Felting Extravaganza!

Are you exhausted from reading these posts yet?  I think yesterday’s post, which clocked in at 1700+ words, was my longest yet!  It has been a busy week month, and I am so glad September is here.  I’m looking for a tiny bit of a break!

On Wednesday, Liz woke up and opted to not go back into NYC, the original plan was to head to the Brooklyn museum to see the permanent installation of the Judy Chicago “Dinner Party”.  Liz and I are the same age, and remember well the impact on the art world when the Dinner Party first debuted in San Francisco in 1979.  It was permanently installed in 2007 at the Elizabeth Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum in a space that is befitting, and reverential to this iconic piece of women’s history.  But we opted not to do that on Wednesday.

samples1So, Liz showed me her vast stash of teaching samples, and I was instantly inspired.  Liz wrote the book on Nuno Felting, available through Amazon (she promised to send me an autographed copy of the book from the UK), and her sample collection was huge!  I could have spent the whole day just taking notes.  The upshot is I started to look at my fabric stash in a different way.  “Could this be felted, could that be felted, what can I do with this fabric?”mess

Poor Liz, I must have asked her 20 times, while she was puttering in her room, “How about this?”  Well, the only way to really know is to try, even I know that!  So we decided to spend the day just playing with felt.  The weather was glorious, so we dug through everything in my studio that could possibly be felted, all the bins of wool fibers, and the fabrics that were thin enough for the wool fibers to penetrate, and we made a total mess.  No matter, I could clean that up after Liz flew back to the UK.

Some of the wool I had purchased when I was in the Pendleton outlet store last May in Portland, when I flew to Seattle to hang with my fiber buddy Robyn Spady.  Some of the fabrics I pulled out had been purchased at one of the stores we hit as well, Nancy’s Sewing Basket, in Seattle.  I feel like this is one big circle of fiber…

I had actually pulled out some of the wool I had been dyeing in the crock pot all spring, and on Monday while Liz was playing in the garment district in Manhattan, I did a small sample of felt, just to see how well I could do, I am really a novice felter.  The one thing I’ve learned (well I learned a lot of things actually,) but the one thing I learned that was most appropriate to what I actually do, which is make clothing, is that the felt should be thin and pliable, but very well felted.  So I used only two layers of wool, but felted them more than 50%.  I got a sample that was beautiful and flexible and well suited to cloth for clothing.


So we hauled everything outside…

making_feltlunchWe set up our space, under one of the covered gazebos in my yard, brought hot water, olive oil soap, leftover from my felting experience last year with Loretta Phipps who flew to my studio to work with me on the Challenge piece for Convergence.  Am I prepared or what?!  I had a couple of large plastic trays, which did well to contain the soapy water during the felting process.  Liz worked on floral brooches, starting with a cone of wool and a resist, and stupid me forgot to take pictures of what she was actually doing.  When my husband wandered down to offer to make us burgers for lunch, we took the opportunity to grab him for a couple of photos, since we were all wet!  My daughter wandered down as well, and soon grabbed a pan and started to play herself.

We took a quick break for lunch, and dove right back into the felting.  I made a number of samples, trying all different things in my studio, including the dyed silk from the hankies I bought in Michigan at the conference there last month (was it only last month?)  We arranged things on the deck railing to dry, Liz put her things on the lawn to dry in the sun, since she didn’t want to pack her samples wet for the flight home that night to the UK.

dryingMy daughter played with using a river stone as a resist, and wrapped the wool around it.  I had learned this technique in a class a couple of years ago with Loretta Oliver at Convergence Grand Rapids in 2006.  Once felted, my daughter sliced the felt into two sections to dry.  Those would be the two pick ovals on the right.  She also played with a plastic resist and made a heart in the middle of a blue ground.  The rest of the samples drying are mine.

Of course we worked too late into the day.  Suddenly I realized I needed to get ready to head out to the guild meeting for the Jockey Hollow Weavers, and Liz had to do her final packing, and we were all in a flurry to clean up the mess on the deck and pack up for our respective journeys.

I took my slightly damp samples to the meeting that night, for show and tell, and what I didn’t know, was my daughter went into my zipper stash, and took out a heavy zipper and was seen sewing her two pink felt ovals together with the zipper, while at the meeting, making it into a change purse.  I just adore this child!samples_darylsamples_bri

Brianna also made a log of felt, and did a good job getting it dense enough that she was able to cut it into small rounds, like the ones she had seen when we went to the Fashioning Felt exhibit  last spring at the Cooper Hewitt.  The ones in the exhibit were larger, more industrial ones, but the same technique could be used for smaller buttons and adornments.

My samples are on the right, all but one are laminated, felted with a layer of silk or lace.  My favorite is the orange one, I had a layer of wool roving on the back, and a layer of orange wool I dyed in the crock pot, and on top a thin stretched layer of silk from one of the hand dyed hankies.  I’d like to follow up on that sample.  I really want to be able to make a jacket from my felt, for teaching purposes, and I think it would be a good stretch for me!

Coming:  Four whole days with nothing on the calendar.  YeeHa!  I get to catch up on my blog, learn how to use my new iPod Touch, which has been sitting on my desk untouched for a week, and finally catch up on some much needed sleep!

