etsy mini

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Dying silk and wool fibres

Hello. I've resurfaced after a multitude of commissions and popped in to say hello. After working frantically for a few weeks I realised that my stock of hand dyed silks and wool neps were becoming very low and those I did have left were so muddled I couldn't find what I wanted.
This was my pathetic selection.
I decided something had to be done because I use these fibres a lot in my felts. Silks make great additions to dramatic skies as well as providing highlights to plants and landscapes. Wool neps and Wensleydale locks are fantastic to represent flowers and foliage on a small scale.
I sorted out my undyed fibres, my dyes and some plastic containers. The best dyes to use for these fibres are acid dyes. My favourite acid dyes are Omega. They come in crystal form in little pots and you don't have to add any other ingrediants.Because I only dye small amounts at a time I use plastic containers such as old ice cream tubs and dye in the microwave. Not the same one that I cook in though. I sorted out a little of each fibe and put them in different coloured dyes. Different fibres absorb dyes to different degrees so even though I put several different types of silk in the same pot as wool neps and Wensleydale locks  they all come out in slightly different shades/
Omega acid dyes seem expensive but a little goes a long way. For each of these tubs I uses less than a quarter of a teaspoon of dye granules.
Each tub went in to the microwave for 4 minutes and hey presto my fibres are cooked!
Here they all are drying.
Now I have this job done I can create some more lovely felt pictures with lots of texture.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Felt art for Christmas gifts.

I just wanted to show you these matted felts which I have started making. They are ideal as Christmas gifts especially for any one who has to put gifts in the post. They are easy to wrap and light so do not cost too much to send. They fit in an 8 x 8 inch frame which is 20 x 20 cm. Some of them would also make ideal nursery decor.
To find more  please visit my shop here

Friday, 12 September 2014

House portrait in felt!

This is a new experience for me. I have made lots of commissioned pieces but recently was asked if I would make a felt picture of someone's house. I agreed and the lady sent me photos to work from. It took a while to work out the best view point to work from but I decided that it would be nice to view the house from her woodland and she agreed so here is the finished piece.
If anyone else wants a special picture of their own house you know where to find me!

Friday, 22 August 2014

Poppy pictures!

I've had a rush on poppy pictures this week. I just thought I'd show you the two which have new homes to go to.
The first one was a custom order for a lady in S. Wales and the second one was sold to an art trail visitor. I'm sure they will both be well looked after.

One more week to go of the Ceredigion Art Trail where you can visit artists in their studios, look at their work and find out more about the processes used in their creations.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Unexpected inspiration.

Inspiration for art can come from many places but my latest felt came from a few splodges! Many of you will know that I enjoy playing with art journals. I usually decorate the blank pages in some way before journalling. This often simply involves splodging paint on a page and letting it do what it wants. Last week I looked at a page which had been given this treatment and 'saw' a landscape. I drew over the important lines and placed a house in the middle and liked what I saw.
It's strange how our brains work isn't it?
Anyway I decided to see how it would translate in to felt and ended up with this.
Can you see the resemblance?

Monday, 21 July 2014

felt paintings, adding linear embellishment.

I always add stitching to my felts but decided I would like to add some kind of raised linear embellishment to show the lie of the land. I intentionally left some areas of my felt uncluttered so I would be able to add them without making the finished art work too fussy. Th
is is the felt with no stitching. I think you will agree, it looks a little flat. Next I added my usual free machine stitching to add tree branches etc. I took a photograph of the back of the work so you can clearly see the amount of stitching added by machine.
Next came the tricky bit. I knew what I wanted the raised lines to look like but didn't know how to achieve them. I did some experimentation on felt scraps. Here they are in my fabric art journal.
In the end I decided I liked bullion knots and couched yarns. One small problem. I didn't know how to stitch bullion knots. I spent Friday evening practising and finally got the hang of it. I used bullion knots with couched yarn in between them  as well as on their own. Here is the finished piece.
And a close up of some of the hand stitching.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Abstract felt art challenge.

