Felting with paper and synthetics

Almost exactly two years ago I attended a short course at Morley College on bonding paper and fabric. I found the technique really interesting but wasn’t really sure where to take it next – the tutor had turned most of her examples into hangings.

Then over on the Felting and Fiber Studio site I read a post by Ruth Lane about the very same technique, in which she wondered about using the results in nuno felting. D’oh! As soon as I read it, it seemed obvious.

Although the fabric is polyester organza (silk is a bit delicate for this technique), it’s very open weave, so there’s no reason why it shouldn’t felt. I haven’t really done much experimenting with nuno felt, so this seemed like a great opportunity. Plus it would give me a break from the scarf production line.

I dug out a small sample I made using Chinese joss paper.

laminate before felting

It was great to be felting again – I didn’t realise how much I’ve missed it. The result was very interesting.

laminate after felting

As you can see, the polyester felted beautifully, contrasting with the area of laminated paper, which prevented the wool from penetrating the fabric. It’s similar to how I made my manly scarves using plastic oval resists – except I don’t need to remove the resists.

It could be interesting to add extra texture to the laminated area using stitch, and also to experiment with designs that include smaller areas of laminated paper. Thanks Ruth for the inspiration! 🙂

Upcoming events

morley inviteAlthough I haven’t attended Morley College this term, I’m still eligible to put something in the Textiles Advanced Workshops end of year exhibition in Morley Gallery. To be honest, I’m still not quite sure what I’ll be exhibiting, but it’s likely to involve felt! 😉 And I hope to catch up with some of the students who attended previous terms.

The exhibition runs from 18 to 25 July, and the private view is on 17 July, 6-8pm. You are all cordially invited!


Summer Tumblr flyer_Page_1 Summer Tumblr flyer_Page_2Then on 21 July, Carol and I from Women of the Cloth are having a stall at the Summer Tumblr at the Garden Museum. As we are both felters, there will undoubtedly be various fleece-based articles for sale, though I will probably take some indigo scarves as well.

Summer Tumblr is at the Garden Museum, Lambeth Palace Rd, London SE1 7LB, on Sunday 21 July, 10am-6pm.

Deconstructed geranium leaves

I wasn’t feeling very inspired when my weekly day at Morley College came round on Tuesday.

The building/decorating work is still dragging on at home (I’m being deafened by the man sanding the floors as I write this) and the lack of space, combined with the dust and dirt, means that I haven’t been able to make any stock for the all-important Christmas markets.

So I didn’t really have an aim in mind on Tuesday, and decided just to play around with some more deconstructed screenprinting.

I picked a few geranium leaves from the flowerbed in front of the building (don’t tell the Morley gardeners!) and arranged them under the screen. Mark had mixed a couple more colours – yellow and black – in a thicker consistency, so I put some yellow in the centre of the leaves and then pulled the rust colour across the whole screen.

Then I added a vague outline of the leaves in black, using a syringe, but didn’t pull it, and left it to dry.

Because previous first pulls with Manutex had not been very good, I decided to do the first pull on paper.

The black and yellow dyes, perhaps because they were thicker, seemed to block the Manutex in places, as you can see. However, it came out much better than expected, so I wish I had used fabric straight away!

The second and third pulls were on calico – you can still see the areas blocked by the black and yellow dyes.

Obviously I should have added more Manutex to the screen for the third pull!

The final pull was on a piece of paper that had been under the leaves when I added dye to the screen, which had the blank outline of the leaves against a rusty background. The overprinting on this worked quite well.

Paper before overprinting
Paper after overprinting

I was very pleased with these results and felt a lot more inspired by home time. Textile therapy had worked again! 🙂

Tonal screenprinting, monoprinting – whatever goes

Experiment, if you hadn’t guessed by now, is one of my favourite words, along with the phrase “What happens if…?”

This week at Morley College I built on some of the work I did last week, trying to blend colours in screenprinting without getting regimented stripes, adding new items under the fabric to produce different textures, doing “clean pulls” across the screen to make a kind of monoprint, transferring whatever pigment was left onto a clean piece of fabric (or overprinting it onto another piece).

Because I didn’t have time to stitch any pleated fabric this week, I simply used whatever came to hand – it was much quicker, and I produced an awful lot of prints! So there’s not a lot of commentary on the pics below – just brief explanations in the captions.

The first set of prints was based on the texture of this unknown plastic object I found in a drawer. I have no idea what the original function of this thing was, but it does produce some lovely printed textures!

Various monoprints made from the screen afterwards
On this one I deliberately creased the fabric when I pinned it out (honest!)
Time to try some different colours – but the front of this piece felt rather “heavy”, with a lot of binder
I actually preferred the reverse side of the print
Monoprint in second colour over first monoprint
Here I actually put the original print face down on top of the blue monoprint and ran the squeegee over them before peeling them apart

Next I tried printing over some strips of loosely interwoven cartridge paper.

Then on bits of jute and string, sometimes with creased fabric.

Again, I preferred the back of this print

Monoprints from these:

Finally, I did some more pulls on the previous pieces I pleated by ironing last week.

So what have I learned from all this experimental fun?

1. For the colours to blend properly, you need to put them really close together (or even in two rows touching each other). It also helps to move the squeegee from side to side before pulling to start the blending. Even then, the first couple of pulls are likely to result in discrete stripes – the colours don’t really start blending until later.

