Silver Scrolls and Closures

The scroll is a shape that has always intrigued me. From the time I tried to draw my first treble clef for music theory class in the third grade, I’ve been enchanted with swirls.

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Which doesn’t mean that I find good swirls easy to draw. Many of my swirls collapse on themselves and I’m left trying how to fit the last bit of curl in the space remaining. They are often too cramped (top left), too short (middle), or strangely proportioned (right).

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Frustrations aside, when I started to work with crocheting wire, I knew that ordinary closures available at the bead store just wouldn’t work with the pieces I was creating, so I looked around for instructions on fabricating closures. Knitting With Wire by Nanci Wiseman had just the illustrations I needed.

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Next on my list of problems was a distinctive closure for my felt bead necklace that lay flat against the cord, kept the cord in place and could slide up and down without being sloppy.

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Ahh. Much better. Variations of this felt bead necklace are now up in my shop; the scroll is available for sale separately.

I Heart Rummage (and Felt)

Next Sunday, October 7th, I will have a table at the I Heart Rummage show, held at the Crocodile Cafe on 2nd Ave in Seattle. This is also the weekend of my sister-in-law’s wedding in Saratoga, NY, so my partner in big projects will not be around to soothe my jitters, solve my transportation problems, nor provide the expert booth set-up for which he is loved and admired.

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My biggest concern is whether I will have enough stock to justify a table. To that end, I’m going to work with gusto to make as many felt items this week, and spend as little time in front of my computer as possible.

Felter’s Workshops

As part of my new fiber arts business, SpiderFelt, I’m going to offer a series of five how-to workshops in my home on Wednesday mornings from 10-12pm, starting October 3rd.

Topics include: Felting Basics, Felt Packages (sweater soaps and treasure boxes), Needle Felting (embellishments and 3D finger puppets), Art Felt, Felt Resists and Nuno Felting.

If you would like more details, or know someone in the Seattle area who might be interested, please leave a comment with your email address and I will forward a pdf with the workshop details.

Edit: I’ve received responses from two people interested in an evening class. There is a classroom available for rent in the evenings near my home that would work; if we had six people in a workshop, the workshop would be an extra $4/person. Let me know if this interests you.

Ooh La La!

What is more French than a baguette smothered in Brie? A wool beret, worn at just such a jaunty angle says ‘I’m confident’ in a most nonchalant way.

As soon as I saw this pattern in Simple Sewing with a French Twist by Céline Dupuy, I was gripped by the impulse to run downstairs. Since the family was away for the afternoon, I forced myself to flip through the rest of the book before jumping out of my chair, but it was a struggle. Perhaps it was because the pattern calls for recycled felt, or perhaps it is photograph of the author wearing her beret, I could not resist trying the pattern.

The instructions calls for topstitching the pieces with the seams on the outside, however, one of the illustrations shows the band seam on the inside. I decided it looked better with only one exposed seam. On my next iteration, I’ll turn the whole thing around so the seams are all on the inside, just for a little variety.

The wool fabric for the red and orange beret wasn’t felted when I pieced it together. Though it looked lovely when I finished it, I thought it should be felted, so threw it in the washer for a couple of cycles along with some other sweaters that were waiting for the same treatment. Unfortunately, the brim felted to itself in some places, and in other spots firmly felted like a pair of smiling lips.

While I had planned to put both berets in my etsy shop, the defect is too noticeable for me to sell with pride. For now, I’ll post the navy beret, and sew another version of the orange & red to post tomorrow.

Big Spiders

Spiders have been on my brain for a while now; it is no coincidence that I’ve named my new business SpiderFelt. As a first step to developing a logo, I started sketching in bed one night when my mind was too active to let me sleep, but when I was really beyond the time when my coordination was at its best. Predictably, my attempts at sketching a fetching little artsy spider were terrible, but I started thinking about creating a spider out of felt (brilliant, I tell you). It was almost like a little voice was speaking to me. What do you think I spotted out of the corner of my eye? A big spider creeping slowly down from the ceiling above my bed.

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I took it as a good sign and crafted this baby the next day. Not anatomically correct, but still colorful enough to meet my needs. I’m still working on crocheting a web out of silver wire so she has somewhere to roost.

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At least three nights ago, Owen noticed a big spider perched in the doorway of our basement. He asked Lance to trap it and bring it outside, but Lance declined on the premise that he had made a deal with the spider: I’ll let you live if you eat some more flies.

As I was relating this story to Erika on the phone tonight, he came back into view. Either he has invited friends inside, or he is making tracks around our basement because I keep seeing him over and over again. It is safe to say that Erika has an intense dislike of spiders. I had to capture this one on film just for her; the legs measure 3″ across.

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I introduced him to SpiderFelt, but he seemed unimpressed. He is still sitting there, just behind me on the door to the furnace closet. What is the life expectancy of the average house spider?

The Sweetest Gift

What is sweeter than a favorite cake baked just for you on your birthday?

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The answer is a custom needle felting tool made by your children and husband. I call the big one the über-tool. This baby wields ten dangerous needles. The inattentive artist will quickly draw blood. Trust me on this. I would recommend raptor handling gloves, or a really large pad.

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The mini über-tool has four needles. Unfortunately, the knob obscures Sophie’s artistry. I can just picture her brow furrowed in concentration, trying to make sure the edges of the stars and fish stayed neat. Lance stood on the sidelines directing, while Owen operated the drill press.

If you are interested in making your own, they bought the pieces at a national mega-craft mart chain store (I hope it wasn’t the one where my son relieved himself in the outdoor stairwell because they refused to let him use the employee restroom).

