Aiming For One Thing, Ending Up With Another. As a textile artist, this is a situation with which I’m all too familiar. So familiar, in fact, I think it deserves its own moniker – hence AFOT EUWA.

Maybe it’s because the techniques I favour (wet felting and shibori dyeing) have some element of serendipity. I can never entirely predict how they will turn out – how the fibres will blend or what the exact shade of indigo will be. There seems to me to be less control than, say, in knitting or quilting – though knitters and quilters are doubtless already queuing up to tell me otherwise. 😉

I’m not complaining – quite the reverse. The unpredictability often sparks off new ideas and opens all sorts of new avenues to explore. (This was not always the case: as a self-confessed control freak, when I started working with textiles I used to get very frustrated when I couldn’t reproduce exactly with my hands the idea I had in my head.)

My latest AFOT EUWA originated last August, when I went to Edinburgh for a workshop in origami felt with Andrea Noeske-Parada. On the wall of the studio where we were working hung some samples from a previous workshop with another German felter, Charlotte Sehmisch.

cellular felt

On examining the samples more closely, I realised that the original structures were similar to the ones I made when trying to make a felt nautilus – and thought I could see how to cut into it to get a similar effect. I made a note about experimenting with this to produce something like an openwork scarf – and promptly forgot about it.

The idea resurfaced over Christmas – perhaps I was reminded by all the paper chains and other decorations! So I made a felt sample and cut into it – without revising my notes or referring to the photo, of course. 😉

The result, naturally, was completely different, and is obvious even in these terrible photos. (Very sorry about this but it is so difficult to take decent pictures in gloomy winter light.)

cell-felt1 cell-felt2 cell-felt3But I’m really excited about this. It’s given me a whole new raft of ideas about how to develop this further – some revisiting nautilus, others in rather different directions. Here’s to AFOT EUWA!


Nautilus cross section

You may remember my previous experiments with nautilus, trying to create a cross section showing the chambered innards in felt. I thought I had cracked the basic technique, so went off to focus on whole shells rather than cross sections.

However, I was determined to include a cross section in the end-of-year exhibition at Morley Gallery,  so a few weeks ago I returned to the challenge – and got very frustrated. No matter how much I varied the lengths of the resists or the distance between them, I always ended up with something that looked more like a rosebud, with the outer chambers refusing to open out. I’d reached a dead end.

Then after some “I’m ready to give up” conversations with my tutor Mary and with Chrissie, I decided to try another approach. This involved stitching a long strip of prefelt around the resists in the shape I wanted, and then felting into shape.

It took me a while to figure out the best way of doing this, using calico and a tape measure. But finally I thought I had it and summoned up the courage to cut into my precious prefelt.

I was quite pleased with the stitched version before felting – but boy was it difficult to felt. Because I was paranoid about the felt shrinking too much, leading to the problems I’d had before, I packed the spaces with bubble wrap to keep them opened out, which made felting even trickier.

Although some felting did occur, the piece was still pretty fragile. So I sewed the plastic resists back in, took another deep breath – and put it in the washing machine.

Thankfully, the gamble paid off. The final piece didn’t shrink as much as I expected, but it is a bit sturdier and didn’t fall apart.

Now all I have to do is find some way to keep its shape when hanging it. 🙂

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! 😉

The mathematics of nautilus shells

Just in case it’s not immediately apparent from the title, this post is a bit of a geeky diversion into the mathematics behind spirals.  Skip now if the word “logarithm” sends you into a cold sweat!

Essentially, a nautilus shell is a logarithmic spiral, also known as an equiangular spiral or Bernoulli spiral. If you imagine a number of equally spaced lines radiating from a central point, an equiangular spiral will hit each of these radials at the same angle.

Image from Wolfram Research
Image from

What this means is that each layer of the spiral gets bigger as it grows, unlike an Archimedean spiral, where the width of the layers remains constant.

Image from

Nature seems to like logarithmic spirals – as well as mollusc shells you can see them in the shape of galaxies, like the spiral arms of the Milky Way, and in hurricane and cyclone formations.

Will any of this help me construct a nautilus shell in felt? Probably not, but it’s been an interesting diversion.

Normal service to be resumed next time.

Nautilus progress

I was lying in bed this morning, dozing (well, dozing as much as is possible when John Humphreys is hectoring a politician on the radio), when I had a eureka moment on my nautilus project.

Instead of adding successive resists on one side, as I have been doing, what about adding resists on both sides? This could add the chambers and felt the spiral at the same time.

At Liz’s request, I have taken a photo of the felting in progress, with the resists in place, but I’m not sure it will help much. 😉

It’s a bit complicated to explain. You’ll just have to take my word for it that it does work – up to a point.

It looks more like a rose than a nautilus at the moment – I need to look at the relative widths of successive resists and the distances between them as they get larger. But I think I may have cracked the basic technique.

Not quite nautilus

Inspired by a visit to the Oxford University Museum of Natural History a couple of weeks ago, I set myself the challenge of trying to create a nautilus shell in felt.

With multiple resists stacked on top of each other, I wasn’t sure how many layers it would be possible to felt in one go, so I restricted it to six chambers to start with.  Once the layers separating the chambers were firmly bonded to the  external “walls”, I removed the resists and rubbed the internal layers with bubble wrap.

However, the real problem lay in the distance between the separating walls. I couldn’t spiral the first shell I made because the width of the chambers on the outer edge was too short.

Soon the second shell I increased the width of the chambers, but the felt was too floppy and still didn’t spiral very well.

Nice organic shapes, but back to the drawing board as far as nautilus is concerned!