Bless This Home

A customer admired my felt flowers during the most recent artwalk. He picked up a brilliant yellow flower with a purple center attached to a headband. “Can you make this in reverse?” He was inspired to present his sister with a purple lotus as a housewarming gift. “Anything is possible,” I told him happily.

Aiming to please, I created two flowers so he could select his favorite. When he came to pick up the finished flower on Sunday, I asked him to tell me more about his sister. When she returned to the US after spending a few years working in southern India, she began a tradition of painting or making a purple lotus blossom for loved ones when they moved to a new home. According to local tradition in her community, the flower represented the cleansing of a space, offering the dwelling new breath. Finally, it was his turn to offer something for her new home.

As the school year draws to a close, I am wrapping up operations in my Etsy shop and studio. My trusty sidekick will package any kit sales that happen while I’m away. The rest of my inventory will be offline until I return. While I will have some access to email, it is nice to spend the evening in bed with a book instead of waiting for the churning of a slow connection as it trolls for a satellite signal. It may be wishful thinking, but I’m packing six books for the four weeks I’ll be away in New Hampshire. I look forward to making a valiant dent in the pile.

Parent First, Artist Second

At this point in my life, I identify myself as a parent first and artist second. From the very first days of my daughter’s life, I knew that I would put the bulk of my energy into her. This was what felt right for me, and is not a judgment on anyone else’s priorities.

There are times, now that my children are in 5th and 3rd grade where it is a struggle to put them first. There is so much I want to do, so much a younger version of myself had expected I would have achieved at this point in my life. Yet, when it comes to choosing between spending a morning pulling weeds at school and meeting with a professional association of artists, my time goes to the garden party. When my son had a fever and a sore throat, I chose to keep him home for four days just to give him the extra cushion he needs to be fully present the following week.

Our children attend a public school in Seattle, underfunded by our district, as is the case across the country. Thanks to the efforts of our parent fundraising organisation, we manage to add music, art, PE and more to our children’s education, with the bulk of our dollars raised at our annual auction. Year in and year out, this is an enjoyable event, where parents and friends are invited to dash for desserts, dress in costume, cook for a crowd and grab a great bottle of wine for a deal. Donations come from all quarters: gift baskets assembled by middle school parents, mosaics created by elementary classes, trips, massages and more. This year, I am contributing two separate items: a felt flower workshop and a ruffled irridescent silk scarf.

This scarf is named Edith, in honor of our fearless auction chair. Two layers of ruby silk are held together with a narrow band of shimmering felt.

The auction will take place on Saturday March 26th, 2010 in the Wellness Center at North Seattle Community College, should you care to join us. The evening begins at 5pm with a fabulous potluck dinner, better than any catered event food. This is one of the things I most love about our school. I’m looking forward to a fun-filled evening putting my money where my heart lies.

Tea for Me, Cozy for You

When someone buys a very special gift, it deserves a special shelter. A friend was given a handmade tea pot, as much a piece of art as a functional vessel. It was on display in her kitchen, but she really wanted it to work as a teapot, which meant it needed a cozy.

On a trip to Vancouver, she spotted a felted teacozy in an art gallery. Rather than buying that cozy, she brought her intention home, inviting me to make a custom piece.

I started with a bell-shaped resist to make a seamless vessel. When I first felted the cozy, my family thought it resembled the sorting hat, a little too high and narrow in the crown for this teapot. Since the vine design turned out just as I imagined, cutting the excess fabric from the top allowed me to create the shape I needed.

An admirer of the larger felt flowers I’ve been making as wearable art, my client requested some smaller flowers for the cozy. Sizing them down took some experimentation, but ultimately was a great exercise.

The most difficult, and least enjoyable part of the process was determining how to price the final product. How to account for the time spent figuring out how to make the felt flowers smaller? What about the time spent sewing the top seam of the cozy, that might not have been necessary if my resist was a closer reflection of the true shape I needed? Should I make a second teapot cozy, I’ll trim the resist so it can be done seamlessly. Mistakes are learning opportunities, and a custom piece is always more expensive and time consuming than buying something off the rack. Ultimately, I’m grateful for the opportunity to try a new project and learn through the process.

Spring Greens

Asked by a friend if I would pose for a photo assignment, I was inspired to make a large felt flower to wear in my hair. Without revealing the theme of her project, suffice it to say, she was asking me to embody a more feminine version of myself than is my normal expression.

Two days before the shoot, I found a vintage velvet moss jacket at a local boutique. It was the perfect shade of green with sleeves just a bit too short to be considered right for my size and a bit too long to be right for this season. My solution was to felt a pair of gauntlets using a handpainted merino/tencel roving blend from Blue Moon Fiber Arts in shades of green, maroon and brown that remind me of a winter cabbage. Once I finished the gauntlets, I needed a felt collar to complete the set. I should have made the collar first to determine the shrinkage rate for this roving as the gauntlets are an extremely snug fit.

The day of our shoot was the perfect combination of overcast skies allowing for plenty of light without any bright hotspots of sunshine filtering through the leaves.

