Monday, 24 January 2011

fiber talk: Time to Take Time

fiber talk: Time to Take Time: "Well hello again! Thanks for coming back I hear you say.I really felt it was time to take the time to get back to my blog once again.I since..."

Time to Take Time

Well hello again! Thanks for coming back I hear you say.
I really felt it was time to take the time to get back to my blog once again.
I sincerely hope that you are keeping well and are  ready for more about needlefelting.
I have been working on a couple of new pieces which are taking a lot of my time up right now but it may be worth mentioning what I just referred to, a couple of pieces!
I find that it can be very benificial to have more than one project on the go, at any one time. A) it can get pretty intense working away on one piece and although you are doing the self-same thing on any of them, it just comes as a change to use a different colour,say, to have a completely different subject matter, unusual or exotic fibres, whatever, the old saying is very true in this instance, 'a change is as good as a rest'
It's a bit like the text in this blog really, changing the colour, changes the mood of the writing.
But too many changes can be disorienting and confusing, so it's just enough , so's you remember where you were up to but not too much, that your style is noticably different throughout the piece.
In the next few days I want to concentrate on NEEDLING STYLE with you.
Not how you are wearing your hair or the clothes that match the colour of your wool but the way you hold the needle, the way you sit, the position of the hand holding the needle and playing the bass notes with the other hand.!! It's quite difficult at first to use the opposite hand for anything other than  resting on but it is really important that you learn to use both in unison and feel comfortable doing so, not jabbing the needle into the fingertips or up the nailbed, which will definately happen when you first start and will occasionally happen ,even when you are proficient. You learn to have a higher pain threshold, that's all.

Follow The Wool

When you first take a needle in your hand, try to hold it as if you were holding a pen, with the shaft resting on your middle finger and the index finger and thumb providing the grip. Then rest the heel of the hand, the junction of wrist and hand, on the foam or working surface.
I don't want you to worry about any wool at this point, I just want you to get the feel of the felting motion. There are plenty of vids on Youtube to get the general idea but I want you to practice 'bouncing' the hand as if you were resting on a nerve!! This is by far and away, the least debilitating method that I know, some folk create the movement with their shoulder or their elbow, which can over several minutes, never mind hours, give you quite severe pain. Always try to find the most comfortable method possible.
When you have 'trained ' for a while, take a piece of scrap material, some wool, either tops, rovings or even knitting wool and place the fabric on some foam of if you prefer, a felting brush.
Now , we aren't going to felt a picture or anything meaningful at this point, just practice poking the wool into the material, until you feel confident that you're doing it O.K.
The wool should go into the foam just a small degree, around a quarter of an inch is fine, any deeper and you are going to ruin the foam pad before you've had it too long. And in reality, the wool only needs to go just through the material for it to grab hold and get felted with subsequent strokes of the needle.
How are you doing so far?? 
You may find that initially, the results are patchy, that's fine, learning to felt the right amount of wool for the design will come with practice.
For now, that's what I would like you to do, PRACTICE,when you feel ready, try making a meaningful shape, say a leaf or petal, blend a couple of colours together,see what the results are but most of all, ENJOY.
It's a fantastic craft to learn and when you have, with my help, you''ll think of so many different ways you can use it.
Bon Voyage, it should be a pleasant journey.!!:-)

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Needle Match

Selecting the right needle is not difficult but it is possible to get comfortable with one grade of needle, at the expense of all others!!
By that I mean if you are getting along fine with a 38 guage triangular needle, you may find that you can in fact work a lot more efficiently with a  38 guage STAR needle. Or , if you are dealing with strong , coarse fibres, say Welsh Mountain Wool, a 36  tri needle will be far more effective.Romney wool will be the same (it's coarse too).
The gauge of the needle refers to it's diameter. Needle gauges range from 32 up to 42. 
Then you get the CROWN needle, with similar guages but with only one notch on each face(mostly used for inserting hair or eyebrows on dolls), regular needles have two on each face (edge) That's six on a tri and eight on a star.
The higher the gauge --the finer the needle. When you start a project, it is common to choose a needle that is thicker in diameter as it felts your fibre faster.  Higher gauge needles are used for adding details to your piece and  smoothing the surface

3D or Flat Felt

There are reasons , which are gained only from experience, why certain needles are preferred when making either a 3d piece such as a doll or a flat felted item, such as a picture
When making 3d pieces, the aim is to start coarse, to build up up quickly, finish fine,get a really smooth appearance to the surface of the finished item, so a super fine needle is the order of the day. This can be as fine as a forty two guage or a forty gauge , which ever you prefer, my personal preference is both!! Start the finishing process with a forty and finally a forty two , to make sure there are as few needle marks  as possible.

