If you're into spinning your own yarn, you probably already know what a blending board is. Very much like a drum carder (that you can see in my previous blog post), it has a cloth with sharp teeth designed to comb and align fibres to make them easier to work with. You add fibres to it until the cloth is full, and then you take them out in a special way that I'll explain below.
The main difference between a drum carder and a blending board is that the latter is flat, so instead of creating batts with them, you're creating something called rolags: rolled-up tubes of wool that you can then spin on a wheel or spindle.
Blending boards are sold commercially in specialty stores, and new ones usually go for over £100 each. The back of the board is raised by a nifty piece of wood that allows you to rest it tilted on a table when horizontal or lock it in place on your lap between your legs when vertical.
Along with the blending board itself, you usually also get a small brush (to compact the fibres into the cloth) and two or more wooden rods to roll the fibre off the board and make the tube-like rolags.
I've always wanted a blending board, because well, woolly gadgets!, but never gave in to my whim - I didn't think it was worth paying so much for one in my case. I already have a drum carder, so justifying another carding implement would prove a bit much for my conscience and wallet. Other than buying a used one at a good price, this was just one of the things I'd have to put in my Maybe One Day drawer, and forget all about it.
That is, until my spinning guild decided to make them in one of our Special Interest meetings. Andrea, one of the members, emailed us saying she'd be ordering all our carding cloths to save on postage, and I jumped at the opportunity. Each cloth would be £30, and the supplier was even nice enough to waive the shipping fees.
The total price for my project was £45 - £30 for the cloth, plus £15 for a large-enough bamboo board.
(By the way, if you ever decide to make your own blending board, getting more friends to join in and ordering in bulk might be the way to go to cut down prices.)
Making the blending board
A very simplified version of the commercial blending boards is just this: a stapled carding cloth to a good quality, non-warping chopping board. Get yourself some simple dog brushes and a couple of sticks to use as rods, and you're good to go. If you're fancy you can also add the back bit that allows it to tilt, but I didn't go that far.
Here's my homemade board.
I had to remove some of the metal tines on the sides of the cloth so the stapling gun could get some purchase on the bamboo. I made sure the corners were well attached and that no part of the cloth moved about - it's better to err on the side of having too many staples than not enough.
This is important: the teeth on a carding cloth are bent at an angle to grab the fibres, so make sure your cloth is stapled correctly with the bends facing up. You'll be feeding fibres to the cloth from the top down, and removing them from the bottom, so you need the cloth to resist this by going in the opposite direction.
Now, on to rolags!
Rolags are these funny-looking tubes of rolled-up fibre that allow spinners to spin woollen or semi-woollen yarns. I'm not going too much into this, it's simply a way to prepare fibre to get a specific result when making yarns. Woollen yarns are fuzzier, warmer, and stretchier than worsted-spun yarns. To spin with them, all you have to do is pull on one side of the fibres and add twist.
Traditional rolags are made with carding brushes by combing and then rolling the fibres into a tube. A blending board allows you to make really fancy rolags - if you know me, you know I like fancy-looking stuff. This if you still had questions as to why I wanted a blending board.
How to make rolags on a blending board
First, get your supplies ready. You'll need:
Add fibres to the board
What you put on the bottom of the board is what you'll see on the top of the rolags when you roll them, so take that into consideration when adding the fibres. Because of this I always start with the embellishments if using any. Make sure these aren't too short or they'll probably end up staying on the board and not on your rolags as you pull the fibres off (ask me how I know this). If you're using some short fibres, sandwich them between the longer fibres.
Begin on the top of the board. Touch your fibres to the top teeth, carefully place your hand on over them and gently drag the fibres downward. If you want all rolags to be very similar to each other, make sure you have enough fibre to cover an entire section of the board from top to bottom.
If your fibre breaks before you reach the bottom, don't worry! Simply grab more and continue from the breakage point down.
You'll see on the next picture how some of the fibres hang out of the board. That's a good thing, you'll need that so it's easier to remove the fibres later. Having extra fibres on the top also helps to get a better looking final rolag.
Normally, after you're done with one layer, you'll want to push it into the teeth with the brush before you add the next one. I didn't here because I didn't feel I had enough fibres for that, so I went ahead to the second phase of the process.
Second phase: add your wool and other main fibres. If you're not using embellishments, then this will be what you'll be doing from the beginning.
