My First Commission

I was delighted to be commissioned to create a large felt picture for someone’s beautiful home. As they lived fairly locally, I went to see the room it would go in, and to discuss the dimensions and colour scheme. It needed to be fitted to an electronic mechanism which would raise and lower it to cover a TV inset into the wall, and to fit behind a curtain rail when fully raised.

I took away a swatch of the curtain fabric which helpfully had the colour chart along the edge – the little boxes for each colour used. This would be my dyeing reference for wools and yarns.

colour chart

There was one key stipulation – there could be no colour blue. Given that the picture was to be flowers, and all my flower pictures to date have had quite bright blue sky, this was a challenge. Whilst discussing this with the couple, I noticed an oil painting they had with a blended colour background which could be sky, so I suggested I do something similar in my picture. I took a photo to use for guidance, along with fireplace tiles, and sofa cushions as these show my customer’s preferences.

painting detail

I enjoyed the discussion process, listening to what they wanted, as well as what they didn’t. Up until now I’ve always just done what I like, which usually turns into quite a riot of colour, so the challenge was to limit the colour palette, and work more on using shape and texture. I also detected a difference in their preferences, where he likes a lot of colour and detail, she was more conservative and liked serenity and muted colours. It was a fun challenge to come up with some new ideas and ways of working, and discover different methods of working with wool.

So I agreed with them that the first step would be for me to dye some swatches of wool and yarns for them to choose from, and that nothing would proceed until they had decided on the colour choices.

I made careful notes of the wools I carded together to create various sky textures, numbered the pieces and created charts for yarns and threads. I also made some draft sketch pieces to show the combinations of colours and some ideas of flower shapes.

I also played with creating some birds, not having done any before, and they wanted some in the picture. Google is fabulous for finding images for inspiration, as is the Facebook Group UK Wildlife Photographers

With ideas and colours agreed, I was ready to begin work on the big picture. I wanted some definite shapes for some of the flowers and greenery with blended variegated colours so I made several sheets of pre-felt and then dyed them by dripping varied colour dyes onto them, then wrapping them in cling film and steaming them.

I chose to warm up the green background by laying down a layer of warm browns and golds before laying out the green on top. The sky was a carded blend of ash grey, teal, peppermint, flesh and oyster, with grey/blue mulberry silk, soya bean fibre and white tussah silk.

Then I began to lay out yarns and silk fibres, along with some long gold and green threads pulled from a piece of gold brocade fabric. I love the way these add a very subtle gleam to the background.

I cut shapes from prefelt for leaves and for the hollyhocks and smaller pale yellow flowers. Larger flowers were made from wool roving, and mulberry silk for bright white large daisies. Dyed cotton scrim, silk chiffon, silk throwsters waste, wool nepps and silk boucle yarns were added for texture.

The felting process took several hours, and I used an electric sander for the first part, to get all the various fibres and fabrics fully bonded together. Here it is hanging out in the sun to dry (I kept vigil to ensure no pigeons could drop anything nasty on it!).

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Then I added some free machine embroidery to highlight the flower and leaf shapes, and to add some detail to the birds. I needle felted their eyes and some wing details. Then onto the hand embroidery. It had been a key stipulation of my clients that there was to be a lot of detailed hand embroidery, to create what he called “a show stopper”.

I dyed some threads to get variegated colours, and also silk ribbon to create additional flower and grass shapes. Here are some more close ups of the details. Lastly I added some tiny glass seed beads and some pearl beads.

Then came the tricky challenge of mounting it, ensuring it was no more than 23mm deep at the top. I found some experienced framers to handle this, after experimenting with a few ideas myself, and discovered just how difficult it can be to pull fabric taut and operate a staple gun at the same time! They made a lovely neat job of it and kept within the size parameters (even they thought it was tricky!)

Here’s the finished piece, nicely mounted and ready to be delivered.

You can view even more photos of the work in progress and details of the finished piece on my flickr page here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/24232165@N03/albums/72157684151595296

If you would like to commission a piece, large or small, flat or 3D, please contact me to discuss. 

Catching up with Christmas

I have some time now, and the willingness, to catch up on my blog. Nothing is in proper chronological order here!

