This video beautifully captures the moment when felting becomes the catalyst for linking people together in a shared creative activity at the VAScotland Conference on 'Making Matters' in February at the Platform Arts Centre, Glasgow.
The workshop was held in a marquee set up in a barn, electric lights were hung from the roof of the marquee like fairy lights, a red carpet on the floor with ten tables set up for the participants. The space was cosy and intimate and we were ready for anything – some brought wellies and others came equipped with waterproofs! Outside the rain fell and each time the barn door was opened the sound of thunder reverberated through.
Ann had brought samples of her own work, fleece rugs made from Cotswold and Shetland fleeces and samples of Herdwick made into bags. Fleeces of Shetland , Jacob, Hebridean, Manx Loughton and Black Welsh Mountain were assessed in their raw state prior to felting. A compact fleece is best with loose edges trimmed and felted with 2 to 3 layers of Shetland roving. We wetted each layer with soapy water and then again prior to rubbing and rolling. The wellies and waterproofs were not necessary with the strategically placed buckets and some team work in catching the odd waterfall!
The resulting rugs were varied from the short haired fleece of the Hebridean to the longer shaggy Welsh Mountain, from deep browns to creams of the Shetland and mixed colours of the Manx. Each fleece was different and after rinsing and drying so soft and rich to feel. The workshop was enjoyable and the effort in making the workroom functional and comfortable to work in was brilliant. It was great to see the various fleeces, to learn how to work with the raw fleece and to feel a little more confident in looking at fleeces with the view to using the raw wool. I would recommend this workshop to everyone interested in wool.
The day started with look at various examples hand pleating and a discussion on how to use the effect in one's own designs, followed by a demonstration and some sampling before tackling the project.
Laying out started with a long thin strand of Merino fibre, then layering at right angles, bearing in mind how colours would work together, shrinkage and how much would be taken up in pleating. Fabrics could be trapped or laid on top to create a frill effect along with other embellishment and design.
The piece was then taken to the pre-felt stage and dried. Running stitch was sewn along the length in rows or in waves and the stitching pulled up. The piece was then carefully felted.
Before removing threads the piece must be completely dry which meant final finishing had to be done at home. It was an inspiring day, full of fresh ideas.
This workshop was a great introduction to working with merino needlefelt to create a pair of mittens or glittens - a combination of fingerless glove and mitten. Caroline showed us first how to make a ruffle to decorate the mittens, then we sewed the two halves together and felted down the seams.
We spent a most companionable day learning, chatting and enjoying feltmaking; a welcome diversion from seasonal stress, plus the bonus of returning home with a handmade pair of Christmas mittens.
Rosalind showed us a selection of wraps to provide inspiration for our own creations and discussed different shapes and design ideas. Preparation of the applied decoration was key and decorative elements were needle felted in place onto needlefelt prior to wetting out. Patterns of slits and holes were cut later in the felting process and attention was given to healing cut edges and shaping to give a neat finish. Using the prefelt as a base gives more time for designing the decorative elements, although personally a large expanse of prefelt is rather daunting but I would certainly have another go!
Potassium Permanganate is an amazing substance, it treats athletes’ foot, it is a water purifier and is used for treating fish pond water. Penny took us through the hazards of working with Potassium Permanganate and she also told us it has been listed as a potential bomb making chemical. But we were not interested in this; we were there to learn how to exploit its oxidizing effects to create an antiqued, golden look to our fabrics, threads and fibres.
I never seem to finish my project when doing feltmaking workshops so, in Caroline Merrell’s workshop to make a felted bag with sculpted flower decoration, I decided to keep it simple.
This was a "satellite" workshop, held in Upton St Leonards, Gloucestershire, hosted by Region 9 members as part of the region’s excellent new initiative to share the load by having members organise workshops near to home from Melanie’s list of tutors. In spite of it being some 100 miles from the normal venue, members were keen to travel from far and wide for this exciting workshop and were not disappointed!
8.15 am: we go through the checklist - soap, towels, bubble wrap, chiffon, merino wool tops, scissors, plastic milk bottles, plastic bags ... all ticked off. Melanie would provide the bamboo blinds for us.
8.55 am: Off we go on a beautiful November morning. We find our way through Birmingham to Lichfield and to the school arriving with about 10 mins to spare.
Jenny talks about Japan and their way of wrapping gifts in fabric. The fabric is then returned to the giver. There are websites to show you how to wrap and tie the cloth. www.evergreenwrap.com and www.ichiroya.com. A beautiful environmentally-sound idea - and they've done it for centuries!
Jenny's idea is to make nuno felted cloths for wrapping.
The camel has a single hump;
The dromedary, two;
Or else the other way around.
I'm never sure. Are you?
This was the puzzle hotly debated by participants at the IFA Region 9 Ripple Vessels workshop with Mandy Nash. The day had begun early as Melanie, Mandy and Caroline cleared space in the studio in preparation for a small group of feltmakers and their large bags of equipment. Cups of tea were handed out as Mandy talked us through the development of her beautiful sculptural pieces on which carefully placed slashing reveals flashes of bright colour. Work on covering templates and layering in bands of colour with resists demanded a high level of concentration leaving Melanie free to concentrate on perfecting brews of weak tea, medium-strength tea, strong tea and builders’ tea, tea with ordinary milk, tea with goat’s milk, tea with soya milk and fruit tea to fuel the feltmakers.
The subsequent felting of Norwegian and Finn fibres required exertion which could only be relieved by lively chatter and more tea. Caroline, recently returned from Abu Dhabi, told us about Arabian camels decked in bling, Jane and Mandy recounted tales of the camel festival in Pushkar, Cilla, over from New Zealand for the workshop, told us about felting down under. The windows steamed up leaving the studio resembling a Turkish sauna and Melanie alternately operated the kettle to provide more tea and the microwave to heat felt pizzas.
As the vessels were beginning to take shape and to the evident relief of the feltmakers, Mandy announced it was time to locate the hidden band of colour and begin slashing. Care, precision, a ruler and more tea were needed to transform the flat surface to a 3D ripple of fins. Nina finished first and rewarded herself with a purchase from the gallery next door. Others opted to take theirs home to slash in quiet contemplation when mind and body had recovered from the felting.
With one last cup of tea and the camel puzzle still unsolved members wended their way back through the lanes, tired but happy and with a new technique under their feltmaking belts.
Region 9 recently hosted a one day Monster Bag workshop tutored by Beth Connors which was enjoyed by a small group of IFA members and one guest.
Beth provided additional materials and demonstrated each stage so all course participants whether expert feltmakers or relative newcomers were able to produce a colourful character.