Tuesday, April 30, 2013

New Journey for a Wise Woman Felter

There was an interesting reaction on the Feltmaker's List to calling myself an "Old" felter in my previous post.  It was pointed out that I'm not old, but wise- a person with much felting knowledge and experience.  I'll accept that.  Here is part of what I replied to that: ".......in the blog I guess I was really referring to being a person who was making felt in an "old-fashioned" way and with a narrowly focused attitude.  While a lot of the new feltmakers seem to me to have large, glaring gaps of knowledge in their feltmaking skills, I became aware in my research that I also have gaps in my own knowledge base.  I love the field of feltmaking enough to want to know as much as possible about it. It has been a wonderful journey so far, studying with people who see things very differently than I do.  (Actually, when I was younger, this might not have been as easy for me as it is now since I have way less ego involved in my art than I did then.)  I may not make immediate use of the techniques I'm learning, but I'm really enjoying the thrill of pushing my knowledge further."

To continue with some things I've learned.

I was able to study with Vilte Kazlauskaite, who is a feltmaker from Lithuania.  I love the relief textures she gets in her felt garments and was excited to learn some of her techniques.  The main thing that I learned from Vilte is that textural surface embellishments are relatively easy to control if they are placed face down onto the felting mat.  Then they are covered with a very thin layer of super fine merino which acts as a "glue" to attach the various embellishments to a thin backing cloth.  (In this case I used 3 mm chiffon.)

Above, various textures viewed from their back side
Fiber laid on top of the textures.  

Silk chiffon laid on top of stack and then wetted down.

Finished texture study after felting.
Most of the students in the workshop with Vilte made garments.  These were felted all in one piece, with a resist template in the middle.  I don't think I look good in these types of one-piece felt garments, but I did want to make a garment.  I look better in a garment with more shaping and one that is sewn together.  Following the advice of Margo Duke (another wonderful feltmaker), I decided to use the mosaic collage technique of Rosemary Eichorn.  (See Rosemary's book: The Art of Fabric Collage.)  So, I used the asymmetrical vest pattern #6 from Rosemary and with the knowledge I got from her book, I got the pattern to fit me quite well. (Thanks for the fitting help Kathe!)  I used the shrinkage percentages from my textured felt sampling, and enlarged the pattern.  I made the enlarged pattern in three sections, right and left fronts, and back.  I then felted my textured pieces to fit the pattern and sewed them together at the underarm and shoulder.  I am super happy with how well it fits.  Although, this was a lot of work and the pieces didn't quite shrink as predicted.  

Here is the sample vest I made.  I want to do one in color, with the cotton voile fabrics like I used in my friend Kathe's scarf, but I'm still looking for the "right" fabrics to do this.  This vest is made with various creams and whites silk habotai and chiffon. The fiber was 19 micron white merino.

Friday, April 26, 2013

New Directions for an Old Felter

A little over a year ago, I was asked to give a lecture on new directions in felting.  I had been making felt for around 35 years at that point, and to tell the truth, I had become pretty obsessed with my own directions in felt.  (I developed a technique for making photo realistic pictures in felt that I called "Watercolor Felt" and I have been making pictorial felts with this method for several years.)  I was not really aware of what had been going on around the world in my field since I was so absorbed in this relatively small aspect of feltmaking.  When I began doing research to see what was "new", I was very surprised.  New materials, new methods, new looks to the felt- lots of new things!  I was excited by these new approaches to making felt and I decided that I wanted to start learning as much as I could about them.  Until recently, I always understood how a felt product was made, but with these new felts, I was flummoxed.   I decided the best way to learn about them was to take as many classes as I could in the USA from teachers who I perceived to be experts in their approach to making felt.  In the past year, I have taken classes from Pam deGroot (Australia), Rod Welch and Karolina Arovilimmi (Finland), Vilte Kazlauskaite (Lithuania), Irit Dulman (Israel), Tash Wesp (USA), Loyce Ericson (USA) and Leiko Uchiyama (Japan and Ireland).  All of these wonderful teachers have had workshops close enough to my home in Oregon that I could travel to them.  In addition to these workshops, I have been studying from online tutorials and books.  It is really amazing what I've learned!

For instance:
1.  People are really understanding and exploiting the properties of wool to make interesting things happen in feltmaking.  The ruffles along the edge of this scarf are an example of this. I learned how to do this from a tutorial I purchased from Irene Rudman (Israel) of Rudman Art.  The technique makes use of the fact that wool will shrink in the direction of its root.  The wool in the center of the scarf was placed so that its roots were lying in the opposite direction of the fibers laid around the edge.  When the center shrank, the outside edge didn't so it was "gathered" into ruffles.  Very cool! 

2.  Another thing I learned is that really deep, wonderful textures can be created and will hold together in a felt if they are felted to a base cloth using superfine merino wool as the felt "glue".  This is the first time I had used 3 mm silk chiffon (the base cloth) and 19 micron merino in this way.  Vilte taught us the relief techniques using silk cloth and various fibers, including flax and silk.  However in these pictures below, I am exploring the textures with cotton gauze and voile.

Above: Sample of cotton fabric flower and pleat textures. 

My friend Kathe Todd-Hooker with the textured felt scarf I made her for her birthday. 

The scarf in process.  Notice that the flowers and other textures are face down.  The base cloth and "glue wool" will be put over the top of these textures. 

More another day on this learning adventure of mine.