Traditionally, I like to make my own Christmas cards each year, using my currently favoured mode of creativity. Sometimes it’s painting, or paper cutting, or embroidery. This year it was little felt scenes with a wintry sunset over the sea or with a bare tree silhouette.

I laid out small rectangles of natural undyed merino, then added wisps of mulberry silks.

Once felted I added beach huts cut from sari silks and gold brocade, and machine embroidered trees and seagulls.

Finally I mounted them using those little squares for sticking photos into an album (if you’re old enough to remember!) so they could easily be removed, choosing turquoise and pink card, my two favourite colours. No red and green for Christmas traditions here!

They were fun to create and lovely colours to play with during dark wintry evenings. Then followed a series of amazingly clear crisp wintry days with stunning sunrises and sunsets. I was out with my camera most mornings walking along the beach, just waiting for that first glimpse of the sun. (See more sunrises and sunsets on my Flickr account here)

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A Bag that went wrong then turned out alright

Time was running out, it was nearly Christmas, and I was running out of energy and of course we all know that’s when mistakes get made. Too much pressure, too little time and a few short cuts!

I dyed some corriedale and English 56s wool in a range of colours from blue to green through teal and turquoise.

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I have a resist which I had already used to make a couple of large tote bags. I laid out the wool graduating from deep blue up through to turquoise, laid on some pieces of old sari silk and got going with the electric sander. Being in a bit of a hurry I didn’t take any photos of the process.

I then opted to finish off the fulling process in the washing machine, but didn’t check the temperature setting. Yikes, when will I learn! When it emerged it had shrunk more than 50% and felt really stiff! I was upset and almost threw it away. However, I stuffed it with towels and left it to dry.

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Here it is on the original resist so you can see just how much it really did shrink! All that wool, compressed into a tiny, dense shape. Fortunately some of the silk still shows up well and the looping pattern around the top, but the turquoise/green silk is completely lost as are the silk fibre and curly lock embellishments.

I was thinking it could possibly be used as a plant pot cover or a rather luxurious bin!

Then in the New Year I bought myself a new camera, a rather nice Panasonic Lumix with a long reach zoom lens. Whilst browsing on eBay for a suitable bag to protect it, I suddenly recalled my disaster bag/bin thing. Being so firmly felted it would offer great protection for my camera against knocks and rain.

I purchased a long leather cross-body strap from Bag-Clasps.co.uk which was a lot easier to stitch on than I had imagined, given the thickness of the felt. I added two magnetic fasteners and popped my camera in, along with its spare battery and cable in the inside pocket. Perfect.

I have since had quite a few nice compliments on my bag, so I’m really glad I didn’t throw it away or cut it up. Although it’s not the large tote bag of my imagination, it has beauty and functionality, the two most important factors in my approach to felting.

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Wristwarmers and fastenings

There was a discussion on a felting forum recently about how to make good fastenings for wristwarmers. With winter coming up I decided to try out a few different designs and experiment with fastenings so that I could make a ‘one size fits all’ wristwarmer. My own hands and wrists are fairly large, so making wristwarmers is always a bit of a guessing game. My first pair ended up too small for me to try on. I’d made them reversible too, just because…….I can!
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They were also rather long and would possibly be problematic with coat or jacket sleeves.

So then I tried making flat felt pieces and fastening them with a short piece of elastic, so they could be slid on over the hands and still fit snugly around the wrist. The theme of dragons came in here as a fun magical twist.

I laid out a rectangle of red then black wool and on the top layer added a gorgeous blend of black wool with glistening angelina fibres. Red silk makes the dragon’s fire and adds a touch of dramatic colour. The dragons are cut from glistening semi-sheer fabric and appliqued onto the felt using machine stitching.

As you can see, these tended to gape a bit and let the draught in. I had sewn the elastic inside the felt wrap so it couldn’t be seen, but this was causing the problem So I unpicked it and re-sewed it on the outside which held them together much better.

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I made another pair using a two-tone red/green fabric and a final pair in delicious Cadbury purple.

Then I tried out the leaf design. Instead of laying out a rectangle of wool, I laid out a leaf shape. After adding decorative fibres and threads to hint at the leaf veins and felting them thoroughly, I stitched a small wooden button and a loop of narrow elastic onto the two points. Fastening them like this allows for a small amount of give as they are pulled over the hands, but keeps them nice and snug around the wrist. They are generally smaller than the dragons as well. I liked them so much I made several different colourways (but forgot to photograph them all before taking them to the shop)

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Spring thinking of Summer

It’s been a while since I last posted to my blog, but I haven’t been completely inactive on the creative front. With the slightly warmer weather and lighter evenings, my thoughts have been turning towards summer colours.

