Thursday, April 17, 2014

Wool Roving vs. Wool Batting

Comparing wool roving and wool batting was once one of the foundations of the Surface Design class, but that exploration felt most possible for in person classes.   I include the fibers in the online Surface Design class, as I think it's a benefit for everyone to experience working with fibres in their different forms.  In working through the class materials, I decided to do a little test to see what differences I would find when working with roving and batting, in a documentated study! I used 16 grams/ 0.5 ounce of extra fine merino roving, and the same amount of extra fine merino batting both from the wonderful DHG. 
(see sources at the end!)

 Wool batting has been scoured, dyed and carded. It comes in big sheets or rolls. The wool fibres are not directional, or straightened.  When we are felting we want to have our fibres laid out in different directions to allow for the greatest connection of the fibres and their scales as they integrate to become felt.  With batting we don't need to pay any attention to the direction we lay out the fibres as they are already blended.

 Batting is fantastic for quick layouts. The batting can be spread out to your desired shape and size, and layers can be built up to reach your desired thickness.  To layout the batting, spread your wool out on your work surface. To remove extra fibre, use one hand as a clamp, held flat and firm on top of your fibres, and use the other hand to pull away the excess fibre-image left. Increase your layout size by laying on more batting, overlapping by about 1 inch (2.5cm) -image centre.  If you have any thin spots or holes, fill in with wisps of the wool batting- image right. Very fast and easy.

Wool batting is especially useful for quick layouts for all flat feltmaking projects, like wall pieces, playmats, or making your own prefelt. It is also excellent as a base for vessels, hats and bags.
Wool batting is generally not as readily available of wool rovings, sliver or tops.  Several breeds can be purchased in wool batting form, including Merino, Merino blends, Corriedale/Coopworth, Bergschaf, Norwegian C1, and Norwegian C1-Pelsull, Finnish and Icelandic. (resources below!)

Wool roving has been scoured, dyed and carded, and combed, so the fibres are all straight and aligned in a single direction. It comes in long lengths, sometimes rolled up into balls. We can layout one layer of roving if we want to create a very fine light felt, but most often we will lay out multiple layers, with each new layer perpendicular to the last.  This creates the greatest potential connection of the fibres and their scales as they integrate to become felt. The fibres will shrink more along the length of the fibre and we can use this to influence the size and shaping of our felt work during layout. In general though, we want consistent, even, perpendicular layers.

There are several ways to layout your wool roving. The most common form is called shingling. We use one hand as a clamp and pull away a staple length of wool fibre. Each shingle overlaps the previous one by one third -image left. After laying out all the fibres in one direction, we'll lay out the second layer of wool shingles, with the fibre direction perpendicular to the previous layer- image right. Two layers will create a lightweight consistent felt. More layers may be used either depending on the thickness of each shingle, or the desired thickness of your finished felt.

If I use the same weight of wool fibres, and start with the same size of layout, my end result should be the same with either wool roving or batting.   I used exactly the same felting techniques for the same durations in both samples. The batting was faster to layout. The roving developed a more strong felted skin more quickly. The batting felt more cohesive and started to full or shrink sooner in the process. They were both finished in the same amount of time, and the finished size was the same in both samples, with equal shrinkage in the width and the length.


My batting sample was more even in finished density overall. If I had of been a little more attentive in my layout of the roving, I think it would have been as consistent, if not more than the batting. But I was working quite quickly, so in this case the batting had a slightly better end result. 

After fulling completely, rinsing and laying flat to dry, both samples are tight and evenly finished. The batting appears just a little more smooth and flat.

So... no dramatic results! The same amount and size of sample produced a similar end result, as happens when an experiment goes exactly as you think it will!

I chose between roving and batting based on two main criteria. The first is availability. What fibre form  is available to me in the  particular wool breed I want.  I love C-1/pelsull for bags, and that is most readily available in a batting form. But I also make most of my bags in white and then dye them after, and for those I use Finnish wool, that is most readily available as a roving. The second  criteria is the density of the finished felt. When I am making the lightest weight, structural felt garments, I will use an extra fine merino roving. I feel I have the most control over the density of my felt (when I don't rush!) using the wool in a roving form.

It is valuable to touch and work with the different forms. Laying out with locks alone is another great experience. Exploring and using the different wools informs our felting sensibilities and understanding of the fibre qualities, as well as deepening our physical appreciation and hand recognition of the wools.

Here are some sources for you:
Merino: Dyeing House Gallery (Italy) 
distributed in the US by Opulent Fibers
distributed in Canada by ArtGus Studio 

Merino: New England Felting Supply

Merino Cross: Living Felt

Norwegian C1, C1-Pelsull Blend, and Pelsull: New England Felting Supply
Bergschaf:  Dyeing House Gallery (Italy) 

distributed in the US by Opulent Fibers
distributed in Canada by ArtGus Studio 

Finnish: Piiku (Finland)
Icelandic: Alafoss (Iceland)

Rovings or Tops are much easier to come by, and there are many wonderful online sources, including most of those above.  Too many to list here, but I do purchase most of the coarse wool breed rovings from:

Lots of felt with!
Warm wishes, 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Inkjet Transfer Paper Explorations

Teaching a most marvelous experience! It invites to teacher to share their skills and provides wonderful opportunities to refine our techniques both before the classes in preparation, but also during....

The spring class of Surface Design Online is in session, and it is just so much fun...It is amazing to see so much beautiful work, and to see connections building between feltmakers from all over the world.   One of the techniques in this class is using Inkjet Transfer Paper for adding text and images to your feltmaking. I started playing with this a few years ago with my Storytelling Bags series.   I've always wanted to explore this in a different way and the opportunity presented itself this afternoon.   

I've been wanting to see how different drawing tools could be used directly on the transfer paper...and what results the different mediums would give... So we tried some crayons for fabric, sharpie markers for fabrics, regular sharpie markers (permanent), and ink and paintbrush.  We tried pencil crayons and pens as well, but their points were too sharp and tore up the transfer paper. ("We": I even got my two teenagers excited about this and playing with textiles with me! Excited may be too strong a word, but I'm sticking with it!)

With this method, text can be easily mirrored. Write your desired words on a sheet of ordinary copy paper, hold it up backwards in a window. Place the transfer paper up to the lettering, making sure you are drawing on the correct side of your transfer paper for transferring, and copy using your desired drawing medium.

Cut out your drawing and iron them onto your silk fabrics as per the paper instructions. In this case we ironed each section for 2 minutes or so, on the highest setting, with no steam. Remove the paper from the silk fabrics, and cut out around the image, allowing at least an inch of non-printed silk for the wool fibres to migrate through during felting.

Felt as usual...

and....taadaa.....hand drawn images and text on your nuno felting! How incredible is that!  This has a different effect than just using fabric markers on your silk directly, as you can use many drawing mediums, plus you get interesting surface reliefs from the transfer paper.

In our experiments, anything with a brush tip worked equally well. The regular sharpies were a little too pointed and tended to gum up with the polymers from the paper, but did give very refined lines and brightly coloured images. The crayons are one of my favourites... I like their folk art qualities..the slight transparency in the drawing strokes combined with good strong colours.

This is what it is all about....exploration, experimentation and sharing....We are always students...even when we are teachers!

We explore this technique in much more depth in class, but I thought you all might enjoy seeing this, as it's so simple and beautiful! 

In this sampling we used Lesley Riley's TAP as our transfer medium.

Happy felting, 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Felting in the Rocky Mountains

view from my classroom

I've just arrived home from a very beautiful trip. As mentioned before, Texas was fantastic- such a great group of creative people.  I had a few days before the beginning of the Felters Rendezvous and I had some writing to complete, so I created a little writer's retreat for myself in lovely Estes Park, Colorado. I had four days of felting, writing, good coffee, beautiful views, and silence. It was delightful! The sunshine, snow, mountain vistas and crisp but not cold temperatures were invigorating. 

Chapter 5 of the book complete, I headed further into the mountains to Rocky Mountain National Park and the Felters Rendezvous. After four days of silence I chatted (far too long and late) with felting friends, Heather and Tylar, as well as new friends, Cathy and Marsha. It was lovely to be with them all, and a highlight of my week to finally meet Heather in person!
before the classes, set up and ready....what a great space!

My first class was in felt bags. It was a full house and a very creative and exploratory group. In construction we had a variety of shapes, inner pockets, inner divisions, and outer pockets, and delved into some surface design play. There was a range of experience from beginner to master, and everyone challenged themselves to stretch their boundaries. That's a great thing in a class. No restraint was exercised and everyone made beautiful work.

Gorgeous and elaborate was such a fun class! For Dayle, in the top picture, this was her second felt project ever! Bags make such a perfect canvas for exploration of resists and surface design forms.

In days 3 and 4 we moved on to Surface Design.  Another full room, with some students continuing after the bag making, and some new faces to join our group.

A few of the extraordinary surfaces created on Day 3.  Over the two days, each student made two large felt tapestries, created as samplers to hold the multitude of techniques.

This whole event was extremely well co-ordinated by Deb Tewell of The Felting Source. Thank you Deb, for all your assistance, and the time and effort that goes into creating such an event! Next years dates and teachers are all set- It promises to be wonderful...and always a beautiful and inspiring location!

And now here I am...back again in my little studio on this little island.... gearing up for Surface Design Online-Spring and creating a new body of work for my exhibition this summer.  Life does not get better than this, and I thank you all for being a part of it!

Warm wishes, 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Craft Guild of Dallas

I left on a great fiber adventure this week... I've been traveling in the United States, completely immersed in felt making and fiber art.

First stop was the beautiful Craft Guild of Dallas. It is an amazing facility, with purpose built and architecturally designed studios for many mediums.

 I gave an artist lecture to a small but very interesting group of women.  It was quite wonderful to give a talk in an intimate setting that flowed afterwards into conversations of fibre, art and life.

My first class at the Craft Guild was in Joomchi Scarves. It was a full house! We talked about the foundations, the metaphors and the techniques. 

Everyone's compositions were wonderful...well thought out, and therefore laid out.... It is such a pleasure to teach a class with a group of creative people that take the new ideas and run with them.

The next day we worked on Surface Design.  I think it was the quietest Surface Design class I have ever taught. Everyone was focused and engaged in their processes!

In the class were visual artists, weavers, jewelry makers, bookbinders, as well as feltmakers, and everyone found their own interesting ways in exploring our surfaces.

Every minute I was not at the Guild, I was working on the Surface Design Online class... now in week 4. I am having some technical challenges while traveling, and spent most of Saturday night and well into Sunday morning, working with two computers, trying to get the class uploaded!

I have a selection of work on display in the Guild gallery shop until the end of March.

Thank you to everyone who came! It was such a pleasure to spend a weekend with you all, and special thanks to Suzanne Morgan, who initiated these classes, and my most generous host, Lisa Covert, President of the Craft Guild.

I can hardly believe, and very much appreciate, that I get to live my life this way!

I'm looking forward to returning to Dallas sometime, maybe next year for a longer workshop series now in discussions...but for now.... I'm on my way with my big bags of wool, on to Colorado, for the Felter's Rendezvous!

Warm wishes,

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Surface Design Online: Spring Session

Registration for my Surface Design Online- Spring Session is now open!
The class will start on April 5th and run until May 17th. 

All of the workshop information is available on my website:

I'm holding a little draw to thank everyone for their enthusiastic support of this new class.
There will be two opportunities to win a free class:

One winner will be drawn from those who:
Like my Facebook page, and share the link to the class information on their timeline. Leave me a comment on FB to let me know you have shared.
The name will be drawn from those comments.

One winner will be drawn from those who subscribe to my workshop information newsletter using the link on my website or at the bottom of this post.

The draw will take place on Wednesday, February 19th, at 9:00pm PST. I'll post the winner here, and on Facebook.

I love sharing this material with you. It forms to soul of my work, and it is like a dream to get to run these classes in this way!
Thank you again!

February 19th update:

FaceBook winner is......Nell Burns
The newsletter winner has been contacted by email and I am just waiting to hear back from them, before announcing!

Thank you everyone who took part in this! Your support is very much appreciated.

Watch for lots more felt happening around here in the coming weeks!

Warm wishes, 

Workshop information Newsletter:

Almost Home....

   I feel as though I'm at the end of a long trip, and as wonderful as the experience has been and as much as I am loving every minute of it, I'm starting to look forward to being home, with friends and family. In this case, home is here, and I am missing you! This pace is a favourite one of mine, and I've missed being here.

  The Surface Design online class has been an amazing experience....every part of it.... and I'll be writing a short post immediately following this one with information about the next session.  These are a few pictures from what we have been working on each week.

  It has been a busy and wonderful first 6 weeks of this year. Wow.  Welcome 2014.

  I leave on Thursday for two weeks of visiting with fibre friends in the US, and when I get will be like walking the door after that long time away. You know, that feeling of all that is familiar is also new....I can't wait to be back here on a regular basis, sharing with you new works in progress and finished pieces from the studio.  Back to a regular pace of life for the first time in a year....

 When I get back I start creating pieces for my exhibition coming up this summer on Salt Spring. It's going to be so exciting to explore new felt forms and dyeing ideas.

 Thank you for being here with me! I truly enjoy your company, your comments and your emails!
Warm wishes, 

Friday, January 24, 2014

One More....

How could I miss Claudy Jongstra!

CLaudy Jongstra from De Ketelfactory on Vimeo.

Just listen to her passion for her process....local wools, natural dyes, scale, aesthetic....oooo.really.stunning.

She was not in my mind over the new year, but has been an inspiration to me for years now. Everything about what she makes, how she makes it, where she makes it, and the materials she uses.  Everything. 

What a way to start the new year, visiting with these women online, and thinking about why they are so inspirational.  

Ready to get started, doing something wonderful!
Warm wishes,