Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Can you needle felt "cute"

I really need to create a nice woodsy backdrop for my animals . These pictures have about all the "warmth" of those sad animals sitting on concrete floors at the Human Society......then again, that sad contrast always makes me want to bring them home . Perhaps that will be on my list of "TO DO" today . As to the animals themselves, I thought I better try and make something a little cute to make up for my last troll animal . I don't know if these qualify as cute but they are at least recognizable as something that might live on this planet .
I really have no idea if anyone ever reads these things but if someone stumbles by here who is also interested in selling felt sculptures......I spent several hours on ebay and Art Fire and was discouraged to see how few people bid or buy needle felt . Even much better felters don't seem to get what I would consider a fair price considering all the hours it takes to create wool sculptures .

I really don't know of it's the economy or people just don't really like wool sculpture compared to other collectibles . Do some people think it is weird/gross to make stuff out of animal hair....(as apposed to melted sand<--glass/// dry mud<--ceramics/// Oily plant and dirt powder<--paint///reformed oil particles<---plastic figurines and Femo . ) I personally think it's cool that humans use natural things to make art . My first art was creating still life using rocks, bones, rusty metal, drift wood and bark that I found foraging in the woods . I later moved to using doll parts in surreal ways....(I recently saw someone who uses doll arm and legs attached to wood as clothing hangers.......great minds think alike, though I never thought anyone would buy those things as I was the only "weirdo" who liked them . Pardon my insanity but it seems like one day I am trying to concentrate on how to list items on Etsy, getting up the nerve to sign up for craft shows, consign to local stores....and the next day..... I think I should just keep making things and keep them.... wait for the day when the economy is strong enough to sell them for what the time and effort to make them is worth . My brain hurts . I would love it if anyone cares to share their struggles about this issue . I'm not new to making but am very new to the idea of trying to sell what I make .

Happy felting ?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Needle felt weirdness with Mill End fiber

Uhmmm, I think this guy looks a bit .....creepy? I hate to say that because it's like admitting one of your kids looks like a troll . I'm always trying different shapes in face and bodies and like the diversity but they certainly don;t always look "cute " . Hopefully there are some parents who would be thrilled if their kids were trollish and will want to give this guy a home .
He has a bit of merino and silk in pink areas but is 95% Mill Ends that I really enjoyed felting with . Not sure of the fiber type but perhaps"colonial" and about 27 micron ? The up-side of the Mill Ends is that they are much less expensive then the hand dyed merino I had been working with and that makes me feel less guilty about making these larger sculptures . This one is about 8" . I'm still trying to figure out how to make something that is affordable as many of my med-large sculptures take over 20 hours and have about $30. in wool in them . Who can afford such a non-necessity in this economy ?

Really struggling this week about guilt of all the money I spend on wool and my inability to market myself to make back the money I'm spending . Know of any good art agents ?
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Autism Talk TV Ep. 6 - Steve Silberman Pt. 1

I can't wait for his book to come out .

and now for some more nerdpower....videos from the nerdfighters....I just got their badge from their Ning site but I don't know if I qualify as a nerd....I don't even like math but certainly qualify as a book nerd but...I have tattoos, can;t spell and once had a purple Mohawk/// but I like nerds and they are fighting for awesome so go watch their videos so they can pwn Opera .

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Detta's Spindle in MN and needle felt friends

Oddly enough, in my attempts to get a descent picture in "to bright" lighting, the thing that seemed to work best is using the flash.....go figure .
I just wanted to share some of my new critters made with natural fiber from Detta's Spindle . (Click on the name to go to her website and find some reasonably priced fiber ) . After playing email tag for a bit and trying to chose which fibers to try, my order finally got here this week and I was thrilled . It was several pds of both Mill Ends and undyed wool fiber . I just read an article the other day about dying using the oven instead of microwave or steaming but it didn't give temp or time, so may involve some experimenting as I hope to dye some of the natural light grey/brown and white merino . I bought some beautiful brown alpaca over dyed in peacock colors and loved it so am hoping to achieve similar effect .
The above fiber is some lovely browns in subtle shades that I think worked nicely on my animals . My favorite is the Mill Ends with lighter reddish brown mixed with mohair . Other then the natural brown merino, the other fibers are around 27 micron and felt some where inbetween super fast Romney and slower merino . It's fairly soft to the touch as top/roving but feels a little scratchy once solidly felted .
The face and paw pads are merino and merino/silk blend . I tried taking them from different angles to see which showed their best features but not sure I can tell the difference .

Anyway, I shouldn't be surprised that the natural fibers look more "natural" then all the dyed fibers I have tried but I have a long way to go before I can actually needle felt an animal that looks like something you might find in the woods and not just running around my weird dreams .

Happy felting !
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Monday, August 23, 2010

Horny needle felt and friends

Sometimes it surprises me how "individual" my felted friends turn out . I don't usually create them with a clear image of what I will make and the few times I have tried, it never turns out like the image I had in my mind . I hope some day that I can control the needle well enough to actually make what I had planned but I sure wouldn't want to lose the surprise I feel when I see a new weird critter emerge .
I am also still trying to learn how to use my camera with out much success . I think the animals look so much cuter in person and the photos make them look kind of flat and lifeless . I took a few with white and a few with black backgrounds and the white does seem to be better but to much light really flattens them out .
I am really enjoying using the wild mix of natural fibers , though the alpaca and BFL seem to take forever to felt in .
I have also liked the result of using a merino, silk mix on the nose and lips . I've started adding brown shading in the snout area and I think that has helped add needed definition .
....but why is this guy so darn sad ?
Well, my new fiber will be here soon, so I will have a bit more experimenting in the coming week
and may even try fiber dying if it actually stops raining and I don't lose my nerve . (I'm in dread of felting the fibers when I dye them ) .

Happy felting !

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Buying fiber off the internet

First, I want to mention that I added a link on my upper right sidebar about sheep fiber if anyone wants to learn more about how to chose fiber but don't know the names of the sheep...this link is a good resource . There are lists of what sheep produce what kind of fiber .

It can be very confusing when you first start buying fiber and there are some less then ethical sellers, (or perhaps it is just a difference of opinion?), who sell some coarser fibers and say it is "next to the skin soft" . Well, if your a lizard, perhaps Romney wont bother your skin but if your an extra sensitive aspie....anything much coarser then Merino is going to feel itchy and scratchy .

The best way to tell how soft the fiber is , is by the grade or micron count . Something like Merino will be around 64 grade and 20 micron but there is some wiggle room there as I have seen Merino listed as 17micron (extra fine) and as large as 24 . Some of the variation can be caused by weather and food they eat to the health and age of the sheep . I have bought some fiber I assumed was labeled wrong because it was so much coarser then other wool I bought from another seller with the same sheep name . Ideally, the seller should be able to give a micron count for their fiber but that doesn't happen all the time so it is a good idea to buy small amounts until you know your seller .

Above are the two ways I have fiber shipped to me , some people prefer boxes and most prefer plastic envelops . I have had sellers say that they ship in boxes to prevent felting but I've had felted wool come to me in boxes and so far, never had fiber felt in envelops . I believe the fiber that came felted (two different sellers and very disappointing), was from one sending the fiber still damp and the other(or both)felting it while dying....just a newbie mistake .
Here is the other thing that can be disappointing when ordering on-line . I wont mention the name of the seller, but they did NOT say that there was VM, (vegetable matter) in the fiber . When I told them I was disappointed, they did say they would replace it if I wanted to mail it back and I may but don't really want to pay the money to ship it back and just end up getting more filthy fiber . I might just write it off as a lesson learned (and a seller marked off as my reorder list ).

Some sellers I have bought from will say that fiber is "ready to spin" and claim that any small amount of VM will come out while carding or spinning.... but it is full of VM and takes hours of picking to get it ready for any use...... others let you know that the price is reduced because it has VM . I don't mind picking out a few twigs but when it has been pulverized into a powder into the fiber....that isn't so easy .
On the upside of my recent purchase is some incredibly clean, soft and shinny alpaca locks from
Cashmerebunny on Etsy . The price was about average for alpaca but this gets 4 stars for clean look and smell , little VM and is the glossiest alpaca I have ever seen .
Below is the "discount seconds" but it was very inexpensive and still has a great variety of colors and is clean . Over all, a lovely purchase and the kind that keeps me going back to certain sellers .

So, my advice when you are making fiber purchases is to try and buy small amounts of each fiber your interested in to check for cleanliness and quality . I would recommend the same when buying roving and batts as I have been sold half felted items and others with more nubs then fiber . If I knew Latin I would say...."Buyer beware " in a far cooler way .

