Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Felting with the Artfelt kit

I tried the Artfelt kit from Skacel. I made 2 different designs. The first used a background of the regular roving with designs made of pencil roving layered on top of that. It's pretty abstract. For the second piece, I wove the pencil roving. Let's just say, I'm probably not a natural weaver. By the end of the piece, my rows were tighter and narrower than at the top. I'll probably cut these pieces up and use them in other work.
My humble opinion of the kit? Well, since you asked...
I felted the pieces using the Artfelt kit instructions, and that seemed to work as described. The pieces felted in 15-30 minutes, but it is a soft felt. If I planned on using the felt for anything, I'd harden it for sure.
After having used the kit once, I think I prefer to roll my felt by hand, rather than use the dryer method. I was a little nervous about the pieces getting scrunched up in their nylon tubes (read the instructions for that). Tacking the roving down to the paper might give the advantage of keeping the designs from moving around.
The instructional DVD was a slide show, rather than actual moving video. That seemed a bit cheap to me. It has a few ideas of what to make, but nothing out of the ordinary.
Anyone who is already familiar with making felt probably would not want to bother with the kit. But it might be enjoyable for people who haven't done felting and want to give it a try.
The Zitron roving included in the kit is very pretty. The kits come in different color choices. You can buy the roving separately. You can also buy the special paper separately. The unique thing about the paper is that it is water soluble, but only with boiling water, unlike many water soluble interfacings and stabilizers. I haven't researched such products, but I would imagine that other brands of this type of stabilizer are available.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Bluff Country Art Tour

The wind howled all night, and I woke up to see a bit of snow on the ground. I don't want to be one of those people who complain about the weather, but it's almost MAY! Even the children look out at the snow, and their shoulders slump so you know it's been a long winter. A gentle warm breeze would be just delightful. I'll take two of those, please, with some extra sunshine.

But the day shaped up very nicely. I arrived at the Bluff Country Artists' Gallery at 10am, and it was already buzzing. My felted and fulled pieces were displayed in a cozy area with other fiber art, including some hand dyed (painted?) silk scarves and men's ties, some handbags, and some nuno scarves.

I had brought some additional pieces with me, so I set those out as well, and made myself comfortable adding some beads to one of my pieces and needlefelting a small bowl as a means of demonstrating one aspect of felting.

The BCAG board took very good care of the artists who were there. They provided us with sandwiches, coffee, cookies, cheese and crackers, fruit, and punch, and, of course, homemade bars.

I sold only one thing, but I left feeling very good. I think I'm a compliment junky. I received many good comments, and by the end of the day, felt very encouraged and affirmed.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Felting Books

I went to visit my "wish list" on Amazon today. It is quite extensive.
Of special interest, there is a new book called Creative Felting by Lizzie Houghton that I'd like to have. A felting acquaintance recommended it.
Also, I am especially looking forward to Nancy Hoerner's Felt Inlays book that is due to be published sometime this year.
Another book that will probably find it's way to my shelf is The Art of Felt by Francoise Teller-Loumagne.
I already own several of the newer books published, including How We Felt by Carol Huber Cypher. I really like this one. She has projects from several well respected artists who describe their process. Uniquely Felt, by Chris White, is another favorite, because she explains several different types of felt making.
Fabulous Felted Scarves is a must have. Authors Alice Hagen and Jorie Johnson are two of the most respected felt makers out there.
I have not done any sculptural needle felting so I can't comment on any of the books on that topic.
It is fun to look though all these books, even if I don't make some of the projects. There are so many talented artists out there, each with their own vision and style. That is something I aspire to become: an artist with some depth and uniqueness, rather than someone who just dabbles in a variety of things. Time will tell.

Embellisher landscape collage

Friday night I finished punching out the basic landscape. There are a few spots I'll need to fill in so that it will be a full 11" x 14". Next step: layer on some details. I've looked at many people's work, and there are quite a few who add details using free motion embroidery, but I've never done that, and I'm not sure I want to try it with my old basic Singer sewing machine. Maybe I'll use some yarn and roving to add details, and then beads and other embellishments.
Obviously this isn't felting, but it is an interesting way to use my needle felting machine. "Punching" fabric is being done by a number of people. Start by looking at work by Christopher Nejman, author of Pillows. There are some Yahoo groups addressing this technique as well.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

I'd rather be blogging

Ok, it must be clear by now that I'd rather be blogging than, say, doing laundry, or picking up all the clutter around the house. Here are the promised pictures.
First, the landscape collage, made on the Xpression embellisher. Bear in mind that it is only about half done, as far as applying the fabric. The pink fabric on the middle mountain is very thin and I might apply a second layer on top of it. Otherwise, it was very simple to do. The sky is made of small pieces overlapped. The mountains are made of larger single pieces with a few patches as needed. As far as any "secret" techniques go, I was afraid that using the multi-needle attachment would make it too hard for me to control where the fabric went down, so I tacked the mountains down with the single needle, then switched to the multi-needle to stabilize everything. I tried to scrunch up the mountain fabric a bit so they would have some texture.

