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Saturday, May 30, 2009

I Love Flowers (Before Felting)

I'm hoping this will become a small wallhanging or a pillow front (you can only see a portion here); I won't know until I see how it turns out. The palette has all the colors I have in my living room - well I love subtle colors with dashes of a more vibrant tone and the pinks here are just perfect as an accent; the background which is difficult to see from this picture is a suble blue with tinges of green. I've used a vast variety of fiber from merino, mohair, wool curls, silk and banana fiber and I'll learn a lot about how the different fibers do after being wet felted. I'll post the "after" when it is finished.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Gorgeous Silk

These gorgeous silks arrived yesterday from Suzanne Morgan - a gift to me!
. . . and what a wonderful array of colors --warm and cool.
The package include fine silk habotai, silk gauze and silk velvet which is really scrumptious to work with on the embellisher. I'll have to think of a project worthy. Suzanne has a site if you'd like to get some for yourself! Be sure to check out!

Hostess Gift

I was experimenting with some of the new fibers purchased from the MD Sheep and Wool - it helps to understand how various breeds/fiber mixes felt. With all the hills and dales, it turned out to be a landscape complete with stream and the perfect wallhanging gift for our daughter, Andrea, who lives in the country near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and is where we spent last weekend. A little stitching (I love stitching on felt) was added to mimic fields and rocks.

Blue Bag

A birthday gift for a very special person in our lives, Michele, our daughter-in-law. She prefers very simple things and not too elaborate (Pottery Barn is her style) so I thought this would be the perfect casual bag to wear with jeans.
It's a seamless nuno felt with blue silk on the inside.

Saturday, May 23, 2009


Congratulations Katherine in NC - you are the winner of the Pansy and Hydrangea sampler! There were quite a few names to choose from and I wish I could send something to all of you - (my husband made the selection and I didn't peek)! Katherine, please send your address to my e-mail ( and I'll get your prize off to you early next week.

Thank you everyone for your interest - I don't want to take credit for thinking up dyeing in the turkey roaster -- I read that tip somewhere last year and put a note in my "dyeing" file for future reference (I have a lot of those) - perhaps I got it from the Yahoo Dye Group -there are some expert dyers that very generously answer questions and provide all kinds of information.

Friday, May 22, 2009

More About Dyeing

Since there have been so many questions about the dyeing process that I used last weekend, I decided it is probably best to respond this way rather than just through the comments. First of all THANK YOU for all the really nice comments - it's so fun to connect this way and I hope many of you will be inspired to try dyeing too. Dyeing can be intimidating, I know all the chemicals that are listed for dyeing just don't appeal to me. I do have them all but every time I'd think about measuring and mixing Urea and soda ash, frankly it put me off. For silk I've been using Colorhue dyes for years - quick, clean and easy with luscious colors - just do a Google search and you'll find it.

A few notes about last weekend's dyeing: I had purchased some acid dye from a local shop owner who carries supplies for rug hooking - but that's not all, she carries gorgeous wool yardage and tons of other things too including ALJO dye and I purchased a ton of packages a while ago but hadn't used them until now. The shop owner told me just to use vinegar and that certainly appealed to me. You still must cover all surfaces, wear a mask and gloves as the dye molecules can "float" and can be quite dangerous if breathed or settle on surfaces to be used later for food preparation. The normal way she described would be to put water in a large pot to be used for nothing else (mine is enamel), add a splash of vinegar (her words thrilled me!) mix the dye thoroughly with a little water and add it to the pot before adding your soaked wool and let it simmer until all the dye has been exhausted (meaning there are no dye molecules left in the water). DO NOT STIR just push down gently from time to time. Turn the heat off and let it sit until it cools. Rinse in the same temp water and place outside until it is dry.