Robyn and Daryl’s Excellent Adventure Day 2

Grab another cup of coffee and have a seat!  Day two was a whirlwind.  We started early, leaving around 8am to head south, to Portland, Oregon, which was about a three hour trip, sort of like me driving from where I live outside NYC, down to Baltimore for the day.  (Which would never occur to me to do, silly me…)

columbiariverOn the way we picked up another weaving buddy, Joy Winther.  OK, I’m not the jealous sort, but not only is Joy’s property situated in a spectacular setting, with a gorgeous view of the Columbia River, but her studio gave me a serious case of studio envy.  Usually when you enter a weaver’s studio, the loom is the focal point.  It is really big, and hard to make inconspicuous.  It took me a minute to even find wintherstudiothe looms the studio was so large and spacious.  Oh for that kind of floor space.  I’m guessing I’ll have to take some pictures of my studio at some point, so you can all see what I’m talking about!

Anyway, in Joy’s studio, the looms were tucked between the columns and you could actually walk around them.

So we set out from Joy’s home in southern Washington State, and hit our first stop in Portland, Oregon, Ruthie’s Weaving Studio.

ruthiesweavingstudioruthies2I’ve never seen anything quite like this. Ruthie’s Weaving studio is a warehouse looking space, filled with so many looms my head spun.  Apparently anyone can rent a loom, by paying a monthly tuition, there is always an instructor on the premises when the studio is open, and you can come in, learn to weave, and be part of a community of other weavers, sort of like stopping by the gym after work, except much more creative.  And you don’t have to worry about who is looking at your thighs!  Most of the looms in the studio are Bergman looms, a brand I’d never heard of, manufactured in the Pacific northwest, so they rarely made it to the east coast, but Melody gave us a demo of how it folded up to slip through a door, that would be the loom in the front.

A quick lunch at the Original Taco House, a Portland favorite, we headed off to fabric heaven.  First stop, the Mill End Store, which they claim has more fabric than anyone else in America.

millendstoremillendstore2OK, I’ve never seen anything quite like this.  And oddly enough, there was so much to look at I was overwhelmed and I didn’t come home with anything.  The remnants were very picked over, and nothing jumped into my hands and said take me home.  But just being around that much fabric made me long to get into my studio and make stuff.

pendletonpendleton2Across the highway, we hit the Pendleton Woolen Mill Store. I’ve been to the Pendleton Woolen Mill, in Pendleton, OR, one of my top ten fiber adventure experiences in my life, but there are outlet stores scattered around the country, and this one was in a brand new space. When I visited the actual mill, back in 2003, I remember finding a bin of zippers, for a quarter each, and stocked up.  Funny, but last month, I was just thinking that my zipper stash was getting purchaseslow, and I wish I could revisit the mill again.  Well wouldn’t you know, back in the corner of the store were bins of 9 inch invisible zippers and I just scooped up a handful.  And they had little bundles of wool in pretty colors for needle felting, well they just jumped in my basket as well.

Next stop was The Fabric Depot.  Now I must say that it is incredibly unfair that you have two behemoth fabric warehouse type places within 10 miles of each other in the same city. The Fabric Depot claims to be the largest fabric store in the nation.  OK, so I live near NYC, the fashion capital of the world, but that’s different.  You’d think they could spread the wealth a little?

I loved the Fabric Depot, and spent a little more time there.  The remant section had some beautiful fabrics, but there was no indication of fiber content, you had no idea what you were looking at.   I asked about that, and they told me they never put the fiber content on the remnants.  That makes it tough if you fabricdepotfabricdepot2are looking for things to dye.  They’d probably have me escorted out of the store if I whipped out my matches and tweezers for burn testing.

While we were there, the infamous Outdoor sale was happening, they haul all kinds of notions and fabrics and trims out to a tent and that alone would take up a city block.  I found a beautiful decorator fabric  for $5./yard that I think would work for reupholstering a rocker I have that is fraying and in sore need of tender loving care.  I’ll take a photo of the fabric with the rocker when I get home.  And there was a sale on thread and notions, so I picked up some things I was low on in the studio, like black thread.

Next stop, Powells Books.  OMG.

powellspowells2This was a veritable city of books.  They hand you a map when you walk in.  mapAgain, this was overload.  So we headed right to the Orange room, and the weaving/fiber/fashion book section.  I didn’t find used copies of anything on my list, but did order Marion Powell’s Thousand Patterns in 4,6, 8 Harness Shadow Weaves book, to have shipped to NJ.  I knew they had it in one of their stores for $12.95.  The book was apparently in one of the other stores a mere 20 minutes away.  Was this completely unfair or what?  Not only does Portland have more fabric than anywhere else in America, but more books as well.

Our last stop was for Margaritas and some Mexican food (I know, we did Mexican food for lunch too), at the Santa Fe  Taqueria. dinner

I had the ceviche, and it was excellent, along with a fish taco.  And of course, a pitcher of Margaritas!

We headed home to Seattle, watching the sun set on our excellent adventure.  The three hour trip was long, but Robyn and I never ran out of things to chatter about.  This was an important trip for me, Robyn helped me sort out and rethink new directions for my work and my teaching, and my head is sort of spinning.  With a summer of conference teaching starting in a couple of weeks, I ‘ll have to wait until fall to begin implementing any of my ideas, but that’s OK.  So much to weave, sew, felt, design and blog about, so little time…

Tonight I head back to NJ, and tomorrow, a guild workshop with Kerr Grabowski, stay tuned…