Nunofelt Workshop at Pacific Northwest Art School

What happens when you bring fine merino wool together with a light, gauzy fabric? You get texture galore.

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From ruffles to puckers to subtle texture, there is endless possibility when working wool through fabric and then letting the magic of felting happen.

The weekend of April 26 and 27th, I will be teaching a two-day workshop at the Pacific Northwest Art School in Coupeville on beautiful Whidbey Island. Students will spend time experimenting with various fabrics to achieve different textures. Once they have sampled, they will create a scarf, wrap or shrug.

Tuition: $255, material fee: $40, registration fee: $15

Register online at www.pacificnorthwestartschool.org or by phone 360-678-3396.

Color Contest

There was lots of discussion last night about the color of this nunofelt wrap.

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Neither blue, green or teal is quite the color to describe it. Mary Harris, owner of the Fiber Gallery and my business host for the Phinneywood Artwalk suggested Duwamish Tide (the Duwamish River being an urban waterway polluted by years of industrial contamination and vital to the region’s economy).

The peanut gallery sitting around at the end of the evening suggested naming this color would be a great contest.

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Leave a comment with your name suggestion here, or use the contact form at SpiderFelt.com. The prize will be a nunofelt scarf kit with instructions, silk, and merino roving to make a simple scarf in these colors. A winner will be selected at random in two weeks, on May 26th.

Edit May 29th: And the winner is CraftyB, selected by Random Number Generator. Many thanks to everyone who left a comment and color suggestion. I think I will add all of the color suggestions as tags in my Etsy listing.

Interstitial – Felt In Between Spaces

Last fall, I was invited to create a piece of felt to hang in a brand new restaurant opening in the Eastlake neighborhood of Seattle. Working in a small space, the owners were trying to minimize some of the challenges in the front of the bistro. The walls were painted concrete and the drop ceiling had been removed by a previous tenant, creating a perfect scenario for the sounds of a lively restaurant to become amplified.

The original commission was designed to hang from the ceiling by two chains to provide a visual screen between the dining area and a restroom corridor. Anticipating a busy holiday season, I worked to have the pieces finished for a mid-December delivery. I was given a few constraints: use a deep charcoal grey as the background, avoid any representational imagery and stick with abstract designs in order to fit in with the modern aesthetic of the restaurant.

After working a couple of samples, I decided to use four layers of merino over silk chiffon. I wanted the back to have the textural interest that nunofelt offers, as well as the sturdiness of silk. Four layers of merino seemed to offer the solidity I needed for something that would hang freely from the ceiling. This was not intended to be ethereal, rather something substantial and solid.

As the deadline approached, I had only completed one panel. Covering my entire 8′ x 4′ work surface, each piece was exponentially more difficult to work than anything I had previously attempted. The combination of four layers of wool and a layer of silk chiffon meant hours of lay-out and hours of gentle felting to ensure the full penetration of wool through silk. Once school was dismissed for the winter break, my children accompanied me to the studio, where they ably assisted with each step of the process. Once felted, I sewed three pieces of very heavy nunofelt together to create an ensemble measuring 96″ long by 52″ wide.

Unfortunately, once the hanging was installed in the restaurant, it became apparent that it wouldn’t work as we had hoped. Obstructing the quickest path between the kitchen and the tables, servers had to walk awkwardly around certain tables to serve the corner of the restaurant closest to the corridor. The panel was removed after two nights and put into storage.

A couple of months later, we had the occasion to dine at the restaurant. As I sat facing the front of the house, my eyes were drawn to the bare ceiling, the exposed ducts and a strip of concrete above the windows. Slowly, a plan formed for putting the felt panel to a new use. A panel installed near the ceiling would absorb some of the reverberating sound, soften the hard angles and would cover both the unpainted wall and the ducts. Anchoring the panel on the wall above the window would echo the slant of a chalkboard mounted on the opposite wall used to display the wine list.

The handiest high school math teacher this side of Everett was called in to help create a frame to hang from the ceiling and wall. Together, we upholstered a plywood frame, stapled a backing fabric, and then the felt panel which had to be cut and stitched for the new spot. Cut in half, with some new felt added to create extra length and then stitched together again, the felt was stapled on the frame.