This month's art team challenge was 'abstract'. This is a little out of my comfort zone and took many hours of thought before I got started. Mostly I dislike art that is just unidentified blobs of colour so decided to go with representational abstract. I came up with this.
I decided that I wanted a simple image and for some reason I had the title 'clear blue' in my head. I went for 3 dimensional pebbles with a suggestion of  shallow water running over and around them. Just because an image is simple it doesn't have to be boring. Simple images give you the opportunity to go wild with texture. In this piece I have the 3D pebbles as well as two different types of  silk, wool neps, soya bean fibres, yarn and hand stitching. It took some time to put together and had to be felted very firmly but I am quite pleased with the result. Here is a close up which shows the textures better.

Monday, 30 June 2014

free machine stitching on felt.

Over the years my felt pictures have slowly developed and I have been adding more and more stitching to them. I wondered what would happen if I completely cvered one with stitching and this is what happened.

First I made a very simple felt picture. I wanted to be able to concentrate on the stitching and not a complicated design. This is the felt
Next I covered the felt with a layer of zig zag stitch in colours to match the felt.
I continued by adding layers of straight stitch . I overlapped some of the colours to blend everything together. When there were just tiny bits of felt visible I stopped stitching. The end result was a more crisp and defined image and I preferred it to the original.
The drawbacks are it uses a LOT of thread, takes a lot of time and the stitching distorts the felt fabric. This picture started out in a landscape format and ended up as portrait.
As you can see as well as changing shape the stitching had cause rippling at the edges. After careful pressing on the back I got rid of the ripples but how should it be finished and presented? I scoured my reference books and the internet which all gave different advise. I looked at images of stitched pictures and saw that some had been edged with yarn. After rummaging through my stash I found some novelty yarn in black, grey and white which I thought would bring out the colours in the rock. It was very thin so I made a cord with it which thickens the yarn x 4. I trimmed the edges of the felt and stitched the cord on to it. It  worked.
I was going to put this in my textile sample book but my husband liked it so much he wanted it displayed so I mounted on to black card and put it in a box frame. I like the way it seems to 'float', It now lives in our lounge. 
I will be exploring this further and hope to have some in my etsy shop soon.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Textile book

When browsing through Pinterest I came across a book made from fabric. I had a light bulb moment and decided that a textile artist should have a textile book. It makes sense because I can stitch my samples and trial pieces in it for further reference.
If you want to make one here is what I did.
I made the pages from muslin. Mine took 3 metres but yours may take more or less depending on the book size and thickness.
Cut muslin in to manageable sizes and paint with a runny PVA and water mix. I think Modge Podge would also work. This will stiffen the muslin and make it easier to handle. Lay it out on greaseproof paper to dry overnight.
Decide on the size of your book and make a cover to size. My book is 10 inches square. I decided to make my cover from felt but also needle felted other fabrics in to it with my embellishing machine. I added some hand dyed muslin, silk carrier rods, silk fibres, yarn and some scraps of chiffon. Next I added some hand stitching in concentric circles to give it texture. I made my cover 11 inches square but underestimated how much smaller it would become after stitching. If you intend to add lots of stitching I would recommend an extra 2 inches instead of one.
I decided to use the coptic method of binding but other methods would work as well. 
Your pages are made from the stiffened muslin. Do remember to cut each piece twice the size of each page when making your signatures. For a book 10 inches square the muslin should be cut 10 x 20 inches. Instead of folding with a bone folder I ironed the fabric. I found it much harder to stitch the pages together than it is with paper because even when stiffened the muslin moves around more.
Instead of using tapes or ribbon for the coptic binding I decided to get strips of muslin and twist them in to a cord. This worked quite well.
I have started to use my book to keep track of experiments that I've tried. It's always useful to keep them even if you feel that they haven't worked. Sometimes when looking back at a 'failure' it will spark off a new idea. My first page was a 'failure'. It started life as a hare, somehow turned in to a kangaroo but then my face book followers voted it to be a Jack Rabbit!
The second page is more promising. I have layered lots of fabrics, added machine stitching, blasted with a heat gun and then added hand stitching. The design started off inspired by tiles but now reminds me of little jewellery boxes or maybe a stained glass window. I think I will explore this technique some more.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