I know to the beginner, that this may all sound extremely confusing, It's really not, just get yourself a selection to start you off, have a crack at it and 'feel your way round' !!
You will start to find, that one feels better at certain jobs than another.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Fibre or fiber, I don't know

However you want to spell it, it comes down to the same thing!!
It's the stuff that you poke with the felting needle, to give the result that you're hoping to acheive.
There's no magic formula,it's just a matter of trying whatever is to hand and see what it looks like, right!!??
It can be as simple as going to your local craft store or the internet, with a wad of money and I'm sure there'll be somebody who will tell you " Oh Yeah!! This is what you need, and some of this and some of that!!" ..........!    I'm not saying that buying all your needs is wrong, as I said early doors, there is no wrong or right way in this craft. But take the advice of an ol' man and don't just throw money away, try a bit of improvisation, see what you have lying around the house, old sweaters that you could pull down and recycle the wool. String and cord(chord) are another source of fibres and before you know where you are , you'll be finding them all over the place!!
 Maybe you know a local farmer who has some sheep wool left over from shearing, try to do some sort of a deal.   Wash it and clean it and dye it yourself and you'll have 2 or 3 kilo's of good useable wool out of it!
There are many plant fibres that you can use but be warned, it can be the devils own job, beating, refining, soaking, boiling, teasing and carding, drying and dying, it may not be worth the while.
There are some very good priced deals for all of your plant fibre needs online, so think carefully before going out to hunt it down in the wild!
The world of animal fibres is a bewildering maze and there are some really exotic ones out there that you'll pay a hefty price tag on. Unless you are doing an order for someone with a special request for some obscure animal fibre, stick to good old fashioned sheep wool.
It comes in many grades but suffice to say, it's very, very fine or it goes all the way up to virtually barbed wire! So a collection of wool, somewhere betwixed the two, works pretty well on most any project.
In the next post I'll talk abit more about fibres and how they act in our line of work, the size and type of felting needles and a few small exercises to give us a feel for the job!!
Happy hunting.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

fiber talk: Getting Started

fiber talk: Getting Started: "O.K. So you have an idea floating around in your head and you want to do a needle felted picture of it!!! 'Where to start??' Well, it's pret..."

Getting Started

O.K. So you have an idea floating around in your head and you want to do a needle felted picture of it!!!
'Where to start??'
Well, it's pretty simple, with the base material! "But I already knew that" I hear you say. But did you give the base material, any thought? Because , yes you can use just about any material for the backing but will it suit the subject? Will the felting needle go through it relatively easily because, don't forget, depending on the size of the project, you could be poking that needle through the material for many, many hours! And believe me, if you've chosen a 'tough-to-poke' fabric, it really takes the enjoyment out of the task, when you end up half-way through , thinking"I wish I'd used an easier fabric"
O.K. so, the denser the thread pattern, like water-proof nylon and heavy weight canvas, the more resistance to the needle, the less dense, like fleece fabric, the less resistance.
Another consideration is visual suitability. A 'Hard Rock' subject, would look a bit silly on pink fleece!! So a balance has to be made.
I'll list a few materials that would be useful to have in your supply cupboard.
Hession- it comes in roll form as well as sheets, I even use old grain sacks. I wash them and then dye them in a whole range of colours.
Upholstery fabric, even patterned ones can be useful.
Linen, cotton(duck and mercerized) poly cotton, polyester,Ramy, Pre-felt ( kinda like a felt sheet but a bit looser), Felt, I have even used felt underlay for carpeting, Felted woollen clothing(sweaters etc that have felted due to washing wrongly or just aged) Denim, Canvas(can be hard on needles!!),Twil, Sinamey,(I'll talk about Sinamey later on) Chiffon, Silk Chiffon, Velvet, Organga, Satin,Silk, Jersey, Worsted, Chambrey, Corduroy, Fleece Fabric, Voile, Calico.
The list goes on but suffice to say that if you have some kind of fabric that you don't want to see go to waste, then try a sample piece and if it doesn't cause any problems, break needles or is very hard to penetrate, then I suggest you give it a go. Be led by your needle so-to-speak!!
If you want advice on any materials, fabrics and their suitability, just email me or comment and I will try to help as best I am able.