My cobalt vessel is still in progress. This is the side where I have cut out the resists to reveal the inner layers. I wish the overall shape was more dramatic, but it will have to stay as is. I may cut the top edge somehow. And it definitely needs some beading.

Below is a vessel I completed a while ago. This one also had resists. Small whisps of silk roving adding color to the outside. Beads inside the cuts add sparkle.

Artfelt by Skacel

I found out a few days ago that my favorite LYS, Kristen's Knits, will have to move...again...due to landlord not continuing the lease. What a pain in the neck for Kristen. She moved into this very cool space in an old Victorian house just last year after suffering through repeated water damage in her old space. But who knows what opportunities this may bring. We wish the best for Kristen!
Since everything is 20% off now, I went over to do my part to help out and reduce inventory. And, lo and behold, she had the Skacel Artfelt kits- the ones that use the Easyfelt Paper. I've been wanting to try this product but didn't want to mail order it. It is fairly expensive IMHO, but there it was, right in front of me, in beautiful colors, on sale. So I have it here at home ready to go.
BUT FIRST...I really must finish one of my other projects. I went to one of my favorite second-hand stores, Community Clothesline, and picked up some silk scarves and blouses inexpensively to use with my embellisher. I am now well stocked, so I'd better get punching! The landscape collage is calling me today, so if I can get through a bit of housework, I'll start on the mountains. I did the sky the other evening, and it is looking nice.
So I guess there will be pictures to look forward to in my next post.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Having gotten a good start on my cobalt vessel, I decided to start on another project. I can never just do one project at a time. I have to have a couple (ok several) going at once so I can rotate between them as the mood strikes. This is a collage I started.

It is done on the Janome Xpression embellisher and consists of pieces of lightweight fabrics (like silk scarves) punched into a canvas base. I've been trying to add layers to it, to add interest and a focal point but so far it isn't working for me. It's pretty, sort of, but that's about it. If I liked to sew, I'd make an eyeglass case out of it, or something of that sort.

Of course, I decided that I should start a different collage and see where that takes me. This one will be a landscape. Here it is layed out before punching. Punching is the highly technical term for attaching the decorative fabric to the base fabric using the embellisher. The fabrics are all from the remnant bin at Mills End Textiles. Some are silk, some are "sheers." The base is a navy blue canvas, also from the remnant bin. I'll let you know how it turns out.

I also worked on my cobalt vessel yesterday...fulled and shaped it, and cut out the resists. I'm not sure I like it yet. Maybe it needs some sparkle. Whenever I don't like a piece, I add a little sparkle and that seems to transform it.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Vessel in progress

See, I told you it was a vessel. Here it is most of the way felted. This one will be fun to work on. The yarns go around the vessel once at an angle. The ends are going to be at the bottom, hopefully out of sight. I could also needle felt on some yarns so that they pop out a little bit, compared the the yarn that is felted totally into the felt. And beads, of course. The resists are on the opposite side. I'm not ready to cut them open. I don't have a concept of what I want that side to look like, other than I arranged 3 long narrow resists a like a three pointed leaf. But I don't know if they stayed in place during felting.
The inside is actually pink, even though you can see the yellow from one of the inner layers peeking out the top.
Any ideas for a name for this piece?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Vessel # 1 started

It doesn't look like a vessel here, but trust me.

I wanted to incorporate a lot of different yarns in a vessel, following up the inspiration of free lace felt. But dealing with all those wiggly lengths of yarns, sliding around on the ball was not going to be fun. So last night I created a prefelt, by laying out the yarns on a length of bubble wrap and topping them with two light layers of cobalt blue Harrisville fleece, which will be the color of the vessel. I wet felted this enough to hold together and let it dry overnight. This allowed me to handle the yarns without them tangling and slipping off the ball while layering the design on the ball.

Today, I layed out the prefelt on the Gertie ball after covering the ball in dish soap first to make it sticky. I also added some silk before layering on the fleece. After wetting, I rolled and bounced the ball in my kitchen sink for a long time, then threw it in the dryer with a wet towel and some small balls for a few cycles. It still feels somewhat spongy, and there is one place (but only one) where the ribbon yarn is not attached to the surface of the vessel. I will need to finish the felting stage before I take it off the ball for fulling.

