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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Fix Ups

As happens at times, I was disappointed in how much the red disappeared into the background; I had hoped it would make more of a statement but that didn't happen. So, a couple of things -- I simply embellished a piece of red over a portion of the left area. The wool area showing through in the middle got some beads that ended up reminding me of a fancy flower stem which needed a flower. If you look closely, you can also see that I also added a piece of velvet, a flower with a leaf and some more stitching to define them and balance the other side. BUT you need to know, that it took a few days of me looking at it to see what it needed to be finished and trying things out and you'll have to do the same with your piece; if you do this exercise enough, your eye will become trained.
Try various approaches and different materials - embroidery, beads. You can always remove them or cover them up if they don't turn out the way you like. I could have done crazy stitching by hand with a heavier thread or embellished some yarn on top - there are all sorts of options once you get to this point.
I hope you have enjoyed this tutorial - let me know if you have questions and please send pictures so we can all see the various approaches and different colorways from all of you who chose to partake.

Let's Add the Wool

Select some wool or wool/silk mix in the colorways of your choice. If you are going to felt a piece that will be close to your skin, then you'll want to use Merino, Merino/Silk or even Blue Faced Leicester (which is a personal favorite) for softness; however, for a pillow, collage or bag you can experiment with some of the more coarse wools.

Place an old towel down on the table and cover with a piece of bubble wrap smooth side up over the towel. Put your piece right side down on top of the bubble wrap.

Begin layering wisps of wool all going in one direction and overlapping slightly (like roof tiles) and cover the top; repeat with the wool going in the opposite direction. Finish with a third layer going once more in the same direction as the first wool layer.

Using a bowl of cold water with a few drops of liquid soap detergent (Dove, Ivory or something else mild) soak the wool using a sponge (recognize this sponge Karen?) and cover with a piece of firm plastic. (Painters cloth from the hardware store works great for this)

Gently press down the wool using your hands on top of the plastic (add a little soapy water to make it slippery) ensuring that the all of the wool has been wet through. Now begin gently rubbing for a few moments. The next step is to roll up the "sandwich" - plastic wrap, your needle felted piece and the bubble wrap around a pool noodle and roll for 100 times before opening up and re-rolling from the opposite side for another 100 times. Remove the plastic. At this point, I like to commence rubbing until the piece passes the "pinch" test - meaning that the fiber will not separate from the rest when you pinch it. This takes a while and once you felt a few pieces, your hands will know when the wool has migrated through the silk fabric and felted. If you look closely at the front you should see some wool fibers by now.

I prefer to continue using my hands to rub versus more rolling as it keeps the wool very smooth (which I love).

Next take it to the sink and put it in hot water to rinse the soap out; blot out the water and roll the edges of the piece in to itself some more, the wool will continue to shrink and the silk on the front continue to pucker more.
Place flat right side up and allow to dry.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Adding More Strips

Now add another strip - notice that there is a space between them - this is where I want the wool to peak through when we add it. It is also okay to overlap slightly in places.

Important Note: If you are are worried about your needles breaking in the thicker/heavier areas, don't use the foot pedal until you "test" that area by turning the wheel by hand in that area; in these heavier areas, pierce by hand turning before using the foot pedal in the same place, repeat where necessary.

A little puckering of the water soluble fabric is okay but if it puckers too much then pull up your embellished strip and re-embellish that part again.

In my third strip, notice that I let the edge of this silk gauze ruffle as it is the selvedge and it won't fray; this works best with the finer fabrics. Also notice in this strip that because it is so thin, that I manipulated it as I went along before needle felting in place.

Time for some red (of course, it does have a little green to pull it all together - much the same way as selecting colors for a quilt).

Once again, there are gaps left on purpose here and there.

Keep adding pieces, sometimes strips, sometimes not. Pay attention to to this pleated piece - this is the "rolling pin shibori" referred to in "Making More Needle Felting Magic" - if you don't have any, make some today -- it will be ready to use by tomorrow! It will lose the pleats when wet felted but will add a lovely heavier puckered texture to that piece. By using all weights of silk, we'll have a variety of textures when we are finished and that is our goal here.

Notice that I only embellish the edges of the pleated fabric before adding another and doing the same thing.

Here is my piece ready for stitching. Inspect your piece to make sure that any gaps you have are not too wide; if they are, add a small piece to "bridge" the pieces. I did this between the red and green at the top left.
If you do not wish to wet felt at the end, you can add the wool and/or silk fiber to fill in the gaps at this point before stitching.

Stitched and ready to rinse. Free- motion stitch over your entire piece (I do larger swirls) leaving the ruffled edge in the center loose and only around the outside edges of the pleated shibori. For this step, I like using Sulky clear poly thread; however, you can use thread of your choice - glitter (although sometimes it breaks when I go too fast) or embroidery thread too. It all depends on the effect that you are trying to achieve; if you use colored thread, then you will focus more on the stitches - I like to focus more on the texture :-) A note about what thread to use in the bobbin here - I have to confess that I'm pretty lazy when it comes to that, I use whatever bobbin thread is already there or what needs to be used up unless I'm doing some stitching where I want the bobbin thread to come to the top and in that case, I'll use the "proper" color.

