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A Walk in the Woods

Stellar weather today. The temperatures are in the mid 50s, with sunshine and no wind. It was a perfect afternoon for walking. We went to the Pathfinder, which winds its way through the floodplain along the river. I brought my Canon camera and got a few shots that could serve as reference photos for future drawings.

Over the river. Beautiful lines, shadows and colors.
Interesting perspective
Great reflections on the pond and fine color contrast between banks and water.
The trees in the foreground frame the shot.
Really lovely bark texture and brilliant green moss.

Back home for a cup of tea with biscuits (also known as cookies to those of us who live in the States.) The number of days with gorgeous weather this year is about over.

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And now for something completely different

The craft of felting has got to be one of the oldest uses of wool. Pretty soon after (or maybe even before) early humans had begun to keep animals for meat and milk, they discovered the warmth of fleece. Early blankets required no manipulation to create – they were just matted, shed hairs of sheep, goats and what-have-you.

We can use of the propensity of wool to felt and make whatever we want. Today I want to make some felt balls to give to my granddaughter for Christmas. She is now walking and very interested in chasing objects across the floor. I read about felting balls in a library book – sorry I don’t remember which one, or I would reference it. The designer started with a jingle bell. I went to the dollar store and bought a bag of cat toys for a dollar. I had some fleece left over from teaching fiber arts.

The tools for this project are readily available in most homes: a plastic placemat, some bubble wrap, a large bowl with a fitted lid and a squeeze of dish soap. Merino wool bats are available from craft stores for a few dollars each. I used four colors of fleece for my balls.

First, separate the fleece into thin strips, then pull the strips apart gently every four inches or so. You want to expose the loose ends of the fibers. Begin wrapping the fleece strips around the ball, overlapping and pressing the fibers down on each other. Continue until the ball is covered with about a one inch layer. Gently roll the covered ball around in your palms, loosely, until the fibers seem to be clinging. When the wool has begun to matt, it will look something like this:

The beginning stage of felting.

Make a few more balls to this point before moving on to the next step.

Add about an inch of soapy water to the bowl. Dip the felt balls into the water, then pick up each and roll it on the bubble wrap until all the fibers are pretty well mashed together. They will look something like this:

Okay, here is the fun part. Put on some lively music. Place balls in bowl with a little soapy water, snap on the lid, pick up bowl and start shaking it around like crazy. The goal is to bounce them together and keep them rolling. This process is called fulling the wool. It will take ten to fifteen minutes.

These balls are pretty well fulled.

The next step is called shocking. The soapy water is rinsed off, then balls are immersed under hot water for about a minute. After the hot water is squeezed out, the balls are immersed in cold water. A few repetitions of this step will shrink and harden the wool. Set balls aside to dry.

You can also put them in the dryer for 15 minutes on medium heat.

Here are my felt balls, ready to be wrapped up for giving:

I was delighted that the felting worked just fine over the plastic cat toys. These balls are now child-safe and ready to roll.

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Easy Peasy Tassel Necklace

I’m back to the Daily Fiber blog, after a pretty long vacation trip. The fatigue of the trip has sapped my creative energy. So I thought it would be best to make an easy fiber object on my first day back.

This little necklace showed up in a women’s clothing catalog I paged through recently. It’s very fetching, but to me, not a good value at $70.00. I’d like to try my hand at my own version.

To make the tassels, you will need one skein of embroidery floss for each tassel, some jewelry jump rings, a few beads, lobster claw fasteners, thread cutters, tapestry needle, and glue.

Here are the first six tassels completed.
  1. With the paper sleeves still on the floss skein, slip a jump ring to the skein’s center, or tie the skein tightly in the middle with a piece of floss. Slip off the paper sleeves.
  2. Fold the skein in half, holding the ring or floss tie at the top. With another piece of floss about 12 inches long (matching or contrasting,) make wraps around the top of the tassel, working down the tassel about an inch or as desired. Tie the two ends together with double overhand knot.
  3. You can hide the knot by threading the ends on a tapestry needle, then push the needle up through the wraps coming out of the top of the tassel. Do this one end at a time.

At this point, you can finish off the tassel by attaching a lobster claw clasp to the ring, or if you used a floss tie instead tie the ends to the clasp. A drop of glue on the knot will keep it from coming loose. Cut the excess thread away. If you want to add beads, they can be threaded on the ties before you attach the clasp.

Trim tassel ends to length desired and you’re done! Here is my finished necklace. I spent less than $10, including the chain.

For this necklace, I made an additional couple of tassels out of yarn.

What a coincidence! This necklace goes very well with my new shirt!

