Friday, July 29, 2011

My Music Store guitar toss and donation to Human Society...Claw charms

Above is my boyfriends home away from home . When I heard they were donating proceeds to the Human Society....<--(the awesome place we have gotten most of our best friends), I asked if I could donate a new felting projecting I had been working on this week . I call them good luck mojo charms...."good luck" in that unlike those creepy rabbits feet charms...these monster paws required no animal slaughter . Ok, these are still creepy but they don't smell like rotting flesh, so that's a selling point right there : )

They took about 3 hours each and I used my new hand made Femo claws, mohair, alpaca and wool. I only had time to do 10 before the fund raiser tomorrow . I also added swivel hooks so they could be used as key chains or hung from belt loops or purse straps but forgot to take pictures of them before my BF dropped them off . I'm hoping they find some use for them to raise money for Human Society because that is a place close to my heart . Not just because I have gotten all my wonderful cats there but because I am an "adopted reject" myself and love when some one is given a second chance at being loved . So head on down to the guitar store tomorrow or down to your own local human society and give 'til it feels good .

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Needle felt....... animals in the mist

Above are my latest needle felt friends . I thought I would try and take some pictures out side and ended up the victem of the freaky summer weather the US has had this summer . In MN , that has been non-stop rain and horrible heat . The result is a camera lens that fogs and gives my animals a bit of a spooky look .

Monday, July 18, 2011

Tutorial on needle felting animals: Part 2 (fiber)

Above is a link to one of the first sites I visited when trying to learn to needle felt . Although the emphases is on wet felting, there is a great chart on sheep breeds and micron count .

One of the reasons I wanted to do this series of tutorials is that I feel that their is less information available for needle felters and most fiber related articles are directed at spinners, knitters and wet and nuno felting . Although some of this information is helpful for needle felting, some is the opposite to what works best in needle felting . What we all do share is an interest in the fineness or coarseness of the fiber used and this is often described in terms of micron count=diameter of the fiber . The finer the fiber the lower the micron count . The lower the micron count the softer the resulting yarn or felt but also the longer the needle felting time and the more likely to get "poke holes" when felting . SO that is the trade off but there is a solution....

using a medium fiber for the core and covering with a softer merino or alpaca . Speaking of is an interesting article about it......

On of the things that I though most interesting to me was that alpaca has a higher tinsel strength
then similar micron count wool . I believe that silk would be even higher and wonder how the plant fibers compare ? Which brings me to ...what fibers can be needle felted ?
I can only list the ones I have tried so far but I would highly recommend your own experimenting .

You can often buy sample sets  of different "luxury" fibers on Etsy as well as different breeds of sheep/alpaca/mohair . If you don't see one in a specific shop that carries a large veriety of different fibers, it doesn't hurt to "convo" the shop and ask if they would make a special order for you .

I have tried several different sheep breeds from coarse Romney to the softest extra fine merino .
I can not say that "this" is the fiber you should use because it depends greatly on what you are making . Romney does needle felt quicker but I don't personally like the coarse surface to work with or touch  . However, it does give a nice clean shape with few to no poke holes . Below is the link to one of my favorite artists using a coarser wool . I love the simple lines and amazing detail he achieves with this wool . (He also has some great bug photos and needle felting tips so check out his side links )

Merino is my favorite all around fiber but is not great when doing larger sculpture . I think using a medium coarse fiber batt...if your doing a large sculpture plan on making a lot of felties, a quilters batt is a great investment . One of the nice things about this is that you can divide it into equal sections when you are making, arms, legs, so that you don't end up with an uneven animal . This is one advantage to buying fiber in roving form as well . Handmade batts can often be harder to work with as far as breaking down into even sections as the fiber depth is often more variable .

Other fibers....

Although alpaca farmers hate when I say this, I do not think alpaca is a good base for needle felting . It takes a long time to get it to firm up and the longer fiber which may be great for spinners is actually harder to work with when needle felting . I would say the same thing about mohair but their both the best when it comes to making lovely looking outer surface and root well into a wool base sculpture . Even though I don't make "realistic" animals, I love using the natural colored alpaca on the surface and mohair for adding interesting embellishments .

