Needle Felting

Needle Felting

I have another article in Threads magazine! Woo Hoo!  This article is about Needle Felting: applying wool roving and/or wool batts to a wool fabric with a special barbed needle.

The contents page of Threads Magazine, issue 212, with a model photo of the Needle Felted jacket on the right.

Threads Content page

Here is a photo of the jacket I made to showcase Needle Felting, on the index page of Threads, issue #212.  (I forgot to take photos of the jacket when it was completed!)  The white wool is from Gorgeous Fabrics /gorgeousfabrics.com. The jacket pattern is from Fit for Art Patterns https://fitforartpatterns.com/. The wool roving and batts are from Big Sky Fibers Arts https://store.bigskyfiberarts.com/.

Needle Felting is a wonderful technique that was supposed to have a chapter in Creating Couture Embellishment. The chapter was cut because I exceeded the 400 page maximum and Needle Felting was deemed “too crafty.” In retrospect, I think my samples were not elegant enough to adequately represent needle felting. Thank you Threads! for letting me make new a Needle Felting sample to accompany this article.  I think “crafty” does not apply to this jacket!

The editors at Threads are wonderful editors; they took my over-long article and cut it down to fit into six pages with out losing the basic information needed to explain the technique. Being a good editor requires being able to see the big picture and being able to trim away all the extra bits & bob to get to the heart of the story. This is not something I can do. I get so excited about all the bits & bobs that I try every variation to see what how they all work. In the end, I know what works well and what doesn’t work but I’ve got twice the material that’s needed. I guess that’s why I’m a writer, not an Editor, with a capitol E. Good thing I’m associated with great Editors.

So now- to get back on topic- Needle Felting… I’ve assumed that you have access to Threads magazine and/or know something about Needle Felting, so I am not going though the basics of Needle Felting. Instead I will explain some of my designing process.

A white wool jacket is on a dress form. Blue painter's tape has been applied at the waistline and at the same level on the sleeves.

The plain jacket on my dress with blue tape making a horizontal line.

Pictured above is the basic shell of the Tabula Rasa jacket from Fit for Art patterns, partially sewn together and draped on my dress form. I placed Blue Painter’s Tape on the jacket to mark the waistline and the same horizontal line on the sleeves. Having a horizontal guideline across all parts of the jacket facilitated the designing of the needle felting.

If this design were for me I would have kept the jacket on the dress form for most of the designing phase. However, Threads uses models that wear size 8-10 and I wear a size 12-14. I was afraid that keeping the jacket on my dress form for too long would stretch out the wool along the neckline and sleeve heads; those areas were susceptible to stretching as the cut edges have varying grain lines. Additionally, in my studio, photographing in-progress garments is easier on a flat surface than on the dress form.

 

The white wool jacket laid flat.

The plain jacket as a canvas.

This photo shows the jacket laid flat. Threads cropped out the background for the article; you get to see the unedited version of this photo.  The side panels were sewn to the front panels and are at “the bottom” of the photo. Eventually the side panels will be sewn to the back panels. The sleeves extend out to the sides, with the underarm seams un-sewn.

Knowing the article was going to be in the Fall issue of Threads I ordered wool roving and batts in autumnal colors: maroon, dark red, medium red, pumpkin orange, yellow gold.

Initially, I was thinking of an ombre pattern, going from dark around the neck to lightest at the hem. That iteration was so far from what I imagined that I didn’t even take any pictures.

 

The white wool jacket partially covered in autumn colored blocks of wool batts.

The block version.

Then I played with blocks of wool batt.  This was not what I had imagined either.

Blocks of wool with twisted roving between them.

Blocks of wool with twisted roving between them.

I tried adding some twisted roving between the batt squares. The twisted roving didn’t help.

Back to the drawing board… I remembered this photo of Water Lilies from Pinterest.

Pink Waterlilies and green leaves in a garden setting.

Waterlilies

That led me to a William Morris coloring book (ISBN 978-1-62686-882-3), which led to me to a Victorian wallpaper book (ISBN 978-0-486-46135-9) and this design.

An intricate green Victorian wallpaper pattern.

An intricate green Victorian wallpaper pattern.