Turkey roaster or crockpot method I used: I put a few inches of water in the bottom of the turkey roaster (maybe 2 or 3)and added some vinegar - I just added a big spash - perhaps 1/2 cup - (how much will depend on the hardness of the water in your area so I suggest you do a small experiment before dyeing large amounts). Beforehand I had soaked my wool and other fiber/fabric in cool water with 1/2 cap of Synthropol which is a wetting agent and it also removes any suface coating. I added handfuls of the wool to the water and when the first layer was filled, I sprinkled on some dye powder and gently pushed it down before adding another layer and more dye until the pot was full (be very careful doing this as a little dye goes a long way). Another caution, some dye colors do better than others this respect, some don't dissolve well just being sprinkled on and you'll end up with uneven little specs (I found out the hard way) so you'll really need to experiment to find out which ones work well and which ones must be dissolved well in a little water first. I placed the roaster outside on the deck (fumes) and let it cook for about an hour before unplugging and letting it cool. You must push it down VERY GENTLY from time to time. If you've got it right, the water will be clear (all the dye has been exhausted). Once it is cool, remove small and gently rinse small batches - be careful to rinse using the same temp water as the wool and DO NOT agitate or it will become felted. I like to add a little hair conditioner to the last rinse water which makes the wool so soft (and smells good) - place outside to dry. You can hang it on a clothes rack or lay it on a net sweater dryer. This is truly a fun and relaxing way to dye - the worst parts are setting up and cleaning up but the results are so rewarding. If yo have any questions or don't understand, please feel free to speak up! Enjoy and let's see your results!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

"Love the Embellisher"

I just couldn't resist showing you these fabulous cuffs that my youngest daughter Jenni, made yesterday - she LOVES the Embellisher!

Inspired by Pansies and Hydrangea

It's been a long time since I had a weekend at home just to do what I please - Saturday was spent catching up on my "house" - I even "tickled" it! (my grandfather's sweet phrase for dusting!!! - wouldn't you rather "tickle" your house than dust it?) I also cleaned out a few files in preparation for the move from a smaller to a much larger room so I'll be organized when the time finally arrives and I came across some files with dyeing instructions I'd printed out ages ago.

On Sunday, after going through the "dyeing tips" file I decided to dye on the spur of the moment and it was the perfect way to get both relaxed, enjoy the moment as well very exciting to see the results.

Last Thanksgiving I had purchased a huge turkey roaster at WalMart just for the purpose of dyeing outdoors and I couldn't be more pleased to tell you what a fabulous experience it was - I just plugged it into an outlet on the deck and let it do it's thing - went back a couple of times to press it all down with a wooden spoon (careful not to stir), unplugged it after one hour, left it to cool and rinsed it - Voila!

I truly crammed all this into one dyepot - 1/2 lb of luscious Finn wool, silk chiffon, silk gauze, wool curls, wool nepps (tied these tiny goodies into a piece of tulle) and several pieces of Felbi (lightweight prefelt). I used and Acid dye and vinegar - no other chemicals - the dye bath was completely exhausted (not dye molecules left in the remaining water). The wool is soft and fluffy -- I was worried that it would get felted in the hot water but I was careful to wait until it was cool and rinse in water the same temperature. Lots of lessons learned and I can't wait to do more!

I've decided to do a giveaway each time I dye but this time, I'll draw a name from those who leave comments at random for the winner!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Leftovers . . . .

Since I have quite a few scraps left over from my jacket - I've decided to have a give-away (US only, sorry) to the 7th person who responds by leaving a comment. I'll send a little bundle of silk and fiber so you can play too! (another of those buttons - only three left!)

Only stipulation: you have to promise to post your creation - if you don't have a blog or web site, you can send me a picture and I'll post it.

Finished Felted Embroidered Cuff . . .

As promised . . . here is the finished cuff. Although this picture is a little on the light side, you see another of those yummy buttons - wish I could get more but there were no names on the card so if anyone recognizes the artist, please let me know!
Just a few french knots made all the difference in the world - small beads, not to detract from the felting but to add some detail would have a similar effect.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Flower Cuff After Stitching

The flowers have been stitched using clear Sulky thread on top (I use whatever is already in the bobbin - sometimes I'll really loosen the tension so that a little of the bobbin thread shows on top).

Note that you are creating the illusion of flowers by adding stitched to mimic the petals - notice the added details that create much more interest than if everything were of the same scale. Also consider repeating the flowers and colors to make your cuff more pleasing to the eye. Another tip: be sure to add at least a little green - nature never shows flowers without it!

This cuff could be finished and used as is by just adding a button and carefully slitting a buttonhole in a strategic place - flower center perhaps? (a fast, easy and beautiful gift); however, for those interested in my next step which will be Wet Felting
(when I get the time) and always adds an element of surprise because you never quite know how it will look when it is finished - that's what makes it fun for me!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Follow Along if You Like

This cuff is in the beginning stages - I've needle felted some flowers on to a soft but thick prefelt (if you don't have access to these, you can make your own by running some roving under the Embellisher needles; if you are using Felbi which is very thin then you'll need to use about 4 layers). Wet felting shrinks the wool, so you'll need to make your piece 25 - 40% longer to allow for shrinkage. Make sure to add details - the look will change quite a bit once it is stitched and wet felted but the surprise element is what makes wet felting such an exciting process.
Next I'm going to add some free motion stitching before I wet felt it. I'll post pictures after each step :-)

Finished cuff

Here is the finished blue cuff - it's very organic and has all sorts of folds that go in interesting directions so I decided to use those to advantage and work the flowers around them.
The bottom photo shows the button that I love (wish I knew who made these - I have about four others - the texture works so well with the felt). Sorry the picture is so blurry.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

MS&W Purchases

As usual, I overdid buying more glorious fiber at last week's show although I had made up my mind not to - yep, I'm weak when it comes to fiber; especially when it's something I don't already have. One of the things I purchased was a batt that had been fulled in the washing machine by the vendor - I never would have tried that on my own thinking I'd end up with a woolly mess but there are some lovely organic pieces. This one called out to be a "cuff" so I needle and wet felted some flowers and will add some beads and hand embroidery; at the far right if you look closely you'll see a rosy pink clay button that fits right in, also from the wool festival.

These are additions to my "stash" and include bamboo fiber, angora/silk/merino and wool/seacell (seaweed!) that I can't wait to try. I'll also incorporate some of these fibers into my "Confections" that I sell retail - I'd been selling them through "Nancy's Notions" and verified they'd continue to carry thembefore listing them as a source in my book but they have a new buyer and maybe fiber isn't her thing!
"Confections" a variety fiber pack, and "Snippets" a selections of color coordinated silk fabric, yarns and fiber for machine needle felting will be sold either through my web site or through Etsy. Of course, I sell these wholesale as well - please contact me for information if you're interested in carrying them.

These new fibers from last weekend are a tiny addition to what I already have. In fact, I've decided to move from the room I've been using as a studio into a much larger room - all the furniture has been cleared out, the rug (yes I'd love to have a wood floor but this will have to do in the meantime) has been stretched and cleaned, the space has been planned and some nice storage pieces selected from Ikea - I just can't wait to have a large, organized space (I've already taken over the walk-in closet in the large room for my wool and curl stash, bolts of fabric and other supplies); it will be so wonderful to have everything in one space and in order. There will be room for the seven machines I have, the drumcarder, quilting table and fabric stash, samples and office necessities too - computer and files.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

MD Sheep and Wool 2009

Jacket front - machine needle and wet felted; shibori detail on the lapel.

Jacket back in merino, silk/wool blend with hand dyed silk velvet and silk gauze trim; sleeves have same shibori detail and velvet/silk trim. Inspiration was some hand dyed silk gauze I had dyed in shades of saffron; I dyed some velvet and more gauze in variegated pinks/saffron/peach mix to add excitement - I love going to the "edge" with unusual color combinations that I find exciting.

Anyone that know me, is aware that I love the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival - it takes me about 15 minutes to get to the fairgrounds so I'm there early and leave late. I also buy way too much and this year was no exception. Although I promised myself that I'd abstain from going crazy - and did fairly well on Saturday, Sunday was much more rainy so fewer crowds meant I could get in to see and buy more. Yes, I confess I now could open my own store. While in the past I my purchases were geared more toward machine needle felting (love those hand dyed locks), this year I focused on wool and fiber for wet felting - there are batts, prefelts, bamboo fiber, silk/merino blends -- even some of Theresa and Mehmet's wool in a glorious blue.

The icing on the cake was that my friend, Kathy, won the 1st prize for her nuno apron (sorry I don't have a picture yet) and I won 2nd place and also the "Fashion Future" award (think that is what it's called) which meant I get a pound of wool from feltmaker Miriam Carter, who, (besides being a very nice person) according to her bio is a "4th generation felter" and her work is mouth watering so I can't wait to get my hands on the wool.

Isn't he lovely, Isn't he beautiful . . . . .

I'm pleased to introduce little "Win", John Winston Pirtle to be exact; our baby's baby!!! He is the reason there hasn't been much activity on here lately as I've spent several weeks in SC enjoying his good and sweet nature -- too bad I wasn't blogging when our four other special grandchildren in our lives were born - I'll have to find some good pictures of them to post soon too.

A content and happy boy sitting with his Mom.

"I found my thumb!" (note my little lobster pj's!)