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Felting Silk Carrier Rods – more ideas

While writing an article for FELT magazine about how silk carrier rods can be incorporated into felt making, I was inspired to try a few more things. In my previous post  I showed how layers, wispy bits and the full carrier rod could be used in a variety of ways.

Thin layers of carrier rod become even more versatile when combined with wool to make pre-felt. They are laid adjacent to one another on  a  base of wool fibre and felted to form a firm pre-felt. Once the layers of carrier rod are well and truly integrated, it is best to let it dry. The surface is slightly rigid which allows  cutting of  complex shapes and  more control over design elements as a result. Click on photos to see more detail.

The cut pre-felt shapes or pieces can then be felted into a project in the normal way. Why dry, these  additions provide more texture and rigidity than using standard pre-felt. With gauze – cotton or silk –  placed under the pre-felt shapes on top of a wool base, the added elements  become more defined, creating a halo at the edges.

Illumination?

While I was at it, I put tea lights in my little vessels.  There are some distinct possibilities here for lampshades or tea light holders. Light / natural  wool works best. Adding the carrier rod pre-felt has great potential for adding texture and creating defined areas.

Silk carrier rods defy the adage that you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. Turning something that is not particularly attractive in its raw state, to an appealing and interesting  embellishment is rather satisfying.Felting with silk carrier rods

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The article appears in FELT issue #18 – Dec 2017 published by Artwear Publications, with 3 pages of photos and details about how to use Silk Carrier Rods. See more on Facebook Follow  Felt magazine on facebook for more info about the  great articles and projects for feltmakers.

Felt folding at Fibres West 2017

Felt Folding with Andrea Noeske-Porada

FIBRES WEST 2017 is a residential program over five days and 6 nights at Muresk in Northam. Reputedly the coldest place in winter in Western Australia. Not that we noticed too much as we quickly became engrossed in learning felt folding origami type techniques with Andrea Noeske-Porada.  A truly unique felting workshop experience with a dozen equally enthusiastic participants. Andrea’s technique of taking felt to another dimensional level requires some intense attention to detail. My cutting board is yet to recover as there was a lot of very precise cutting. As a result, my pieces below may not seem much for 5 days effort, but it is a technique that requires some thought and patience.felt folding

In order to understand the basic technique, we had some paper folding practice  before embarking on complex projects. Making a Kaleidocycle is a fascinating exercise. Being a three-dimensional ring, it can continually turn inside out to reveal the different coloured facets. Making it is felt is therefore more challenging. One has to first convert wool fibre into a fabric, so it can be cut, reassembled and shrunk.

Most of all, it was a wonderful week of creativity with presentations by all the Fibres West tutors, as well as a trade hall, evening activities, installation artist and displays. Despite the wonderful distractions (including all meals), the results from my fellow participants speak for themselves. Click on images below to see larger images and the amazing variety of items.

 

Silk carrier rods for felters

What are silk carrier rods?

Despite looking like something from an archaeological dig (according to a friend at least!), carrier rods are pretty fascinating things. They are a by-product of the silk reeling process. Filaments of silk and silk dust catch and wind around the carrier or guide rods of the machinery for reeling the silk filaments from the cocoon. Due to the sericin in the silk, the residue builds up as a hard mass up to 15cm (6″) long. This is slit off the rod periodically to give the silk carrier rod it’s distinctive cylindrical shape.

Properties

Being silk, carrier rods dye well and have a slight sheen. Textile enthusiasts use them in many ways either whole, manipulated or split into thinner layers. One can spin, weave, cut and stitch them as well as making structural silk paper to embellish with paint, foil, print or embossing. They are a wonderful addition to a fibre artists ‘stash’ and can simply be layered to give texture and dimension as in Pik-a-poppy

Recently I was demonstrating to our local felting group about carrier rods partly because I use them in a felt exhibition piece Life Cycle.  So the challenge was on to explore creative ways to use them when making felt.

Preparing Carrier Rods for felting

Being a hard gummy fibre (ie full of sericin), the rods vary considerably in appearance and can even contain cocoon remnants. They need some warmth to be able to manipulate them. The easiest way to flatten them is to iron them dry – no steam. They can be felted whole using ‘trapping’ techniques or separated and stretched out into thin wispy layers to incorporate with wool fibres. Rolling the rods length-ways against the curve for a few minutes in your hands will also soften and reveal the layers. Soaking in some warm water for 1/2 hr or so works too. When stretching the layers, the criss-cross of the fibres is apparent and acts as a natural resist in the dyeing process with interesting colour variations.

Felting with thin layers and wispy bits

As long as you can see light through the pieces, fine mesh layers felt in really well. They are easy to curve, shape and weave and seem to felt in better if put into position on the wool, before wetting out.

Carding little fluffy bits with wool produces a lovely mottled effect. Slightly thicker layers of the rod will also work with persistence and provide more texture in areas where it is thicker. Click to view larger images.

Trapping full rod thickness in felt

Using thicker layers or the full thickness of the carrier rod results in greater textural effect. As the silk is too dense for the wool to grab onto, trapping is a solution. Silk hankies and various fibres like silk and viscose work well. Despite the felting and fulling process, most of the texture and dimension of the rod pieces are retained.

Fine veiling with wool doesn’t work too well as too many edges of the rod pieces remain exposed. Using more wool to  trap the rods or pieces more effectively makes them almost invisible! Stitching them in place at the pre-felt stage with a wool yarn works.

Felting with silk paper made from carrier rods

Silk paper can be solid or sparse depending on the thickness and quantity of the layers.  After separating the layers, place them on a silicon sheet or baking parchment and spay lightly with water. Cover with baking parchment and iron. The moisture and heat activates the sericin and ‘glues’ the pieces together. Do not iron directly on the wet carrier rods unless you like to scrape things off the bottom of your iron. Keep ironing until almost dry and they are sticking together. Allow the paper to cool and harden up a bit before handling.

Cut or torn pieces can be trapped under net or gauze or used in ‘craters’. Maximum dimension and crinkling results, as there is almost no attachment of the silk paper to the wool fibres.

Deconstructed nuno wrap – in print!

Sari Nuno Wrap – Doubly Deconstructed
deconstructed nuno wrap
Finished wrap

It was the highlight of the week to see my project in print in the June 2017 issue of ‘Felt’. While the title is a bit of a mouthful, it is an accurate description. A little different to more traditional nuno felt projects, this one also includes wool ‘cheese’ (pre-yarn) and sari silk ribbons.

To keep the wrap as light as possible I use Uzbek silk gauze and 18.5 micron merino wool. I did have fun with this one, as I like working with a combination of unusual materials in textiles. I think my felt making is heading that way too!

Initially, I wasn’t sure how this project would turn out, but was curious to see what textures would result from using the contrasting materials. Stripes or checks? As it turns out, chopping up and rearranging the sari ribbon pre-felt creates both effects.

sara quail deconstructed nuno wrap
Deconstructed nuno wrap

Although all the elements were  off-white / ivory, there are interesting colour and pattern variations, depending in what light it is viewed. While ironing the end result gives the wrap a subtle sheen, I also like the exaggerated ‘pebbly’ nuno effect that is created after fulling.

The gallery below gives an indication of the process – click to enlarge photos.

Deconstructed nuno wrap in Felt Magazine

As a result of this experiment, I was asked to submit an article for ‘Felt’ by the editor Martien van Zuilen.  4 pages of comprehensive instructions for making this deconstructed nuno wrap appears in ‘Felt’ – issue #17.  It is pretty special to appear in such a high quality magazine alongside some great felting names which include local and international makers. The magazine contains felt-related articles as well as a variety of projects and lots of visual inspiration.

Armatures for 3D textiles

Sara Quail wire textile
My cornucopia in progress

Armatures with Katrina Virgona
(Or what the heck do I do with an armature?!)

Using armatures in textiles is one of those techniques that is a little out of the norm for many textile artists. But this kind of workshop is right up my alley considering my love of 3D work and using alternative materials. Continue reading “Armatures for 3D textiles”

3D felt -Dimensional felting course with Pam de Groot

An online course in textures and dimension – 3D felt objects
splash felt
The splash

I have just completed the ‘Textures and Dimension’ online workshop with Pam de Groot. What a great course! Although not for beginners, for anyone who loves 3D felt techniques, this is the one. I had given up waiting for Pam to come to this side of the country anytime soon. So it was wonderful to be able to do this workshop in my own time over 6 weeks. Continue reading “3D felt -Dimensional felting course with Pam de Groot”

Felt Jewellery and small scale sculpture

Felt Adorned –  A felt jewellery workshop with Martien van Zuilen

I spent a very pleasant and creative weekend discovering the possibilities of creating felt jewellery and mini sculptural shapes. Martien van Zuilen’s ‘Sculpture and Jewellery on a Precious Scale’ workshop is full of  ideas and techniques to make jewellery or components to add to other felting projects. Continue reading “Felt Jewellery and small scale sculpture”