Monday, May 31, 2010

Holstein Bag ... Completed Wet Felted Art Bag

     So here it is. The Holstein Bag ... the ropes have been made and attached.  A kind friend was able to cut me some bovine tail hair which I attached to the ends of the ropes. I washed it, over and over again, but it still had that all too familiar cow scent, so I finally used the dog's Skunk Off shampoo which seems to have worked. The hair is very, very coarse and the fibers tend to work their way up the ropes as I rolled them. They are also very hard on the hands, which were stinging late last night when I finished this. However, it was worth it as this bag is true to the vision I had for it and I love the way it worked out. It's thick and tough. The ropes are knotted for extra strength and it holds enough junk for a day out on the town. I finally think I have accomplished a quality felted piece. 

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Wet Felting a Bag ... Part Two

     Once I've done the initial rolling, I take the mesh away and you can see how it has begun to shrink. The resist has buckled and I'm now going to pull the soggy cardboard out of the bag and throw it away. 

     Cardboard removed, I like to give the inside surface a good rubbing on the bubble wrap to make sure the surface is tightly interlocked. I look for thin spots and rub those away and pay attention to the creased edge as I want this bag to be more rounded. 

     Then, more rolling .....
Keep turning the bag and make sure the inside surfaces aren't sticking to each other. Lots of pressure now. 
Anyone see a bag emerging? It has a shape something like a saddle pad. The finished bag won't have a sharp crease like shown in the pics. You can see how much smaller it is now, compared to the pattern. 

     I'm all done with the large sheet of bubble wrap now and this is where I like to get out my highly technical, handy dandy antique washboard and really give the bag a good working over. This is where I can work on the shape and take the creases out. Lots of soap suds flying around here. 

     Moving on to the kitchen sink, I rinse the bag in water as hot as my hands can handle, rubbing the bag all over against itself, manipulating and squeezing and throwing it into the bottom of the sink with malice to shock the fibers. Once all the soap is out, I rinse it again with very cold water. 

     The bag must now soak in cold acidulated water for a minimum of 20 minutes. After this, a final rinse of cold water is given to make sure all the traces of vinegar are removed. I will roll it up in a towel and stand on it to remove as much moisture as possible, then sit it by the window to dry. 

Saturday, May 29, 2010

How I Make a Wet Felted Bag

     I was sitting here this morning thinking I should be catching up on emails, when it hit me! I had a brainstorm of an idea for a new bag which excited me to no end and really got my creative juices flowing. I don't need a sketch to work from this time as the idea is very vivid in my mind. I can see all the details clearly, but it's not going to be an easy or quick project. I want the bag to be large, over shoulder straps ... likely a double rope with knots here and there. I want it to be black and white and look like Holstein hide. I want the rope ends to have real Holstein tail hair. (A request has been made to a farmer I know quite well.) I want it free form, organic and fluid. I want it to be very very special.

      It wasn't long before I had a pattern cut from craft paper. It's actually under the wool in this pic, so you can't see it. This is only four layers of roving so I'm already halfway there with this layer. 

     As soon as I had eight layers laid out for the back of the bag and the flap, I placed the resist on top. I used corrugated box board. Once it's wet, it becomes pliable and serves to separate the layers. In this pic you can see how I have folded up the overlap over the resist. Wetting the resist helps the wool to stick. Now I need to add eight layers to the top of the resist so the thickness will be even on the front and back. 

     Time to get wet. After I have applied eight layers of roving to the top of the resist, I fold up the mesh over the project and using a hairbrush, sprinkle hot soapy water all over the piece. Using the flat of my hands I press firmly all over to remove all the air pockets. This picture shows that there are lots of air pockets left to be dealt with. 

     When the front is completely flat, and I've taken care of the opening so that no fibers from the front connect with the inside of the flap, I flip the work over and wet down the back through the mesh in the same way. Then I fold up all the overhanging roving, watching that the white and black join in a way that looks realistic, then adjust the shape of the flap and the bottom edge, as I want that to thin out. I make sure the wool is tight to the edges of the resist on both sides. Then I cover the work with the mesh and begin rubbing by hand until I have a nice skin on both sides. 

     Once I have a nice surface on all sides, and paying particular attention to the edges, I roll the whole thing up in bubble wrap and roll in all four directions at least 20 times. Each time you must turn the work and readjust the mesh to make sure the wool isn't sticking to it. When this is completed, the resist will be visibly buckled. 

Stay tuned for next installment of this project. 

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Catching Up

     It's been quite awhile since I wrote anything in here, so today I'm going to try to catch up on some computer stuff. Last weekend I had a friend staying with me, which was an amazingly good time. We ate too much and drank too much but caught up on lots of news and gossip, and made some new plans. It was lovely weather all weekend. Another lady came to visit on Sunday and stayed for supper. She brought her boxer dog to play with Daisy, who was thrilled. She wagged her tail so hard she split the end of it open on something and my house looked like a crime scene since she kept wagging it. I'm still cleaning up little dried blood spots off the door frames. As soon as the weekend was over, the weather changed and I felt awful for about three days ... extreme fatigue and sore joints again. I'm just coming out of that now and only my lower back is bothering me. I did manage to get a small bag made. It's very small but would make a nice little girl's purse. The project was more about blending the two colors evenly, which I think I managed to do. The colors of dark blue and wine blended well and I was happy with the way that turned out. The yarn I used for decoration is a blend of acrylic, wool and mohair. I just love the way it looks and will surely be using a lot more of it in future projects. 

This little pouch looks just like an orange. The inside is red and the outside is yellow, but the blend worked out orange and the pebbled surface resembles orange peel. It's deadly cute! There is yellow Angelina fiber in it too. I have no idea what to use it for, but it's so pretty I will surely find something to put in it. My plans for today involve laying out another small bag ... until my back is feeling better I simply can't handle rolling a large project. This one will have a flap on front and rope strap so that's actually two projects in one as I do the rope separately. There will surely be some Angelina and yarn in it, but I haven't worked out the final design yet. Once it's wet down, I'll make those decisions ... something simple though. I've had some fabulous advice from Andrea Graham, who I consider to be my best resource at the moment as I'm in love with all her work, but especially her bags. I follow a lot of other felt blogs from around the world as well, so there is always some new art to admire and sources of inspiration. 

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

More Wet Felted Bags

     Here is the green handbag with the open edges done in blanket stitch. I think it gives the piece a more finished look. I'm surprised by how much it shrunk. I measured before and after and it is 27% smaller than the resist pattern. The inside, which is white looks very even and there are no thin spots. Wet felting sure is a wool consuming craft though ... it doesn't take long to deplete your stash. 

     None of my new supplies have arrived yet, so I laid out another bag, this time in hopes I'd like it for myself. Based on my original design, it took two hours to lay out the wool the way I wanted it to hopefully look. Special attention was paid to the fringe. The inside of the bag is dark brown and the outside is grey. Both wools are rather coarse. I added a tiny bit of white to the fringe,  but it got lost in the brown somewhere. Next time I'll be a bit more generous with the lighter colors. 

     I also had to make the strap so that was an extra step. I spent most of the afternoon rubbing and rolling, which eventually wore me out. The end result was a bag which was too wide at the top and had several thin spots. 

    The next morning I had a brainstorm. That antique washboard I have decorating the wall might be useful. I began working the bag over the washboard, with hot water and soap, and voila!  it didn't take long at all. A bit of good elbow grease did the trick and I was able to shape the top so both the bag and the flap were narrower, with really nice results. This is my bag for sure now, and it's already full of junk. I love it. 

     That was my weekend ... how was yours? 