Surprisingly, I hadn’t made the ubiquitous tea cosy yet, so I made up a template and set about making a couple. As always my idea is to make something beautiful and artistic that also has a practical function in the home.

To make sure they keep the tea really piping hot, I used 5+ layers of wool laid out quite thickly. The clouds are silk laps as I love the texture when felted. And the crashing waves use silk laps, white nepps and undyed curly locks to simulate the foam.

Being a bit short on energy these days I used an electric sander to rub them thoroughly before rolling them up. After 400 rolls (phew!) I popped them into the washing machine on a 30 degree wash with a towel to get them to shrink down.

I stitched on some pebbles, sea glass and shells which I’ve collected during my walks on the beach. I hope they will withstand some gentle washing. And I added some stem stitch to represent seaweed.

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The floral summer meadow has hand-dyed yellow/orange scrim as well as gorgeous tussah silk fibres, which I then embroidered and added a sprinkling of french knots. The stems of the flowers are felted in wool and cotton blend yarns and the clouds are drifts of white silk laps.

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Next time I’ll remember to add a hanging loop as I think many people do hang up their tea cosies. I’m already looking forward to making some more, so I’m popping these into my Etsy shop in time for Mother’s Day.

 

Autumnal Themes

Amazing to say but it has really been too hot to do much felting this summer, and here we are in the middle of September with scorching sun which is perfect for swimming in the sea and lounging around on the beach, not rubbing and rolling and rubbing and rolling and pounding the wool!

On the occasional cooler days I have been focusing on creating some wintry goodies, a few scarves and my first concertina hat which I learned in an online course by Teri Berry

I used some gorgeous rust brown sari silk around the brim for some additional texture and strength.

Because I love the textures from nuno felt I have been trying to work with some scarves and pieces of silk I’ve picked up from charity shops or vintage shops. Not all silks felt well, and some of these pieces took a good deal of rolling and rubbing just to get the wool fibres to penetrate the silk fabric. I have learned my lesson now though, so I do a small test section before spending a couple of hours laying out an intricate design only to find out that the wool stubbornly refuses to mesh with the silk!

This grey shawl or stole is so lightweight, using only a very fine almost cobweb layer of wool in two shades of grey. I then added some details in purple following the shape of the glittery details. To highlight the glittery patterns I laid the wool out around them and added a thin sliver of dyed silk in shades of stormy grey and purple. The ends I left unfelted as they too have lots of lovely glittery detail.

Then I tried a much simpler layout, still using a very light layer of wool. I was using a blend from Heidi Feathers of rich rust, burgundy, orange and bamboo fibres, so I was as random as I could be in the layout to avoid getting regular stripes. The silk is a very light chiffon in a rather unflattering shade that I can only call American Tan like the tights everyone wanted to wear in the 70s! However it was perfect for this lightweight yet warm autumnal scarf.

The last one here, which was actually the first one I made in this batch, is based on a really gorgeous piece of pink silk with a burnout pattern in silvery grey on one side. I wanted to use wool on both sides of this scarf so as to get the ruched texture on the top as well as some felt and silk yarn details. The ends are all wool as the piece of silk wasn’t sufficiently long on it own for a proper scarf. I also embellished the wool ends and edges with drifts of tussah silk.

Three Golden Hares……and no Partridge in a Pear Tree

It’s been quite a while since I last posted, and to be honest, in these warmer months, felting has been slow. Sometimes, even in the UK, it is just too hot to be rubbing and rolling wool! This idea for a golden hare was inspired by some paintings I saw locally of hares with a golden moon.

I do enjoy not having to work to regular rectangle or square shapes when creating wall hangings so the first was roughly semicircular. I used some blended wool and silk for the greenery and added a special angora/angelina mix for the moon which sparkles lilac. It was then machine embroidered and applique silks added, with 4 little silver star beads.

For the second golden hare I chose a floral gold brocade fabric. The moon is silk in this one as I prefer the natural sheen from silk laps.

