Monday, September 26, 2011

This Inspired Me into a Fit of ENVY

My friend Denise spun up some sassy fiber and posted it on facebook.

I was overtaken with envy and ran down the stairs to see if I could make some fiber as nice as what she was spinning. OK, I didn't run down the stairs. I trundled down. I dug out some light green alpaca and some blue silk and carded it up. Took it upstairs, spun it up, and got this:

Harumph. My fiber was not even in the same world as Denise's vibrant colors.

I trundled downstairs again, determined to get me some color.

So for my second attempt, I went back to the light green alpaca, but blended in dark blue silk and maroon silk. And plenty of it, I'll have you know.

Here's what I got:

Baby Barf
Crap. Maybe if I plied it together, it would look better:

Old Man Purple

Crap. Well, I know what I must do. Can the light green alpaca, switch to straight silk, and break out my new spindle, which my friend Denise got me at the Hemlock Fiber Festival:

This is a Goncola Alves Victorian Silk Spindle
Stay tuned, I'll let you know how it goes.

A Day With the Girls, Showing Off What I Learned

I have this friend, her name is Denise. She taught me to spin on a drop spindle. She tried to teach me to spin on a spinning wheel, but I'm afraid my brain wasn't ready yet, so I spun the same piece of fiber for about an hour, making absolutely no progress. So she kindly let the subject drop.

At any rate, Denise and her friend Channyn live in a house filled with children. You're probably thinking four children. But no. There are more than that. When everyone is there, there are 10 people in the house. When I contemplate feeding 10 people, I feel a little guilty, because I don't extend myself much for the people in my house when it comes to cooking. "Cheese and crackers for everyone!" I am known to shout. And sometimes, I look at my son and say, "So, what are you going to eat for supper?" And he says, "Cheese and crackers?" And I think to myself, "What a lovely child."

On Sunday, I was invited to bring my stuff from my nuno felting class over, so I filled a laundry basket with all my supplies and my books and my magazines. It turns out that Denise is one of those people who has pondered every art form imaginable. So we went upstairs, and didn't Denise have a nuno felting kit, amongst many other treasures? So we got all MOTIVATED and decided that we would make a nuno felted scarf.

The kit turned out to have just the right colors for Channyn, who likes oranges, but not blues. So we decided to make a scarf together, we three. We collaborated, and turned out the loveliest scarf you can imagine. We think we should organize ourselves and call ourselves a guild, or a guildlet, or a club, or a collaborative team... but we haven't thought up a good name yet. So I'll leave it to you, dear readers, to ponder the scarf and our artsy ways and suggest a name for our collaborative obsessive gathering of girls who are passionate about fiber.

So the kit had a nice length of silk scarf that was dyed in different colors, mostly orange, with some green and yellow. No instructions, so we used what I could remember from class. And it had some fiber, about an ounce, also in different colors, mostly orange with some green and yellow. We covered the kitchen table with a big sheet of plastic that I brought. Then we put down a shelf liner and put the scarf on that. Then we laid out the fiber. Channyn had some orange silk fiber, and some green silk fiber, so we put that on too. We tried making curleycues and circles with the silk. Then we sprayed it down with a water and soap mixture, laid a length of tulle across it, and started working on it. We used baggies to scrub in circles.

So we assaulted it some more, and then rolled it up inside a damp towel, tied the towel with panty hose (yep, I brought those!), and stuck the whole thing in the dryer on no heat for 10 minutes. Tried it again for another 10 minutes.

It looked pretty nice when we were done, but we weren't sure the silk was going to stick, so Channyn pulled out some more fiber, and we added maybe half an ounce ot it. The other fiber had the oranges and yellows and green, but also some red. That turned out really nice.

We rolled up what we had and then dipped it in hot water, then cold, to get it to felt some more. Then we squeezed it out, ironed it, and, voila, a finished scarf:

Meet My Nuno Felting Teacher, Jean Gauger

This class was excellent, so I wanted to introduce you to my teacher.

First, her name is Jean Gauger.

She sells her work on Etsy and on ebay.

When I looked her up on ebay, she had shawls that were $599, and one that was $3,500. I was wondering why that was the case, and she explained in class that she didn't reallly want to sell the $3,500 one, so she priced it super high. A girl after my own heart. These pictures are of Jean, demonstrating that if you make two shawls, you can combine them together to make an even bigger shawl. Some day, I want to make a - dare I say it - poncho - for my husband, to replace the hideous Mexican serape that he wears to karate. He is a great big man and so I suppose looks so imposing that only his spouse would dare say that the sarape isn't doing him any favors.

oh yes, and that is my stupid computer bag near Jean's feet. A technician's work is never done. Sigh.

