Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Needle Felting

Two or three years ago I broke down and purchased a set of needle felting needles.  I had observed people needle felting at fiber fairs and thought I ought to at least try it.  Well, I didn't try it then.  I was concerned that I would leave the sharp needles lying around where my children's little fingers or faces or feet would find them. 

Fast forward to a week or two ago and I found myself preparing to do a demonstration on ... needle felting.  I got out my needles, made a foam pad to work on, and started stabbing.  --That's all needle felting really is--stabbing the fiber with the barbed needle to make it felt together.  And I discovered that it was fun, and somewhat therapeutic (very reminiscent of coloring with crayons--simple & soothing).

So, here's a sampling of what I've been making:

 There's a cow near the top, a heart, a mitten, a tree, a ghost, a dolphin, some test circles, and a three dimensional marble with a tail.
 Here's a shot of the construction of my foam work pad.  I put a square of cardboard on the bottom, a dense blue (closed cell) foam next, and then taped a double layer of 1/2" soft foam on top.  The foam that I have typically seen in use by other needle felters is ~2" thick and can be purchased online, but this has worked really well for a starter pad and it was made entirely from materials on hand.
 In my internet reading, I learned that it was possible to needle felt onto denim.  I intentionally chose to felt over the seam on this piece of denim.  It turns out that the multiple layers of fabric at the seam are difficult to felt into--not impossible, just challenging!

I rolled the fiber for each flower petal around a pencil before I laid it on the denim and started stabbing it with the needle.  The yellow yarn was added around the petals after the red was on and the fine wisps of yarn were needle felted into the center last.

 Cookie cutters are often used as templates for needle felting, but I read online that a paper template could be used as well.  Yep, I tried it...and it works!  It's a lot cheaper than purchasing and storing cookie cutters!

I've had trouble achieving the level of detail in my felted pieces as I can cut in my paper, though.  My Christmas tree cut out had three "triangles" to make it look like layers of branches.  My felted tree is just a single bumpy triangle!  Apparently it takes more stabbing in the corners to get the finer details to show up.

My next project is three dimensional felt.  I tried two ways of making felted balls.  The ball on the right was made from fibers wrapped into a small ball and then needle felted.  As the ball felted, more layers of fibers were added and more needle felting done to make it a somewhat solid ball.  The ball on the left was made from just wrapping the wool fibers into a tight ball and sticking it into a nylon stocking.  Both balls were then wet felted in the sink and then dried in the drier.  The needle felted ball is more dense than the one that was just wound and not felted.  I'll see how they behave as I add more needle felted designs to them.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Updates...Construction Progress and Russian Spindle Spinning

 Just a few updates in this post.  We are making progress in our remodeling project.  Most of the drywall is up and we are starting to mud.  The electrical outlets are live and we have lights in the new rooms!  In some ways we have begun the slow slog to the end, and as my husband notes, we just "put up one more sheet of drywall, do one more layer of mud..." and eventually we'll discover that we will have finished the project!

In the mean time, the kids have discovered the stack of cardboard boxes and have been having a blast making forts and castles!

My first skein of yarn from the Russian spindle is finished--not only am I finished spinning the fiber (alpaca in this case), but I've washed and dried the skein of yarn.  It is beautiful--soft and drapey--and I can't wait to spin some more!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Handwoven 2012 Garment Challenge Prize

 Look what arrived on my doorstep today!  Merino roving, fingering weight wool, a wool/bison, and a wool/alpaca yarn.  Wow!

The box was a prize that I won from the 2012 Handwoven Garment Challenge.  I wove the fabric and my husband sewed a vest that won the "tailored garment" category.  And winning came with a prize thanks to Mountain Meadow Wool.

And the yarns and fibers are gorgeous!  The yarns have all been taken out of their bags and petted.  The merino roving has been squished and a tiny bit spun.  Now I have to figure out what to make with all this wonderful fiber goodness!

And, just because I didn't post many photos of this along the way, here's the official print from Handwoven magazine (Sept/Oct 2012).  That's the vest in the center.

Thank you to Handwoven Magazine for hosting the contest and for all their help getting things ready for print.  And thank you to Mountain Meadow Wool for contributing such luscious yarns for a prize!