3D textured felt

So, what form to use as a textured sample? I decided to do a basic ribbed vessel, using the partial felt technique I learnt at Lisa Klakulak’s workshop last year.

First I had to revise the technique, as it’s been a while since I used it. The result was interesting for a couple of reasons.

ribbed vessel

I’d envisaged the vessel as being fairly spherical. However, when it was fulled, the partial felt ribs prevented full longitudinal shrinkage, so the final vessel is taller than it is wide – more of a pod shape. For the same reason, the felt is more flexible and less sturdy than previous samples I’ve made of the same size – so it can be gently compressed to produce a rounder vessel if wanted, though this is not as stable.

ribbed vessel flatter

I’d made the ribs slightly curved to try to get more of a spiral effect, but in the final tall vessel this is barely apparent. It’s more obvious in the slightly flattened version.

ribbed vessel spiral

So then I made another vessel, to test out different textures. It’s not very pretty, but it’s intended to be a reference sample.

ribbed vessel textures

Clockwise from the top, these are: silk chiffon, silk habotai, polyster organza, pencil roving, silk chiffon with wool nepps, silk habotai with wool nepps, polyester with wool nepps, silk chiffon with felt offcuts.

Polyester organza with wool nepps gave the “wartiest” texture (managed to get a bit of red fibre caught in there as well).

ribbed vessel nepps

I also liked the effect of the pencil roving (without chiffon) and the felt offcuts covered with chiffon.

ribbed vessel rovingribbed vessel felt offcutsThe extra layers of silk and nepps haven’t increased the robustness of the felt very much – if anything, it feels less rather than more robust. So for future vessels I need to make the felt wall thicker or the ribs smaller (or dispense with them altogether).


Morley Gallery Advanced Textiles Exhibition 2013

Despite all my grand plans to enter some pieces featuring my newly acquired felting techniques into the Morley Gallery exhibition, I ran out of time. I’m still experimenting and consolidating, and I didn’t want to show “work in progress” that I wasn’t really happy with.

So in the end I only put in two pieces, both made in the Easter term – the limpet scarf and the kantha embroidered tortoise shell. I included the real tortoise shell in the display for comparison, but you can’t see it in the photo.



There was only one other student from my course who was exhibiting – Jane Thistlewood, who makes beautifully light nuno-felted clothing in pale washed silk. But I did catch up with some of the tutors and other students who weren’t exhibiting.

No photos of other exhibits I’m afraid – the ones I took were terribly dark or full of reflections. The ones in this post were taken by ESP, who has a much better camera but didn’t take any other exhibits.

The show runs at Morley Gallery until 25 July.

Indigo and felt

The rain stopped for a while yesterday afternoon, and the combined sunshine and wind finally gave me a chance to dry out some of the wetter items. The house still smells of damp carpet though.

The loss adjuster isn’t coming till next Wednesday, so I managed to find a quiet corner and escape from the chaos by working on some more samples, combining my two favourite techniques of felting and indigo.

First up I tried some ombre dyeing directly on one of the felt shell structures. This is not as subtle as it should have been – the wool takes up the indigo more easily than the cotton I’ve been using, and the depth of the shell is a bit shallow for a good gradient.

Then I made a couple of small nuno pots using cotton gauze and cotton muslin dyed using shibori techniques. The gauze in particular gives a lovely cobwebby effect.

I felt much better afterwards!

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!

When things don’t work out

I was reading a post by Karen over on The Felting and Fiber Studio about a felt album cover she’s been making, where she keeps changing the design and unpicking the embroidery because she doesn’t like it. I know how she feels.

Before Christmas I made several manly scarves in various colour combinations, and they were very popular.

So I thought it was time to try some variations on the theme – but they haven’t worked out.

The first variation was using a preprinted silk scarf, using undyed merino. I didn’t like the result at all – the shapes and the colours just didn’t work together:

Then I tried using muslin with a more open weave. This was a bit tricky to work with, especially when it was wet, as it kept clinging to itself and  was difficult to keep flat in one layer. Also, I had a problem with the wool, as the colour started leaching out when I wet it. You can see a bluish tinge where the muslin has taken up the colour on the left-hand side of  the photo below:

(When I contacted the supplier about this, they said it was possible that an over dye had been used on it and that a small amount of excess was washing out. Has anyone else experienced this? It’s never happened to me before.)

