Friday, 31 July 2009

Miina Savolainen - The loveliest girl in the world

A few days ago Ruthie reviewed Miina Savolainen's book, 'the lovliest girl in the world' on her inspirational blog '5 precious things'.

The book is a community project which has been developed over a number of years. The ethos behind the book is to empower young women, teaching them how to become visible and accept themselves. The images have a Pre-Raphaelite, Aesthetic quality that transports me to another world, a kinder world.

The book has struck a chord with me so deeply that I must share it with you. For many years I have worked within the homelessness sector. It is something that I feel very passionately about. Each of my clients has had extremely low self esteem. The impact of a project such as 'the loveliest girl in the world' would have upon my client group is invaluable.

I can only thank Miina Savolainen for her vision and exceptional talent and sharing it with the world, and most importantly her models. Miina is the loveliest girl in the world.

I encourage you to click n the links above that will take you to the web page for 'The Loveliest Girl in the World' and also to Ruthie's blog where this book is reviewed much better than it is here.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

More felt

Here is my 2nd attempt at making a felt bag.

The strap was the trickiest piece to make. I have not made anything so long before. I was anxious it would not be strong enough, but it is very strong.

The colours are all natural from a variety of rare breed sheep with the exception of the blue which I added to compliment the natural colours.

This is my 4th attempt at making felt, the 1st was the feet felt, the 2nd was the felt frame, then the resist bag and now this. With the exception of the felt frame, I feel each project is a little more successful than the last. I am learning a lot through trial and error.

I think I will give this bag as a gift to someone who has been a lifeline to me through some very difficult times. I made it with her in mind.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Nesting season at The Farne Isles

Air raid attack with a rattle clack-clack
Dive bombing Terns on maternal crack
Flapping hands, scuttling feet
Running for cover from the pointy beak

Nesting Terns under feet
Cache of eggs, indiscreet
Quickly pass by, run and hide
Best not tinker with mother's pride

Feeling overpowered by hormonal souse
Seeking refuge by an old light house
Safe at last, exhale and sigh
Sun beats down from a cloud free sky

Puffin mysteriously weaving about
Up and down from burrows,bustling in and out
Grey Seal beaching or bobbing along
To the whoosh and the swish of the ocean song

Igneous rock yielding natures display
The Farne Isles breeding seasons finest array
Puffin, Guillemot, Razorbill and Shag
Gracefully adorning these crags

Book Reviews

The felting books that I ordered finally arrived. After close inspection, I was very disappointed with the felted bead jewelry book. It was partly my fault for misreading the title, I had expected a book that showed me how to make felt beads not how to attach beads to felt and pass it off for a larger bead. As a felt enthusiast the projects in this book seemed tasteless and gaudy and all in all a crime against felt.

In the spirit of giving it go, I did make a miniature bangle for my 3-year old daughter using the colour scheme of her choice. I wasn't too impressed with the outcome, the bugle and seed beads are not really nice enough to be a main feature.

I then decided to use the technique and apply beads that appeal to my taste to see if this improves the end results. I used turquoise and lapis lazuli beads from two different broken pieces of jewelry and sewed them onto Iceland blue wool (It didn't seem necessary to felt the wool). There are about 400 beads in total. I love the outcome, although you really can't see much felt at all. I have fond memories of the broken bracelets so it is nice to recycle them and wear the beads again.

I have also made some lovely toggles for bags I plan to make using the felt I had made from the wool I collected in Anglesey. Using this wirier felt in its natural colour with a few well chosen wooden beads does look very effective, so I have gained something from this book purchase. I do however feel that this project would be equally successful using off cuts of fabric to sew the beads into and that the felt would be better used elsewhere.

How to make felt - Anne Belgrave

When looking for a general book on felting techniques, the Anne Belgrave book jumped out at me as being an obvious choice. Mainly because Anne Belgrave is the the other half of Bellacouche to Yuli Somme.

The book was not a disappointment. Anne Belgrave explains the history of felt, cultural uses of felt in nomadic tribes, the differences between machine processed wool and hand prepared wool. The book offers photographs of different breed wools and advises on the level of difficulty in felting the different wools. The book is full of beautiful projects and a variety of wet felting techniques. A welcome addition to the library of a felting novice. I have tried one of the techniques already and have a beautiful piece of felt that I am currently making into a bag. It is the best piece of felt I have made so far!

You can see more of Anne Belgrave, Bellacouche and Yuli Somme's work by clicking on the names in the above text or visiting the following web page:

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Flames - Resist bag

For the past couple of days I have been working on this resist bag. Its the first time I have made a bag or used a resist.

The above picture is of the foam resist covered in wool prior to felting.

The pattern that I used for the bag advised to cut out handles out of the felt then roll over the edges to expose the lining colour. I couldn't bare to cut holes in the felt I had spent so long making so decided to make a strap for the bag by plaiting raw wool. The felt was too thick to be able to roll outwards around the edges so I decided to sew a little detail into the bag to help define its shape. I made threads by twisting some of the raw wool together.

The above picture is the reverse side of the bag before being shaped with a stiff base to help the bag stand up.

Here is the reverse side of the bag after shaping and a stiff base being added.

This is my favourite side of the bag. The colours remind me of fire. I'm not sure what I will do to the bag next. Maybe I will add some magnetic buttons to help it close and some beads. I might add a lining to the bag, if I do, I have been considering a blue lining, like the centre of a flame on a Bunsen Burner. I will leave it how it is for a few days until I decide how best to finish this project off.

The theme for this bag was fire which reminds me of Guy Fawkes and revolution. I'd like to share a weblink for 'Sarah Jones's Revolution!' I hope you enjoy :)

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Gaywool experiments

Here are the results of a productive dye pot day. The second red to the left is the original 'crab apple', the yellow is 'daisy', the blue, is the bush range 'iceberg', and the second green tho the right is the bush range 'oak'. The extreme right is an attempt at purple using 2 parts blue one part red. The blue is not strong enough to act as a primary colour against the crab apple red, however I have a deeper shade of red and since red is my favourite colour all is not lost. The orange is equal parts crab apple and daisy. The 3rd green to the right is equal parts oak and daisy. Its a nice colour but I am little disappointed as the coloured water in the dye pot was the most magnificent peacock green you could hope for. On the bright side, I will get more use out of this shade than peacock green for the project I have in mind. The colour to the far right is 2 parts oak to one part daisy. I wanted a gentler shade than the oak to give me a good palate of colours to work from. I really like the result, reminds me of moss and lichen, which is exactly what I am going to need it for!

If you add this range of colours to the natural colours in the post below, I have a lot of colours to work with now.

Now I'm off to the craft shop to buy some foam and feltng needles, an then to the everything shop for bamboo blinds to roll with :o)

A happy day

My wool and dyes arrived this morning from 'the threshing barn'. I'm so excited, the natural colours are wonderful. I have a mixture of Manx Langton, Blended Jacob, Doll Suffolk, Gotland and a mystery blend that came without a label, to the touch it feels most like blended Jacob, and is a beautiful pale grey colour. I'm not sure what breed the white wool is but it feels just like the wool I used to make the feet felt so I have high hopes for it.

The dyes are gaywool dyes. I chose 2 colours from the original range, daisy and crab apple, and two colours from the bush range, oak and iceberg. I'm looking forward to dyeing wool and seeing whether the primary colour dyes can be blended to create other colours or not.

I do have some reservations about the gaywool dyes in so far as the pot advises that they are manufactured in Australia and North America, air miles.... Once you start thinking in terms of the environmental impact of purchases it can be hard to shake that mind set. When I am more used to dyeing I can experiment further with home made vegetable dyes.

I'm still waiting for the felting books to arrive, maybe Monday!

Friday, 17 July 2009

Felt Feet Mobile

Last month we made the feet felt as a family project. We got so much fun and comfort out of making the feet felt that it seemed a shame to let the feet end their lives in a box getting crumpled losing all shape and beauty so we made them into a mobile.

This has also been a family project. Paul collected the gorse supports while we were in Wales. He stripped down the wood removing all thorns and prickles revealing the magical pattern of the wood below before dressing the wood in linseed oil.