I simplified the design to create this stencil. The stencil separates into 2 parts: a negative stencil, where the design elements are empty spaces and a positive stencil, where the design elements are solid forms.

A grey and white stencil version of the Victorian wallpaper.

My stencil

 

The stencil cut into 2 parts: negative and positive pieces.

The stencil cut out with red paper behind to make the stencil visible.

The negative version of the stencil

 

The positive pieces of the stencil on a red piece of a paper.

The positive stencil.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The wool jacket with the postive stencil pieces laid all over.

The positive stencil pieces laid out.

I placed the positive stencil pieces on the jacket. Once I was pleased with the design I took a photo of the jacket so I knew where everything went.

 

 

A sampling of colors for the flower.

A sampling of colors for the flowers and vines.

I had to try some techniques and color combinations on a wool scrap before I started.

The first flower is started using the stencil. The stencil crosses the horizontal reference line.

The first flower started.

Starting: the stencil crosses the horizontal guideline.

 

The first flower and vine are completed.

Making progress

A completed flower, with a glimpse of the blue tape on the right.

The Needle Felting is completed. The jacket is laid out flat.

The Needle Felted jacket

 

This photograph shows the jacket nearly all felted. Of course, as I worked on the needle felting, the design changed. The vines on the lower left front of the jacket were shortened (on the bottom right in the photo.) A vine was added to the right side panel and more flower buds were added to the back.

I added fusible interfacing to the whole jacket. Initially, I intended to add fusible interfacing only to the main parts of the jacket, but the interfacing changed the color of the wool just slightly so I added the fusible interfacing to the whole jacket. The fusible interfacing added support for the jacket and locked the felted wool to the jacket a little bit more. Then I sewed the jacket together. The entire jacket was lined for comfort; I find wool very itchy.

I didn’t put the jacket on my dress form when it was completed because I was afraid of stretching it, so I only looked at the jacket from the front and then from the back. In retrospect, I wished I had felted more on the back. The back has a lovely light, curvilinear vine pattern, much like a Western shirt. The front has the same curvilinear vine but accented with the heavy Victorian flowers. A few more vines trailing down the back, with a Victorian flower or two would balance the jacket’s design better. Oh, the things we see after some time away from a project!

In closing, I want to show you the some work from two artists who also work in Needle Felting, Dawn Waters http://www.dawnwaters.art  and Lyn Slade  http://www.lynslade.com  

Aren’t they amazing?

Dawn Waters faces

Dawn Waters’s faces

 

 

Willie Nelson in felt

Dawn Waters’s Willie Nelson portrait

 

 

 

Falling leaves on black

Lyn Slade’s Falling Leaves

Wave in Needle Felt

Lyn Slade’s Wave

 

 

 

Sitting by the river on a snowy day…

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Sitting by the river on a snowy day…which doesn’t quite match Robert Frost’s poem Stopping By The Woods on a Snowy Evening.  As a child growing up in New England I had to memorize this poem.  Was it just children from New England who all learned this poem by heart, or did all U.S. children learn it? You can find the poem at the link below. It’s a lovely simple poem, but of course it has all kinds of deeper meanings.

http://<div id=’rg_embed_link_1875′ class=’rg_embed_link’ data-song-id=’1875′>Read <a href=’https://genius.com/Robert-frost-stopping-by-woods-on-a-snowy-evening-annotated’>“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost</a> on Genius</div> <script crossorigin src=’//genius.com/songs/1875/embed.js’></script>

snow falling on the river

A Snowy Day

 

I have been working on another version of the Burgundy blouse, seen below, as photographed by Jess McDougall.

The burgundy blouse with shirring and gold tone pearls on me.

Burgundy Blouse

 

I added to the length of the blouse and a bit more to the gathered section on the side.  Did I take the time to true the side seam after adding more fullness? No.  The side seam was already ugly in the Burgundy Blouse version, and adding more fullness her made this seam even worse.  I was hoping to just wing it and cut off whatever doesn’t fit.  Haha!  Another good idea ruined by the facts.

Front view of brown floral top

Front view

I like the fullness going from the left waist area  to right bust area.  But there’s extra fabric at the arm hole on the left and the rest of the top hangs badly.