At the sink, place your piece in some warm water to dissolve the backing. Using a little liquid soap between your wet hands, gently rub your piece to remove all of the stabilizer and rinse well, adding a little hair conditioner to the last rinse (don't be too concerned with this as we'll be using soap when we get to the wet felting stage). Lay flat on a towel to dry. Take a good look at my piece and remember, even if I used the exact same materials for another piece, it would probably look quite different. Do not expect that yours will look exactly the same even if you used the same colors - yours will be your own "baby" and will turn out beautiful!
Next, we'll focus on adding the wool and wet felting!

Monday, June 07, 2010

My Finished Piece

Here is my finished piece - don't be afraid to add or remove, it's all part of the creative process of your piece "talking" to you and you paying attention. As we go along, I'll tell you what I liked and didn't like about mine (yes it happens all the time, and what I did to fix it).

First Steps Embellisher Tutorial

We'll begin by selecting our colors; I want use a variety of seafoam greens and a little red. At this point, I have no idea where these colors will lead - I may have to add or take away and this is okay since it is part of the creative process.

Fold or mark a line down the center of your water soluble fabric.

Begin with your first strip near the center; make sure it is longer than your water soluble as it will gather up - some fabrics more than others and you will just cut off the excess at the bottom. It does not have to be exactly straight and on purpose I began with the most difficult fabric to work with - dupioni as it shreds when embellished but the finished effect makes it worthwhile. I cut off excess threads along each side.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Closet Embellishers - Come Out of the Closet!!!

Let the fun begin!

If you'd like to be part of the group I call "Closet Embellishers" here's your opportunity! I'm doing this as a thank you for all those who purchased my books as well as for those of you who need a little encouragement and coaching to build your Embellisher confidence. When I get my materials back (still en route) from the show, I'll have some silk and wool for sale and if you mention that you're Embellisher "is out of the closet" (or from under the table hahaha) you'll get a 15% discount!

Andi's experiment that Emma helped with (earlier post) gave me an idea for our first project and we'll be doing something similar. We'll be making a piece of embellished fabric that can be strictly machine needle felted and stitched or you can take it further as I have and wet felted the results and added beads, and more embellishments (I'll post a picture of my almost finished piece soon). I'm all about making the fabric because the end result can be used for so many things.

MATERIALS to get ready:

Water soluble fabric - the size is up to you but if you are a real beginner, I'd limit it to no more than 15" x 15"

Fabric strips (about 2- 3 " wide) - enough to fill up your piece. I chose a variety of silks from lightweight (silk gauze) to heavy (dupioni). Wide ribbons can be part of this too.

Wool roving or batts in colors of your choice (2 ounces should be enough)

Thread - (I like to use clear Sulky Polyester but you can use any of your choice)

Sewing Machine - any that will do free-motion stitching

More to come soon . . . .

Linen Top with Pockets

The hand dyed vintage hanky that was blogged about earlier and came from Artistic Artifacts in Alexandria, Virginia, ended up on a crisp white linen top purchased from J. Jill (love their things). I'm so sorry that I didn't get a picture of Andi wearing it at the show with her tight black leggings - oh, she was adorable; she looked so young, modern, fresh and fun! Maybe I can get a picture of her wearing it the next time she visits as I don't think the picture quite does it justice. The pockets are so sheer and delicate and the french knots in the same colorway added at the top pulls it together.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Silk Strips, Felting and more . . .

Nana Margo helping Meg with her sewing machine while her sister felts in the kitchen! Meg loves to sew and has great plans for this summer - I can't wait to spend more time helping her and I know whatever she makes will turn out great! I think we are very lucky to have children who want to instill important values in their own children's lives. Not too much TV nor electronic games. For one thing, these girls are so busy with the horse, the dogs (Australian Shepherds) and not to mention the mouse!
When Andi returned home from our trip she was inspired and went "shopping" for wool and fabric in my "stash." When we visited her over the Memorial Day weekend (they live in a small country town 10 minutes North of Gettysburg) she let me see what she had been working on. She had embellished strips of colorful silk and velvet on to water soluble stabilizer as she saw me do for my demos and then stitched them down before washing away the background. The only thing is that she is not a sewer - a fabulous, creative artist but sewing is just not her thing. So fixing it became our creative challenge which brought in adorable Emma who is good at everything she undertakes - school lessons, riding horses, playing the alto sax, etc., who wanted to help. Andi pulled out some of the wool she had and we began laying it down over the wrong side of the piece and wet felting it. As you can see, Emma loves to roll and the finished project is just what her Mom wanted - she has a lovely piece of mixed silk and wool for the project she plans to make!

All this gave me an idea for our first "Embellishers Come Out of the Closet" project which I finished yesterday and will begin posting about soon.

Good job Emma!