Now that the piece is installed, I’m pleased with the final orientation. The long, narrow shape and recombined sections suit the apparent randomness of the original felt, though nothing is ever random. The name ‘Interstitial’ refers to the fact that this piece serves to span a space, and is composed of several pieces which required additions to fill the 14′ panel. “An interstitial space or interstice is an empty space or gap between spaces full of structure or matter.”

As the installation happened on the last day of Spring Break, my son dutifully accompanied me to the restaurant, alternating between gopher and spectator. In the last hour, he edged toward the kitchen to watch the chef and his sous begin their food prep. This was definitely the highlight of his week. A budding chef in our home kitchen, my son watched with a keen eye. He has been angling for a chance to return there for dinner where ‘he will anything Chef Charles puts in front of him’.

Should you find yourself looking for somewhere scrumptious to eat, head quickly to the Blind Pig Bistro where Chef Charles Walpole and his crew will definitely make your stomach grin, giggle and gush with delight. Check out the slideshow of photos posted by the Seattle Weekly to see just the sort of goodies waiting for you.

Winter Song

Days shorten, children sicken, schools close and meetings pile up. Promises made, deadlines pass, apologies offered.  I wonder where the days have gone. Interviews completed, orders filled, deliveries made. Opportunities arise, boxes packed, bookshelves moved, all is good. Sometimes, what I need most of all is a few moments of quiet followed by a little perspective.

It has been such a busy fall it is hard to prioritize the excitement. SpiderFelt has moved down the hall at BallardWorks to studio 2D. I’m sharing a beautiful space with fellow feltmaker Linda Kjarstad. We have twice the space, twice the light and twice the fun. If only there was a way to capture the feeling of working with golden sunshine streaming on my shoulders; it makes the most monotonous work enjoyable.

With these new digs, we will be able to teach classes and host workshops with lots of elbow room to spare. Come see the new work we’ve been creating and start your holiday shopping by supporting local artists.

There were several large wholesale orders for felt soaps and kits that kept me in production mode in September and October. But just in time for tomorrow’s open studio, I finished a pair of new nunofelt vests or wraps, depending on how you wear them.

Out of the blue, I was interviewed for an article about felting that ran on the AP newswire, which means it was published in various newspapers across the country and will continue to run for the rest of November. It was enjoyable to speak at length about a subject that soothes and excites me every day. The author, Jennifer Forker, did an excellent job providing an overview of the various types of felting.

Unfortunately, this will be our last artwalk for 2011 as the building will not be open for the December artwalk. BallardWorks is located at 2856 NW Market St. We hope to see you tomorrow night.

Shades of Green

One of the experiments I tried at Whidbey was using a loosely woven apple green cotton scarf I found as at a thrift store as the base for a nunofelted piece. I paired it with merino roving handpainted in shades of moss, grass and pea green by Faun at Handsandotions.

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The scarf started out 60″ long, not nearly long enough to make a long nunofelted scarf. It was wide enough to split vertically, then lay out end to end. I put down some pieces to span a deliberate gap in the middle, making the piecework a design feature.

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Note: I found this unpublished post in my draft folder. At this point, I’m not sure why I didn’t publish it. This is one of my favorite scarves, one of just a few I decided to keep for myself.

Experiments with Drape

A sales representative from Rimmon brought fabric samples to Seattle recently, giving me the chance to handle pieces I don’t normally see. While the prices were essentially retail, the variety was so much more than I have seen at our local fabric stores.

I experimented with a couple of bolts, buying the minimum 10 yards of something that had no label, just to see what it would do. The first fabric is a loose knit, that drapes just how I imagined it would; the fiber content is anyone’s guess. I nunofelted some basic merino with a squiggle of tencel for shimmer to see how it would react.

This started as two yards of fabric, but the felt cinched the fabric substantially, leaving me with a piece that is 38″ long, a little longer than 1 yard. My intention was to use it as a window covering for the small window in our front door, but once I draped it around the mannequin, possibilities seem to open up.

Two Plates

Currently, there are two projects pulling my attention in separate directions with equal force. In preparation for teaching a nunofelt workshop in my studio last week, I felted four nunofelt garments. Starting with a well fitting piece I own, I created a paper template, then sized it up based on the shrinkage rate of a sample swatch to create a large plastic template.

The result was this piece which fits me to a tee. I loved being able to make small adjustments to the fit, felting a little longer under the arms and across the back until it fit me perfectly.

Working with this template as a departure point, I made a rosewood version two sizes larger. Continuing to work with the same template, I felted a red and black vest, slit open in the front. The last piece was a black and plum asymetrical vest with a triangle front slit. There are dozens of variations floating around in my brain I can’t wait to try.

Incidentally, the mannequin is standing in front of a painting by Robin Siegl, one of the enthusiastic students in last week’s nunofelt workshop. If you are interested in taking a nunofelt workshop, the particulars are listed on the Classes page.

However, this weekend I brought a trunk full of wool back from the Lopez Lamb and Wool Festival. Since buying three fleeces from Island Fibers in February, I’ve been waiting anxiously to get my hands on some more raw wool. Three Romneys, and a Cotswold and four Rambouillet crosses later, my trunk was full on the ride home with fifty pounds of wool.

With so much to do and less than four weeks left in the school year, I’m offering a work/trade proposal to any willing hands available to work as my assistant for a day in my studio. Come felt with me and I will teach you the process and pay you in SpiderFelt credit to be used towards anything in my shop.

Ruffled Up

Three weeks ago, I participated in a Felted Clothing Workshop taught by the incomparable Tricia Stackle. She taught the basics of nunofelting, calculating shrinkage rates, translating the shape of a garment into a template and extrapolating the template  into a large resist.

With thirteen students enrolled from various backgrounds, Tricia was a wonderful teacher giving everyone just the right amount of attention. Students created either a  seamless tunic or a skirt. Some students finished two projects over the course of our three days together, while others plodded along methodically, completing a single garment.

After finishing my sample swatches with merino and silk chiffon, I decided to work with a design I’ve tried many times in my silk scarves: ruffles and ridges. Working with four yards of fabric, I ended up short on the front with sporadic ruffles. While I didn’t plan it this way, I think it made for a more interesting piece in the end.

On the third day, Tricia invited us into the dye lab where we experimented with different levels of dye saturation. My skirt cooked into a very soft dove grey. I’m thrilled with the result, and forever grateful to Tricia for modeling the grace required to pace us through our projects.

Watch out for Tricia’s sculptural felt furniture this summer at the Bellevue Arts  Museum ArtsFair.

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.

Whidbey Island Felting Retreat

Months have passed since I stepped out with a group of intrepid felters for a weekend retreat on Whidbey Island, two hours from Seattle. We rented a large classroom space at an art school and three bedroom vacation rental a short walk from the classroom. We piled roving, pool noodles, bubble wrap and a sense of adventure into our cars for a weekend of experimenting and hard work.

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This was such an amazing weekend of fun, it is hard to put it into words. Besides the bags and bags of food, snacks and beverages; everyone brought their favorite felting books and bits of eye candy. We shared our personal stories, our dreams and our ideas late into the night, while working very hard during the day.

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The muse and inspiration for the weekend was Chris White’s book Uniquely Felt. We pored over the projects, dissecting the aesthetics and merits of each, imagining departures from the originals. I’m not sure which was more fertile ground: the evening discussions or the daytime experiments.

We collaborated, critiqued and assisted each other with the projects without getting in the way or interfering. I really can’t imagine how it we managed to assemble such a harmonious group of symbiotic personalities.

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Our classroom had lots of space and enough tables that we could each pull two six-foot folding tables together for a larger work surface than any of us had previously used. The classroom had kitchen counters with simmering pots of water and two sinks on one wall, making hot water and rinsing stations easy to access.

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With no time constraints, we pulled out all the stops trying ideas that were percolating in the recesses of our imaginations, just waiting for the opportunity to be made into felt.

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Some projects were a raving success, while others were a learning experience. I spent most of a day working on a wrap-around skirt idea that just didn’t work. Now I have a whole lot of felt yardage to show for it, and that idea has been put to bed. Should I ever want to try a felt skirt, I’ll know where to start and what not to do.

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The Unique Felters from left to right: Leah, Jean, Linda, Paula and Jeanette.