2. If you like what’s left on the screen, do a clean pull onto a blank piece of fabric or overprint – you can get some interesting effects. You can even use the print you’ve just made, if there’s a lot of binder on it, to produce another print.

3. Turn your pieces over – sometimes they look better from behind!

Pleating machine

It was back to school last week – or rather, back to Morley College for my weekly fix of textiles in a well-equipped studio. The building has been refurbished over the summer, with a new floor and decent loos (at last!), but the main attraction for me is the supportive atmosphere and passionate enthusiasm of the tutors.

Our class this term is much smaller, which is good for individual attention and space. The rest of the class are experimenting with mark making at the moment, but I have to get my head down and produce some stock for Lambeth Open on 6-7 October. I’m focusing on indigo and shibori – on felt, paper and fabric – and feel like I’m on a bit of production line at the moment!

Yesterday I dyed a couple of silk scarves, one using arashi shibori and the other itajime.

two silk scarves dyed with shibori indigo

Itajime can be a bit too regular and geometric for me, especially on such a fine silk, so I didn’t dampen this scarf after clamping, but put it straight into the vat instead. This meant that the indigo bled  more, creating softer outlines and a pleasing range of blues.

I also dyed some cotton lawn that I’m going to turn into pencil rolls – if my sewing machine hasn’t rusted up from disuse!

shibori dyed cotton

However, between indigo dips I did find time to have a go with a pleating machine that our tutor Debby found at the back of a cupboard. It’s a beautifully solid contraption, made in South Africa in 1948.

hand pleating machine

Although it takes up to 16 needles, Debby could find only three, but she’s ordered some more.

I threaded the needles, rolled the fabric around a chunky knitting needle, and fed the edge of the fabric between the mangle-like rollers. Then I cranked the handle slowly towards me, and the fabric emerged from the other side complete with three neat parallel rows of stitching.

Because there were only three needles, I fed the fabric through the machine twice. It was a bit trickier keeping it straight the second time because of the first set of pleating – this would clearly not be necessary with more needles!

pleating machine in action

I pulled up the two sets of pleats and dipped the fabric in the indigo vat. The result is a bit too regimented for my taste, but it could be combined with other forms of resist to make it more interesting.

shibori from pleating machine

On a completely different subject, many thanks to everyone who has voted for my Blog to Japan on Facebook. I’m currently in second place, though the person in third place is rapidly gaining ground, so every vote counts.

If you haven’t voted yet, please go to the Inside Japan Tours Facebook page and vote for Blog to Japan (the third one on the list in the first post). Voting closes tomorrow!

Morley Advanced Textiles exhibition

I haven’t had much time for creative work or blogging recently – distracted by other activities. But now half-term is over, and the invitations to our exhibition at Morley have been printed, which focuses the mind!

There’s been no news from the V&A, so if I don’t get selected for that, I’ll probably put my shibori felt vessels into the Morley exhibition. However, I’ve also been plugging away on the nautilus theme, and if I can get my act together in time I may do this instead. Many thanks to Chrissie for all her encouragement and advice on this!

Here are a few (not very good) photos of a couple more works in progress. Different methodologies have pulled in some weird and unexpected implements, including a shower hose and some giant foam-covered wire twists from the Pound Shop!

So if you’re around Waterloo at the beginning of July, do pop in and see the exhibition. There’s going to be some really interesting work on show – and I’m talking about other students’, not mine! 😉

Frosty the snowman

Back to Morley College today – and time to start thinking about exhibition ideas.

I have a couple of ideas, based around the work I’ve been doing on textures in 3D felt and shells – but I need to hone them down more and focus. I won’t add any more at this stage – just show you what I worked on today.

The first was intended to be a gourd shape, though it looks more like Frosty the snowman! You can’t tell very easily from the picture, but the top  sphere is smaller than the bottom sphere.  The “waist” needs to be more elongated – so I’m going to try using a single resist next time (this was made with two different circular resists felted together).

The second was a small velvet nuno pot. I used the same technique as for the silk nuno pot – but should have used blue wool, as the white coming through is a bit intrusive. But it’s the first time I’ve successfully managed to felt with velvet, so two cheers for that at least!

Now I’m off to Italy for a few days – hopefully for some warmer weather and good food! Ciao bellas – see you all in a week or so!

Indigo dip dyeing

A few weeks ago I tried dip dyeing in the indigo vat at Morley College. To put it bluntly, it was not a huge success. I now know that this was probably because the vat was too strong to get really pale blues – and I was leaving the fabric in too long.

Also, because we are requested to keep the lid on the vat during dyeing to prevent the indigo oxidising, I had to rig up a kind of Heath-Robinson contraption to try to lower the calico into the vat bit by bit over 10 minutes. You can see in the piece on the right in the photo below where the fabric was suspended by the upper corners that never got immersed in the vat!

The piece on the left was dip dyed in my home vat. Because it’s been six days since I started the vat, my kitchen where the vat is kept is very cold, and the vat was very dilute to start with, my test swatch came out very pale, even after one minute.

So I warmed up the vat, added tiny amounts of indigo, hydros and washing soda, and tried the dip dye. Much better!