February 2021 roundup

I’ve spent most of February working on a commission for a tortoise vessel. Someone saw my black and yellow one on Instagram and asked if I could make one in a different colourway.

As before, I started by making the individual scutes.

coiled turquoise tortoise scutes

Then I joined them together and added the border.

coiled turquoise tortoise lid

Then I made the base with the hidden tortoise design.

coiled turquoise tortoise vessel

The client was very pleased, and so am I.

Dorset buttons and looping

Although our basketry group has still heard nothing about when our course will resume, we are still meeting every fortnight on Zoom, and choosing a theme to work on for each session.

The first one was Dorset buttons. To be honest, I found this a bit fiddly. I normally like fiddly, but maybe I needed a break after the fiddly work on the tortoise. But I did manage to produce a button!

dorset button

Then we had a go at looping. I found this more relaxing and tried two methods. The first one was looping around a stone, starting at the opening on top and closing it together on the bottom.

looped stone top
looped stone bottom

As you can see, the looping pattern looks quite regular on the top and sides, but becomes more irregular and organic on the bottom where I pulled the loops together to close up.

I also made a looped basket with homemade cordage, this time starting at the bottom and working up to finish at the opening. The advantage of this is that I made the cordage as I went along, so didn’t have to worry about how to hide the joins.

Tetrapak dog update

I’ve made a bit of progress on the dog. The back half is complete, along with the head and the front legs.

Back legs and tail
tetrapak dog  head
Head

I only need to drink another five cartons of orange juice to get enough material to finish it!

Packaging material and ice

One of the highlights of my month was receiving a delivery (replacement butter dish, not very interesting) wrapped in some fantastic packaging material – some kind of pierced brown paper.

What was interesting is the way the paper had opened up and retained the form of what it was wrapped around, a bit like memory foam.

Apparently, according to comments on my Instagram post, it’s called Geami WrapPak. I’ve saved it until I can work out what to do with it!

We also had a very cold spell, where temperatures didn’t rise above 0ºC for several days. A basin of water I’d left in the garden froze solid – a chance to try making an ice sculpture by moving the frozen block into a different position every day.

However, the temperature rose again before I could get the full propeller effect!

As I write this, it’s warmed up enough for the first frogspawn to appear in the pond.

The other news is that I am to be the new editor of the Basketmakers’ Association newsletter. Although it’s called a newsletter, it’s a 68-page journal that is published four times a year, so it will be quite a lot of work! But there is a very supportive team (we are all volunteers), and I’m looking forward to making lots of interesting contacts with some fantastic basketmakers. So wish me luck!

Wool packaging

A friend of mine used to get deliveries of fruit and veg boxes from Abel & Cole, but then stopped. Some of the items she ordered were kept chilled using insulated packaging made from layers of lightly needle felted wool encased in plastic, made by the Wool Packaging Company. She wasn’t sure what to do with them but felt guilty about throwing them away, so she asked me if I’d like them.

According to the company’s website, after washing and scouring the wool is garneted and then needle felted. When I removed it from the plastic cover, it looked like a fairly delicate prefelt made from various different fibres running in different directions. Some of the fibres were fairly coarse, a bit like Icelandic but not as long, and the colours included the whole range of natural shades, from cream to brown, but mostly shades of grey.

It was also fairly thick, so I tried to separate it into two layers so that I could felt only half the thickness. And because it hadn’t been carded for making textiles, there were still a few burrs and other bits of vegetation present, which I picked out.

After wetting down and adding soap, I rubbed and rolled as normal, and it started to felt quite well. When I rubbed it on the washboard, many of the coarser fibres dropped out – similar to felting with Icelandic and Norwegian wool. In the end it shrank by around 20%.

Left: before felting; right: after felting

The final felt is quite coarse and hairy, and even when it’s dry it tends to shed a lot of fibres. However, the colours are lovely and organic. It’s too rough to use as a scarf or anything wearable, but I think that small areas could add some interesting texture with other fibres. Some judicious shaving might be required though!

Here’s a sample of white merino with some patches of prefelt.