Archive for the ‘felting’ Category

Spring ATCs

I am terribly behind on posting about the artist trading card exchange (two whole seasons!), much less posting about anything else, but I will totally make the excuse of life being busy. This weekend is the Fiber Arts Festival here and that seems to have inspired me to post again, so today I’ll post about the spring ATCs, then tomorrow I’ll post about the summer ATCs, and Thursday I might post about the fall ones. Thursday is the exchange for the fall cards, so if I get my act together quickly enough I can post about them right away, but more likely I won’t get that post out until next week some time.

The cards I made for the spring exchange were pretty simple. I couldn’t think of much for spring other than flowers, then my mom suggested lambs, and I liked that a lot better. So I needle felted little lambs onto some felt (in poses that are supposed to look like they’re frolicking) and added a little bit of embroidery to fill in the blank spaces, then used blanket stitch to attach another piece of felt to the back and add a little more interest around the edge. These were pretty definitely the simplest cards I’ve made so far, but they needed to be done right at the end of the school semester so I was totally out of energy and time to do anything more complicated! And I’m pretty happy with how they turned out. Here is a picture of them. I didn’t take the process pictures that I usually do with these cause I was pretty rushed to get them done.

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I was quite impressed with the other cards this time too. And here are those!

Tomorrow, summer ATCs!

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Farm Felt Baash!

This weekend I was at a needle felting retreat on a farm down by Rochester and it was sooo much fun! I was so excited to meet other needle felters, and the weekend did not disappoint! Amy from Needle & Felt hosted the retreat and I met lots of wonderful ladies including Ginger, Mary, and Amanda who all have Etsy shops that I wanted to link to because their stuff is so cool! Ginger makes all kinds of stuff including needle felted things, nuno felted things, and hollow book boxes! Mary makes neat bags, many shaped like animals, and Amanda makes lots of needle felted things including these absolutely amazing needle felted masks! Amy and Ginger both have blogs too, with lots of cute fiber things, and sheep pictures! And I think I need to stop using exclamation points before I hurt myself.

On Saturday there was much cuddling of lambs and baby goats, with lots and lots of pictures of all the animals, and we got to play with all different types of fibers and some new kinds of needles and see each others’ felted stuff and just generally hang out and chat. At the end of the day everybody made their own sheep so we had our own little flock, and it’s amazing how many different kinds of sheep we all came up with! Now, pictures!

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Sunday was a shorter day, but no less exciting! Amanda graciously showed us how to make felted masks, and I think I’m addicted now. She has some really amazing ones (you really should check out her Etsy shop, there are some amazing masks, and other things of course), and I don’t expect I’ll make any quite as beautifully lifelike, but they are fun. I was so busy working on my mask though, and trying to get it done because I had to drive home that day, that I didn’t get many pictures. Here are the few I did get.

I didn’t manage to get a picture of Amy’s mask cause it wasn’t very far along by the time I had to leave :-(. The whole weekend was so much fun, and I hear it’s already being planned for next year so hopefully I can make it again!

Our next ATC exchange is this Thursday (the theme is Spring so the snow better be gone again by then!) so I should have lots of pictures for you soon after that!

Beauty and the Breast Redux

The title for this post popped into my head and the word redux just appealed to me, so I went with it. Well, my life has gotten crazy busy. I started school again last Monday, and I have soooo much work for my classes that I haven’t had time to post anything, and barely had time to work on any projects! So I probably won’t post nearly as much until the end of November or so, because I almost certainly won’t be finishing anything, but I’ll try not to disappear. I’ve been thinking about doing a series of posts showcasing people’s studios/work rooms, so I may try to do that while I don’t have time for crafting.

Now, to the actual subject of this post! I told you about the Beauty and the Breast show in a previous post, and this is another piece for the same show. I’m just gonna copy and paste the description I did of the piece for the show, since I already wrote it and I have a paper yet to write tonight as well!

I have always been intrigued by the idea I see represented in the Tree of Life motif. That interconnection of past and future, birth and death, with the present/life in between, in a harmonious, even beautiful, way has always appealed to me. In thinking about breast shapes in nature and how our identity as “breasted-beings” affects our relationship to others, I kept coming back to the shape of boles on trees, and the tree of life. Women, and indeed breasts, are often a tangible connection between life and death, past and future. We create new life in bearing children, and breasts are an integral part of nurturing those children. And women are traditionally the care-takers of the old, and the bodies of the dead as well. When I think of a woman comforting and caring for a dying person I always think of the phrase she is “cradling him/her to her breast”. Of course, in this context the word breast is used simply to refer to the chest portion of a person’s anatomy, but I think the use of the term is telling and important. In this case the breast is meant as a source of comfort, in many ways harking back to the comfort of a baby at its mother’s breast. And so, women are like the trunk of the Tree of Life, a connection between the past, present and future, between the dead, living, and yet to be born. In a way then, the female form can be seen as a beautiful symbol for life in all its stages.

With this piece I had a lot of issues the first time around as well, that seems to be my theme for this show. On my first try, I just started making the shape of the tree trunk by felting down lengths of yarn, like I had done to make a tree before. Apparently I did something different than I had done before because the background started getting really stretched out. Of course I didn’t notice this until I had the trunk quite a ways done and had finished the roots. So, totally disgusted with it, I stopped for the night and sent my mom an e-mail with pictures asking her advice. After showing it to her in person and talking the next day, we both agreed it would be best to just start over, and I’m glad I did. It was much better planned from  the beginning the second time around and ended up with a much better shape that way, and it just went smoother. I ended up felting the whole trunk by hand, which I hadn’t expected to do, and just doing the roots and branches with the machine, Even so I had a couple spots in the roots where the machine started to cause some serious stretching, which I’m quite perplexed about as that’s never happened before. But I am so very happy with how this one turned out.

Both pieces are off to the show. I ended up putting a price on The Temples but marking this one as not for sale, I find I’m rather attached to this one. And oddly detached from The Temples. In a way I think that may be a sign of where I’m at in my life. Anyway, the show has an opening reception next Thursday which I’m hoping to get to, depends on if a co-worker will swap shifts with me, and if I do make it I will put up pictures of the whole show. And the artists too of course!

Beauty and the Breast

This is the project I was working on on Monday.  And I think it is the first project I have ever finished, looked at, and just plain liked. But before we get to the pictures, here’s some explanation. The piece is for another challenge show, and here’s the prompt I got:

Beauty and the Breast

Breast shapes appear ubiquitously in nature.  Rounded, small hills. Grand, pointed peaks. A profile line moving softly around a curve. Spirals wrapping toward a center point. These shapes repeat in manifold patterns, reminding us of the breast in human form.

How does our identity as women and “breasted-beings” affect the way we understand and interact with others?  Breasts are both subject and object; a source for life; pleasure; compassion, fullness and sacrificial giving. Cradling life from the beginning to the end, we hold close to our breasts the experience of life.

In this exhibit, we invite you to view studies of the line, form or pattern of the breast worked on 8×8 or 12 x12 canvases.  These canvases stir the imaginative link between breast as shape and the reality of human form. Together with the larger pieces they invite you to ponder “who can deny the beauty of the breast?”

I wasn’t all that excited about it at first, and I definitely couldn’t think of anything. Really I just kept picturing hills and thinking that’s what everyone’s going to do, and it’s just not interesting. Then I got to thinking about how you could make it like really, slap-you-in-the-face kind of explicit that the hills are breasts, and I got an idea I loved. So first, here’s a drawing I finally did of what the piece actually ended up as.

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Before I did the drawing, I tried just starting right in felting, and it went badly. I tried to get it like what I was picturing in my head, but it just wasn’t right, and I couldn’t figure out how to fix it and was just so frustrated I almost totally gave up. Looking back at the pictures, it’s not so bad, and if I hadn’t been very definitive in what I wanted, it could have been usable. But then I was talking to my mom about it, and she suggested doing the piece in 2 parts, since what I was having trouble with was that the image in my head was rectangular, and the space I was working with was square. I was uncertain about that at first because there’s a bit in the center of the piece that is very important, but she suggested basically sliding it all to one side, so you don’t get the full curve of the hills and the whole scene is a bit off-center. I figured that at least that would look all artsy, then when I drew it out I decided it looks pretty cool.

My first attempt

My first attempt

So I pulled that apart, and actually cut the background down to 8″ rather than 12″, which I originally thought would be too small, but turned out to be juuuust right (which makes me think of Goldilocks and the Three Bears). That seems to be the moral of this whole project, even if it doesn’t seem like it will work, it might just turn out perfect. So here are the pictures of the finished project, and then I’ll give some explanation of the piece itself.

I was rather concerned about getting the pieces lined up right with each other, and getting the temples the right shape, so I copied reference marks from my drawing onto the fabric, and checked and double checked that everything lined up. The hills went much easier than I expected cause I didn’t felt them down as tightly as I thought I’d need to. And the temples went just right. First I put the black outline down, then I basically colored it in with the roving, and I was so happy with how they came out! The people were rather tricky because they’re so tiny. The head of each figure is only slightly bigger than the felting needle itself, so the roving kept getting just pushed through a hole in the background rather than felting to it. It took a bit of tricky felting, but I made it work.

For the show, we are supposed to write a short story to go with the piece. I thought this might be the hardest part, but when I got the idea for the piece, the beginning of the story came with it. The exact wording of the story was a bit trickier, however, and may still change, but here is the current version.

            The Temples had always been at odds. They both believed the female form to be sacred, but disagreed on what that meant. The Left Temple believed the mystery of the female body should be preserved, and therefore covered as much as possible. Their rituals were mysterious, and always solemn. The Right Temple believed the sacred form should be celebrated and shared with all. They wore little clothing and conducted their rituals outside as often as possible, sharing and explaining them with anyone and everyone. They probably would have just ignored one another, but they were each on one of a pair of hills that they both considered to be a holy place, and so they hated each other.

One morning a stranger appeared at the Left Temple. This stranger asked many questions about their beliefs, and hoping for a new disciple, the priestesses gladly answered the stranger’s questions. As the morning wore on, the priestesses became frustrated with the stranger’s insistence that to always hide the sacred would lead to people forgetting about it, or believing it to be obscene. Finally, in their frustration, they told the stranger to leave and join the rest of the heretics on the other hill.

That afternoon the same stranger came to the door of the Right Temple. She asked many of the same questions, and the priestesses gladly answered them, as they would answer anyone’s questions. Even the Priestesses of the Right began to become frustrated as the stranger questioned their beliefs, pointing out that if the scared form is always seen and flaunted then it would become simply part of life, and unremarkable. They too told the stranger to leave, and join the charlatans on the other hill.

The next morning both temples awoke to discover that in the night a bridge had been built between the two hills. They all rushed outside to see the bridge, and were outraged that the other Temple would have the audacity to build such a bridge. The High Priestesses of each temple decided to cross that damned bridge and give the other Temple a piece of her mind! As both Priestesses attempted to cross the bridge at the same time, they inevitably met in the middle. They glared at each other for a moment in the wind between the hills, although the Left Priestess had trouble seeing through her blowing hair. Just as the Left Priestess opened her mouth to inform the other Priestess what she thought of this bridge, she noticed the Right Priestess was shivering. Being a compassionate woman, she swallowed her ire and offered the other Priestess her jacket, knowing she herself would be warm enough with the extra covering of her dress. With a small smile of thanks the Right Priestess accepted the jacket, and in return offered her hair tie for the Left Priestess’s blowing hair.

And so began a discussion and exchange of ideas that began an era of peace between the two Temples. The Temples both changed, although there are still differences, and they no longer hate one another.

As I worked I realized the story is sort of a metaphor for my relationship to my own body. I have felt many times that the shape of my body is a nuisance that should be hidden as best as possible to avoid being treated differently, especially when I was a teenager. But in many ways our culture tells us that a woman’s body should be seen, generally as a sex object, and that a resourceful woman will use her body shape to get her way with men. As I’ve grown up, I think I have been able to find a middle road, accepting my body, but not exploiting it.

I am glad that I decided to make a piece for this show, both because of what I learned about myself, and because I just love this piece! I don’t know what it is, but it is very visually appealing to me, and feels like the most artistic piece I’ve done. It’s also the first piece I’ve done that, when I finished it, I looked at it and thought “that looks good” rather than noticing all the little details that weren’t how I pictured them, or all the little mistakes. I think this even beats out Serenity for my favorite piece I’ve made. As always, I would love to know what you think of it!

