"The Cream Puff"

"The Cream Puff"
"The Cream Puff" was shown by request @ Liberty Art Gallery, Long Beach Ca. April '12

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Walkin' in a Winter Wonderland - Winter Forrest - 11th B/NB challenge

    My apologies. It's been a while. I tend to get lost towards the end of the year. I think that happens to a lot of us. Life's pace seems to pick up and never slow down. Perhaps more so for us creative types because of handmade gifts and holiday shows......
    "Octoberfest" is still coming soon. A bit late, but it will be celebrated.

Walkin' in a  Winter Wonderland

    The reason we're here today is for the 11th round of the blogger/non-blogger challenge. This round is being hosted, once again, by Dini Bruinsma. She keeps beating out the rest of us for the win. Her talents seem to know no bounds. The inspiration picture for this round is even a painting she did.

"Winter Forest" by Dini Bruinsma

    I'm a fiber artist, 1st and foremost, long before I got into making jewelry. I am an absolute textile junkie. So when I saw Dini's painting, I immediately wanted to translate this into texture.    This challenge is traditionally a jewelry challenge, as it originated in the Bead Soup Cafe. I hope no one minds that I'm thinking a little outside the box. I was happy to know I wasn't the only one doing something besides jewelry. Another participant actually made a 3-dimensional framed piece for an upcoming exhibition.

    I originally was going to do a wall hanging, but decided at the last minute to make it into a handbag.
    I started out with a thin layer of white Merino wool for the lining. Then a thick layer of fleece from East Friesian milk sheep to stuff it. The Friesian wool is a bit course as they are bred for milk production. Yet it is inexpensive, so it makes a great filler.
    I then lay down a layer of cheese cloth/gauze that had been dyed to a very pale icy blue. The wool actually felts through the gauze, so it becomes part of the fabric. This also helps to reinforce a bag and make it more durable. It limits the amount of stretching the wool can do because it has a solid continuous piece running through it.

work in progress
    Normally I would completely tuck this piece of fabric inside the wool. You would have no way of knowing it was there if I didn't want you to. However, on this occasion I did things a little differently. I actually wanted that icy blue to show through my wintery scape.
    Also, this is the first time I've ever left the edges outside the felting to add a ruffled edge.
    On top of the cheese cloth I then began to layer all my fibers to create the backdrop.
Here is a list of all the fibers I used:

White Merino Roving
Cream East Friesian Milk Sheep Fleece
Aqua Blue Falkland Roving
Icy Blue Corredale Locks
Baby Blue Cormo/ CorrieX Locks
Brilliant Blue Merino Roving
Wheat Llama Roving
Sable Llama Roving
Pixie-dust(blue/violet hombre) Teeswater Locks
Honey(natural) Tussah silk roving
Ivory Wensleydale Locks
Natural Cotton Fiber
    Since your probably all new to wool, I'll explain what some of that means. Roving or locks is the form the wool is in. A roving has been combed and carded. It's ideal for spinning yarn because it comes smoothly and evenly off the batt to feed your spinning wheel. Locks are loose fiber. They've usually been washed, but other than that, they are pretty much in the same condition it was in after sheering the sheep. Falkland, Cormo, Teeswater, etc. - these are the different breeds of sheep. Each fiber has it's own attributes. Cormo is very springy. Merino is known for being luxuriously soft. Teeswater is known for beautiful loooong locks. They each bring their own qualities to a piece. If you wanted something uniform, you wouldn't want to mix them up. I however am going for texture, so I mix everything.
    Then after layering all of those, I throw in the fun stuff.   :)   Basically almost anything can be used to make fabric by trapping it between layers of wool. I've even used dryer lint and paper in my fabric before.
 For this project, I used a few unlikely materials:

Clear Plastic Easter Grass
Straw Packing Material
Silver Angelina Fiber (tinsel)
Blue and Silver bird Sequins
White Star Confetti
Gold Tinsel Glitter

    All of these items help light to flash from different depths of the texture, making it a multi-dimensional piece.
    I used the long Teeswater locks, as well as some of the shorter Wensleydale locks, and left them hanging out the bottom as icicles.
    The super soft, bright white fur on the surface that gives it a kinda fuzzy halo finish, is a contribution from my Angora cat, Freckles.
    Last, but most important, the trees. I used a simple commercial yarn in white cotton. I cut lengths, and then twisted these together for the trunk, and fanned out the ends for branches and roots. I let the ends of my tree roots run down past the edge of the fabric to join my icicle fringe. I covered the top with another thin layer of white merino wool to trap everything inside.