Now it's Time to Do the Real Project

I've selected my fiber and come up with my plan, more or less. So, you fold your black gauze in half and cut out the shape of a butterfly. Then, you make a pattern for what to do with the silk, using muslin. Lay out the silk, cut it up, lay it out some more.

Things I hadn't anticipated:

You need a really big table to make a butterly. The books say to assume your project will shrink by 50%. So you have to make it pretty big to start. A 10 foot table would have been perfect. I was using an 8 foot table, and two of the other students were using smaller tables. In retrospect, if I had had the smaller tables, I probably would have cried partway through. The students with the smaller tables had to map out half their butterfly, then flip it over and do the other half. It turns out that I have limited spatial skills and a frighteningly short short-term memory, so if I were using a smaller table I would not have been able to remember what I did on the first side. As it was, I had some difficulty matching up my pattern to the silk gauze once I unfolded everything. But I managed to get it right.

You might think that making felted clothing would be a great way to use up your fiber. Not so. The butterfly only used 4 ounces of black moreno fiber. It was the silk that took up most of my budget. You make nuno felting by putting down a layer of silk gauze, then a thin layer of moreno, and then a layer of silk and other embellishments. So you end up with a lovely, lightweight garment, but it doesn't use up much wool. Think of the wool as the glue, as it pulls everything together and holds it in place.

I was all hot to use angora, because I love-love-love angora. The angora worked well for embellishments, not so well for the light layer of fiber as the base. I tried a separate project after I finished my shawl using angora, and the angora just flopped down and didn't felt through the silk. I ended up buying more moreno and putting it down to save my separate project. Nonetheless, I'm not giving up on the bunny. I have a drum carder, so I can try blending moreno and angora.

Oh, and you might think that we are felting silk when we nuno felt. Nope, you are trying to make the wool felt, and in so doing, grab onto the silk by poking through it. So you have to use thin silk that the wool can go through. And then the silk bunches up in interesting ways as the wool shrinks around it. A very nice affect, if you ask me.

I'm afraid I did not give proper attention to the inside of my cloak. Jean told us we would need to design the inside. But I had driven 6 hours, toted two computers and a cell phone, and couldn't quite separate myself from my work. I ended up staying up late every night working. Staying up on my feet for three straight days was a little tougher than I expected.

This is the inside of my cape. It came out interesting, but not well thought out. Had I thought it through, I would have worked more carefully on the edges, because when you wear the cape, you can turn over the edges, so it would have been nice if the edges turned out nicer.
Oh, you want to see what it looks like? No problem, here are some more pictures.

The light pink web-like effect is from silk hankies. You stretch them across the top after you've added all the other embellishments.

Practice Makes Perfect

Our first project is a practice one. Make a small piece, and use it to try out different fibers, learn the felting techniques, and see what you like and what you don't like. My practice piece looks like someone threw up on it, but I definitely know what I like and what I don't like:

I brought a couple of bins of fiber. On the right is a bag of blue locks. Above that is silk that I dyed. Right in the middle, at the bottom, is sari silk, which is basically a bunch of threads.

You need moreno.

The black stuff on the left is silk hankies.To its right is gold tussah silk. I thought I would like angelina, so there's coppery angelina and blue angelina.

So, I started with a piece of black silk gauze, then a layer of black moreno fiber, and then I put different types of fiber and the silk on top of that. I know, it's ugly. I'm not trying to win an award for this, I just want to see how different materials felt.

See those little white pieces? Those are to help you tell if you've fulled enough. I've put tulle on top of the whole thing, then I'll add warm soapy water, then I'll pat it down and make sure everything is wet.

I call this the "assault phase." The wet fiber is between two pieces of plastic. Roll it up inside the bamboo mat, and then roll and roll and roll until it turns into felt.

The result.
I concluded that I didn't like the angelina. It didn't felt in very well. So, I'll take my angelina and use that in my spinning. I use a lot of angelina that way. I didn't like the dark blue silk. I liked the light maroon silk, the deep blue green sari silk, the gold tussah silk, and the hot pink angora. I also felted in some dark blue green moreno and some gold moreno, and I didn't like that. The tussah silk was all shiny, which was nice.

Day 1: Introductions

It's Day 1 of the class. There are four other students. So we do introductions.

First, there are two ladies who are best friends from Syracuse. One is originally from Sweden, the other from the Netherlands, I think. Apparently they've been felting since the womb. My lower lip drops a little.Next, a Japanese woman who owns a store and sews original designs for it. The upper lip starts to tremble. Finally, a woman who teaches at Parsons, the Fashion Institute of Design. Yes, she works on the same floor as Heidi Klum.

It is now my turn to introduce myself. And so I say the only thing I can say, "My name is Barb. I've been reading a lot about felting on blogs."


We head out to look for supplies. I'm screwed. SCREWED! But I reflect back on a little lesson I've learned from my husband. First, buy the most beautiful piece of silk you can find in the store. Forget the cost. I need to make up for my lack of experience. And second, go conservative, but learn from the example set by the other students.

So that's what I do. Check out my super awesome piece of silk:

Note to self: I have a whole box of silk paint that I picked up at a garage sale. Maybe I could make beautiful silk. Hmmm...

Give in to Temptation

I've shown you the storefront for New England Felting Supply. So now I'll give you a peak at what's in the back room... this is where I threw down my son's inheritance.
This is about 1/3 of the colors available of moreno fiber

So the way the class works is that they send you a supply list ahead of time. You can buy your supplies and bring them along, or you can buy most of your supplies at the store. Since I wasn't sure what I was going to do, I bought the easy supplies ahead of time, brought a couple of bins of fiber, and bought my fiber and fabric and a lot of my supplies at the store.

The Place Where I Went

So, to continue my nuno felting class story...

There I was, in Easthampton, MA, at the New England Felting Supply. They have a storefront, where you can buy lovely felted items, or take inspiration from what you see. And then in the back, you can buy all the supplies you can imagine.

Needle Felting

Nuno felted scarf

Nuno felted shawl by Jean Gauger
Are you tempted yet? They have classes almost every week. The class I took was NUNO BUTTERFLY SHAWL with Jean Gauger. She's an excellent teacher. I saw another one listed, FELTED RUGS FOR THE HOME USING LOCAL WOOLS with Chris White. She wrote one of the really good books about felting, Uniquely Felt. I'd like to learn to make rugs, but will work on refining what I learned about scarves and shawls first.

Greetings from Easthampton, MA

Ahhh... so I drove to Easthampton, MA, to take my class on nuno felting. Easthampton seems like a relatively small town. I thought this was pretty cool:

It's called "Yarn Bombing." Mysterious strangers knit upon local objects in the community.

I found myself enthralled by two shops... a tattoo parlor and a tarot reading store...

Although I'm not up for a tattoo myself, I do like a really nicely done one. This artist seemed to have some lovely designs. 

I couldn't quite convince myself to get my fortune predicted.

Of course, with all that said, please don't tell my mother. She would be appalled.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

This is Too Exciting for Words!

Oh! I was sitting here contemplating contacting the woman who teaches the nuno felting class and begging her to throw down another table and make me some room, but then those nice New England people called and said someone cancelled! I feel just a little bit guilty, because the first thing out of my mouth was "Oh! Someone died? Terrific!" But really, I'm sure nobody had to meet their maker to get me through the door.

You might wonder why I'm so excited about making a butterfly shawl. You see, back in 2005, I scored some great costumes at a garage sale. We're a creative family, so we hauled them out, dressed up, got out the camera, and created a book.
Our Ferocious Hero, Captain Flash
The Nefarious Villain, The Evil Dragon

The Helpless Flutterby is Captured by The Evil Dragon

Saved by My Hero! And we all lived Happily Ever After
 The costumes, it turned out, were the hit of my son's childhood. We dragged them out for every imaginable occasion. I wore the butterfly costume every year at Halloween. Flash wasn't usurped until a couple of years ago, when "Mario" became the costume of choice. So anyway, we've got a vested interest in butterflys, and I could use a little wardrobe bump.

And that's why I want to take a wet felting class to make a nuno butterfly shawl.

The end.

This Is Where I Want To Go Next

I'm getting all WILD here, thinking I deserve an artistic moment, so I meandered all over the internet looking for a class on wet felting. One that lasts more than a day. That's right, if I'm going to do something, I want to come out exhausted and pitiful at the end, with something substantial to show off. So I found my class, and of course it is filled. Next one is filled too. Oh sigh. They're going to contact me when they get the next one scheduled. If anyone would like to go on this boondoggle with me, just say the word. I think it's a 6 hour drive, though I haven't googled it yet, so I could be wrong. It's in Easthampton, Massachusetts.

Now, the way I picked this class is that I googled nuno classes, and then looked at the instructors' work. Apparently you can make some pretty ugly nuno felt if you put your heart into it. But Jean Gauger's website had lovely pieces, and her class looked like it would be lots of fun.

New England Felting Supply

Friday to Sunday, September 16-18, 2011
9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
$315 plus materials, approx. $70-$120
$175 deposit required
nuno experience helpful

I am including another picture from Jean's website. This one is for my friends Denise and Channyn, who have an orange dining room. It seems to me that nuno felting could be the answer to how to bring it all together: