Hello Spring!

April 6, 2017 § Leave a comment

I get a bit fed up over winter. I think I should be hibernating, but alas that’s not really an option in the modern world.

But luckily now I can safely say that it is Spring! The sun is shining, and I saw a bumble bee in my garden – which is wonderful considering my garden is in fact just a sad little yard and doesn’t have any flowers in it… yet (I WILL plant flowers, I promise you, bees!)

I work at Tyntesfield, which is a lovely National Trust property with a Victorian house and huge garden. There is plenty of wildlife there at the moment, deer, buzzards, kestrels and plenty of bees and butterflies. Its getting busier as the weather is nicer, so I am in work a bit more at the moment.

I have had a few days off this week, and yesterday I went on a cycling adventure to Dyrham Park, which is another National Trust place. Its about 9 miles from Bristol (where I live) and it does involve cycling up two horrifically steep hills. Worth it though for the views at the top.

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I stopped for a cup of coffee and some cake before cycling home again.

For anyone interested, I followed cycle routes 4 (which follows the Bristol Bath Railway Path), 410, and 17. I found some interesting things along the way, including this derelict building, which had something to do with mining. I did read the sign about it, but that was yesterday, and I have now completely forgotten what it said.

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Today the sun was still shining, so I finally got round to doing some much needed wool washing. I was given an enormous mystery fleece by a friend’s mum and its been sitting in my shed for months.

I only got through about a third of it today as its so big and I need to do some house cleaning now.

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Here’s some drying on the washing line –

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I have got some things I need to make. I’ve had a bit of a felting break for the last couple of weeks, but its time to start making again!

 

 

The last of the rhinos

May 26, 2016 § Leave a comment

About a month ago I watched a Horizon programme about zoos, and their role in conservation. The documentary raised the question about whether certain animals thrive in zoos and whether they still have a place in the modern world.

It also explored how zoos support endangered species through captive breeding.

One of the species the documentary looked at were northern white rhinos. There are only three northern white rhinos left. Only three. They have been decimated by poaching and habitat loss. All rhino species are in danger because of their horn which has commercial value, and so the animals are slaughtered just for that.

After watching the documentary I felt rather hopeless, so I decided to make a white rhino costume in honour of the northern white rhino.

I wanted the costume to look like a ghost.

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I will be using this costume for a series of photographs, and hopefully a film that focuses on how much the earth has been changed by the human population.

Wool everywhere.

March 10, 2016 § Leave a comment

I have a few wool related things I have been doing lately.

I have been needle felting, and dyeing and carding.

Today I carded wool for about four hours. I had several colours that I had dyed yesterday, and then a lot of undyed white.

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I’m planning on making some kind of lizard hat, so this is in preparation for that.
Annoyingly, I’m not quite sure what breed of wool this is. It’s from the batch of for fleeces I got from a farmer in Devon. He said the sheep were Oxford down and mule, but I have used mule before and I thought it was coarser than this. And it didn’t seem the same as the other fleece I was using, which I assumed was Oxford down. But maybe I was wrong.
It’s lovely wool anyhow. Nice and soft. I shall do some experiments to see how well it wet felts, and then I shall make some hats out of it!

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Here’s all my hand dyed wool. The orange already made the tiger hat, and I might make a leopard out of the yellow. Lots to do!

And then, following the experiment from my previous post, I decided to needle felt a face onto the strange thing I had created.

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And this little monster was born. He’s amusing, but I’m not sure of his purpose right now. My cat seemed to like him though.

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Tiger Tiger

February 26, 2016 § Leave a comment

Ever since I started making hats, I have wanted to make a tiger hat. Tigers are beautiful, striking animals, and I think one would look good in felt

So today I made the base of a tiger hat!

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Still needs ears of course. I managed to take some photos of the process this time too!

Like all my hats, it began with a flat resist made from thin packing foam

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The first thing I did was lay wool around the edge of the resist, so that it overlapped with the edge.

Then I lay down the first layer of wool. The overlapped edges were then folder into the other side of the resist. I then repeated that process until I had built up three layers on each side. Each layer was sprinkled with soapy water and then rubbed with bubble wrap so that the wool lay flat.

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On the third layer of wool on each side I put a layer of tiger colours – all hand dyed with food colouring! I dyed the wool last night in my kitchen.

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The last thing I did was add the stripes, and then I rolled the whole thing in bubble wrap for a long time, removed the resist and then shaped it into a head shape!

It was a lot of hard physical work, and made more work for myself than necessary by using a different breed of wool for the inside layer.

Most of the hat is made from Oxford Down, but I realised I did not have enough to complete the whole thing. So I put a layer of blue texel in the middle. The Oxford Down felted much faster and better than the blue texel, and there was a moment when I thought the whole thing might fall apart.

I managed to save it with a lot of vigorous felting, but I would warn anyone else making hats this way to avoid mixing your wools unless you really know what you are doing! It was very nearly a disaster!

Crisis averted though, it actually turned out very well!

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I will put ears on once it is dry. I am also going to add a button, so it can be buttoned up at the front. I remember to add a button during the wet felting process!

It may actually turn out to be my favourite hat so far!

The only time I clean the bathroom…

February 4, 2016 § 2 Comments

…Is when I wash fleece.

I have bag loads of raw fleece in the shed. I haven’t really been washing much because its cold and rainy and I have nowhere to dry the stuff. But recently I have been throwing caution to the wind, because for the projects I want to work on, I just need more wool! And I want to use wool I have processed myself because I think that is better.

Today I washed some blue texel. Its a beauty of a fleece, so many different colours – shades of grey and brown. I washed it in the bath and bathroom sink, and made a horrible smelly mess which forced me to clean the bathroom (it needed it before I washed the fleece).

It felt like I was making blue texel soup!

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The fleece is now drying in our spare room. Hopefully the cats won’t eat it. They were far too interested!

When its dry I shall card it and make something, I don’t know what yet, but I’m sure it will be something unexpected.

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Like this fellow, guarding a box of cleaned and carded black shetland in my studio!

I can bearly contain my excitement…

January 2, 2015 § Leave a comment

First off, HAPPY NEW YEAR! I hope everyone out there is having a wonderful 2015 already. So far the first week of it has been very promising.

I have finally got round to making something I have been planning and preparing for a long time!

As a theatre designer, I have always had a love of masks and sculptural head-gear. One of my university projects was performing with animal masks that I had made, and it was one of my favourite art projects that I’ve done. I have seen a few fantastic examples of felt animal masks which have really inspired me to try making some of my own.

As I have a lot of brown wool from the free Jacobs, I decided to make a grizzly bear hat first, as an experiment. I used a real mix of wools. Jacobs and Shetlands in the wet felting stage, then merino for the detail on top. I have so far spent 3 days on it, and it is not quite finished, but as an experiment it has been really successful.

I have some photos of the process here –

the stages of wet felting:

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adding the first layer of wool to the resist

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The first layer of wool

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Starting on the other side

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Rolling the felt in towels (on the dining room floor as I have nowhere else to do it)

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The completed wet felting stage

The Jacobs that I used had been washed twice and then carded with dog brushes, but I could not get all of the vegetable matter out. The fleece was in quite a state when I got it, and full of hay, and as a result the felt is also full of hay. I figured this was OK for experimental work, but I need to source VM free fleece for future projects. I have a lot of Jacobs left to play with, and this is good as if projects go wrong then at least the materials haven’t cost me anything!

Also, hand carding large quantities of wool is tiring and not time efficient, so one day soon I want to invest in a drum carder! Then I will be able to card large quantities of wool without hurting my already fragile wrists (I have to be careful when rolling felt not to strain my wrist as I have lingering RSI)

The next stage was adding detail with needle felting, which was very time consuming, as I had to change the shape of the base quite a lot and add lots more wool to get the shape as right as possible. I looked at reference images of bears whilst doing this. My bear has turned out a little more goofy looking than a real bear (I’m not sure how to not make my felt things look goofy, that’s something I need to work on)

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bear before eyes

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bear once basic eyes have been added.

The almost finished bear sits on the head almost like a baseball cap. It obscures the vision quite dramatically, but then I didn’t make it to be practical.