And lastly this one, in which I added some large patches of purply pink blended silk which I then machine embroidered with swirls and flower patterns.

As I was working on these three pieces, and going through some interesting times of personal change, a friend remarked on how the hare is rich in symbology. So I did a little research  – well, a Google search! – and here’s an interesting article should you wish to know more. Apparently myths about hares are as widespread across the earth as are our stories about a gigantic flood!

“Man has for centuries respected, even feared, the hare because of its perceived powers of solitude and remoteness. Active at night, symbolic of the intuitive, and the fickleness of the Moon, the hare was an emblem of unpredictability. Like the Moon, which always changes places in the sky, hares were full of mystery and contradictions. The moon was perhaps the most powerful symbol of birth, growth, reproduction, death and rebirth. The hare was endowed with similar earth-bound powers.”
https://h2g2.com/edited_entry/A2465426

These are now for sale in my Etsy shop

Beach Huts and The Sea

I’ve been enjoying making some bigger picture pieces recently as wall hangings. I brought back a load of wool and other yummy fibres from WonderWool in Wales last month and was, of course, itching to use them straight away.

Here’s a piece where I’ve tried to mimic the rolling waves of the ocean. I bought a fabulous blend of fine merino and silk that had been hand dyed in gorgeous tones of blue, right from a deep purple-ish blue through to a zinging aquamarine. The result is really lustrous and shiny and soft.

Underneath the flat felt upper, I placed long differently sized rolls of felt to create the undulations. They start quite small at the top and then become gradually larger as the wave comes in to crash over into froth and bubbles.

I backed it with some stiffened calico and hand-dyed cotton.

Another smaller piece is also based on the sea theme, but this time the moonlight reflecting on the waves at night.

I do enjoy the freedom to create non-regular shapes with my pieces, and as they are not framed, they don’t have to have that ‘boxed-in’ look to them

Continuing with the theme of the seaside, here are the ubiquitous Southwold beach huts. These sit on the sand at the far end of the promenade and are known as The Royals, for their names. The view from behind them, across the dunes and towards the sea, appears in many photos of this area. I haven’t yet seen another felted version, so here’s my take:

These are all now listed in my Etsy store and also available from me at the Southwold Friday Market.

 

Scraps Challenge Rock Pool

My second piece for the scraps challenge set by the Felt and Fibre forum has turned out to be a rock pool. I have put much more emphasis on surface embellishment  in this piece using the felt as a background onto which I laid organza, silk, various fibres and used hand embroidery and machine stitching.

I used some more of my ‘lagoon’ water felt from the failed nuno project mentioned in my last post. I wanted to create some rocky textures but without using resists, so I cut up some fairly thick over-fulled pieces of felt into rough circles and stacked them. These were then covered with a layer of dyed scrim with a few wisps of wool over the top to ensure the scrim would be secured.

The two pieces of green sari silk I incoroprated became rather lost in the felting process, yet the sari silk ribbon stayed nicely proud, probably because it was extensively creased.

Then I really went to town with the surface embellishment!

Scraps Challenge

The Felt and Fibre Forum recently opened its 2nd Quarter challenge, which is to use up, recycle and repurpose those scraps and failed projects. I welcomed this challenge as I was feeling I wanted to create some more pictorial pieces rather than functional ones, and to experiment with some different techniques incorporating additional fibres and fabrics on top of the finished felt piece.

Some while ago now I blended up some wool and angelina fibres in shades of aqua, teal, pale green and blue. This was meant for a nuno felt project, but the silk scarf was too fine for most of the fibres to migrate through successfully. In the end I pulled off all the wool and stashed it.

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I then found a picture by NASA of the Venice Lagoon, and cropped out a small section to play with.

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The different shapes really appealed to me with the water flow then the regularised patches of man-formed fields and lastly the rigid box structures of buildings. I laid out some deep blue wool roving for the background, then cut and pulled sections of my failed nuno project wool and laid them out leaving ‘channels’ of the darker blue showing through. Then I added some pieces of green pre-felt for the land and some squares of brown sari silk to represent built up areas.

Once felted and dried, I extensively machine embroidered it highlighting the shapes of fluidity and regularity.

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Now to mount it on a slim canvas so it can be hung without the need for glass.