Fiber Arts Fest recap

The Fiber Arts Festival this past weekend went amazingly! I don’t know the official numbers yet, but I heard we had around 400 people on Saturday, which is right on par with last year. I had so much fun. I was demonstrating needle felting, which is what I always do, which is just crazy hectic and busy. I don’t just demonstrate needle felting myself, I teach people and let them try as well, so I tend to end up with two tables full of people learning to needle felt. I believe I had 8, maybe 9, stations set out with foam and felting needles and they were all full throughout most of both days. It is fun but exhausting. I love people’s reactions, the adults are always amazed at how easy it is, and the kids just love the colors and making pictures. And of course everybody enjoys getting to stab things with a needle. But I think my favorite part is to see the things that people make. I don’t usually think of taking pictures of the stuff that gets made, but this year I got a few.

We also have an exhibit every year, and this year we got lots of amazing pieces. Sadly I didn’t get the chance to really see everything because I only managed to see the exhibit Friday night while we were putting it up, and several of the pieces arrived Saturday morning. So I missed getting pictures of some things, but I’ll post a few of the pictures I did get, because the pieces are beautiful. I entered my Serenity and a group of hedgehogs (the ones that are in town) and managed to win the People’s Choice award for the hedgehogs. And really, how can you compete with multicolored hedgehogs? My mom said all of the entries got some votes though, so people enjoyed all of them, which is a great thing. The exhibit doesn’t have any sort of judging component, so there is no first place or anything, just the People’s Choice award, which is something I really like, people should be able to share their work without worrying about being told it’s not good enough.

I always try to get at least a half hour to an hour each day to wander look around at the other demonstrations and the vendors. I got quite a bit of new roving, and had lots of fun chatting with all the vendors. And I discovered this great little company in Fargo called Modern Textiles. Once I saw their postcard I realized that I’d seen it sitting around my mom’s house, but never really looked at it. I talked quite a bit with Connie, one of the owners, and she was very nice and extremely enthusiastic. They’re looking at opening up a storefront in town and she asked if I would be interested in teaching embroidery classes there, which would be so cool! She was talking with my mom quite a bit about the ideas they have for the store and it all sounds so cool! I’m really hoping it’s part of a trend toward the local craft/art culture growing, cause we really need that.

All in all the weekend was a big success and lots of fun! And after 10 hours of sleep last night I am feeling very much recovered from the hectic lead up and then very little sleep for the weekend. And I am feeling really inspired, finally! Apparently what I needed was a weekend full of fiber and talking with fun crafty types to get the creative juices flowing again, because today I sat down and worked for two hours on a project that I’ve been trying to get done for a month or so. And it felt like I was only working for about 10 minutes! Hopefully the inspiration lasts, and now I’m totally going to go and spin for the first time in over a year to take advantage of all this creative energy I’ve got!

Needle Felted Cat Tutorial

Back on Day 5 of KaCBW I posted this tutorial in just pictures. If you have some practice needle felting, I think that’s probably all you really need, but if it’s your first or second, maybe even third or fourth, project, it was possibly a bit confusing. So I’m going to give you the tutorial again here, but with words included this time. Before I start the tutorial though, a little background about it. I actually wrote it to be instructions for a beginner needle felting kit made by the lovely Lisa at Flickertail Fibers. We talked about it a bit and went with a cat as a good beginning project because it gives you a few different color options, even if you want to stay realistic and not go crazy with neon pinks or something, and it has several different shapes. I tried to make it a simple piece to make, but something a bit more complicated than just a round ball. The point is to give a person who is new to needle felting some direction on creating different shapes, like the long round tube-like shapes of the cat legs or the irregular shape of the body, and how to combine simple shapes to create the complex shape of the animal. I also like the cat design because it gives the opportunity for the person to play with adding different colors. I’m pretty much copy and pasting the original in here, with minor changes, so you will notice that it is written with the assumption that you’ve never needle felted before. Without any further ado, the tutorial!

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Begin with an oblong piece of roving approximately 1 and a half times the size you want your cat’s body to be. Begin felting the roving by poking it with the felting needle. It is not necessary to poke especially hard or fast, go at your own pace and be careful not to poke yourself.

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Poke/felt the roving until it holds its shape and has shrunk slightly, but not so much that it feels solid if squeezed

Now you want to flatten out the bottom end, at a bit of an angle. Either end can be the bottom, it’s your choice, so that the cat will sit nicely. The body of your cat is ready to go!

Next, you will make the legs. The legs are formed by creating little “snakes” of roving, this is easiest done by rolling it between the palms of your hands like with clay, and then felting these evenly all the way around. Be sure to compare the length of the legs to the body, so that they aren’t too long or too short. Every cat needs paws, so we’ll make those next. Start with a small ball of roving, just slightly bigger than you want the finished paw, and felt it just enough for it to hold its shape. Then felt the ball onto the bottom of the leg, this should flatten the ball out a little. If the shape doesn’t look right to you, you can always poke the roving more in one spot to shrink that spot down a little.

Attach the legs to the body one at a time by holding the leg where you want it to be and poking through the top of the leg and into the body. The more you poke the more firmly the leg will be attached. Don’t be concerned if this creates a dent where the legs attach, we will smooth this out at the end.

The head and ears are all formed in the same manner as the pieces you have just made. For the head begin with a ball of roving and poke it until it holds its shape, being careful to keep it round by poking evenly all around. The ears should be triangular, which can be a more tricky shape to make. It can be useful to poke from the sides, rather than just the front and back, in order to achieve a triangular shape. The ears are attached to the head in a similar way to how the legs were attached to the body. However, this time you will need to felt downwards through the bottom of the ear and into the head, this is easiest done at a bit of an angle.

To make it easier to attach the head to the body, you will want to make a small flat circle of roving, and then felt only the center part of that circle onto the bottom of the head, on the side where the head will attach to the body. Then you can use the outside edges of this extra roving to felt to the top of the body. You will also want to felt both down through the bottom of the head into the body, and up through the body into the head, in order to make sure the head is well attached to the body.

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The round head doesn’t look very cat-like, so let’s add a muzzle. Start with a small ball of roving, felted enough to hold its shape. Attach the ball to the center of the bottom half of the face, the ball will probably flatten out a bit in the process, this is okay. Then use more roving, small bits at a time, to smooth out the difference between the top of the ball and the rest of the face, don’t make them even, just make it a nice, smooth slope. This is the most difficult part of the whole project, so take your time and pay attention.

Your cat is almost done, but it needs a tail! Make the tail in the same way you made the legs. Start with a “snake” of roving and felt it all around until you have a long thin piece. Then you can attach it either curled around the cat’s body, or sticking up off the back. To make the tail stick up, attach it just like the legs, hold the tail in place and felt through the bottom of the tail and into the body until the tail is secure. To wrap the tail around the body you will want to hold the tail in place, and felt through the tail into the body all along the length of the tail.

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All that’s left is to add the details; this is where your own artistry comes in. The eyes were made with little balls of black roving felted right onto the face, and the nose is an even smaller piece of roving felted onto the face in a triangle shape. If you want to add a mouth, I would suggest twisting a long thin piece of roving between your fingers before felting it onto the face; this will make it easier to get a line. I thought the face looked good without a mouth, but you can make your cat however you like!

I also added some spots on the cat’s body. This can be done by laying a thin bit of roving over the body and poking straight through it into the body. Everywhere you poke will begin to stick the new roving to the body, so make sure you have the roving where you want it.

Once you have all the details in place, you can go back and do a bit more poking all over to smooth out any rough spots or funny dents. I also like to do this because it tightens everything down and makes the whole piece a little bit sturdier. Congratulations, you have finished your needle felted cat!

 

And just for you guys, here are a few extra pictures of the finished cat!

 

And that’s the cat tutorial! Generally I’m happy to have you share my writing in any way you would like, as long as I am credited, but I ask that you please don’t reproduce this tutorial, in whole or in part, because I did write it for use by Flickertail Fibers. But feel free to use the tutorial to needle felt a cat of your own!

KaCBW Day Five: Something a Bit Different

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