Other, other fibers...

New experiments have revealed that corn fiber(Ingeo) also makes a wonderful surface fiber for animals . Unlike the merino, when rooted into the base wool and left with the ends loose, to make a "fur" the corn fiber does not end up matting over time . That means that it can be handled more the merino "fur" that felts or pills with to much handling .  I suspect the same might be true for the other plant, milk, Eucalyptus, etc . I have also used it to make some nice little horns and teeth and it actually compacts well . I don't know why this works, since I was taught that animal fiber felts do to it's scales but it does hold a hard shape though not as durable on it's own as when mixed with wool .

Silk roving can also be felted into wool but with an important many fibers can break your needle if you let it bunch up . This is really strong stuff . When I use it I am careful to feed only small bit of fibers under the needle at a time . This is one you should practice with before adding it so you don't end up ruining a nearly completed sculpture but it's worth the effort to learn as it adds a lot of interest in the texture and colors can be amazing  .

Buying fiber on-line > Warnings !

Although I buy from larger companies, I have also bought some amazing fiber on-line, Etsy, Ebay and smaller family farms . I've also bought some total garbage . Even 20% "fail" rate can get expensive and be frustrating . For this reason, I would recommend buying small amounts when you are buying from a new to you seller . If reviews are available, read them before buying . I have been sent beautiful wool that reeked of moth balls and wool ruined from poor dying that either burnt the wool or did not hold the dye .  I've bought some fiber listed as having been "washed and having small amount of VM<(vegetable matter) that was ready to spin" that was so filth and full of bugs and poo, even several washes could not save it . It is an unfortunately reality that some small business ruin it for the majority of ethical ones that force us into buying form larger companies just to get consistent quality .

As mentioned I do think batts are good if you can get then but I generally buy roving which I am told should actually be called "top" but is almost always listed as roving . Basically it is fiber that has gone through a carder to a line the fiber in the same direction . One of the advantage if this form is that you can easily break it into equal sections to help make sure your arms, legs, ears, etc are the same size . This is harder then it sounds and one of my personal nemesis....I often have one piece a bit larger then the other but I try and get as close as I can .

Pricing like everything in a free market can vary greatly . I have bought bulk wool and Mill Ends for less then a dollar an ounce  and paid as much as $7 for a hand blended batt with silk and alpaca . I generally try and shoot for around $1-2 for undyed roving , coarser blends should be a bit cheaper but are often as much as merino on Etsy . Commercial dyed roving runs around $2-3 and hand dyed $4-5 plus shipping which can get steep at some shops . There is usually a small increase if silk or plant fibers are blended in . It would be nice to say that the more you pay the better then quality but that just isn't the case .The most important things to look for is return policy if fiber is sub-par and buying small quantities until you get to know your seller .

Part 3 we finally begin the felting .

Well, that's about all I can think of right now, any questions please feel free to ask .

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Tutorial on needle felting Part 1.......Needles and Mat

tutorial on making simple needle felt dog<---(not by me)

Above is a link on making a needle felt miniature dog . I didn't write it but it has some good basic information and shows how to use pipe cleaners, which I seldom do . If your interested in making a larger, more intricately detailed sculpture , we can start at the beginning...materials and tools .

Tools: Needles, finger protectors, pads

Needles> I began felting using size 40 triangle needles only . I then discovered that 38 star gave almost as nice of detail and was much faster . I now use 38 triangle to begin "prefelting and shaping" , 38 star for smaller more delicate areas like paws and face and 40 for doing fine detailing . I would recommend these as a good beginning set and more then one just in case you accidentally break one ....(very frustrating to have to wait for new ones in the mail mid felting)

=There are several different suppliers but I usually plan on paying around $1 per needle or half that if buying in bulk . I buy most of my supplies on Etsy .