layered felt technique

We've had some beautiful sunny weather recently and I wanted to make something summery. I decided on a stitched flower garden with a hazy felt background and thought I would share this technique with you.
This actually has six layers to it.
First I started with a prefelt as a base. Next I added areas of different coloured merino. I started with pale colours at the top and worked down to stronger colours to give the bottom half a feeling of weight. Next I carefully arranged silk fibres over the merino making sure that the silk overlapped the joins in colour of the layer below. Then more merino. This time the fibres were pulled in to a cobweb thin film so that the underneath layers were still visible. I used the same colours as before but overlapped the colours slightly. The 5th layer was a sprinkling of wool neps at the bottom of the picture. This gives the impression of distant flowers.
The whole picture was then wet felted. I did not needle felt first because I wanted the layers to blend together more than usual. The final layer was the embroidery.
Working like this gives a real sense of depth to a piece and the way the colours blend together reminds me of a watercolour.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Felt art in monochrome !

I thought I would share this challenge with you (and it WAS a challenge). I belong to an art team on etsy who are setting monthly challenges. This month was to create a piece in monochrome. As you know this means using variations on only one colour. Anyone who is familiar with my work will realise how hard this was for me.
The obvious choice is black, white and grey but that would be too gloomy for me so I settled on orange. Here is my colour palette
I sketched a simple landscape for my design and needle felted the fibres loosely in to place. I found it tricky getting enough contrast for different elements to be clear so added silk fibres to help.
The next stage was to wet felt which ,of course, tends to blend colours together so did not help with making a clear image. Happily the final stage of adding stitching did help to define things and this is the finished piece.
I must admit I did miss being able to use black thread in the stitching and am almost certain that I won't be repeating the exercise. I probably did learn something about use of different tones though. Why not try it for yourself?

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Felt brooches - new!

Last weekend I had a craft fair to go to and it's always nice to have some little bits and pieces for people to buy. After a lot of thought I suddenly came up with the idea of brooches. I have made flower brooches before but lots of people make those and I wanted something original, something to reflect my artwork. After more thumb chewing I realised that an awful lot of my pieces have little cottages in them and decided to make cottage brooches. I've given them all brightly coloured doors and stitched the windows in as I do in my pictures. At the suggestion of one of my FB followers I have embroidered flowers growing up the wall on one of them too.
In the end I didn't make the craft fair as I injured my foot so I have a couple listed in my etsy shop.

Friday, 2 May 2014

Embroidery on felt

I've often added small amounts of hand embroidery to my felts but rely heavily on my sewing machine to add detail and texture with free machine stitching. Last week I was dealt a blow when my machine threw a wobbley and decided it was no longer going to wind the bobbin! It was taken to the repair shop and I was left wondering how to work without it. Every time I came up with an idea I realised that I couldn't complete the picture without my sewing machine.
I decided to experiment with LOADS of hand embroidery. First I fused fabrics of different textures and colours to a prefelt with my needle felting machine. Next I wet felted quite thinly over the top so that they would show through in places. I decided I wanted a simple image and our fields are brimming with flowers at the moment which prompted me to try flower fields. This is what I came up with at first
 Can you see how the stitches in the yellow field are tiny and the ones in the foremost field are much bigger? This helps to give a sense of perspective. The further away something is the smaller and less detailed it seems. I wasn't entirely happy with this so I added more flowers.
I felt that the extra colours made a big difference and there was lots of texture. Here is a close up
I did enjoy making this and was pleased with the final result but it took hours and hours to create a relatively small piece of work with thousands of stitches. It measures 10.5 x 6.5 inches and I would have to charge at least £50.00 if I were to sell it. That is around $85.00 for my US readers. Bearing that in mind I have decided to keep  it as a sample for my own reference. Back to the drawing board!
If, by any chance, anyone disagrees with me and would like to purchase this piece feel free to message me.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Using Wensleydale locks in felt art

Last time I told you how to prepare raw wool for felt making and demonstrated with some Wensleydale locks. I thought I would show you what I have used them for. If you look in the picture you can see twiddly lines on the ground and curls in the tree foliage at the top of the picture.
That is the Wensleydale locks. They add extra texture and interest and can be used in all sorts of artwork. To see close up photographs of this picture click on the etsy mini which will take you to my shop.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

How to prepare wool for felting.

I usually buy merino already washed and dyed to make my felt pictures but occasionally want to add texture with different fibres. I was able to source a Wensleydale fleece directly from the farmer and decided to dye some of it to use. Wensleydale sheep have naturally curly fleece which can be great for hedges and foliage in a landscape.
It is quite time consuming and it occurred to me that some felt makers may not know how to do it so I am giving the instructions here.
All sheep have a grease called lanolin on their fleece. It is often used as an ingredient in moisturisers and shampoos. Lanolin protects the sheep from wet weather as water will run of off a greasy fleece and not be absorbed in to the fibres. This is great for the sheep but not for us felters! The Lanolin must be removed before dying as it stops the dye from being absorbed. This is how the raw fleece looks.
The lanolin causes the yellow discolouration that you can see and a distinct sheepy smell. Some fleeces will also contain bits of straw and other debris. They will all be dirty as the sheep has been wearing them for a year!
Your first job is to pick out any straw, grass, brambles and any other obvious 'bits'. Next you will need to remove the lanolin. You will need a saucepan or metal bucket that will not be used in food preparation. Put enough cold water in it to cover the fleece and add a cleaning agent. Washing up liquid will do at a pinch.
Put the fleece in the pan and begin to heat on a low setting. If it is heated too quickly it may begin to felt. The water will quickly turn a disgusting dirty yellow colour.
Bring to the boil and simmer gently for a few minutes. Then drain away the dirty water and repeat. You will probably have to repeat 3 or 4 times before the water runs clear.
When all of the grease is removed the fleece should smell a lot better and feel and look white and shiny. Now you can dye it. Use an acid dye and follow the manufactures instructions as different brands use slightly different methods.
Here is mine hanging out to dry.
And here is the completed felt.
The hedge next to the cottage is made from Wensleydale as are some of the flowers in the foreground. Here is a close up view.
Happy felting!

Monday, 7 April 2014

felt painting of a hare completed!

As promised here is a photograph of the completed hare felt
I did use the needle felting machine to help in the process. After I 'tacked' the fibres down by hand needle felting I used the needle felting machine to really bind everything together securely. I was also able to include some scrim for a few grasses in the background. I wish I'd used more because they look really effective. Then I wet felted. The only problem I had was having to work quite hard at getting rid of the little holes the machine makes. It was easier than usual to wet felt though and saved my back a bit. The other benefit was that the fibres stayed put when I sloshed the soapy water on.
Here is a close up where you can see the embroidered flowers more clearly.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Learning how to needle felt with a machine.

Most of you will be familiar with my felt 'paintings'. If not you can click on the etsy mini to take you in to my shop for a browse. In order to achieve such detail I have to needle felt the fibres in to place before wet felting. Up until now I have used a hand needle felting tool like this
I only 'tack' the fibres enough to hold them in place and then wet felt to make a strong fabric. Needle felting by hand takes a great deal of time  and does not do my somewhat delicate back any favours so I invested in a needle felting machine which looks like this
I assumed that it would do the same job as the hand tool but faster - wrong!
I can't felt layers of wool fibre together without a fabric backing. It may be possible but I haven't worked it out yet. However it is possible to integrate fabrics more fully into the felt. I even needle felted a silk carrier rod in to a piece of felt! Here are some of my first trials
The silk carrier rod is at the top left and as you can see it is bedded right down in the fabric. The splatter of gold at the bottom right was gold organza. I needle felted it so much that it actually broke up! I do think even that has possibilities though. It might look good in a sunset.
I also tried different yarns on a scrap piece of felt. I wanted to use them for grasses in a picture.
The yarn on the right was made from spun sari silk and very dense. It did not felt very well and to be honest I was worried about breaking the needles. The middle yarn is made from silk and felted in quite well. The one on the left is actually a piece of scrim and was really good as I wanted to make a picture with grasses in the background. It's not finished yet but I will show you when it is.