I made the supporting ropes using the technique for making friendship bracelets. I used a whole length of stein for each rope so the making of the bands was slow progress with many breaks. Paul did try to help making one of the friendship band ropes but found it more difficult than he anticipated so I finished it off.

Naomi helped choose the beads (all from a collection of my broken jewelry/ jewelry does not last long near a toddler!). All of the materials are natural and recycled. The beads are a collection of glass, metal, wood and mostly semi precious stones. We have added sea shells where possible to tie in the connection that the feet were felted on beach walks.

The centre string is mostly made up of crystals, turquoise and lapis lazuli beads to represent the sea. The outer strings are beaded from a mixture of jade and red jasper. Red jasper is often used to attract love and jade symbolises a concentrated essence of love and calming. All green touch stones are symbolic of unconditional love and all gem stones have healing properties.

It is difficult to get a picture that does justice to how pleasing the mobile is to the eye. I am however prepared to accept that most people may find it strange to hang feet from a mobile and that it may not appeal to their sensibilities. My daughter is disgusted that the feet now hang from the ceiling. We have appeased her by promising to make some more feet felt with her.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Felt Frame

This is the felt frame that I made out of the drift wool I collected from Anglesey. As a frame it looks great, however I feel it is a failure as felting projects go. I washed and carded the wool myself but found it very difficult to felt. I used the same wet felting technique as that used for the felt felt patches, prior to walking. Because I wouldn't be using the natural friction that occurs during walking to bond the felt I did pay extra attention to the friction applied during the bubble wrap phase of the felting. But when the felt patches dried they were very bitty and ready to disintegrate.

I'm not really sure where I went wrong on this project so can't even say that I know what no to do next time. A few things spring to mind. It may be that the wool comes from ordinary flock of sheep and not from rare breed sheep bred for wool. It may also be that the drift wool I gathered whilst walking had a large quantity of wiry wool and I suppose some wool from that would ordinarily be discarded for the purpose of felt making. I used this wool anyway as it is all I had.

One thing that I did notice during the wet felting phase was that it was much more difficult as than when i was using pre-washed and carded rare breed wool that came with the felt feet kit. The most obvious reason for this was that the bought wool was nicely carded into long length of wool that could be gently teased apart and laid in right angles to each other to make felt patches. This made it easier to make thin patches and to ensure that they felted well together. When washing my wool, I found initially some of it had felted during the washing process. This could easily be brushed out afterwards but the brushed wool tended to end up in small tufts of combed wool and not in long lengths of fused brushed wool. Maybe there is a particular technique to getting the wool this way during carding? Maybe it would have ended up in long lengths if i had not have waited for the wool to dry before carding? Maybe it all went wrong because i washed the soap out after wet felting? I am expecting some books on felting techniques to arrive in the next week so maybe they will give me some answers.

I had intended the felt to cover a frame that I am giving to my friend Megan before sh leaves for Seattle tomorrow morning. Because there was a lot of glue involved in sticking the felt to the frame the felt was salvageable, although it does look like it may fall to pieces if handled too much, so all in all I'm not too happy with it as a project. As a frame it does look much better than i had imagined it would so I would cover a frame with felt again if the felt was of a better quality.

In the meantime, whilst washing, carding and felting wool and waiting for it all to dry, I have been working on anther project that incorporates the original feet felt. It is taking much longer than anticipated but I think I will be pleased with the end result.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Learning curves

This is the wool I collected in Anglesey whilst walking in my feet felt. I decided its really time I should try and do something with it. It was pretty pungent after living in a plastic bag for a month so I decided that as soon as I picked out the obvious twigs and grasses I should hand wash it in cold water with a scented soap. Its the first time I've done this so I'm not sure of the processes.

This morning the wool definitely smelled a lot better and I have been feeling a lot better so I started combing though the wool and removing more grass and seeds. Its a long process. I'm sure there must be simpler and quicker ways of doing this. I'd welcome any advice on this :)

Tomorrow I'll finish off the rest of my small pile and then I'm going to put it through the washing machine on a low temperature wool cycle. I've read a couple of conflicting websites on this matter. One site advises to wash the wool at as high a temperature a possible, the other says a low temperature is best. I'm open to suggestions!