=You can buy different holders for the needles or make your own holder out of femo . I made my own handles out of craft supplies I had around the house . If you can find a thick two sided tape....the kind using for tacking carpeting down works it on leather, suede or craft felt and roll several layers around the needle . then cover the needle top(L shaped head where you hold it, with another strip and to cover the metal end and tuck in and continue rolling outer leather around to holed in place . You can wrap the needle as thick as you want but I find that about an inch or less in diameter gives me a comfortable hold on the needle . I felt by holding my pointer finger on the L shape end and thumb and middle finger on either side but do what ever you feel gives you the best control of where the needle tip is going into the fiber .

Matting>I've tried several different types of matting base . I like to work on my lap instead of a table so I need a very thick foam . Some people cover the foam with a thin fabric to prevent cross contamination for fiber colors and to avoid the surface from breaking down as quickly . This does work OK but it should be a thin an old you have a bit less wear on your needles and you have to be careful that you don't poke into a thick fabric wrinkle which can break your needle . I generally work without the fabric but that is just a personal preference .

+denser the foam the better it will hold up to needle poking
+when felting a something flat, like an ear, keep picking item up and flipping it over to avoid felting it to your mat .
+a large enough felting surface will allow you to wrest your arm and wrist to avoid joint strain

Buying foam matting can buy on-line but check local sources, like sewing supply stores, AXman, or thrift store < for a thick foam pillow form . I felt alot, so I prefer buying children or crib foam mattress and cutting up squares to use . of the most confusing things there is to learn about felting is what fiber to buy and what to pay for it . I began by buying all my fiber on Etsy with no idea on what I should be paying . I would often buy hand dyed merino at around $5 an Ounce including shipping and sculpt a 12 ounce sculpture from it . That gets expensive and is a waste of beautiful fiber . I've since learned the economy of using a fiber filler . I think the best filler is a nice, clean quilting batt of fiber around 26-30 < refers to the diameter of the fiber hair ,( more on that later) . Fiber is a huge topic so I will cover that later and try and break it into digestible bits . To start though, please check out my right corner links under (learning and cute) and click sheep fiber . It's a good reference in learning a few sheep names .

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Begining series of tutorials on needle felting (Introducation)

Above is a link to an artist I found just a few minutes ago . Their art is amazing and their tutorial puts the one I am going to attempt to shame . It's not about needle felting but working with sculpy type clays but their is a point to sharing it beyond just going to check out an amazing sculpture and that is that sculpting is sculpting, no matter what the medium you use . I think spending time looking at clay sculpting books and how artists use armatures, study underlying physiology and build up layers can be very useful in needle felting .

My first experience in sculpting was with clay and I loved everything about it except how it felt to touch...yuck . I also much prefer the tactile sensation and look of animal fiber because I love animals , especially fuzzy ones . There are some major differences in working with fiber verses clay and that is due to shrinkage of the material as you felt it . In my opinion that is one of the hardest things to figure out and I am still a long way from perfecting it .

That said, I am going to attempt to share what I have learned in the past 2 and a half year of playing with fiber . I'm hoping that you can over look the horrid picture quality of my step by step...(I only felt at night and have a cheap camera ) .

I'm not sure how many steps there will be but I will start with tools and materials and then have a step by step for the following feltie......
As with most if my animals, he is more "cartoon" then realistic . I seem to be attracted to over emphasizing features , perhaps a life long love of anima and stuffed animals ?

If anyone has an questions about something I may not have explained well , please feel free to ask . I really would love to see more people making their own furry friends . It's an amazing feeling when that lump of fiber starts coming to life under your needle .

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Needle felt Max the cat and his new sleep buddy

I think this is my idea of heaven...sleeping on a "bed of floof" with a tail of fluff as a cover .

It's even more obvious from the side by side shot that I need to add a lot more floof to the felted cats haunches and perhaps change the leg positioning a bit if I can .

Sweet dreams to all and may this stand as a lesson to the world about the blessings of symbiotic relationships .

Monday, July 11, 2011

Needle felt life size cat...MAX

As you can see above....making realistic animals is not my forte' . I think the fact that my white cat Max is so perfect, makes trying to create a facsimile, a project in futility way above my skill level . However, I am so in love with the way he often sleeps on his back with his arms and legs sticking up that I had to try to create this reminder .

