Drawing with fibres

I haven’t worked much with prefelt but I recently got some different kinds to try (from Wingham Wool Work) and these are some exercises I’ve been doing with lines and marks using different prefelts and different fibres.

This is Blue-faced Leicester on black Merino prefelt, before and after felting. Some of the fibres were wetted before laying them down, or laid onto wetted prefelt, and these retain more definition, I think.

preparing handmade felt

handmade felt

Update: I realised when I looked again at the notes I made for this next one that I had mixed up the order of the first two – it’s Shetland on the left and BFL next (now corrected).

This is the same prefelt, but exploring different fibres. Each group of three lines shows: untwisted fibres, dry twisted fibres, wet twisted fibres. From left to right the fibre is: Blue-faced Leicester, Shetland Shetland, Blue-faced Leicester, Merino, Teeswater, Massam. I love using Merino for felting but to be more sustainable I would prefer to find a UK alternative, the more local the better, and only use Merino when nothing else will do. Of these fibres the Shetland BFL has a lovely quality of line and is much less ‘hairy’ than the Teeswater and the Massam, almost as smooth as the Merino. The BFL Shetland is somewhere in between.

handmade felt

This is Merino on white Merino prefelt, I do love these lines.

handmade felt

This is Shetland fibre on Norwegian prefelt. It’s a much coarser prefelt but I like it more than I expected.

handmade felt

Here I made the prefelt first myself from Merino fibres (because I wanted the colours), laying out the fibres in random directions and then using a version of the dry rolling method described by Treetops Colour Harmonies in Australia. I used Merino for the lines too, dampened and twisted by rolling a little between my fingers. It’s just a small experiment in drawing with felt. I really enjoy the way the line crinkles as the felt shrinks.

handmade felt

One of the advantages of Merino, apart from softness and sheen, is the huge range of ready dyed colours. Does anyone have a source for dyed Shetland (and BFL!) tops in more than a few colours? And/or any other breeds to try? Bowmont?  I do have some lovely Shetland cross fleece grown here on Tiree, in a couple of natural colours which I’m going to try dyeing myself as well.

the sketchbook project

I’ve signed up to get a sketchbook for the Sketchbook Project 2011 – run by Art House Co-op in Brooklyn. A little scary, but I (virtually) know quite a few people who’re taking part – and anyone can join in – it should be a great project to be part of. My sketchbook hasn’t arrived yet but I think they come quite quickly after you sign up. There are lots of very different themes to choose from and I chose ‘Lines and Grids’ – I thought it might provide inspiration for weaving as well as being fun to explore.

Of course as soon as you start to look there are lines and grids everywhere – these are some from my Flickr photos:

grids and lines mosaic

1. lobster pot, 2. bramble leaves turning, 3. patterns and textures at Jolyons, 4. nets at Praia da Vagueira, 5. lines in rock, 6. sculpted by nature, 7. rusty fence, 8. light and waves, 9. fibre and tines, 10. prints in the sand, 11. patterns and textures at Jolyons, 12. netted rock, 13. under a sunlit chair, 14. creel, 15. waves, 16. grass shadows on the sand

I also think there are lots of expressions about lines to play with, e.g. ‘crossing the line’,’line of enquiry’,’taking a hard line’, and probably also some about grids though they don’t spring to mind so readily!

TIF Challenge August 3

At last I’ve started to get somewhere with Sharon’s August challenge – balance. I was looking at some pendant lights a couple of weeks ago and they made me think about tying two pieces of cloth with the same thread or yarn, dyeing them and then partially unwrapping them to end up with something joined like this.

sketchbook page

I woke up this morning thinking I could use this idea to express balance – between the two pieces of cloth, maybe, and between the still wrapped and unwrapped sections. Leaving the cloth partially tied also says something to me about the halfway mark (July’s challenge) – the unwrapped cloth reveals certain kinds of beauty – open, vivid, colourful, accessible; yet the wrapped cloth has its own beauties – in the interaction of the thread and the fabric, dimensional, potential, hidden. Like the past and the future, somehow. In a roundabout kind of way… When I thought about the halfway mark some of the most potent images for me were of journeying as circular or almost circular, crossing the same points but in a different way, or spiralling, like these.


Which just looks like wrapping, after all.

This weekend will be taken up with helping one daughter to move, and then the other is starting uni next week, so I won’t manage anything material before the end of August, but at least I know now where to go with this.

If you get the chance, check out this delightful World Beach project stone sculpture by my friend Helen; from this link, search for Broch of Gurness.

stitching resists

While we were at Land’s End we sat for hours one day in the camper van while the rain poured down outside and I stitched some experiments to add to my little pile for dyeing. I made a square of squares, first overstitching a grid and then a different idea in each small square. In a fit of unusual methodicalness (or maybe all I need to be methodical is some dedicated time… ) I drew the stitch pattern for each square in my sketchbook so that if I like some of the results I can remember how I did them.

stitched resists and diagrams

I broke the thread a few times, which was very frustrating, and reminded me I wanted to get hold of some ‘seriously strong thread’ from Callishibori – I’ll put it on my list to look for at the Knitting & Stitching Show. I used ordinary polyester thread and I ran out of white – I’m sure I will regret the black when I come to unpick it!

The rest of the samples include some embroidery stitches pulled up tight and my first try at maki-age, stitched and bound resist.

stitched resists and diagrams

I haven’t decided what  to dye these with yet. I’ve been thinking more about the environmental effects of different dyes and mordants recently, partly because we’ll be on a septic tank when come November, partly as I’m (slowly) reading Eco-Colour, India Flint’s beautiful and thought-provoking book about using locally sourced materials for dyeing. At the moment I feel that I couldn’t change to only using plant materials but I would like to gradually use more of them (though moving to the windiest place in Britain may not help with the locally sourced part!). By the way, I found a very interesting and inspiring blog while reading round this subject on the web, Robin Paris’s Sustainable Batik, and another I’ve been reading for a while is Helen Methven’s Growing Colour. Lots of food for thought.

developing designs

I’ve been in a hiatus for months as far as my OCA Textiles course is concerned – stuck at the beginning of a module I really want to spend time on and enjoy – applied and manipulated fabrics. The exercise starts by asking you to select half a dozen previous drawings and develop them before interpreting them in fabric, and that’s the part I baulk at. I don’t know why I find it so daunting. Anyway, over the last couple of days, I’ve done it – six sets of design developments to inspire the fabric manipulation. I used the computer, and that helped, as did some suggestions my tutor had made about design methods in her feedback on the last assignment. I took ‘drawings’ to include photos and fabric printing as well as paint and pen.

sketchbook mosaic

1 2 3 4 5 6

The numbers link to the images on Flickr.