A felty December

With the short cold days, the indigo vat has gone into hibernation and there are few leaves around, so the emphasis this month has shifted to felt. Here are some of my felty highlights.

Felt Matters

Felt Matters

I was very proud to be featured in the latest issue of Felt Matters, the quarterly magazine of the International Feltmakers Association (IFA). The theme of the issue was “blue”, so they seemed to think that my work with indigo would fit the bill. 🙂  In fact, there was quite a lot about indigo in the issue, including a piece by one of my indigo heroes Rowland Ricketts and an article about indigo dyeing in Kutch, India.

The IFA is a great organisation, with lots of groups in the UK and round the world who meet up for workshops and exhibitions and do a lot to promote feltmaking. Membership includes annual public liability insurance as well as four issues of the magazine, so it’s a great deal.

Felted soap is a thing…

felted soap

Who knew? For my Christmas markets I decided on the spur of the moment to make some felted soaps as stocking fillers. At the first market people looked at them but weren’t sure what they were or how they worked, so I got my felted soap elevator pitch down to a fine art:

  • easy to grip when wet
  • good for exfoliation
  • no more yukky mess on the soap dish.

Essentially, all those first world problems with soap solved in one go!

At the next market I added a little notice listing these benefits and they sold out within two hours. Important marketing lesson learnt. 🙂

…and so are felted pots

Anita Thorpe of Diverse, who has a Makerhood showcase of local makers in her shop every Christmas, saw some of my felt pots on Instagram and said she’d be interested in including some in the showcase this year.

felt pots

And with a selection of succulents they look rather nice and have sold unexpectedly well. Important visual merchandising lesson learnt!

Felt tea cosy

Just thought I’d bung this in because it was a commission from a friend for her aunt.

felt tea cosy

Felt swap

Finally, the theme of the second felt swap of the year was “A taste of winter”. I sent my felt swap partner, Oliva, a felt icicle that had been dip dyed with indigo (one of the pieces featured in the Felt Matters article above).

Ombre icicles

Oliva sent me what I thought was a foaming beer mug in front of a wintry window – but it was actually a cup of hot chocolate with whipped cream! I’m sure that says more about me than about her work – thank you Oliva!

felt hot chocolate


Ecoprinting with eucalyptus

My neighbour Len three doors down has a very large eucalyptus tree in his garden. I kept meaning to ask if I could go and “prune” some cuttings, but I don’t see him very often (it’s like that in London!).

But I came home one day a few months ago to find a landscape gardener’s truck parked on the road filled with various branches and cuttings, including eucalyptus! There was no-one around to ask (it was lunchtime), so I salvaged an armful of eucalyptus – and it’s been sitting on my front porch ever since.

For those of you who have never done any ecoprinting, eucalyptus is one of the easiest plants to work with. It doesn’t need a mordant, prints on pretty much anything (including plastic!), and, as a bonus, fills the house with a lovely smell while “cooking”. 🙂

So last week I finally got round to using some of it for ecoprinting. I started with a cream wool scarf, which gave some very strong prints.

scarf with eucalyptus ecoprints

As they were so strong, I wondered whether the prints would still show if I overdyed with indigo. I hummed and ha-ed and took a mini straw poll on Instagram, where there was a slight majority in favour of leaving it as it was.

But I tested the indigo vat after the dyeing session with Carol and it seemed to be fairly weak. So I overdyed. 🙂

eucalyptus ecoprint overdyed with indigo

I’d tested the vat on cotton, and it came out fairly light blue, but the wool scarf clearly took the colour much better, so the scarf is darker than I expected. But the prints still show through.

I also printed a couple of raw silk scarves. Because the fabric is much lighter, textured and semi-transparent, I was quite disappointed when I initially unwrapped these, as the prints didn’t seem to be as strong. However, one of the things I learnt on Irit Dulman’s workshop is that you can’t tell what the final print looks like until the fabric is dry and ironed – and indeed, the print was stronger when the scarves were dry.

I’m still considering whether to overprint these with some different leaves treated with iron, but I may resist(!), given the indigo result.

As the eucalyptus worked so well on wool, I made a couple of felt vessels and printed these.

felt vessels ecoprinted with eucalyptus felt vessels ecoprinted with eucalyptus

I don’t think I will overdye these! 😉

Finally, in case you thought I was kidding about eucalyptus printing on plastic, here’s a picture of some of the plastic wrap I used to cover one of the scarves!

plastic ecoprinted with eucalyptus

African pod vessels, nuno felt, and more scarves

Apologies for the silence since Lambeth Open. We seemed to get fewer visitors this year, but I sold several scarves and we had some nice comments about our work.