    The work in progress photo was taken just before the feting began. This all of my fibers laid out. The stack is probably almost 3 inches thick, but it's all air. When it's finished, folded over on itself 3 times (like a  letter going in an envelope), it's only about 3/4 inch thick.....and very dense.
    Now comes the hard work. This literally transforms into a solid piece of fabric in my hands. Not easily though. It takes a good couple hours of solid work to finish.
    I first douse it with lots of dish soap. Then comes the water. At first the fibers are very fragile. The smallest wrong movement can seriously mess up the work I've done laying it out. I start by patting down the fibers. The goal is for all of them to become wet. Keep in mind the 3 inches between the table and the surface. That's a lot of air. So every time you touch it you risk lifting a portion.
     Preceding with caution I gently pat, adding more water as necessary, until all the fibers are wet. It will start to suds. Once they are all wet, they will start to stick to each other. AS they start to stick they can be worked a little more aggressively, which means more suds. The soap acts as a  lubricant to help all those barbed wool follicles weave together.
    Once it is a solid piece, though far from finished, I can pick it up, turn it around and shape it. It gets tri-folded with a bubble wrap insert in the center, called a resist, to keep it from sticking to itself where you want the opening. The are straps inserted in the sides and I add some additional Merino wool to this side seem to hold the strap and insure a tight finish.
    Then comes lots of elbow. Either hands on and needing like dough. Or wrapped up in bubble wrap and rolled. Checking often to adjust for the shape.
    Then comes the fulling process. Shocking the fibers by exposing them to very hot, then very cold water repeatedly. This causes the fibers to shrink up and lock into place.
Twiggy graciously modeling
    There is approximately 30% shrinkage in the size of the piece from where we started. Exactly how much is determined by many factors, including how the fibers are handled. This really is a guessing game for me most of the time. I am getting better at determining. This bag did however turn out a little larger than I expected at 15" wide x 10"high, with an extra long 56" strap. The inside pocket measures just over 13" wide, and I believe it would actually fit a laptop.

    I must admit that it was a real stretch to recreate this winter landscape today, with it being 85 degrees here in L.A. I am a little jealous sometimes of those who actually see white winters. That is of course until I hear about polar vortexes on the news. This is what California is known for. Summer year round.

    I hope you have enjoyed this afternoons adventures in felting. Please head on over to the Bead Soup Cafe on facebook and view all the beautiful things made by this very talented group of artists. You may have to join the Bead Soup Cafe to access it. Don't worry, they are a very friendly group.

            Now available in my etsy shop.
                              Thank you for visiting. Have a Fibrous Day!


  1. Oh I'm in heaven reading your post! This is extraordinary art, and you've honored Dini's painting with textile & an art form that is just mesmerizing in its beauty! Gorgeous, rich, wonderful, heavenly, soft, inspiring, sophisticated, intense, nurturing, wild, winter forest mesmerizing, exceptional, brilliant.

  2. Wonderful post. I have truly enjoyed reading the process of creating your beautiful piece. You captured Dini's painting in felt. I've dabbled in felting once or twice and enjoyed it but I must say you've taken it to an amazing art form. I wish I could see your creation in person, I can imagine the depth that must be difficult to capture in photographs. Thanks so much for sharing your process.

  3. I love your clutter it is perfect just the way it is .....It is amazing think of all the years and fun memories you have of finding and buying all those things...Some times in chaos you find your sanity......

  4. What amazing art, Kelly! Thanks for sharing the steps involved with creating such a beautiful piece.