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Wet Felted Handbag

     Well, here it is. No, I couldn't wait for my new supplies to come. It was calling to me and I had to answer. Actually, it wasn't a trial at all .. it went very smoothly ... only took a couple hours to make and all day to dry. I had already made the strap before as a rope project so that was ready to roll. The only thing I don't care for is the shape of my fringes .. looks like I cut them out of solid felt ... actually, I almost did .. the red solidifies very quickly and I should have teased them apart earlier than cutting them later. All in all, I rather pleased with this. The surface texture is really nice. 

     I had an email from Louet yesterday too. My order has been shipped but one of the colors is on back order and to follow in another couple of weeks. Hopefully the most of it will be here by next weekend, as well as the Angelina fiber from the states. I'm having my friend Lu out for part of the long weekend and she is interested in seeing how this is done.  That gives us something to do, besides our trip to Masstown in search of Dragon's Breath Blue Cheese.  We have both declared this to be the absolute bomb of blue cheeses. 

     It was quite late last evening but I still wasn't ready to retire for the night so I made this pretty piece of prefelt from some of my needle felting wool and the long stapled yellow which I have no idea what kind of wool it is. That turned out well and was a quick process as it's only half felted. It will be used to make cutouts for embellishments for future bags, etc.  I'm kind of thinking about making a pair of slippers too. I saw a couple of different ways to make the seamless ones, but I don't think I have any leather here for making the soles, so that might be a project for much later on. 

     So, I'm not sure what my projects will be this weekend. I think I'm going to make another bag. Can't decide on the color or style just yet. That decision is going to take another cup of coffee. Have a great weekend everyone ... the sun just came out here and it was supposed to be raining, so all is great in my world. 

Thursday, May 13, 2010

If At First, You Don't Succeed .... Try, Try Again

    Not one to be defeated by my own stupid mistakes, I made three more cellphone cases yesterday. I am pleased with these. The dark brown one I made first. I was quite happy, except I didn't have quite enough white on the outside of the fringe of the flap. That was my error on layout. The grey one came next and even though the grey is a very coarse, long staple wool, it worked better than I expected. I was happier with the fringe. 

     I attempted the red wool again. As soon as I wet it, it tried to get away from me again. I have no idea what this wool is .. the staple is short and it's very fine and soft. I'd guess merino, but not sure. I was able to control the wool but you can see this one is a bit wider than the others. A tiny bit of the red solidified and didn't stick on the front so I snipped it off. Not sure what happened there either, except I think it might have folded off initially on the bottom side where I couldn't see it, during the beginning stages. I also dared to cut some holes in the flap with pleasing results. I found out these holes can get a lot larger in a big hurry where the wool is very thin. More valuable knowledge for the data base in my brain. 

     I was really happy with the flame look of the red flap. I don't know what kind of wool the yellow is either. It's a long staple a slightly coarser than the red. I got both at a fabulous price on EBay in large amounts. I imagine it is left overs from the International Day of Felt project quite some time ago as this was themed in red and yellow colors. In any case, it was inexpensive and I have a lot of it. 

     This is the sketch I have ready for my first handbag. I'm waiting on an order of four colors of dyed Corridale top from Louet in Quebec and a sampler of Angelina fibers from the states. Once those treasures arrive, I think I'm ready to dive into handbag production. The little cases were a great experience, but I just fell in love with the handbag concept and can't wait to try it. 

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Learning Through Mistakes

     A new case for my Blackberry. If I'd had to grade this project, I'm afraid the mark would have been very disappointing. However, I again learned so much by making the errors. In the first place, this is not the design I was going for. I wanted a seamless case but not this ravioli edge. I know what happened though ... it totally got away from me as soon as I wet it. The reason for this was the material I used for my resist. I used two layers of bubble wrap, bubbles facing, and whip stitched them together. This flattened out the edge of the resist and when I wet it, I had a problem feeling where the edge was. Back to corrugated cardboard. I really worked at it to correct the grossly flattened out edge, but could see I couldn't save it. I didn't do too badly getting the edges straight, but this was disappointing. The second huge error was simply a matter of not paying attention. I got a bit carried away laying out the wool and mistakenly laid a double layer on the flap with no resist up there. I just wasn't thinking as I was getting excited about laying out the spots. 

    The spots are the slices from the bracelets that I had saved for this purpose. Then I laid a few barely there wisps of a long stapled yellow wool over the spots here and there. I lost a couple of spots during the felting process and had to pull one off at the end as it wasn't stuck very well. The best parts were that I made my resist the correct size for shrinkage and the phone fits in perfectly. The fringe turned out really well and I'm thrilled with it's final look. The whole piece is very firm and the flap is stiff as a board and protects the keys so what was a horrible mistake really worked out.  The color is kinda cool too. 

A Bit of Rural Drama

     Hi again folks. We had a bit of a ruckus here the other night. Just before midnight, Daisy, my dog, decided she should go out one more time before she settled down. I left the door open for her  and sat on the couch to wait. It wasn't long before I smelled the problem. I called her in and sure enough ... she'd tried  to make a new friend ... a skunk. Oh what fun! Daisy was rather upset and tried to rub her face all over the carpet to get the skunk oil off! Then she dove into my bed while I was getting the tub ready for her. Oh Lord! What a mess. Two baths later I thought she was good enough to leave until the next  day. My bed stunk so I slept in the spare room. The next morning I gathered up everything she had touched, and washed it ... took her collar and washed that, scrubbed out the tub and had a nice long shower myself.  Convinced I was at least skunk free, I want to the grocery store where I was told I smelled like skunk! Nice. I went to the vet and got the correct shampoo, rewashed the dog, finished up five loads of laundry, turned the heat off and opened all the windows. I've been wearing a jacket inside now for two days but I think the stench is almost gone. And, if it isn't ... I don't care. I'm used to it ... it's not bothering me anymore.  Will go away eventually. A common occurrence out here in the rural areas, it's just a part of life. A very unpleasant part of life. 

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Wet Felting Process

     Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there. I hope you have a wonderful day. That goes to my mom too, who I know will be reading this. Love you Mom. 

    I'm still playing with the wet felting ... holding off on the handbag project because I just am not yet skilled enough and I really want to make it nice. I'm learning quite a bit about the art just from making these bangles. I've already learned that not all wools like each other and have had a couple of disasters. The black and red number shown fell apart on me early in the wetting process, so after fighting with it for a little while, it wouldn't go the way I wanted it to, so I discarded it. 

     I've learned that the hotter the water is, the better this works. I'm starting to develop a feel for  the process, beginning to understand when to add water and when to add soap. I'm completely amazed by the process and how hard and smooth it becomes. I've been flaming the fuzzy hairs off the damp finished bracelets, before beading them because I love the look. The smell of burned wool disappears once they're dry. I can't find any instructions where this step is mentioned .... so it's not likely recommended. Remember, I don't have the luxury of an instructor. I'm trying to learn all this from internet resources. I can't afford to buy the books either. I've also been sharing this with my talented artist cousin, Deb, on the South Shore. She has made some very pretty unbeaded bangles and has also become obsessed with the process. 

     The ones shown in this pic have just been flamed and I took them outside to brush the burned bits off. Notice how smooth they look. The more I make, the more I realize I need to learn. This is especially true when something doesn't work out and I then have a need to find out why. So many questions ... so much to learn .. but it wouldn't interest me if there was no challenge. 
I'm looking for a list or chart or something to tell me which types of wool work best for needle felting vs. wet felting vs. spinning. So far, I have found no such chart, but lots of info. It looks like I will have to make the list myself based on many different resources. Any helpful hints from my readers are gratefully appreciated. 

     There are volumes of things I want to know. Like all about wet felting with resists, and how to stick on pieces of prefelt and how to attach ropes for bag handles and the like. I now realize a beret with a resist was a silly thing to do for a beginner project and the fact I was able to save it with so little experience was a pure miracle. This is so much fun and at the same time so difficult. The learning curve will surely take years to master. I now understand so much more about the accomplished artists in this field, and have so much more respect for the time they invested to get to where they are. 

Friday, May 7, 2010

It Was a Fabulous Dinner

     The girls all had fun with the Indian themed dinner party. I had six wonderful guests, all old female friends with good appetites and even better senses of humor. The cold snacks were out when the last of the guests arrived. Besides the pepperoni, cheese and flat bread tray, I had put out a veggie tray with Baba Ghanouj (roasted eggplant dip). Wanda had made another dip, proper name unknown, but it was delicious as well. There were little flattened lentils all spiced up ... and an extruded and fried chickpea snack which also had quite a bite to it. Polly's hummus was a big hit and soon all our diets had gone straight out the window. Next course ... koftas with cucumber mint dip. Little Indian meatballs ... made with beef, but depending on what part of India, may be made with pork or lamb. The spicy black pepper poppadoms were enjoyed by everyone ... This was new to most of the guests so quite an adventure. There was much interest in the frying process. Meanwhile, I had a big pan of samosas, bahjis and another vegetable fritter type hors d'ouvres which I forget the name of.  That was to be served with tamarind sauce, but I had tasted it the night before and it nearly stopped my heart, so I warned everyone. There were a couple brave enough to try it, and Lu loved the stuff. The entree came next ... Chicken Biryani with sweet mango chutney and naan. That was really good and a big hit. There were lots of 'doggy bags'  packed up after the meal, mostly meant for significant others, but a couple for some special friends who couldn't make it. Polly's taboulleah was delicious and all fresh ingredients. Dessert wasn't forgotten either. Wanda made Kheer, and Indian dessert made with milk, eggs, rice noodles, raisins, and almonds. I can only describe it as something like a rice pudding. Very delicious ... can be eaten hot or cold and I enjoyed mine cold with a bit of cream. All in all it was a great gathering. We all stayed civilized and everyone made it home. A huge success. I'm not even going to get into what it took out of me ... it's two days later and I'm still worn out ... but it was all worth it. 

Monday, May 3, 2010

Friends on Sunday

     Yesterday was a great day. Two of my city gal pals packed up the dog and took a drive out my way for a visit. My Daisy was thrilled. Lupus is a fairly large female husky and very playful. We put both dogs outside in the kennel and watched them play for hours. They really like each other and had a great time, while the "moms" caught up on all each other's news inside. It was a great visit and it sure played the dogs out. Daisy was asleep before the guests hit the highway and she even slept in this morning until 9:30 am. 

Today is errand day. I just returned from Fall River where I picked up my bead order from The Beading Room. Hollie was  busy with orders coming in online but came out of her office to see these new creations of mine. She loves them and even bought one from me! That was a nice surprise. All I need is time now to make some more. I also picked up the Mirage beads I've been lusting over for quite some time. They're amazing ... they're thermo reactive so change color with temperature. Just like the old mood beads of the 70's but much, much higher quality, clarity and more color range. Modern technology ... who knew? 

I just froze the leftover pork tenderloin schnitzel I had from yesterday. Had some on a bun for lunch. It's really good. I used a dry citrus product in the seasoning and I think it made a world of difference and leaves a nice aftertaste. However, it's pretty hard to mess up schnitzel anyway. I've been cooking mine on the double side grill. Not as crispy but much less fat ... hardly any as the tenderloin is lean. On a whole wheat bun it's nearly guilt free. I'm trying to behave so that I can eat a whole bunch of really spicy Indian food on Wednesday. Lot's of goodies planned that. I'm making up the koftas later today and going to freeze them. I'll make the Chicken Biryani on Wed. Wanda is bringing Indian dessert and I have pappadums , samosas, onion bajhi and a couple other little surprises. Sauces and dips, we have them all. It's going to be quite a feast. I still have a couple of errands to run as well, so looking at the time, I think I should get to it. I'll let you know how the party turned out.