Wet felting, nuno felting, resists, various 3D surface design techniques, embellishment and stitch. Materials are merino wool, heavy cheesecloth, hand-spun yarn, hand-blown glass and wadding.
Inspired by a father whose life revolved around a microscope, I am also fascinated with the extreme microscopic view of the tiniest living things. In particular, the view of the ultra-structure of a micro-organism under an electron microscope which reveals intriguing oddities and mysterious characteristics. Due to their almost colourless appearance, they have an alien-like structure with flagella and undulating surfaces . While seemingly inanimate to the naked eye, under the lens, they defy this illusion.
There are larger photos with more detail of construction in the gallery below.
Initial layout merino on cheesecloth
Laying out prefelts on top of Nuno felt
Layering of prefelt flaps with resists
Prefelt flaps and inclusions on front prefelt Nuno panel
Tail pieces with multiple vanes and wool cord
Back view with single large glass ball
Back view with felt over large hand blown glass ball
Closeup of front with balls and inclusions on front
Hanging in gallery
While this piece has a lot of elements going on, my hope is that they portray the primitive structure of a micro organism. I use a fine merino roving on cheesecloth to create a pre-felt and then apply the flaps, balls and foam pieces. Using resists and temporary tacking to keep the bulky elements in place, the fulling is done separately on each piece as a result . The 2 pieces are stitched together, filled with wadding and the tail then attached. Maybe I won’t do piece like this again, but in the end, I think it is especially relevant to the theme of the exhibition.
In addition to 70+ other exhibits, Micros organismos is an exhibit in the 2016 Perth felt exhibition MACRO|micro.
Merino wool / bamboo fibre blend, thread, water soluble fabric
For millennia, our watery planet has been spinning in space sustained by the Plantae kingdom. Insignificantly small by comparison to the size of earth, trees and plants ‘en masse’ are the main contributor to terrestrial life, being the viable and dynamic operation of the earth’s ecosystems. Producing oxygen via photosynthesis – they create the invisible life-giving element that shrouds the globe.
Closeup of free machine embroidery incorporated into the felt
Veiling with wool to represent ‘mists’
Densely stitched threadwork done on water soluble
Profile showing depth of piece
Mists of time in gallery
Another angle in gallery
Exhibited flat, but designed for hanging
Vertical / front view
Integrating Felt and Thread
The global reference of this piece determines the colour as well as it’s shape. To keep the shape as perfectly circular as possible, there needs to be support for the shape. After allowing for shrinkage, and using a resist, the large circular pre-felt is made. The thread-work, which in this case involves very dense stitching on water soluble fabric, is put in place. Very gentle massaging is necessary to get the wool fibres to adhere to the thread. Although flat, the density of the stitching means it takes a while to encourage the wool fibres to migrate through the available spaces.
Once significant shrinkage becomes apparent, the thread-work, which is quite stiff, buckles. Creating this dimensional effect as well as some careful layering of wadding, results in the partial dome shape. The circular art-board was inserted once the piece was fully felted.
The vivid hues of sun, lush foliage and Ulysses butterflies represent my earliest childhood memories living in Trinidad – one of the smallest nations in the world.
Blocks of different fibre types symbolise the stages of my life in both hemispheres. A lifetime of traversing the latitudes finds me now living in one of the biggest countries on the planet but still wandering…
Wet felted using resist method, surface design techniques and free machine embroidery .
Merino wool, thread, water soluble fabric, hardener and paint.
A tribute to the miracle of the birth of a tree. Growing from a small innocuous looking seed below the earth’s surface to eventually become a large life sustaining structure above ground. Despite frost and adverse conditions, it will sprout through the hard surface to create one of nature’s wonders. While beneath the surface, the support network of roots inversely echoes the tree that will be.
Sprouting from the pod
In the gallery
Closeup of roots
Sculpting with wool
Sculpting brings to mind pottery, but with wool it most probably applies to making any 3D object in felt. Images of pottery are a useful source of acquiring ideas for felt projects, hence the inspiration for the sprouts on this piece. Many branched cords are individually attached to the pod at pre-felt stage, to create the illusion of sprouts.
The root component is made using intense free machine embroidery on water soluble fabric as in Barely there and Mists of Time. Once washed out and dry, a slight stiffness remains, which makes it easier to handle. Though stitching it into the inside of the vessel, is not something I recommend when it is so small!
The application of a dilute PVA solution creates a hard exterior that is synonymous with the hardness of a seed pod.
Embellished prefelts deconstructed, reassembled and nuno-felted
Fine merino wool, hand loomed silk gauze, silk fibres
The gossamer fibres of wool and silk are barely visible fibres but when amalgamated in their millions, combine to create the magic of a whimsical fabric -light as a feather and reminiscent of a fanciful creature with wings outspread. Portraying the enigma of the delicate, tough and mysterious nature of its fibrous components.
Dyeing the silk gauze – acid dyes and then steamed
Pre-felt pieces applied to silk and massaged
Early stages of fulling.
Closeup of mosaic
Wet, not ironed
Showing distressed silk fibres
Drying the wrap flat
Easiest way to take a photograph
In gallery as a wall hanging
Reverse side is more subtle
Another rather large project with multiple processes but with a very satisfying result. This piece can be a wrap, wall hanging or throw. It is extremely lightweight as it uses the lightest of silk gauze and extra-fine merino roving. The thin layout and gentle nuno felting processes gives the piece a very good drape. The pre-felt consists of many wool colours and a variety of silk fibres. This is cut up and placed on the dyed silk.
The very flat smooth finish is thanks to a lot of surface rubbing and subsequent rolling. The process involves no aggressive felting method except a bit of tossing at the end. The fibres of the silk gauze distress slightly during the felting process and add to the final result.
Hand dyed merino wool, hand dyed silk fabric, silk tops and mawata, thread, nylon, rubber.
A fanciful depiction of erythrocytes on the cellular highway of the cardio-vascular system. With over 20 trillion in an adult’s body, red blood cells are flexible biconcave discs. Their mission is to deliver oxygen to the body tissues. Constantly replenished by bone marrow, they circulate for around 120 days before they expire.
Initial wool layout
Wool layout progressing
Wetting out the wool
Adding shibori elements
Fulling in progress
Closeup of 3D elements
Round inclusions symbolic of red blood cells
Finished and mounted on board
Hanging in gallery
Making 120 days
Using fishing line in textile projects like Substratum is a bit alternative, but the depth it achieves in combination with shrinkage is quite unique. Doing this for this project gives the piece more movement and depth, implying the movement of the red blood cells. The addition of silk fabric adds texture and contrasts with the matt finish of the felt. Washers and plastic discs where embedded in the felting process. Craters were formed to represent the ageing red blood cells at various stages.
There is something very appealing about an object that looks hard, but is actually soft. Specifically I mean felt stones that are made of felt, rather than felted real stones. I think that is why the cracked earth technique is a favourite amongst some felt makers. On the web, I see many images of faux stone rugs and objects made with wool. It seems like many of them are made with all wool and are likely to be very heavy when wet. I am exploring ways to achieve the same look, with some kind of foam inner.
Wool batt layout
Cut foam shapes on base
Another layer of wool and wet out
REfining the indentations
Ready to full
Rinsing flat in the shower
Trial stones prefelted
Stones on wool base
Doing it a different way
Less flattened after felting
Minimal base layer
Stones with tencel decor
Still working on the solution
The bathroom mat is in daily use, and so far is working better than expected. It doesn’t get sodden when you get out of the shower, and the antibacterial properties of wool can’t hurt either. It is not a mat you can put in the washing machine, so requires hand washing or a dunk in the bath. Still more experimenting to go on felt stone mats me thinks!
Since the making of a number of wall hangings for the last exhibition, it is a nice change of pace to create something completely functional like the felt mandala rug below. In a 3 day workshop with Martien van Zuilen, we all came away with very different rugs. Mine is in daily use and a favourite with my personal trainer, the dog. Might have to make another one now.
Essential equipment to commence workshop
Prefelt cut outs
Many layers later…..
Almost finished mandalas
The mandala workshop
Martien ‘s workshop is a busy 3 days, but well worth the effort. Surprisingly, a standard trestle table is enough to create this rug, just! Merino is not suitable for rugs, so Corriedale or wool with an equal or higher micron count is the better option. Martien explains the traditional and cultural aspects of the mandala and then guides you through the design principles. She covers various aspects of the design which involve a number of elements in this technique. While the focus on creating a well balanced piece is the aim, there was plenty of other techniques to consider for inclusion. Colour blending, patterning with pre-felt and creating texture with stitch, to name but a few.
To be able to customise a bag to one’s own requirements for space, colour and style, is quite an advantage. Hand-making bags in felt allows for all these options while also being light-weight and water repellent. The size and purpose of the bag usually dictates the type of wool that is most suitable.
Front with prefelt decor
2 pockets, magnetic closure
Saddle bag style
Silk decor, corriedale wool
Twisted strap attachment
The grey bag, which is small was made with 18 micron merino, while the orange bag uses Corriedale – around 27 microns. Most bags require at least one resist, and usually more depending on the number of pockets or features. The grey bag is made with an all-in-one resist that includes the handles, with additional resists for the pockets. Foam tubing is added later to give more support and assist with shaping.
Imagination is the only limiting factor for the variety of handles and straps that are possible. The orange bag strap is just a twisted cord which goes through loops in the body of the bag. Silk ribbon and silk gauze form part of the back and front flap decor.
Nuno-felting is a very popular technique these days, especially for wearable items like scarves and wraps. Various fabrics can be used in conjunction with natural and man made fibres. A very fine wool such as cashmere or merino is ideal for nuno-felted scarves. Embellishing with bead and stitch adds to the surface texture, which is often ruched using this technique.
Nuno felting is a fabric felting technique developed by Polly Stirling, a fiber artist from New South Wales, Australia, around 1992. The name is derived from the Japanese word “nuno” meaning cloth. The technique bonds loose fibre, usually wool, into a sheer fabric such as silk gauze, creating a lightweight felt.
See pictures below for more details.
Scarflette in exhibition
Sold at Exhibition
Closeup of embellished closure
Merino blend on silk
Merino and bamboo blend Felted onto hand-dyed silk