Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Results of My Needle Felting Class!

My students and I had a great time at Ginter Gardens these last two Saturdays for my needle-felting class, Introduction to Needle Felting for the Botanical Artist.  My students were all quick studies and produced some lovely work, including some three-dimensional creatures (not exactly botanical, but fun!).  They seemed  pleased at how quickly they were able to master basic techniques and tools of the trade!
The class should be scheduled again in February, 2013 for two, non-consecutive Saturdays, 2/2 and 2/16.  These classes will focus on botanical works, producing a small work and a larger one of "wool art!"  Come join us!  Check the Ginter adult class schedule at http://www.lewisginter.org/  for the new schedule after the holidays.
Keep needlin'!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Felted Knitting with Needle-Felted Designs

I am in full holiday gift making mode. I know that some people do not like receiving homemade gifts, so they don't get 'em.  But some folks and I exchange handmade gifts and (I think) we all really enjoy them (I know I do).  Every year I make soaps, candies and spice mixes for the holidays and I like to create a unique and reusable "gift bag" for them.  This year, I deliberately felted some inexpensive 100% wool sweaters that I got at yard sales (this is a great thing to do with worn, damaged or stained sweaters, as long as most of the knitting is still good and clean).  The "felting" in this context is heat felting, which means taking a 100% wool sweater (also alpaca, mohair, angora wool), washing it in hot water and drying it on high heat in a clothes dryer.  You might have done this accidentally in your early laundry days and come out with a very small sweater. In addition to being shrunken, the sweater has now felted itself, that is, the wool fibers have matted together, and you can cut it with scissors like most any fabric!  I did not believe this when I first tried it, but it is true (though there might be exceptions I have not yet encountered and, if you pull really hard, you can unravel it somewhat).  The top left photo is the result of heat felting a damaged, yard sale, 100% mohair sweater and some of the resulting pieces and a little hand-sewn bag.  To the right of that is the needle-felted gift bag I made for my 10 year-old niece (I will add a ribbon handle or strap).  Below is a bag made from one of the odd shaped pieces, decorated with simple flowers, that I will fill with wrapped candies. It has a button and yarn-bow closure.  In both cases, I used the ribbing of the sweater as a finish: rolled in the face piece and folded in the floral piece.  For the "face bag" I made the hat separately, and needled it on.
Till next time, I'll be needlin' around!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Needle-Felting Class

I am teaching a two-day needle-felting class at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, VA, in November. We'll have fun!  Here is the link for information and to register:


I am also sharing the draft of my first short presentation that includes details of the class, FYI:

Hope to see you there! Enrollment is limited.   I have been needlin' as fast as I can to create models and samples for the class!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Needle-Felted Flowers: Fun and fast

Needle-felted flowers  are fun to and easy to make. I use them for a variety of things: package decorations, additions to knitted items, pillows, wall or door hangings and pins.  They take 15-20 minutes each to make and I can make a lot of them for a pretty project (you can take longer to make a more "finished" product, but I like the folksy appeal...and it is easy!)

Start with making a loop in a colorful length of wool and lightly needle it into place:

Continue this process until you have 5 loops, all lightly needled into place:

Firm up the form a bit, and add a contrasting center (sorry these photos are sort of dark- I tend to needle-felt in the evening.  The petals are peachy yellow, the center sunny yellow):
I attached some "leaves" and a pin to the back of flowers to make pins; also I do this if I attach it to an item for which the flowers need to be removed before washing:
Until next time, I'll be needlin' around!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Solar Dye for Wool

I am studying botanical illustration at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens (http://www.lewisginter.org/adult-education/adult-educationhappeningnow.php) and am an avid gardener.  Well these hobbies have crashed together with a class I am taking "Painting Plants that Paint" on dye plants.  We will sketch a dye plant, learn about them and make a solar dye from some of them.  I thought it would be fun to dye some needle-felting wool using solar dyeing and here are my first three attempt using plants from my garden, left to right in the photo above: red hibiscus, fig leaves and woad leaves (the red you see is the onion bag mesh I put the fibers in to hold them loosely together).  Mother Earth News has an article from 1983 (!) on one method to do this:  http://www.motherearthnews.com/Do-It-Yourself/1983-03-01/An-Easy-Solar-Dye-It.aspx  Fibers must be mordanted, that is, simmered and soaked in a substance mixed in water that allows the dye to penetrate and "stick" to the fibers. In this method, the mordant, alum, is added directly to the solar dye bath, cutting off one step (but, I am guessing, not producing the strongest dye).  The results?

First, the color of the undyed wool (roving) was a slightly creamy white:

And here are the dye results: purple-gray for the red hibiscus, pale yellow for the fig leaves and pink-brown for the woad (though woad was traditionally a source for blue dye, mature woad leaves will produce a pink dye and this dye bath was not properly prepared, as woad can be tricky):

I am currently working on a needle-felted wall hanging of cattails and will post my progress soon.  I might work some of these naturally dyed fibers into it.  'Til next time, I'll be needlin' around!

UPDATE: A photo of the next set of solar dye jars:   Hopi red dye amaranth (which is turning the wool yellow, not red!), muscadine grape skins (lavender wool so far) and turmeric (the color you see).

Friday, August 3, 2012

Needle-Felted Lanscape

I wanted to make a needle-felted landscape to hang in a shadow box on my wall.  I did a very simple sketch of the scene above, knowing that I wanted to emphasize the detail on the trunk of the tree, and make a rocky and mossy shore for the curving river.  I used a piece of wool batting that I had made from raw fleece  at a mill.  The tree is minimal in terms of branches and leaves, hopefully communicating that it is a old tree.  After creating the basic form for the tree, I used dyed curly locks to show some color and movement (see detail).  The whole project took between 10 and 12 hours.  What fun!
(By the way, stay tuned for details on a class I am teaching at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond, Virginia in November:  "Needle-Felting for the Botanical Artis"t.  No experience necessary!)
See you next time...until then, I'll be needlin' around!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

More dolls

Here are a few more dolls made the same way the Father Christmas doll or figure was made (see that entry).  As I have stated, these dolls are Steiner dolls, that is, they were used in Steiner classrooms. The philosophy of a Steiner education was that craft was important and that learning happened through doing.  Steiner dolls, like Amish dolls, have no facial features, to encourage imagination (the Amish, however, did not depict faces for religious reasons). The first is a winter doll (seasonality and seasonal displays were important in Steiner classroom). The other two are dolls in summer dress.  The winter doll is dressed for travel, carrying a basket of food to friends, and her knitting in a bag to work on during her visit.  The summer dolls, one with a flower ring in her hair, are ready to frolic in the grass.