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Paper Week Finale

Lately we have been hearing unflattering news about China – unfair trade practices, intellectual property theft, and so on. Today I want to be grateful for some of the good things we have received from the Chinese, such as Paper! And let’s not omit the art form of folding paper. The word origami is from Japan, but the Chinese were creating objects of folded paper as early as the 10th century. Today I am using The Art of Chinese Paper Folding, by Maying Soong for instruction in making my pieces. She explains that in China, paper objects are made with only a single sheet of paper and one’s hands. No pasting or cutting is permitted. “It is the most interesting, inexpensive and useful art for children and grownups.” For this project, I will be making two forms – pinwheels and birds. The bird form reminds me of seagulls. So my theme for this work is the beach. Here are some of the papers I am using. In addition to colored copy paper, I have 12 x 12 inch scrapbook sheets.

When my husband was a boy, he enjoyed making origami shapes, so I invited him to help. He measured and cut the majority of the paper that I am using. As I began to work, it started to rain. It was so peaceful, sitting and folding, listening to the rain hit the roof and the thunder rumble in the distance. What a satisfying project for a wet, somewhat cold day. After a few hours, I had folded all the pieces and laid them out ready for the installation.

Pinwheels in warm colors, Birds in cool colors. I folded several sizes of each.

The origami is installed across the east wall of my studio. It measures about eight feet wide by three feet tall. Photography was tricky. Bill took the wide-angle shot which you see at the top. Here are my photographs, including the approach to the piece while entering the room, the left side detail and the right side detail.

I call it Breezy Beach Day.

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Prayer Flag #4 – Water

Today we consider the fourth in the series of Tibetan Prayer Flags. It is green, and represents water. Because I am so happy when around or in water, I feel especially drawn to this element. There are so many blessings related to this substance. In the form of rain, it is yearned for when scarce and cursed when excessive. Rivers, lakes and shores are places of rest, relaxation and sport. Today’s message is about the water that is within us. We are told that in the human body, water content ranges from 50% to 75%. I am grateful for access to clean water, so that I can replenish my cells. This flag is pieced together, with color-wash muslin and fabrics that I colorwashed and salted. The letters are written with pen and stenciled.

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Prayer Flag #3 – Fire

The third flag in the series is red, representing fire. We tend to think of fire as the flame tamed by man to do his bidding, or the flame sparked by a flash of lighting. For me, the most remarkable fire of all is the one that keeps our bodies at level temperature – metabolism. When this fire goes out, we begin to cool and return to the earth. The images in my flag are natural creatures, full of the fire of life. Special acknowledgment to Gustav Klimt for The Kiss. Dyed muslin, applique, hand embroidery and painted.

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Prayer Flag #2 – White

Traditionally, the second flag is white. It represents the air and wind, better known in modern times as atmosphere. The atmosphere of Earth protects life in a multitude of ways. In my prayer flag, I refer to the air in our bodies, which gives us life by infusing our cells with oxygen. The wind, which swirls around the earth, both pollinates and scatters the seeds of many plants. Thus air is a force in providing for future generations of the plants and all breathing things.

I have been taking a class in embroidery, so today I wanted to try out some of the stitches and techniques I have learned. The image I chose is the dandelion seed head. Natural muslin, hand embroidered, and bedazzled with trim and sequins.

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Prayer Flag no. 1

Blue Prayer Flag

In the traditional prayer flag arrangement, the flags are laid out in a specific order from left to right. Five colors represent the five elements The first is blue. It represents the sky and space. My blue prayer is in gratitude for the orbs of the sky: the sun and the moon. This piece is made with applique on dyed muslin, machine embroidered, stenciled and marked.

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Prayer Flags

Prayer Flag at Sarchu

I have long been fascinated with Tibetan prayer flags. Traditionally, prayer flags are used to promote peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom. The flags do not carry prayers to gods, which is a common misconception; rather, the Tibetans believe that prayers will be blown by the wind to spread the good will and compassion into all pervading space. This thinking makes the hanging of prayer flags both an ecumenical and a humanistic practice. And while there exists a standard color, order and shape of the pennants in traditional flags, modern fiber artists reinterpret the flags according to the artists particular craft. They make a fantastic variety of creative works decorated with applique, embroidery, quilting, beads and so on.

I direct you to begun by Vivika Hansen DeNegre in 2011. For my prayer flag project, I want to test out the dye capabilities of my Jacquard Textile paints. I learned recently that the paint can be diluted with water and used as a dye bath for fabric. My goal is to create a mottled, pastel effect. Here is what I have done so far:

Cotton muslin cut into rectangles. I tied some of them, to attempt a Shibori-like effect

Here you see the dye baths, the baths with the cloths submerged, and the cloths removed and drying. The red paint works best, the yellow second. The blue bath tinted the fabric very lightly. This might have worked better on pre-washed fabric.

I used the left-over red paint to tint a few printed pieces of fabric: