Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Trying Out Commercial Prefelt

A couple of weeks ago, Zoe from Heidi Feathers kindly sent me some prefelt samples to try out. I don't have a massive amount of experience with prefelt, I've made my own a few times for specific projects, and have tried a couple of thicknesses of plain white Merino prefelt as a base for a few things. We've talked about commercial prefelt on the forum a few times, wondering things like whether it keeps its shape well, is it thick enough to use for surface design, etc. I had no idea so I was looking forward to trying it out.
For the first piece I made, I used a couple of layers of Merino tops, then did a very basic 'weave' using strips of prefelt, silk  and cotton gauze:

I didn't do anything to the prefelt pieces, just laid them out. As you can see, the silk didn't attach to the prefelt in a couple of places because it is quite firm and there aren't any visible loose fibres.

In my opinion this is definitely a good thing, I'd much prefer a prefelt to be firm with definition, and for using with fabrics which might not attach easily, you can rough up the prefelt where you need it, using an old toothbrush or wire dog brush. For the next piece I tried out, I used the same 'mirror' idea from the Felting and Fiber Studio Challenge and repeated patterns either side of an imaginary line across the centre of the piece. I started with two layers of Merino for this too, then just cut a variety of oblongs, triangles and squares in matching pairs and added them to the top in a random reflective design.

I really liked the way this turned out. It gave me confidence that a more complicated pattern would work well, keep the defined edges and shapes without distorting.

The last piece I tried was just a little test using some scrap pieces. Left to right: Some geometric shapes; a piece that I rolled between wet hands; a piece I dampened slightly and coiled; a piece I twisted with some Merino top; a piece I twisted on its own; some very thin off cuts I laid out or twisted and another prefelt/Merino top twist.

I took this on an angle so you can see  there is some thickness to the shapes while still firmly attached.

Thanks a lot to Heidi Feathers for the prefelt! Heidi Feathers are today's Meet The Supplier guests on The Felting and Fiber Studio, and have a generous giveaway of a Complete Wet Felting Kit!

To enter, just leave a comment on the post there, then check back on the 5th June to see if you've won. Recipients of the prize must be in the UK because it is such a big prize and postage costs will be very high, but you can enter from anywhere in the world :)

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Stewart Stephenson Challenge

At the beginning of last month, Ann posted her 2nd Quarter Studio Challenge on The Felting and Fiber Studio site, the work of artist Stewart Stephenson. His work is very diverse, and I must admit I prefer his more abstract works, maybe because they are similar in style to my own oils and acrylics. I played it 'safe' with the first piece I made for this challenge, using one of his 'sass' flower paintings, Sassy Wildflowers:

I drew myself a little sketch, marked down which colours to use where, then laid out the wool. I did a similar thing for both pieces and the colours were quite a bit off! This is before felting:

And this is what it looked like after felting:

The other Stewart Stephenson pieces I quite like are his mixed media 'line' pieces. I'm not sure which mediums are used, some look to be just paint, some seem to be digital images or at least digitally altered. They all seem to be based on the idea of having a centre and working out from there. The one I mostly used for reference was 'Line Up Now'.

Again, my colours were a bit off, and also his works don't appear to be mirror images, but I liked the idea of that, so that's how I did mine. This is a close up of one part before felting:

My girlfriend suggested I use some very dark blues and black on it, to give it more depth, so just before felting, I added those colours. This is what it looked like after felting.

I really like the way both pieces came out. I made them of a size big enough to make notebook covers, but I think they'll stay as they are :) We'll be adding the entries to the Challenge Galleries, so if you'd like to be included just let us know. We also have a post on the forum where you can see other entries too.

If you regularly look at The Felting and Fiber Studio blog posts, subscribe by email, follow the blog or are a member/visitor to the forum, would you be kind enough to have a look at Marilyn's post or thread on the forum, she has written some questions for a survey, so we can evaluate what people are getting from the forum and if there any areas or features people would like to see more of. It'll only take a couple of minutes and would be really helpful. And please be honest, we really do want your input :)

Monday, 12 May 2014

New Felting Supplies

After finally finishing my inventory the other week, I made a list of all the colours and breeds of wool I was low on and ordered some new supplies from World of Wool. As usual, I added a few things to my order which weren't on the list, but the more you order each time, the more you save on postage, right? :)  I ordered a few natural white wool tops which I haven't tried before, left to right: Whiteface Woodland, Dorset Horn and German Eider.

I've had a dark Brown Corriedale and a few different types of Jacob before, so I added some (Top to Bottom) Grey Corriedale, Grey Jacob and because I couldn't resist, brown baby Alpaca Tops.

I also bought a few things I thought a lot of people might be interested in. I've seen Broken Merino Tops listed before, and thought they were probably what they sounded like, and they are. They look like what I'd imagine is left at the bottom of the bags or boxes when the nice part of the top has been sold: short pieces a few inches long, a bit crumpled and a bit messed up and separated. But not felted or matted at all. I ran some through my drum carder then used it in some blends for felted soap.

There were a couple of wool noils listed, which I've never seen before. There was Bluefaced Leicester Noil, and Black Finnish Noil. They both looked like they are probably what is left over after the wool has been carded into tops. Because they are both quite fine soft wools, even these noils feel soft, although there is a bit of vegetable matter in there too. This is the Bluefaced Leicester one:

And this is the Black Finnish noil:

I thought they'd be good for some extra texture and perfect for using in natural wool texture felt, so the better quality/more expensive wool isn't wasted. I think these were both around £1 for 100g. And since I was going a bit mad with the order, I thought I'd get some Merino Burrs. They looked softer than nepps which I never have much luck with, and they do feel a lot softer, and flatter and not as tight/hard as nepps.

Hopefully, I'll get a chance to try these out soon. I've added these to the Wool and Animal Fibres Gallery on The Felting and Fiber Studio, along with a few other new photos. If you have any photos of wool, fleece, animal fibres you'd like to submit to the gallery, please contact us there :)

Friday, 2 May 2014

Using a Drum Carder

Recently on the Felting and Fiber Forum, Leonor was asking those of us who'd recently bought drum carders what we thought of them. I said I really liked mine from the Classic Carder company and didn't tend to get fibre building up on the small drum, which seems to happen for some and I said I'd try and do some videos when I got chance. Yesterday I found time to do some videos. The first one took almost an hour to upload to youtube, so I have done some edited versions and I will try to upload the others when I have more time. The first batt I made is using 'texturey' wools and fibres. They are mostly ones I have hand dyed myself, scoured wools like Bluefaced Leicester, Wensleydale and Falkland, carded Icelandic, some Alpaca, dyed Devon tops and some hand dyed silk tops and silk noil.

This is the video, sorry the light isn't brilliant.

This next video is showing commercial wool tops being carded, these go through a lot easier, and the end 'batt' is a lot neater and smoother, more like wide roving than a batt. You can use the drum carder to make your own blends from wool tops which are usually more expensive than single colours. Depending on how you put the wool through will depend how 'stripey' it is or how blended. 

I like to make blended batts with some texture and some wool tops. This next video shows about half of the texture batt being blended with the wool tops batt, I think I added some soy tops, flax and ramie to this too.

I don't often do this, but for demonstration purposes, I put the texture and tops batt from the previous video through again.

I used a shower curtain on the table while making these videos, I hoped the white would help lighten them a little, I don't think it made much difference, but it does show up some of the dust that collects under the carder!