It's been a 4 day, none stop felt-a-thon using wool base covered in white mohair and then "furred" with some corn fiber . I would like to eventually add more corn fiber fur but I ran out so will have to wait until I can afford some more .

As you can see, I made the face, ears and limbs a bit to large but I think he is Ok for a first attempt at a life size cat and I did learn a little more about what not to do next time . I'm not sure what my block is but there is something about cats faces that really challenges my brain . 

I really recommend giving corn fiber a shot in your needle felting . Nothing else I've used is as soft or pure white and as long as you felt it into a firm wool core, it felts nicely and adds some wonderful high light and texture .

Happy felting !

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Needle felt animals with claws and feathers & "very basic tutorial for making claws)

Even as a kid, I was not a big fan of animals in clothes . Hell, I wasn't that big a fan of wearing them myself . Yet, most collectable animals appear to be dressed up with all kinds of accessories . Also, after spending hours creating some definition to the animal shapes, I can't see covering it all up with clothing .

I assume that most collectors want to see animals detailed in some way, so I decided my compromise would be to try and add "natural" embellishments....claws, horns, teeth, and wings .
 Above are some of the clay, wire and sculpting tools .
Above here is some of the foil film and double sided tape that I plan on using around the edges of the dragon wings to help clean up the edges and make it more secure . I noticed this week that the edges of the dragon wings were starting to separate from the wire in a few places . I plan on remedying that by covering all edges with the tape and then covering that with the foil paper .

Not a very good picture but these are a few of the claws that I made . bottom are translucent Keto clay and the top are a white with mica Kato . They are a very simple to make even for a novice polymer clay user . Basically just make a crescent moon shaped tube and cut it in half=2 claws . I made some sharp and pointy like cats claws and others are more rounded at the tips . I then stuck wire into the base of the claws and used a cheap foil pan to stick the wire into to dry . Warning....the clay will not stay well attached to the wire and will need to be glued into the clay after it is cured .

I tried several different wire bases to attach them to my animals .  I tried heavy gauge copper and craft wires but had the problem of the wire bending when I tried to insert them into the felted wool . Using wire cutters to clip sharp angles into the ends into a very sharp point helped abit but still very fussy to get them into the hard wool . I next tried some vintage hair pins which was a bit stiffer metal but still hard to push in all the way . Solution ?

The obvious solution is to use sewing pins instead of wire . They already have a sharp enough point to stick into the wool and don't bend as easily . So, after curing the claws in oven , I removed the pin and added a drop of super glue to the base of the claw....(there is a nice indentation left from sticking the pin head into the claw base that is a great reservoir for the glue) . Then stick the whole thing into the base of the paw slightly above the paw pad .

Unfortunately , my Bf's son still has my "good" camera, so I am stuck with some pretty bad pictures of this weeks animals but here goes .....

Click on the picture for more detail .

Hard to see here, but I also tried making clay hands and feet for this guy but still not very good at working this small so I will skip a tutorial until I figure out how to do it better .

This is my first attempt at feathered wings . I used some feathers I got years ago from a co-worker who hunted his own turkey for Thanksgiving . I wont get into the ethics of hunting but I saw no reason to let the feathers go to waste so when he gave me turkey body, I plucked and washed the feathers...a first for me....and probably a last. I do love the "hairy" look of the under-feathers that I used here .  This was a fairly straightforward process . I needle felted two wing shapes and sewed  the feathers on over lapping them to hide the quill bases . I left about an inch of the needle felted base which I covered in a bit more fiber and needle felted into the body . Yeah, very time consuming but I do like the result so will probably do a few more of these .

So, that was my past two weeks , small to large/simple to complex but all good fun .

Happy felting !

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Wings for fantasy animals.experiment tutorial...part 1

Nancy Drew by John Baldessari in a book titled Chance. The book was edited by Margaret Iversen and is one of a series of books called Documents of Contemporary Art.