Happy fiber buying !
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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Big eared Dufus needle felt and a few opinions of feltable fiber

This took me 3 nights to finish, not because of the complexity but because I am on another fiber hunt for some core fiber that doesn't cost $4. oo an ounce like most of my hand dyed merino purchases . I have gotten some very nice stuff for less but I love many of the fiber dyers and carders on Etsy and can't resist .

This guy is some less expensive but still wonderful natural fiber from Yarn to Spin on Etsy
I have been thinking of writing a bit about fiber for any new felters but still consider myself a "newbie" and still playing around with different fibers myself . This was my fisrt time working with Coopworth (sp?) and I really loved it . The stuff I bought was really airy and pretty soft but felted nicely . I also really enjoyed the color and texture of the BFL which is longer stapled and made nice outer "hair" . I mixed this with a bit of black alpaca and like the over all effect .

When I first began needle felting, I started with Romney which I had read was the needle felters choice . It's not my choice . It may felt faster and harder but for me it was often to fast and hard to get the detail I wanted . The Coopwoth and BFL shetland that I have worked with are all about the same in felting and closer to merino then Romney . I think mixing them with some alpaca softens them and gives a much more "fuzzy animal" feel to the sculpture . When I want something smooth, like the snout or nose I prefer the merino and it also makes a good core if you can find some for an affordable price...sometimes for less then a dollar if you buy in bulk or from larger companies on-line .
For the ears, I layer light pink merino on one side with a hairy fiber on the other , in this case, BFL . I like how the hairs poke through the pink areas to make them more realistic but needle felting something this thin and making it solid can be challenging . Some of my ears end up being an inch thick .
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Friday, August 13, 2010

The grumpy couple and a bit of wet felting

My apologies to anyone wanting to leave a comment . In my attempts to block the darn asian porn spam that has infiltrated the comments section, I accidentally removed comments all together , I "think" I have changed the settings now, so please leave any questions, advice or other comments to let me know I am not alone in the blog universe .

I honestly do not intend for my animals to look depressed, angry or cranky, but most of them seem to end up with that expression . Rather telling that this also happens to be the facial expression that people often accused me of having when I thought I was being relaxed, friendly or even happy . Yet people were always asking me if I was sad, angry or tired . I still have no idea what they were reading in my expression . So, I think besides our not reading non-verbal expression, we are also often misunderstood as we are giving out communications that we are not feeling or intending . It's as if I new a few words of Spanish but not what they actually meant and instead of saying "Thank you for the delicious chicken soup" ended up saying......"the chicken is swimming in the soup" to some very confused Spanish speakers .

According to what I have read about Aspergers and Autism.... "we" do not read non-verbal communication naturally but can learn some over time with practice and experience . I think that is one of the reasons that watching movies, TV and being involved in drama classes can be useful for Aspies . (I also suspect it is one reason that many aspies like comics, video games and anima where the "feelings" of the characters are so exaggerated that they are easy to read) .

Point being...although I think my animals have some very negative expressions, I am not sure what others see or if they find them cute or disturbing . After 47 years of observing and cataloging human expression, I would think I could read it by now but am still never sure of what my own face is saying to others .
Below are some of my attempts to experiment with felting "simple patterns" using roving instead of prefelt which is very expensive but much easier to control . These are mostly merino with a bit of merino silk blend which is one of my favorite combinations . Although they look scarfy, they are a bit thick for scarves and will probably be cut up to sew bags, glass and camera cases . I still have not managed to make a pure wool scarf using wet felting that doesn't end up to stiff and thick . I shan't<----(is that a real word?) give up .
Also above, I still trying to make balls for dogs that are harder and less likely to be chewed up . I start the same way as always....needle felting balls but then throw them in the washer and drier to harden them . I think the nice thing about these is they can easily be washed in dishwasher or washing machine to get off the doggy slime but I am still concerned that the dogs may want to eat them as they can still smell the "animal" smell of the wool . Even my cats can smell this which they seem to love, but dogs have even more sensitive noses and I don't want a dog to try and eat them and end up choking or messing up there digestive systems . I think they would be fine with smaller dogs but even they should be watched to make sure they don't try and eat these .

Below is a close up of another nuno scarf using silk gauze and merino silk blend roving . These are super soft and I love the texture but I still need to work on my color selections as some of them ended up more garish then earthy .