 

Side view of brown floral top

Side view

The front is much longer than the back. Also it’s very lumpy at the waist– on both sides- which makes me think that might be the machine basting stitch I used to sew this together.  I wanted to baste it together to see if I could skip the side zipper.  I don’t have an answer for that question as the whole thing looks so awful I decided to put the garment aside for another day.  Argh!  Is it a redeemable wadder?  or forever a UFO?

Only time will tell.

 

 

 

 

Terry Gross interviewed

Hi everyone!  I just came across a long interview with Terry Gross from Fresh Air! on NPR.  I love listening to Fresh Air! Even if you have never heard any of Terry Gross’s interviews on Fresh Air!  this is a really interesting piece. The interview was with David Marchese and posted on The CutTerry Gross, A Conversation

Her is the link to the full interview, which is very long. https://www.thecut.com/2018/01/terry-gross-in-conversation.html?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=The%2520Cut-%2520January%252010%252C%25202018&utm_term=Subscription%2520List%2520-%2520The%2520Cut%2520%25281%2520Year%2529

Terry Gross of Fresh Air!

Terry Gross of Fresh Air!

Fresh Air’s Terri Gross began producing and hosting Fresh Air in 1975, shortly after being asked by former WBFO program director David Karpoff to come work with him at WHYY in Philadelphia. The show became nationally syndicated by NPR in 1985, and now reaches in the neighborhood of 5 million listeners every week. To date, Gross has conducted more than 13,000 interviews.  

For more than 40 years, you’ve been in very unusual position of asking very intimate questions about the work and lives of people you don’t really know. What has doing that over and over and over again taught you about yourself?
That’s hard. I’m not exactly sure I can enumerate what I’ve learned. It’s like you’re slowly being changed every day by doing this job. I have learned, though, that everybody is insecure and everybody is troubled. Even incredibly talented people have deep insecurities. Maybe this is perverse, but I find that idea comforting. It helps me cope with my own stuff.

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I’m probably just revealing my own neuroses here, but it sure seems that when people are presented with two pieces of information — one negative and one positive — the negative one almost always gets a lot more attention.
That’s exactly my problem..

So if somebody said to you, “… is my favorite thing to listen to,” and then said, “Well, yesterday’s show wasn’t the best.”
Stop right there. I would totally dismiss the “favorite thing to listen to” part. I’d think that was just their way of cushioning the blow that yesterday’s show was terrible. They’d just come up with a false opening to be nice about how bad yesterday’s show was.

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What’s the function? (of an interview)I like to quote John Updike on this. In his memoir, Self-Consciousness, which I really love, he said he wanted to use his life as “a specimen life, representative in its odd uniqueness of all the oddly unique lives in this world.” That’s kind of how I see interviews. When you’re talking to an artist, you can get insight into the sensibility that created his or her art and into the life that shaped that sensibility. I love making those connections. I think we all feel very alone. I don’t mean that we don’t have friends or lovers but that deep at our core we all have loneliness.

And want connection. 
Yeah, we want connection and sometimes when you’re talking to an interviewer who you trust, you can speak in a way that’s different than the way you talk to friends. You can reveal more. Not always, but sometimes.

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So what need did Fresh Air fill in your life? Why did you want it so badly?
When I was in high school I wanted to write. And when I got to college, I still wanted to write but I was discouraged really quickly because, well, I had two freshman English teachers, and one of them thought that something I wrote was really great. He said something like, “This is the kind of language that can shatter.” My heart swelled. I was so excited. But then my other teacher said, “Okay, for your assignment, just write something and bring it in.” And I thought, Write what? I don’t have stories that just come to me. So I went up to this teacher after class and I said, “I don’t know what to write about.” He looked at me kind of smirky and said, “Write a love story.” I thought, That’s about the last thing I’d write. He’s just saying that because he thinks women should write love stories. He’s not the type who’d be reading love stories probably. It was so dismissive. I was discouraged really easily, I guess. But, also, I just didn’t think I was good enough to be writer. I didn’t feel desperate enough to pursue writing, but I desperately wanted to pursue something that I could be passionate about and when I stumbled into public radio, I found that thing.

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How does your work spill over into your personal life? And I mean more from a psychical rather than practical perspective. How does having deep conversations day after day affect you? 
Okay, one of the things I’ve learned how to do on the air is make people stop talking. Some people can go on for seven minutes without a breath. At some point, you have to interrupt them and explain, “This is radio. We need to take breaks. We have to have, say, two-minute answers, or else we’re only going to be able to ask about three questions.”

I just asked about how your work spills into your personal life and you gave an answer that was only about your work. 
Oh! I’m not going to make the case that I’m a great interviewee! I wasn’t intentionally avoiding the question. I was just going on a tangent.

Maybe you were unconsciously avoiding it. 
No, no. I’m happy to address the subject. What I was saying actually connects to your connection. In real life, you’ll run into someone on the street and say, “Hi, how are you?” and seven minutes later they’re still telling you. So I’ve gotten practice with asking people in a nice way to stop talking. Some people act like they’re a late-night radio host alone in the studio and they’re rapping out loud to an audience that has no ability to talk back. I don’t want to be in that audience. I want people to talk with me, not to me.

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Ellen: I love the emotion that comes through in this interview:

“…everybody is insecure and everybody is troubled. Even incredibly talented people have deep insecurities.”

“I would totally dismiss the “favorite thing to listen to” part. I’d think that was just their way of cushioning the blow that yesterday’s show was terrible.”

“I desperately wanted to pursue something that I could be passionate about and when I stumbled into public radio, I found that thing.”

“I want people to talk with me, not to me.”

Here is the link to the interview again:    https://www.thecut.com/2018/01/terry-gross-in-conversation.html?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=The%2520Cut-%2520January%252010%252C%25202018&utm_term=Subscription%2520List%2520-%2520The%2520Cut%2520%25281%2520Year%2529

I did not get permission to copy the interview, or to post these excerpts…

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Ellen:  I am busy writing a script for 2 presentations for It’s Sew Easy on PBS TV.  I hope my scripts show passionate I am about sewing, and teaching other people how to make glorious clothes.  I hope my script feels like I am talking to the viewer, not at them. And finally, I hope my insecurities at being taped for video don’t come through!

 

 

 

 

Marianne Fons Says ‘Eat The Cheesecake’

I’m working on an article for ASG’s quarterly magazine Notions, so I can’t show you what I’m doing–yet.

Today I found this wonderful post on Marianne Fon’s blog, PaperGirl.   http://frame.bloglovin.com/?post=6069505639&blog=12698737&frame_type=none

I hope you enjoy it!

“A few years ago, a rule in our family changed. First, let me explain what rule I’m talking about.

Most families have a version of this rule. It could be called the “Do Not Touch That Pie Until After Dinner Or You Will Sorely Regret It, Now Get Out Of My Kitchen” rule. Other versions of the rule may include: “If You Eat One Cooky Off That Tray Before We Sit Down To Eat, So Help Me God”; “If You Have Any Sense In That Head Of Yours You’ll Step Away From the Fudge; “You Are About To Meet Your Maker If You So Much As Breathe On Those Scotcharoos”; or the simple-but-effective, “Getcher Mitts Off That Cake” rule.

Right? Right.

Well, a few years back, on either Thanksgiving or Christmas, at some time in the day that was not appropriate pie-eating time (e.g., 9 a.m. or 12:30 p.m.), I was in the kitchen trying to pick off a gooey, sugary, perfectly toasted pecan off the top of Mom’s famous pecan pie without being noticed — and I was failing spectacularly. But that day was remarkable, because there was a time when I would’ve gotten caught sneakin’ pie and gotten slapped with the ol’ “Getcher Mitts Off That Pie” rule. But on this day, the opposite happened.

“You know,” my mom said, “just have a piece of pie if you want it. It’s okay.”

A pecan that was halfway to my mouth fell onto my blouse and stuck there. My mother is not a sarcastic woman, nor does she tease her children or have fun at our expense. If she was saying I should “just have a piece of pie” if I wanted to, she was saying … that I should have a piece of pie. A piece of the pie she baked for a special occasion. The pie we were planning to eat after Thanksgiving dinner in like, six hours.

“Mom, are you serious? You’re joking.”

My mom shook her head and threw up her hands. “I mean, why not? Eat it! That’s what it’s for!”

“Yeah, but — ”

“You know,” Mom said, “I had a friend whose mother-in-law was a wonderful candymaker. She was great at making it. She’d make candies for the holidays every year and put it all out on doilies on these beautiful milk glass plates: caramels, toffees, fudge, brickle. Just gorgeous.

“When you came over to the house, you’d be drawn, as if by magnetic force, toward all the candies. But she’d see you get within 10 feet of it all and she’d say, “Nooooooo! That’s for later! Don’t eat it! Don’t you dare eat it!”

I nodded and eyed a ragged piece of crust on the side of the pie, begging to be broken off and eaten. I liked where this story was going.

“Child, you would back away from the candy plates,” Mom continued. “And then, of course, everyone would eat dinner. You’d eat the turkey and the dressing and the yams and the cranberry and the rolls and the butter and the ham.”

“And you’d drink the wine,” I said, and popped the crust into my mouth.

“Oh, this lady didn’t serve wine. But you get the idea. All that food, and then pie and ice cream! And then, once you had wiped up your piece of pumpkin pie or pecan pie and you had patted your mouth with your napkin, she’d come around with these heavy candy plates and practically force you to eat the candies. If you said, ‘No, no, I’ve had enough,’ she’d be offended. I ask you: Does this make any sense?”

“No, mother,” I said, “no, it does not.” It looked very possible that I was going to have pecan pie for breakfast in front of God and everybody.

“In my opinion, do it. Look, it’s the holidays. If you’re lucky, there’s all this beautiful food! Why save and save these things for some point in the future when everyone’s too full, anyway? We’re adults! No one cares if there’s a piece taken out of a pie when it’s time to eat it, do they? Do they really? If you’re hungry for it, eat it.”

“Yeah!” I said, already dislodging an entire sticky slice of what is truly my favorite food on the Earth. I had to do this before she changed her mind.

But my mother didn’t change her mind that day, nor any day thereafter. If there are Santa cookies in the kitchen or an apple pie cooling on the counter, this stuff is available for the snacking. Mom will say, “That’s what it’s for!” and we are all willing to oblige.

I obliged today, in fact, when I had cheesecake for lunch. Here’s hoping everyone had a sweet Christmas today or, at the very least, a good Monday. I love Mondays. More on that later.”

by Marianne Fons, http://frame.bloglovin.com/?post=6069505639&blog=12698737&frame_type=none

On not writing

Instead of writing about sewing for this blog I find I am collecting other writers’ thoughts about interruptions while one is writing! Today’s gem is from the poet Mary Oliver.

Mary Oliver: The Artist’s Task

It is a silver morning like any other. I am at my desk. Then the phone rings, or someone raps at the door. I am deep in the machinery of my wits. Reluctantly I rise, I answer the phone or I open the door. And the thought which I had in hand, or almost in hand, is gone. Creative work needs solitude. It needs concentration, without interruptions. It needs the whole sky to fly in, and no eye watching until it comes to that certainty which it aspires to, but does not necessarily have at once. Privacy, then. A place apart — to pace, to chew pencils, to scribble and erase and scribble again.

But just as often, if not more often, the interruption comes not from another but from the self itself, or some other self within the self, that whistles and pounds upon the door panels and tosses itself, splashing, into the pond of meditation. And what does it have to say? That you must phone the dentist, that you are out of mustard, that your uncle Stanley’s birthday is two weeks hence. You react, of course. Then you return to your work, only to find that the imps of idea have fled back into the mist.

Here is a link to the Wikipedia page about Mary Oliver:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Oliver

Ms. Oliver’s poetry is sublime; it speaks to whatever your point of view is at the moment.  I find many of her poems speak of Nature’s clothing.  Haha!  There are two snippets of her poems on the Wikipedia page if you have never read any of Mary Oliver’s poetry and there are full versions of selected poems on the internet.  I’m sure you’ll find her work says something unique to you.