The passage reads as follows:

(It would) be unbearable if our intentions were regularly frustrated. Yet there is something terribly arid, not to say mechanistic, in the idea of a world where all our purposes result in predictable consequences, where we are completely transparent to ourselves and where intentions always result in expected actions. We value the degree of interference in human intentional activity offered by the unconscious, by language, by the apparatus of the camera or computer, by the instruction performed 'blind.' In short, we desire to see what will happen.

I can't recall the blog I found this on, but I think the quote explains part of how I create and why I create . I do not climb the mountain because it "is there", but because I am curious what is on the top and the challenge of trying to find new paths to get there . There is a greater chance of falling into a crevasse but perhaps a better chance of stumbling on a Yeti . (in my naive imaginary world were Yeti's are cute, cuddly and would rather share a granola bar then eat me).

So, I set off on trying to find a way to make wings for my "dragon-fly" . I decided not to use fantasy film because I was worried that it might tear in shipment , leather is heavy and nylon became easily misshapen when I added decoupage . The first thing I found, was expensive but  I was unaware at the time that there was a cheaper alternative. It is a plastic film that you can buy by the foot to add texture on glass .

I chose the simplest (least expensive) clear kind but they really have some gorgeous stuff there if I had the money to spend you could skip most of the tutorial and just use the film as is without bothering with the fabric . 

(The above shows the awful glare of a night camera shot but also a bit of the cool texture on this film) 

The second error I made.....(no Yeti's yet)....was the idea that I could attach the wings by making my own hook and closures....(like the kind that are used on some pants/skirts . ) This was a complicated, messy process resulting in .......

The above . The way I visualized this was that the sodered hook would slide into a corresponding loop that I sewed onto the dragons body . Nope....end result was less then stable . (try, try again . ) 

What I ended up doing was cutting off the the bent wire ends and wrapping them together in wire and wrapping the wire in black electrical tape...... which you could also just soldier  . The end result was two sets of connected wings . Because I had already felted into the body, a very stiff spine of wet felt material, it was an easy jump to just putting a small slit where I could slide the wing frame . This makes it very easy to remove and ship the wings and for the new owner to set up . 

Following are the materials I used....

soldering iron
solder with built in flux
thick wire for wing frame
thin wire to wrap wire before sodering
wire cutter
plastic that can be ironed onto fabric 
wax paper
bottle of water with an old sock for a bottle cover......(actually that has nothing to do with this project but it's important to stay hydrated and I find that filling a Gatorade bottle half full with water and freezing them makes the perfect ice cold beverage for hours the cap for taking it with you and never buy bottled water again...and the old sock makes the perfect bottle cover....  )

First step is cutting out the fabric and plastic several inches larger then your intend wing using the wire frame as a template . Center wire frame onto plastic . If your using the plastic window film that I mentioned above, it has it's own adhesive built into it that is strong enough to hold the wire into place . However, I think there is a cheaper method that you might want to try . There is an iron on plastic made to water proof fabric . I don't believe it has the adhesive on it but you could wrap the wire in two sided tape and stick it down . Some people may want to try hot glue or super glue but you definitely need to consider that the wire doesn't tend to lay perfectly flat and you need to make sure that all the edges are touching .

The next step, I was working totally blind . My intention was to have the plastic melt into the wire without melting it through . I attempted this by holding the hot soldering iron on the wire to heat it into the plastic . Problem is that because the adhesive was sticking to the wire, I couldn't really tell if the plastic was melting onto the wire as I wanted . 

I decided it was a good time to add the fabric and trim it to size . This worked easily with the adhesive already on the plastic . I liked the texture of the window film I used but found a much cheaper way to do this in the future.....

The above seems to suggest that you can use the less vinyl tacky "contact paper" used for shelving and book covers and sold at many stores . It's certainly worth trying but I'm still not sure how well the adhesive last over time and think the iron on is supposed to be both lighter and more secure  . you have a piece of vinyl attached to fabric with a wire between . The question is how secure is that wire after you trim the edges . That is where "part two" comes in . The above video claims that this stuff can be sewn which you can certainly do but I'm going to offer an alternative in my next blog along with some of my other new experiments....clay claws and feather wings . 

Happy felting !


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