I couldn’t resist pulling out my camera to capture the set after the shoot was over. As my son was home sick from school, I used the time to teach him a few photography basics. While he has always been eager to operate the remote, I wanted him to see that taking a picture is so much more than just pressing the button.

Flowers in Focus

Two experiments have given me great delight in the last two days (I sound like Jacob Two-Two). Working with a four ounce hank of handpainted merino roving from KnittyAndColor, I made six felt flowers, varying the petal shape and layers with each one.


Generally, I’m much too scattered to work an entire collection from one hank of roving. As I pull out the boxes and look at my choices, my mind is filled with the possibilities. This time I needed to create a portfolio for a group of artists meeting to discuss an upcoming holiday show, so I forced myself to work within the limitation of a single colorway.


It was astonishing to see how each flower developed on its own. As the roving played across my hands, I decided in that moment if the flower would have one, two, three or four layers of petals; which color would be in the center and how the colors would work together.


The second experiment began with a short exchange between Maya of Springtree Road regarding her beautiful product photography. As soon as I started to follow her on Twitter, her work stuck out head and shoulders above the fray for its striking shots. While the yarn is gorgeous, it is really her camera that makes the work sing.

When I brought the purple flowers to the meeting last night, they were greeted with a universal exclamation: “These are so much more beautiful than on your website”. Ugh. Okay, let’s try a little harder.

While picking up my camera from the repair shop today and returning their loaner, I decided to rent a lens for the weekend to see if it was worth the pricetag. Normally, I have a hard time plunking down hard-earned money. I listen to an iPod shuffle, drive a ’91 Volvo and my wardrobe is all thrifted. Can a photo add enough value to a product to justify the expense?

I don’t know the answer, but this lens makes me happy. Crazy happy. I was in love after the first shot. Oh, so this is what I’ve been missing, I thought to myself as I snapped, adjusted, reviewed, snapped some more etc… Come Monday, I think I’ll buy myself another birthday present.

Ruffled Again

Still can’t get off the ruffled flower kick. I brought a bunch of them to a bbq with the plan to sew the pinbacks on so I could sent out a consignment. A woman following her curious toddler asked me if I had ever sewn the flowers to barrettes. Her sister was a dancer she said, with very thick hair, and she was always looking for bold flowers to pull back her hair.


I told her confidently that yes, I did have barrettes on my flowers; and then as soon as the kids were in bed, I ordered some large and extra-large barrettes on Etsy.


This one I gave as a birthday present to a dear friend whose youngest daughter was celebrating her fifth. I’ve always thought that mothers deserve more acknowledgment at a child’s birthday party since we did all the hard work so many years ago. Shouldn’t a birthday be recognized as a birth-day?


An alligator clip was plenty for this felt lily with its pointed base. More flowers with barrettes and even elastics are on their way into my shop. My camera has been out for repair, but a little bird told me it is ready for pick up. Now all I need to do is find that dancer with luscious hair to model for me.

Ruffled Felt Flowers

For the past few days, I’ve been refining a couple of flower variations, whittling down my process with each attempt.


The first two were mock-ups as I hashed out my working ideas in felt. The stamens were added after the fact and the center layer of the pink flower was sewn in place with a needle and thread. Still, they worked well enough that I knew where to take the next versions. I sewed pin backs on them, satisfied with them as they were.


The next flower was felted with three layers of merino roving and handpainted silk cap; the stamens were placed in the center early in the process so they felted in position.


Then I tried a five layer version using merino roving and tussah silk. This took considerably more time, but mostly because I didn’t lay down enough roving with the first layers.


Each flower ended up a little different as I experimented with varying the amounts of roving for each layer, the amount of silk on the top layer and the formation of the stamens. The possibilities at this point seem almost endless. With every new batch of handpainted roving, there will be another flower shape.


This set thrills me to no end, mostly because I worked them through from the germ of an idea, tried it out, refined the process and continued to work on it until I had something that was just what I wanted. Perseverance isn’t exactly my middle name, so this feels like a particular triumph.


This set is destined for the Columbia City Gallery, but they have been so fun to make there will be another crop in my shop shortly.

F is for Flower

How long can I run this theme? There are a lot of single word ideas piling up in my head.

After months and months in development, testing, trials, comments and revisions, I’ve finally finished a WetFelt Flower Kit.


Materials included in this kit are sufficient to create three large flowers with stems: 1.5 oz merino, 12″ square of tulle and 12″ square of bubblewrap, photo instructions and an online photo tutorial.


Thank you to the kit testers who helped enormously in the refining stages of this kit. My hat tips as I do a deep curtsy to Lora Shinn for the gorgeous photos she took on a very grey day in March.


*Edit: This kit will is now for sale in my Etsy shop; for crafters who have materials on hand, the tutorial is available for purchase as a pdf.

Spring Blossoms

While the Northwest has been experiencing erratic temperatures and unseasonal snows*, my studio has been bursting with colorful blossoms. This collection should warm even the bluest fingers.


These pieces are now available in my etsy shop. If you are interested in additional blossoms to create a bouquet or a centerpiece, I’d be happy to work with you.

*Robin says this isn’t global warming, it is ‘global warning’.