Oh, I forgot. I also added a few resists between layers of fleece, making sure they were not under the rows of yarns.
Tune in tomorrow for pictures.

While I was making the prefelt last night, I also played with my silk for a while. I took a thin layer from a green silk bell (cap) and cut it so it would lay flat. Then I added some whisps of silk roving in various colors, sprayed with starch and pressed it in some parchement paper to make a sort of silk "paper" that I can cut shapes from. I wasn't thinking ahead enough, though, I should have added a tiny bit of matching wool between the cap and the roving, so that it will felt better in the end. I'll just have to remember to sprinkle a little bit of wool on top when I use it, so the layer of roving will stay attached.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Tree Bark Scarves and Prioritizing

Tammy Deck of TLD Design Center has just put out a new kit for what she calls Tree Bark Scarves. They look similar to free lace felt. I ordered a kit for a scarf, and I am eager to try the technique. BUT FIRST...
I must make at least 2 more vessels for the BCA tour very soon . I don't have anything new to show for myself.
Last evening, I spent a couple of hours clearing off my dining room table, mostly putting everything I'd gotten out over the last several weeks back into the bins. I also sorted my fibers so that now I can see how much of each color I have. All my blue is almost gone.
I needed to get rid of the clutter so that I could think clearly about what to do next. There are still a million ideas in my head clamouring for attention, but they will have to wait their turn!

Monday, April 7, 2008

So cool curlicues

Ok, I've been adding a lot of blog links lately, and, also, Googling for felting blogs and sites. Tonight I found something cool: a three part YouTube video on making felted curlicues for embellishing jewelry or whatever. The blog is Mary Susan: All Good Girls are Mary. Check it out. The videos are in the Feb 08 entries. She also has an Etsy shop and sells what she makes. Good work, Mary Susan.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Bluff Country Art Tour

Bluff Country Art Tour is coming up April 25, 26, 27, 2008. I will be participating on Saturday April 26th at the Bluff Country Artists Gallery
This is an excerpt from
April 25, 26, 27 art enthusiasts can find exciting treasures in the hills and valleys of the Bluff Country region of southeast Minnesota and northeast Iowa, during this 8th annual Studio Art Tour. Enjoy the emergence of spring when traveling scenic back roads to the studios of this area's finest artists. Get to know the Artists and watch them in action. Shop for your own unique work of art. Many of these artists only open their studios occasionally throughout the year and rarely share the tricks of their trade. Artists will be demonstrating bead making, wood carving, wheel thrown ceramics and more. Find out about unscheduled demonstrations as you visit the studios.
We are excited to have the participation of several Art Galleries representing many local, regional, and national exhibiting artists. Galleries are located in Harmony, Spring Grove, Lanesboro, and Winona. The Lanesboro Community Center will be serving as a group site for 7 artists to exhibit at a convenient central location... but don't forget to visit the excellent rural studios!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Taking a Breather

It's spring break for the kiddos, so I'm taking a break from "work." Taking a break means I'm thinking about what project I want to start on when the kids go back to school. I need to make a few small felted bowls as samples for Textile Camp at Crossings. I sold nearly all the small felted bowls I had last weekend. I want to play with my Xpression. There are so many possibilities with it using wool, silk, and other fabrics. Crossings will soon post a call for artists for a collage exhibit, so I've been thinking about how I could do a collage. I want to do some larger felted vessels, this time more intricate, using resists and more embellishing. I'd like to take some of these both to Crossings and to Bluff Country Artists Gallery. Oh, and nuno felting-I'd like to try that, too. I have a million "I want to try that" ideas running around in my head. If the ideas would just line up in an orderly fashion, I could get to them all in turn. But ideas are like children. Each one rudely wants to be first. Ha.

I was very productive before the Artist's Clearing House. I had a list of things needing to be done before the show, and I cranked through my list. Now that the immediate pressure of a deadline is off, I find I'm much less able to prioritize.
I have done a little felting, even though I'm taking a break. I started a small felted bowl last week. It is green on the outside and pink on the inside. My daughter took one look at it and said it was a watermelon, so a watermelon it has become. I've needle felted some seeds on the inside, including a few white ones, and added some lighter green stripes on the skin. I may felt a few "melon balls" to put inside. The top edge will be trimmed into points, in the manner some people (who have way too much time on their hands) actually cut watermelon to serve it.
Here it is, a little blurry.