After adding enough fibre to the cloth that I could no longer see the teeth, it was time to brush the wool down so it all stays in place. After this you can add more fibre and brush down again, until it's close to being full - usually three layers is enough.
This is important: before you put brush to the board, if you're not using the special brushes that come with a commercial blending board, you'll need to turn the brush upside down, so you're holding the handle on top and the teeth are on the bottom. The bends of the teeth on the brush need to be facing upwards (like the ones on your carding cloth), so they're packing the wool into the blending board instead of combing it out.
If you don't have a dog brush, you can use a soft painter's brush and gently pat the fibres down. Alternatively, you can also use a long needle to coax the wool down, just make sure you start at the top and gently drag the needle down in sections.
Remove the fibres from the board - make rolags
Now comes the fun part, making the actual rolags!
Sandwich the fibre on the bottom of the board between both rods and twist upwards. The fibre will be trapped around the rods. I like to then remove one of the rods so the wool is just wrapped around the other. I then place the free rod back against the one with the fibre and start twisting again.
As you twist, pull the fibres to you to drag them away from the board. When the fibres start thinning out, raise the rods a little so more fibre is pulled out of the board and around the rods.
Once you feel you have enough fibre around the rods, you can gently pull them away from the board until the fibre separates. Then smooth out the fibres on the rods with your hands or by running them carefully against the carding cloth; this way you'll minimise the amount of flyaway fibres.
Remove one rod at a time from inside the rolag: pull one rod out from one end, then the other from the other end. Do this carefully and patiently so you're not messing with the direction of the wool or breaking the rolag.
This is important: if you're using knitting needles like I was, it helps to use one larger than the other, so it's easier to remove them by taking out the thinner one first. Also, don't forget to have the ends of the needles facing away from each other, since you're supposed to pull each rod out from a different end.
Then repeat the process to make more rolags: use the rods to grab the bottom fibres, sandwich and twist them, roll and pull until you have enough fibre, then separate it from the rest and smooth it out.
So far, I've been able to get 4 rolags out of each full blending board.
The size of your rolags will depend on how wide the carding cloth on your board is, and how thick the rods you use. How much fibre you pack in will also influence your end product, I suspect, although at the time of this writing I haven't yet made enough to know for sure.
I also saw a fellow guild member simply remove all the fibre in one go by making one giant rolag instead of small ones. You can also do that if you like, but I'd consider this more of a small batt than a rolag.
Fancy spinning tip: make one giant rolag/small batt; then repeat the same colours on the board and make smaller ones - spin the big rolag on one bobbin and the small ones on another, and when you ply them together you'll get a fractal spun yarn. Ooh!
Have you ever made rolags? If you have any tips for me, leave them in the comments section, I'd love to learn more about the process.
If you have other comments, also write them below, I do love hearing from you (and knowing this headache of making sort-of tutorials is worth it)!
Let me begin by saying that having friends in the fibre business can be really bad for your wallet. In the particular case of this blog post, I speak of persuasive friends who enable you into buying new (very expensive) gadgets.
Meet the Strauch Mad Batt'r Double Wide carder.
If you can't tell by the image, this thing is a behemoth. A little intimidating too, if you're not used to this type of machine and its teeth. No, scratch that: it's intimidating even if you're used to drum carders. This piece of equipment is imposing and I don't think you can confuse it with a hobby toy.
My former carder was nice, don't get me wrong, but too small for production carding. The advert when I bought it said I could card up to 100g of wool in one go, but never happened.The most fibre I ever managed to pack into one batt was 80g, and I was already really pushing it.
I'm a business, so I needed a bit more flexibility when it came to the amount of fibre I could process in one go.
Before I go on, let me state: I'm not being paid to write any of this in any way, and this isn't a product review post. I'll have one up soon, which also won't be sponsored and will feature my honest opinion on the Strauch Mad Batt'r.
If you've never used a drum carder, this is what they do: they sort of comb and align the fibres together to create one fluffy mass, called a batt. You can create batts with just wool, or add all sorts of things to it to make it textured and fun; the latter is usually called an art batt because it's got all sorts of different things in it to allow one to create some funky yarns.
I recently washed a new fleece and needed to convert it into batts for sale. The photos below show the process.
(If you'd like to know how I wash my fleeces, go here.)