Happy felting !
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Monday, August 9, 2010

Nuno felting with silk gauze

I finally got up the nerve to dye my silk gauze . I played it safe and only used a few colors to give a simple backing for the colored roving . I used acid dyes and wasn't really sure what I was doing because I lost the directions . I assumed that it would be easy to find directions on-line but it seemed that some people used acid like vinegar and some used heat to set color . I figured I would cover my bases and do both . I soaked the fabric in a light water vinegar mix and twisted it to get a variegated look and then painted it with turquoise, olive and a blend of turquoise and peach to produce a light tan color . I was hoping for something earth looking that I could lay on my bright colored roving . After it was 90% covered, I smushed it together to bleed the colors into remaining wight sections to create lighter tones . The above picture shows that the color variations are very subtle . After all fabric was colored I wrapped it in paper and plastic and microwaved it for 18 min with 3 min resting time between 3 min microwave time . The fabric rinsed clear starting with warm water and moving to cold . The turquoise still bleeds a little so I may not have cooked it long enough and will try steaming it on oven for 45 min next time .
I did go for a very free form felting with this piece . I traditionally nuno felted it then threw it in the dryer and let it felt more and several areas felted to other wool areas . I like the effect, super textured and reminds me of an alien landscape but this is very risky as you can't control what felts to what but you can pull some areas free and reshape them after wards .
This is the back and below is another nuno felt that I really don't like . I tried to keep a more controlled pattern and it turned out very boring and not shaped well for a scarf . Not sure what I will end up doing with this but I never throw away anything, so perhaps will cut it up and use it for something besides a scarf . I have done two needle felts, some animal toys and three more pieces of wet felting that I will try and get pictures of tomorrow .

Happy felting and keep experimenting .
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Friday, August 6, 2010

needle felting with alpaca

I've been having a lot of fun needle felting with the baby Alpaca locks from North Star Alpaca . This fiber has such beautiful curls which have to be treated gently when pulling out the VM that gets caught in them . This cuff is a bit over the top for most folks but perfect for the fur lovers who don't want to kill an animal to wear their fur .

I started this project by needle felting a merino cuff and then felted in sections of alpaca locks . Once they felt firm, I laid another layer of merino on top and felted that over the base of the locks to sandwich them into place more firmly . I still need to add a closure but I think the cuff of fuzzy curls is pretty sweet .
Ever heard of a Merkin ? Well this is my attempt to make something that might be picked by Regretsy . I know some people think that the mock Etsy site is "mean" but I find many of their choices of Etsy "weirdness" to be interesting and others to be funny . I am planning on adding a velcro backing to this so it can be added to the outside of the underwear and used to give those famous "getting out of the car paparazzi " something to look at . I think it is something that would appeal to a limited audiance....Paris Hilton or a Furry <-----( a person who likes to dress up in animal costumes .......yes they are real) .
I finally got most of my animals organized so I can find them for labeling, photos and listing on Etsy....one small step closer to opening Wool Alchemy on Etsy . I still want to design a recycled leather tag for my felt . (just another way to procrastinate listing them ?
More fun with Alpaca and some other fibers . The larger critter was made with several different types of wool.....Shetland, BFL, Llama, merino and alpaca . I am experimenting with what fiber works for what function . I'll let you know when I get a bit more experience with these new fibers . I do like the natural undyed fiber colors though some may find them a bit boring .

Have fun felting !

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Monday, August 2, 2010

Needle felt alpaca and other monsters

I'm not sure what happened but I got on some kind of large animal kick which seems counter intuitive considering I can' afford much more wool right now but it sure makes the alpaca curls look cool . The latest of my animals is "sort of" an alpaca baby that I made for the women I buy my alpaca from . She basically saved a baby alpaca named JR, who I think was born underweight . Anyway, she sent me some of his baby locks and I wanted to do something to pay them both homage . Unfortunately, I did not have the dark brown fiber for his muzzle or enough of his own fiber to completely cover the purple base fiber I used to sculpt the core .

I'm hoping she wont mind poking a bit of the rest of his fiber on the purple areas that need patching .

Well, not exactly cute, unless your enamored by gargoyles but I think his version of a smile is his attempt to be friendly ......(and not just showing off his good dental hygiene.)

It was nice to get back to "normal size" . The alpaca took 4 days of almost every waking hour (minus some eating and computer time). This little guy was about 6 hours .
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