Here’s my glamorous assistant modeling the nearly complete bear!

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I do want to take proper photos of it once it is complete, incorporate it into a costume and take it to a pretty environment. I may do this when I have a few more hats to photograph.

I have already started preparing the wool to make a fox hat – I’m going to use all Jacobs this time, so I have been washing and dyeing large quantities of the least hay filled fleece that I have. I hope it will work as I have not made a 100% Jacobs felt before. I also want to try and felt some fleece without carding it, just to see how it turns out!

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Hat Line

December 18, 2014 § Leave a comment

And now, onto hats, which is really what I mean to write about last time.

See, I love hats, but I have a problem with them too. I have enormous dreadlocks, and consequently most hats don’t fit on my head. This is a constant source of disappointment to me.

I tried knitting hats once, and they all turned out funny shapes. Too big, too small, too short. And I find knitting frustrating, so I stopped and moved on.

Felt on the other hand, well. Felt is wonderful, and I have seen some fantastic examples of felt hats. So that is what I decided to do. Woolly Wild Things is expanding. I’m not just about small models of animal any more. I want to make art that people can wear!

And so I began, as always, with internet tutorials and a lot of experimentation.

My first hat I tried to make using a bowl as a mould. It was a complete disaster, and so embarrassing that I won’t even post a picture of it here (it was more like a floppy piece of bird nest than a hat)

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Sorry, bad selfie (ugh I hate that word) but you get the idea. This was made flat, with a resist, a piece of plastic with the wool wrapped around, which is felted and then cut open and opened out. difficult to explain in words. The felt dries in whatever shape you leave it in, and finishes up relatively solid.

The hat shrank a lot from the original pattern and as a result, it does not ft on my head (typical) but in every other way it was a success, and proved that I can do it, and its not that hard.

The next hat I tried, I took pictures of the process. I have been using mostly merino wool for this, but soon I will run out!

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So first, this is the resist. It’s a template of the hat, made out of thin packing foam, which the wool is then wrapped around. For my first hat I used a plastic bag as a resist, which mostly worked, but the edges ended up getting flattened out and producing a seam, so a thicker material is advisable.

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I then placed the resist on a sheet of bubble wrap on top of an old towel. I covered the resist on wool, first doing the edges with wool overlapping, then covering the rest with wool all running in one direction.

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The next step is to place netted fabric over the wool, soak it in soapy water, rub the surface with a bar of soap and then rub it all over with some bubble wrap.

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Then flip the resist over, fold the overlapping edges in, and repeat the previous step on the other side.

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For this hat, each side had 4 layers of wool, and for each layer the process is the same. I used cheaper undyed Shetland wool for the middle two layers as I am running out of merino.

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For the final layer, I added the colours I wanted the hat to be, the same on each side

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The next step is to role the whole thing in a towel, rotating it a few times and flipping it over as well.

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As it is rolled, the wool will begin to felt and the fabric will shrink. Once the wool began to feel felted, I cut open the base, pulled the resist out and rubbed the inside of the hat and edges with soapy hands, and then rolled it several more times in the towel, constantly rotating.

Then I opened it out and started pulling it into shape. I coated the surface in soap and then rubbed it all over with some bubble wrap. this stage makes the felt go even firmer.

By this point the hat had shrunk to about a third of the size, and was to small for me to wear

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When I finally felt it was ready, I rinsed it in a bowl of hot water and left it to dry in the shape I wanted it in.

Phew! A long process, quite exhausting, but I had so much fun. So much in fact, that the next day I made a new hat, which was actually big enough to fit me!

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Here are both my hats drying. I will post photos of me wearing the hat soon!

My instructions are not really meant as a tutorial, it is more me blabbering about what I do, so if you would like to have a go at making 3D wet felt I advise you look here http://rosiepink.typepad.co.uk/rosiepink/how-to-make-a-seamless-wet-felted-purse.html This is a very comprehensive tutorial about how to make seamless felt bags, that translates well into hat making. For my second hat I used three layers of wool on each side instead of 4, and it worked just as well, but made a more floppy hat!

Expect more hats to come, very soon!

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