Spring flowers

The online workshop with Pam de Groot continues – I’ll post an update on this later.

In the meantime, partly inspired by the Josef Frank exhibition, I’ve become a bit obsessed with making felt flowers. As you may know if you’ve followed me for a while, my colour palette is normally quite subdued (and usually involves a lot of blue 🙂 ) but the flowers have really allowed me to take advantage of all the brightly coloured fleece in my stash!

felt-corsages

I’m hoping to have a good selection of these corsages to brighten my stand at the Contemporary Textiles Fair in Teddington later this month.

I’ve also been continuing my work with dress net, exploring other forms. Coincidentally, one of these also happens to be a flower.

net-flower-1

The next step is to make enough of these to create a ball! Two down, 10 to go. 🙂

net-flower-2

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Home-cooked shibori

Next term at Morley College we’re going to be looking at shibori dyeing, a technique that uses tying, pleating, stitching and wrapping cloth before dipping it in indigo it to produce pattern and texture – I’m really looking forward to this.

But this term I’ve been using a similar technique, without the dye, on nuno-felted net scarves to produce pleats (it also softens the net). After tying the scarf around a piece of plastic drainpipe, I put it in a tea urn for about an hour to steam. You can see the result left.

However, the term is now finished and I want to make some scarves to sell at Spitalfields. So I had to find a way of doing ‘cooked shibori’ at home without a tea urn.

Improvised shibori steamer

My first thought was to use a large stockpot, but the tallest one I could find was only about a foot high. Because the idea is to steam the scarf, not immerse it in the boiling water, you have to leave the part of the drainpipe that stands in the water uncovered by fabric, so this would have severely limited the width of the fabric you could use to about 9 inches (maybe slightly more once it’s bunched up).

Then I spotted an empty 20-litre tin of cooking oil that had been thrown out by a restaurant. This was much taller – around 15 inches – and seemed perfect. So I got Ever Supportive Partner (ESP) to carry it home and remove the top with some tinner snips. I then tested it by adding hot water to a depth of about three inches, draped a towel over it and added the lid from my largest frying pan and voilà – a home-made shibori steamer!

Scarves wrapped around drainpipes ready to steam

I bagged a leftover piece of drainpipe from another friend, wrapped and tied a scarf around it and put in the steamer to ‘cook’ for an hour. Interestingly, when it came out, the pleats were less defined than the scarf I steamed at college.

I speculated that there could be a couple of reasons for this. One was that at college I used paper string, which is quite thin and flat. At home I used a thicker, rounder string, so the creases would probably be less sharp. The other reason could be that the drainpipe at college had about twice the diameter of the one I used at home. This means that there were more layers of scarf for the string to resist on the home-cooked scarf, so the creases in the bottom layers may not be as sharp.

I couldn’t lay my hands on any wider drainpipe, so I re-steamed the scarf using the thinner paper string – and indeed the creases came out a bit sharper. You can see the different results below (sorry for the poor quality of the pictures).

Scarf pleated with thicker, rounder string
Scarf pleated with thinner, flat paper string

Nuno net

My early experiments with nuno felt included lace, which wasn’t very successful. Now I know why.

On Wednesday I started a piece of nuno using net as the fabric base. My tutor explained that, although the net has a very open weave, there are no fabric fibres for the wool to cling to, unlike with cotton or silk. So you have to apply the merino on both sides to allow the wool fibres to matt together through the net – this is what holds them on. When I tried to felt the lace, I laid the wool out on only one side – no wonder it didn’t work very well.

So I laid out the wool on both sides of a piece of burgundy net and rubbed and rolled it until it held together (pictures below).

Nuno net

Nuno net

In a couple of weeks, after half term, I’m going to tie it up, wrap it around a pole and steam it, to produce a pleated effect. My tutor calls this ‘cooked shibori’, applying it to felt rather than dye. Should be an interesting result.