Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Je prends un demi,s'il vous plaît

the felt+stone story continues

as any experienced feltmaker will have surmised
felting on stone does not allow for much "shrinkage"
as there is a solid object at the core of operations
and therefore the felt will not have been fulled to completion

i was pondering this notion
and mentally labelled it "semi-felt"
which led to the French "demi-feutre"
[which would more properly be "demi-feutré"]

but then the German possibilities were not so snappy
..."halb-filz" lacks energy
and "halb-gefilzt" sounds positively insulting
[even though German is my first language]

but enough musing. the felted stone shown in the earlier post
which, incidentally
began with scoured, undyed white merino wool
came out of the dyepot richly cocoa-coloured
which is how i wanted it

curiously, the inside layer, close to the stone
was a rich silver grey. a cause de quoi? je ne sais pas.
but i'm thinking about it.

anyway i had a plan for this little sample
having an eye of seeing [small magnifying glass]
that was beginning to become a bit scratched through its residence in an apron pocket
and needing something soft that i could hang around my neck
to keep the glass within reach

+  +  +

demi-felt [a good bit sturdier than pre-felt]  
is delightful to stitch upon.
and stitching is a good means of securing the slightly fuzzy surface

in the course of stitching
the object began to resemble [in shape] the purse of a ram lamb
as the stitching had pulled it in somewhat
[in Australia the testicles and scrota of sheep are referred to obliquely as "stones" and "purses". go figure. and then think about what a sporran might originally have been made from]
not attractive

the great thing about felting with wool
is that it is a continuous and ongoing process
[also irreversible despite what people mumble about the use of Fuller's Earth and stretching]
i thought i would go back to basic principles and play with the notion of
"shocking" the wool
by dipping it first in very hot and then in very cold, water

which worked a treat 
as well as offering a happy reassurance about the substantivity [i made have just made that word up] of eucalyptus dyes

as you can see, no colour is leaching into that very hot water at all

before i began the re-felting 
i drew around the object on an old envelope
so i would be able to compare shrinkage [or not]

as it turned out, once it had been shocked
and then re-shaped [with the help of another, smaller stone]
it hadn't really lost much volume at all
although the stitching now sits nicely into the surface
rather than looking like the icing on a slightly strange cupcake

the next challenge was to bring the stitching [mostly glaring white, which i had initially thought would be rather nice] closer to the colour of the pouch itself
sometimes things are better when you have to discover them through investigation
rather than being glaringly obvious [both in actuality and as metaphor]

so i pootled down to the creek [sadly dry]
for a bit of windfall gathering
wrapped the pouch around another stone to help it keep its shape
[remember that wool has the memory of an elephant for what happens to it] 
and then nestled my little treasure
into a pot full of [windfall, gathered from a city carpark] citriodora leaves
which were once classified as eucalyptus but have now been renamed corymbia
by the white-coated botany-boffins

i poured in the water that had been used for felting
[no soap or wetting agents used, so no dramas]
tossed in the rind of a lemon that was lying on the sink
[extra acidity always makes for better eucalyptus colour - which is why the need for alum as mordant escapes me]

+   +   +

  why am i making small things?
firstly because i need a small pouch for that wee glass
and secondly,
because it's dawned on me that with the rises in airfares
and increase in the cost of accompanying bags
those of us travelling to workshops [whether as student or forest guide] are feeling the pain in our hip pockets
i'm playing* with ways of making small things
through which many techniques and tricks can be learned

small things are easier to finish in class
there are less materials to carry [for the student, at least]
and with the application of a little thought
all of the learning can be applied to larger objects in the student's own studio

part 3 of this series follows soon

+   +   +

*  remember the words of George Bernard Shaw...
"we don't cease to play because we grow old, we grow old because we cease to play"


  1. Thank you for exercising not only my cheek muscles, but also those of my throat as I bust into a compulsive giggle at the Scottish connection.

    PS Time for a G&T after such an exhaustive day's work??

    1. Shall report for cocktail duty at usual hour

  2. ooo I adored reading this tale - which was accompanied, not by a G&T but my current fav tipple - kopparberg cider with elderflower and lime.... mmmmmmmm summery refreshing (and that hold true for both the purse tale and the cider!)

    1. I've just been showing my Ma your beautiful counting book...

  3. a tale of singular fun AND hard work. i, too, have made the mistake, only it was a wee paper sculpture of flax paper. my take was to work up the mouth of said vessel, but i did destroy that mold lest i repeat the joke.

  4. what a lovely and (heart) felt story of investigative process

  5. I love your heart process...the works are treasures to behold and maybe store secret dreams. Peace, Mary Helen Fernandez Stewart

  6. Gads, am totally boring here ... pinot noir. I want to drink with you and ronnie, HA!!
    Scrota and pootled all in one post? This beats all.

  7. Thanks for sharing your universal tale of the creative process: solve one "problem" and create two more. Much fun.


  8. OOH, now this tweaks my fancy - love the smallness.. it draws you in closer and invites intimacy.

  9. I love wee hanging pockets and such... this one rocks. (ha)

  10. Such beautiful work. Now i must settle in to read more of this wonderful blog! And thank you for visiting over at my place.

  11. lovely shaped pouch - got me thinking about hanging pockets, like a sporran to hold that smokey whisky.

  12. Oh my...Love, love love this stone, dyed felt, stitched, fulled, dyed pouch. So excited to try this process with myself and my high school fiber students. Thank you India again for your inspiration. P.S. My students were exhilarated eco-dyeing on paper and fabric. So many beautiful results for so many all learned from your workshop last summer in Santa Barbara. Hopefully you will find time to take a peek at results on my blog Just search eco-dye. Cheers! xox Deb

  13. I must tell you that this is such an informative posting. I really enjoyed the photography. Thank you for sharing this wonderful process.

  14. Fascinating...........what fun!