At the last minute I made a companion piece to go with my pebble hanging. This used up some of the very first arashi shibori samples I made when I was new to indigo dyeing. I think I shall call the hangings Water I and Water II. 🙂

waterII waterII2

I picked up an unusual African seed pod at a table top sale. The seller wasn’t able to tell me exactly which species of plant it came from, but the texture was irresistible, inspiring me to make a felt vessel.

african pod vessel

I also made one with larger openings, cutting away the felt above the resist, but I think I prefer the closed version.

african pod vessels

Carol, one of my sister Women of the Cloth, attended a workshop on nuno felting with Inge Bauer over the summer, and came back with some very impressive scarves, bags, cowls and fingerless gloves.

This inspired me to have another go at nuno myself, using a silk scarf that wasn’t suitable for overdyeing with shibori. I found it very satisfying, so I might make a few more for some of the Christmas sales I’m doing.

orange nuno cowl

Finally, of course, the indigo dyeing goes on – here’s another batch of shibori bits and pieces drying on the line. A couple of the scarves are already in my Etsy shop – more to come!

scarves oct14

Felting in France

Apologies for the long silence – I had a sudden rush of website work before I headed off to Acheres, just outside Paris, for a five-day felting workshop with Maria Friese and Ariane Mariane. Both these felters are German, living in France, and the students were mostly French, but also included one Swiss, one Belgian, one American (who had lived in Acheres for 20 years) and two Brits – Abigail Thomas of Felt meets Cloth and me.

The five days was split up into two sessions of two days and three days, and students could mix and match, working with one tutor for all the days or spending two days with one and three days with the other. I elected to stay with Maria for all five days, as her work has a really organic feel that appealed to me. As we got talking we discovered other mutual interests in origami and pitcher plants, so I think I made the right choice!

We spent the first two days making a sampler to practise techniques – attaching spikes, and using resists and prefelts to create surface designs.

Maria's sample
Maria’s sample

Maria suggested making a rectangular sample, but I opted for a circle, which was a bit challenging when it came to squeezing in as many elements as possible!

No - it's not a blue pizza, it's my sample!
No – it’s not a blue pizza, it’s my sample!

As usual, it was fascinating to see the different interpretations of the same techniques.

paris25 paris26 paris27 paris28 paris29 paris30

The other group working with Ariane Mariane made sample pieces of jewellery in the first two days, and then we all got together to admire each other’s work and compare results.

Image copyright Ariane Mariane
Image copyright Ariane Mariane
Image copyright Ariane Mariane
Image copyright Ariane Mariane

For the next three days we worked on a project incorporating those techniques. Those of us with Maria made a vessel; those who worked with Ariane could choose to make a hat or a bag. Maria and Ariane had brought in lots of samples to inspire us!

Vessel by Maria
Vessel by Maria
Vessel by Maria
Vessel by Maria
Vessel by Maria
Vessel by Maria
Hat by Ariane, modelled by Monique (image copyright Ariane Mariane)
Hat by Ariane, modelled by Monique (image copyright Ariane Mariane)

Again, we started by making samples to calculate shrinkage, before moving on to the main piece. I got a bit obsessed by the flaps, so decided to try making a Chinese-style vessel adorned with these.

Sample to calculate shrinkage
Sample to calculate shrinkage
Work in progress
Work in progress
Finished vessel (with Maria in the background)
Finished vessel (with Maria in the background)

I also had a little time at the end to make another sample using one of the other resist techniques.


Ours was a relatively sedate class – next door, we could hear the sound of bags and hats being thrown on the floor to help the shrinking process!

Finally, on the Friday evening, we held a small exhibition for friends, family and other visitors to come and see the fruits of our labours.

Student work
Student work
Student work
Student work
Student work
Student work
Student work
Student work
Maria's work - what we are aiming for!
Maria’s work – what we are aiming for!


All in all, it was a fabulous five days of learning a lot from thoughtful tutors and making new friends. Highly recommended.

ESP amused himself by going into Paris every day and visiting as many museums as possible(19 plus Versailles in total!). He did so much walking that I think he must have strained a ligament in his ankle – he’s currently walking with a limp. 😦

We then headed down to the Dordogne to visit Joan, one of my sister Women of the Cloth, and her husband Anthony, who have a house there. We talked about the possibility of us running some workshops there next year – very exciting!

As the weather finally cleared up, we went back north for a couple of days in the Loire valley. We stayed in the extraordinary Chateau de Chemery, with a loom and spinning wheels in our room, and visited the stunning gardens of Villandry and  Chaumont.

chaumont2 chaumont1

A felt planter at Chaumont!
A felt planter at Chaumont!




Sadly, we were one day late getting home due to a faulty brake caliper, a long wait for the AA and a stupendous thunderstorm. But that doesn’t spoil a trip full of inspiration and excitement – can’t wait to get felting again!

Setting up exhibition in Brixton Windmill

After two days of teetering on ladders, lugging plinths up and down wooden stairways, and burying a lightbox in bark mulch, I think I’m almost ready for the private view of my latest exhibition at Brixton Windmill tomorrow.


You may remember that I’d made 12 felt windmills to represent the 12 windmills that once existed in Lambeth, but wasn’t sure at that stage how I was going to present them. My initial thought was to hang them at different heights using monofilament, but then I had an idea about making a mobile.

I was particularly struck by images of Calder mobiles and decided this was the way to go. Purely by chance I came across Hobby’s, a model shop in West Norwood. After a long conversation with the owner I came away with 30 feet of brass rods in two different thicknesses and 28 brass collars and screws in two different sizes. I was briefly tempted by something called Liquid Gravity, but didn’t succumb in the end. It opened up a completely new world! 😉

And after much tussling with wire cutters, dropping tiny screws less than 1mm long, and superglueing washers to the tablecloth – not to mention stabbing my fingers with a screwdriver – I had a mobile. Tada!


Magdalen Rubalcava, who organises the Events Group of the Friends of Windmill Gardens and who had the idea for this exhibition, has been a fantastic source of support and help. With her background as a theatre designer, she has loads of ideas, masses of contacts, and is a pure genius at improvising something from nothing. I couldn’t have done it without her.

millstone vessels

The private view is 6-8pm tomorrow. Otherwise the exhibition can be seen on days when Brixton Windmill is open to the public – you’ll need to book a tour to visit the upper floors.


Felt vessels in Homes & Gardens magazine

homes and gardens coverIn late November, about a week before my exhibition with Women of the Cloth at Sprout was about to start, I had an unexpected email. It was from a researcher for Homes & Gardens magazine, who had followed a link from my Etsy shop to this blog and wanted to know if she could borrow my indigo felt vessels for a photo shoot for the magazine.

As you can imagine, I was hugely excited. There was only one problem: I’d sold all the vessels except the largest one! The researcher politely asked if I could make some more – to be picked up on 9 December, in the middle of the Sprout exhibition. Aaaargh!

Taking a deep breath, I said of course I could do it – and spent whatever time I wasn’t in the gallery over the next two weeks making some more. They were duly picked up and returned a week later, and I promptly forgot about them. Also I didn’t want to get too excited because I know that things often get dropped from magazines if there’s more advertising than expected, or not enough advertising, or all sorts of other reasons.

So it was it was a lovely surprise to open the April issue of Homes & Gardens to find my vessels included in a piece about decorating with wool. They used only the two largest vessels, but I thought they looked fantastic in the room, styled by Sally Conran.

homes and gardens spreadhomes and gardens close

I’m so pleased I decided to make new vessels for the shoot, even though it nearly killed me at the time! 🙂

Why felting is like sex

Phew! After three focused but fun days at Atelier Fiberfusing near Amsterdam with Lisa Klakulak of Strong Felt, I’m buzzing with ideas. It made me realise just how much I miss my one day a week at Morley College, working and watching other textile artists, learning and sharing with each other.

group photo resized

Lisa is a real stickler for detail, working with precise amounts of wool to precise measurements to achieve precise shrinkages – and this shows in her work: extraordinarily intricate earrings and neckpieces and beautifully finished scarves. It sounds intimidating – many of us gravitate to felt not just because of its tactility but because of its forgiving qualities. 😉

But Lisa made the mathematics easy to understand, and personally I like to know about the principles behind what I do – probably because of my scientific training. So I found it very interesting.

We started by practising circumferential fulling – using partial felts to create a 3D form from a 2D plane.

amsterdam form

Then we moved on to applying similar principles to a more complex vessel, using a 10-inch plastic circular resist. It was fascinating to see the variety of forms we ended up with starting with the same basic shape!

Vessel by Daniela Peterova
Vessel by Konni Sswat-Mollwitz


Then we moved on to finishing the vessels by shaving, stitching, steaming, blocking and painting with shellac. The photos below show my vessel before and after – you can see what a difference it makes.


Finally, we made another vessel by changing the shape of the resist any way we liked, but keeping the same area. Here’s my second vessel, which Lisa described as looking like a bloated frog! 😉

amsterdam-blue-back amsterdam-blue-top

And here’s a photo of the vessel on top of the resist I used – you can see how drastic the shrinkage was!


There are so many ways that these principles can be applied, so I’m really looking forward to experimenting further.

I also learnt:

  • it’s possible to make felt using very little fibre (some layers of fibre that Lisa uses are so thin she calls it “felting by faith”)
  • a “deck of cards” or series of felted sample squares is incredibly useful for helping plan what thickness you want and how much fibre you need
  • I don’t need to rub (yay! – I don’t mind rolling but I hate rubbing!)
  • black olive oil soap, which is more like a paste, is very good for felting
  • why felting is like sex!

If you want to find out for yourself, there’s a list of Lisa’s workshops on her website. She has provisional plans to come to the UK in autumn 2014 – let’s hope it happens.