I’m going away for a couple of weeks, to Hungary and Ukraine.
The trip is not my idea, but ESP’s – centred on food and wine in Tokaji in north-east Hungary. But I’m hoping that away from the pig slaughter I might be able to track down some local textile traditions.
In fact, indigo dyeing is a traditional technique in Hungary, using printing blocks or machines to apply the resist to the cloth before dyeing. I saw some Hungarian artisans demonstrating this on the South Bank a couple of years ago, and there’s a good description of the process on this blog.
Sadly, I haven’t been able to track down any museums or workshops in north-east Hungary, but there is a textile museum in Budapest that I hope to visit.
And embroidery is very popular in Ukraine.
Immediately I get back, it’s Lambeth Open weekend on 5-6 October, when I’ll be exhibiting with Women of the Cloth in Streatham – hope to see some of you there!
Just a few pics to show the evolution of a larger felt vessel starting with a flat resist and then shaped and fulled around a balloon. The neck makes it trickier to insert the balloon and definitely harder to knot it, especially with soapy fingers!
You can see from the photos that I used a yellow balloon first but only managed to half-tie a knot, and it started deflating, so I had to burst it and insert another (pink) balloon to finish fulling.
Discovery of the day: Styrofoam felts. Unfortunately.
I’ve mentioned Creative Felting by Lizzie Houghton before as a great source of ideas and inspiration. One of the techniques she includes is for making honeycomb felt, where you trap marbles between layers of wool when you make the felt. Then when the felt is dry, you cut the marbles out, creating a series of cells that look a bit like honeycomb (left).
Lizzie notes: ‘It can be difficult to roll the felt because it has such a lumpy texture, and this is where a washboard can be very useful for applying friction.’
Well, I don’t have a washboard at home, so I wondered whether there was something else I could use as a resist instead of marbles. I thought I had hit on the perfect solution – polystyrene foam pellets. I knew that foam is often used as a flat resist when making felt bags, so I assumed they wouldn’t stick. And the pellets were squashy enough not to make it too difficult to roll the felt.
So I made another two-tone pot as before, but between the two layers of green wool and two layers of blue wool I incorporated five polystyrene pellets, folded in half. Then I rolled and rubbed as normal.
The rolling and rubbing flattened the pellets completely, so I realised that I wasn’t going to end up with 3D cells. Also, because they were now flat, it was quite difficult to feel where they were through the felt, so I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to find them!
However, when the pot dried, the foam had gone very hard, and I could feel the flat discs very clearly through the felt. So I thought that I could easily cut them out, allowing the inner green layer of felt to show through the outer blue layer.
This was when I made the dreadful discovery that Styrofoam felts. Both the blue and the green wool surrounding the foam was stuck very firmly, and it was a real struggle to remove the discs. Luckily, I had made the felt quite thick, so cutting away part of the felt with the foam still left a thin layer of green felt intact.