that is closer to wool and is much easier to felt. The alpaca natural colour range is amazing! They come in twenty two different shades, from white to black with every other natural colour of fawn, brown & grey in between, which makes them perfect for these felting projects. The finished felt also retains a wonderful 'alpaca' quality, the bowls & bags have a lovely soft hairy-ness which is quite unique!

With the forthcoming feltmaking workshops we plan to use a 50/50 mix of alpaca and wool. All the natural coloured fibres for the workshops will be available to buy at the farm shop and we will be using large drum carders during the workshops to blend these fibres into individual colour combinations for the felting projects. 
 
Huacaya Alpacas (above) and Suri Alpacas (below) at Wellow

It's been an exciting time for WWA as they have just returned from their first major UK Alpaca Futurity show at the Birmingham NEC with lots of rosettes and two of their brown Suris winning Champion (Kaiser) & Reserve Champion (Kimi).

There's more alpaca information at : http://www.westwightalpacas.co.uk/ 

And there's more workshop information and booking details here...

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