The much more open weave of this muslin meant that with a bit of careful effort I could squeeze the plastic resists out through the muslin without cutting it (though it did leave a bit of a hole in some cases).  I rather like the more subtle spot effect; up close it looks quite cellular.

However, because the muslin is so loose I think it would catch on things quite easily and become very irritating.

So I decided that maybe it was time to move on and try something else. Instead of changing materials, I changed the shape of the resist. Although I originally intended it to look like tiger stripes, I didn’t allow enough for the muslin to shrink, and the nuno areas are smaller than I planned, relative to the stripes. But in these colours it reminds me of the opening credits of The Simpsons – so welcome to my Clouds range!

When things don’t work out, it can be a chance to review your technique or rethink your design. But sometimes it may just give you a gentle nudge in a completely different direction. Some of my most interesting work has resulted from pieces that didn’t work out as planned – and in textiles that seems to happen more often than not!

I went to a talk by Grayson Perry at the British Museum just before Christmas, where he said it can be heartbreaking to spend a week on a piece that just doesn’t work. So it happens to everyone!

Audley Harrison’s shirt

Not being a sports fan, I had no idea who Audley Harrison was until he appeared in the latest series of Strictly Come Dancing. If you don’t know either, he’s a boxer who was the first British fighter to win an Olympic gold medal in the super heavyweight category (at Sydney in 2000). Oh, and he has size 17 feet, which is a bit of a drawback in a dancing competition – as he is discovering.

But I digress. To return to the point, in Saturday’s bout competition, Audley was wearing a very striking shirt. I couldn’t find a still photo on the BBC website – but you can see it  in the video below. So I thought I’d try to recreate a similar effect in felt.


I covered a piece of undyed muslin in slightly off-white merino, then put some plastic oval-shaped resists on top. I covered these with a layer of orange merino and wetted, rubbed and rolled. Then I fulled it against a washboard until the muslin was suitably wrinkled, and cut out the plastic resists.

I think this would make an interesting scarf, especially with some strands of beads at the ends (as on Audley’s shoulders).

Sadly, his groovy shirt didn’t help Audley dance any better. He came second from bottom, and was only saved from oblivion by Nancy and Anton being voted off.

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


The exciting – and rather scary – news is that I and Tess, a fellow student on the creative and experimental textiles course at Morley College are going to try selling of our stuff at a stall at Spitalfields Market. We’re going for a Friday, as it’s cheaper than a Sunday, so we won’t waste too much money if nobody buys anything.

This has thrown me into a panic about having enough stuff to sell. Tess makes beautiful felt hats and bags and has been planning to do a stall for a while, so she’s built up a bit of stock. We agree that our styles are different, so it doesn’t matter if we both make the same kinds of items, as long as our prices are comparable. But I thought I’d try to make some scarves, to add a bit of variety.

The problem with making felt scarves at home rather than at college is that they require a lot of space, especially as you have to make them longer to allow for shrinkage. Working on my dining room table (the largest area available) means lots of folding over bubble wrap, pulling corners here, rolling edges there – all while trying to avoid pools of soapy water dripping onto the floor.

The other issue is seasonality – with the weather getting warmer, people won’t want to buy thick heavy scarves. So I made a couple of lighter ones in network felt (below), the blue one with silk threads running across some of the holes. I’m not sure it was that successful – it probably needs more silk to avoid simply looking messy.

I also really liked the pleated nuno net scarf I made using the ‘cooked shibori’ technique of tying it up and steaming it. So I made a couple of larger shawls at home and tied them up and steamed them in the tea urn at college.

The next challenge is whether I can do this ‘cooked shibori’ technique at home, as term has now finished. I don’t have access to a tea urn, so will have to improvise somehow.

Alternatively, we can just sell bags and hats.