If you’ve never seen needle felting in action, watch this step by step flickr collection: fiber to finger puppet. I can’t wait to try this with some of my single needles. The biggest problem with the über-tool is that I have to wait my turn to use it; my children love to needle as much as I do. We’ll have to make them their own set.

Elegant Curls

This one falls under the category of ‘why I love my husband so much’. The other night I was struggling to find a way to display these earrings. I had a vision in my head that my hands just couldn’t execute.

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After struggling for a while to work with my lopsided, unbalanced, two legged stand (you can see a glimpse of it in the flickr pictures in the sidebar), I tucked my pride in my pocket and asked Lance if he could find a solution. ‘Mind if I take this downstairs and work on it while I watch SportsCenter?’, he asked. Not at all.

An hour later he emerged with an elegant, whimsical and practical solution. I’m not sure what to call this yet. He has plans to make a larger version out of more substantial wire to sit on a tabletop as a way to display scarves or bags. I can’t wait to see how it looks.

Embracing Asymetry

There are times when asymetry can really challenge my sense of order. Then again, there are times when asymetry is the only thing that really looks right. When you are working with a piece of cord that is just a little too short and not enough beads of the same color, you have to just embrace it.

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I’m thrilled with this little necklace because it can be anything you want it to be. The little silver scroll can be placed anywhere, though leaving them low gives you a little more room to breathe.

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The beads can slide up or down the cord, but because they are felt they won’t go anywhere unless you tug. Once they are positioned, they will stay put until you decide to rearrange them, or some little fingers do it for you. Can you say ‘perfect nursing necklace’?

This one is going up in my etsy shop, but if you recall, I made a lot of felt beads this summer, so I’ll be making several versions of this necklace and one will definitely hang out with me.

SpiderFelt Steps Out

Thanks to a little pushing and shoving from Marysusan, I decided to make the big step and put up my Etsy shop. Even though I don’t have my collateral in place, I’ve launched my new brand name: SpiderFelt. Imagine a spunky little spider who spins wool and wire into offbeat creations (inspiration and credit due to Jane Dyer, illustrator of Sophie’s Masterpiece).

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For this first offering, I’ve posted some knit wire pendants,

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a box made from flat felt embellished with Sea Silk,

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a few felt pins,

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and a couple of necklaces.

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If you don’t see what you want, I’d be delighted to make something especially for you.

Since this blog is all about learning and sharing, I’m going to put myself out on a limb and say the header on my shop doesn’t look the way I want it to. Does anyone have recommendations for creating a crisp, clear header like ruby-crowned kinglette? I removed my name from the header because the pixelation was so gross I couldn’t stand to look at it. What software should I be using? I have Photoshop, but am more familiar with ImageReady. If you are game for a little tutorial, I’d be forever indebted. Are there any WordPress users with suggestions for creating a shop button on my sidebar? Hacking blog software is not where I prefer to spend my time and the FAQ have not provided me with any quick answers.

Felt Gridlock Scarf

This project has been lurking in the back of my consciousness for a while. After seeing pictures in several felt books, I was intrigued and a little intimidated, not sure how all of the little intersections would hold together.

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What better way to find out than to just try? Since this was my first attempt, it seemed appropriate to document the process, so everyone could share in my disaster or triumph, whatever it turned out to be.

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Wanting long pieces of roving for this project, I started with my finest combed merino, unrolling a beautiful ball and peeling thin pieces, which I laid out in a grid as long and almost as wide as my dining room table.

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After laying it out, I covered the roving with a sheer, nylon curtain I bought at Goodwill, then sprinkled hot soapy water on the wool, row by row. I worked each intersection for a few minutes before moving on to the next row. At this point, I started to worry whether I had gotten in a little over my head, starting a project so huge.

When I reached the end, I peeled back the sheer curtain to examine the felt. While the pieces were not flying away, they weren’t really adhering either. I went back over each intersection with more soap, massaging vigorously and yet trying to preserve whatever gentle bond had begun to develop.

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Next I layered sheets of bubble wrap over the wet wool and rolled it up in the yoga mat I used as my base.

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This bundle was rolled in a towel and secured with elastic bands. I rolled the towel bundle with my feet under my desk for twenty minutes, checking the progress once to ensure that the fibers weren’t being torn apart.

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I was amazed at how well the pieces held together. Normally, it is recommended that you turn your felt a quarter turn every few minutes to ensure that the piece felts evenly in all directions. Because my scarf was so long, I decide not to rotate it. As a result, the short pieces running from top to bottom felted into little worms, while the horizontal pieces flattened.

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Looking closely, I found a few intersections that failed to felt properly, but I knew I could always needle them when it was dry.

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While it turned out just as I imagined, it didn’t really qualify as flashy. Sophie suggested needlefelting dots of color at the intersections.

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Like so many of my projects, this scarf was started because I needed something dashing to wear to a wedding. We were going away for four days without our children, and the drive was going to take at least five hours. I think I spent more time packing my handwork than my clothes. At my feet is a knitting bag with two projects, a drawer from my beading tower with wire, pliers and beads, and in my lap is a shoe polishing brush, roving and my needles.

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When we arrived at the hotel, I hung the piece from the mantel in our hotel room to determine whether the color dots were random enough. Our roommate walked in a day later and asked why I was taking pictures of a volleyball net. Hmmm. Not the expression I was hoping to hear.

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In the end, I decided the color didn’t really coordinate well with my dress, so I didn’t wear it to the wedding, though I did wear the necklace and earrings I made on the ride up just for the occasion. Sometimes things work just how you imagine, and sometimes it is just fun to experiment.