I've really enjoyed working with this pile of wool. It reminded me of when I lived on an organic farm in Edinburgh (which is where I met my friend from Seattle). The farm kept rare breed sheep and goats which we tended each day. I loved the contact with the animals.

A job we were given one day was to round the sheep up into the barn and clip off the wool between their hind legs. I think the vet may have given them some kind of inoculations or wormers whilst we had them there. I quite strangely had liked that job. Must have reminded me of my veterinary nursing days.

There is something quite nice about the feeling of having collected drift wool whilst walking, taking it home and spending time preparing it for felt making. I know I will feel a stronger connection with this felt as a result of following the processes from beginning to end.

I have found a supplier of wool in my area and will be placing an order next week. I don't have any tools or needles for felt making. Can anyone recommend equipment I might need? I'm hoping to make some felt beads and maybe do some felt painting. All advice will be appreciated :)

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Blessing from afar

This morning I received a package from my best friend and fairy godmother to my daughter. The package contained a packet of peppermint tea, a kitten teddy with wings (made exclusively for IFAW), some elderberry capsules and some nettle and peppermint tea. How lovely!

The package was a response to a long self pitying telephone conversation I had with her yesterday about the plights of swine flu (I wrote a post yesterday about how me and my family have swine flu yesterday but decided to delete it later).

One of the herbal teas is my favourite brands which I find difficult to get where I live as more and more of the health shops close down and I find myself limited to Holland and Barratts whom I believe have been taken over by Coca Cola? Anyway I particularly like this brand of herbal tea because it not only uses organic unbleached materials for ingredients and packaging but identifies on the packet that the worker behind the label is treated fairly too.

The elderberry flower capsules have the following text written on the back of the label:

The Elderberry tres were believed to bring good luck and protection from disease and evil in ancient times. An elderberry tree was planted outside of Westminister Abbey due to this ancient belief.

The package was followed by a text message wishing us healing thoughts and advising that a herbalist friend of ours is making a tincture for me and will post it when it is ready.

I love my friends, they are so thoughtful and know just how to make me smile. Thank you xx

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Creative daze

We have had what feels like the first summer in 2-3 years here in England. The past 2 years have been so overcast and rainy it was a gamble to step outdoors.

I've had lots of day trips out with my family and a visiting friend from overseas. Creating lots of happy memories. Taking in shows, long walks, art projects in he garden.

My visiting friend is an artist and she carried one of her mermaid canvases all the way from Seattle to give to me. The shells glued onto the mermaid canvas are ones that she has collected herself from Hawaii and Costa Rica. Looking at them whisks me off to distant shores of colourful sun kissed lands. Last time she visited she brought me a painting of her 'super donkey' overlooking Seattle's space needle. I love them, my walls are blessed ;o)

During the quieter moments we have been painting new pictures over old canvases. I like recycling. Megan has been creating another mermaid for her collection. I have been painting a tree in a wildflower meadow.

Painting is not really a strength of mine. I tend to stick with textiles but I'm enjoying the experimentation of it all. The girl who used the canvas before me coloured the canvas in with felt tip pens so I have had to apply quite a dark base colour to cover it all up. I'm now building up paler meadow colours. Both paintings are works in progress and far from complete.

While taking a break from painting, Megan has been decorating tins with layers of paper and glue montage style. The tin looks great. I have been making beads out of old copies of 'The Big Issue' and letting my daughter string them into necklaces for friends and family members. I got the idea from a visit to the shared earth shop in town. The shop was selling these necklaces for £5 each which I thought was disgraceful for a bunch of newsprint beads. But having made them myself now I accept that although the materials have virtually no cost and there is not much skill to the technique, the process is very time consuming. I love the end result, very DIY punk, and i'm all for creating things out of recycled materials.

Earlier this week I received a cut out 'Alice' from Susan at Artspark Theatre. I have had great fun taking Alice along with me on day trips and trying to find interesting ways to photograph her. It's a really fun project that Susan is working on right now (thank you Susan for letting me take part). More visual testaments to Alice's adventures can be seen on the blog Artspark Theatre.