Next I decided to take a large piece of calico and see how different fabrics and fibres reacted. I tried all sorts of things with variable success. I then thought that this may be a good method for making original cards and decided on a heart motif. Unfortunately I needle felted a hole in the background felt fabric!
I also tried a small landscape card which was not very successful. In the photo above you can see my experiments.
Lastly I tried making two contrasting fabrics and cutting heart shapes out of one to apply on the other. This was a lot more successful and I made them in to cards which I listed in my etsy shop. A pack of 6 sold straight away and I only have singles left. I have ordered more card blanks because I think they will do well at craft fairs.
I will continue to experiment and keep you updated on my progress.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

concertina book making tutorial

Last time I showed you some of the journals I have been making and several people expressed an interest in the folded, concertina books with inserts. Here is a short tutorial. My finished book looks like this.
 step one is to prepare your paper. Decide how wide you want your pages to be and how many of them you want. As you are going to be adding pamphlet pages later you don't need masses of folds. For instance if each page is to be 4 inches wide and you want four folds you will need a piece of paper 16 inches long. 
You will probably need to join some pieces of paper together to achieve the length you want. For a first book I would recommend using normal A4 photocopy paper as I did. You can graduate to expensive papers later. To join the paper fold one end of each piece to make a small hinge on both pieces and glue them together .
The second stage is to form the concertina folds. The best way to get even folds is to fold the middle first and work your way out.

Now make your pamphlet pages. These can be the same size or smaller than the folded pages. I chose to make mine smaller so the folded pages made sections with the smaller pages inside. 
Take 3 or 4 pieces of paper and fold each one in half with a good sharp crease. Bookbinders will tell you to use a bone folder to sharpen the crease but for our purposes the back of a spoon does the job. Place the folded sections inside each other and make three holes at equidistant spaces along the fold. Make sure the hole goes through all of your pages. You can use an awl for this or a large needle. You also need to make the holes in the fold of your concertina with the same spacings between them.
Thread a needle with strong thread, linen is good, or embroidery floss works. You can start at the inside of your pamphlet pages or on the outside of the fold. Take the needle through the centre hole of the fold and the pamphlet pages. Next sew back through the top hole and through the centre hole again. Then through the bottom hole and tie the end of your thread to the beginning of it at the centre hole.
This is much easier to do than it sounds written down! Just take one step at a time and do it as you read.
You can add pamphlet pages to every fold on both sides of the concertina if you wish.

Now the fun bit - the cover. You will need two pieces of card or mount board just a little bit bigger than your folded pages. Decorate it in any way you wish. Go to town. If you are a patchworker why not glue a mini quilt to it. You could make a mixed media cover, lino print on to it or a collage as I did. You will think of something personal to you. If the card is fairly floppy I recommend that you stiffen it up with pelmet vilene or gesso. The design only need to be on one side of each cover but try to neaten the edges. As I used fabric I turned the edge of the fabric over the edges and glued it to the other side.
At this stage you should also think of a fastening. As this book has no spine it needs to be fastened when not in use. I used string as I thought it fitted with the naive design of my cover but you could use ribbon or leather thong. This needs to be stitched to the front cover and be long enough to wrap around the whole book and be tied together.
To fix the covers to the pages you simply glue each cover to the first and last pages of your book.
Here is the inside of mine showing the different sized pages.
Have fun!