I've shown you how I process regular, smooth batts, now let me share a textured batt. This is where the fun is for me.
I start by deciding what my colour palette will be, and what fibres I'll be using, then weigh out all the components. This way I'll know how heavy my batt is going to be, for the most part. I'm known to change my mind mid-process about what I'm using, so sometimes I can end up with either a slightly larger or smaller batt.
I made a very short video of this batt to try to show off the sparkle. Because, shiny!
You saw how I didn't use all of the carding cloth's surface, because Old Carder Habit. This batt still came out at almost 100g!
Now for the sexy glamour shot...
If you're interested in this batt, here's the link for it: Art Batt for Spinning by Felt Buddies.
Do you use a drum carder, or thought about it? Tell me all about it in the comments section. Thanks for reading!
Bonus photo: here's Marshmallow acting all Gangsta, because why not?...
Here's my latest needle felting commission. Her name is Mathilda, or Mattie for short. She lives with a very nice lady here in England. Her son contacted me to create a sculpture for his mother's birthday and I was only too happy to oblige.
Mattie is mostly black, which poses special challenges. It's harder to photograph a black animal (so it's harder to get the right pictures to work with, especially because I'm not the photographer and have to rely on someone else's skills). It's also harder to give a wool sculpture a nice sense of volume when the main colour is black, since it tends to absorb light really well and make it look very flat.
To add yet another level of difficulty, Mathilda had recently got a haircut, but her human wanted me to make her with more fur, so I had to use my imagination. This has the potential for disaster, because what I imagine isn't necessarily what she looks like pre-haircut in real life, and I can end up coming up with a completely different dog. No pressure there.
Instead of using sheep's wool, I resorted to a shinier fibre with good curl: mohair. It's great for this because it dyes well (this mohair was originally white) while retaining lustre. The dye I used resulted in a black with purplish undertones that I think works well to create volume. You can just about see some of it on the photo above on her face and on the shoulder to our right-hand side.
Like with any animal, the face is going to be the focal point of attention and every detail is very important. We humans are drawn to eyes, it's an evolutionary trait, so everything that's near the eyes needs to be very detailed and as close to the model as possible.
I used high quality glass eyes and made her a clay nose that I then painted black and sealed with a shiny glaze. The hair on each side of Mathilda's nose and on her chin are different colours. I used brown Merino wool for the brown and some Blue Faced Leicester in natural oatmeal for the chin.
I've been making sculptures for a while but I always feel slightly nervous to take scissors to the fibre to cut it to size. I have to keep reminding myself that if my hairdressing skills fail I can always take that wool off and do it again. I might anthropomorphise my makes a little too much.
(On a side note, I don't seem to have the same concerns whilst cutting my own current mohawk hairstyle...)
Once I've taken my time with the making, I let my work "rest" away from me for at least a few hours, or more if I can (at least a whole day is ideal). When I'll look at it again with fresh eyes, it's easier to spot things that need adjusting.
Once I'm happy I take the best photos I can (have I already mentioned how hard it is to photograph black animals or their minis?) and send them for approval. Luckily, it seems my imagining of Mattie's longer fur was good. Out comes the sigh of relief...
In a rare treat, I'm getting to spend some extra time with this girl, since her new owner is away for a few days. Because of this, I've discovered a new trait of mine, which I'm sure won't be a surprise to a lot of you: I need to keep myself from looking for things to improve and change. When is a sculpture finished? Apparently, only after it's left my hands. I've so far resisted the impulse, mainly because I wouldn't be comfortable changing something without taking new photos and awaiting for feedback, which would delay things and be completely unnecessary - my clients have already given me the thumbs up, so stop overcomplicating things (repeat this 100 times until it sinks in.)
Mathilda means something like Strength in Battle in Germanic Gothic. A fierce name for such a cute and cuddly girl!
If you'd like a mini of your own, contact me and I'll be happy to discuss your needs. I also have a handy Frequently Asked Questions section that answers most queries, but feel free to message me if you'd like.
Enjoy your weekend!
Last week I received an email from my Guild informing me that Mudchute Farm was holding an agricultural event during the weekend, and would some spinners be available to demonstrate their skills?
I'm not normally one to jump at this sort of request (I'm not an introvert but I'm not exactly Miss Social either) but I decided to make something out of my weekend and say yes. It didn't hurt that they were offering us fleece in return...
After speaking with Hazel, our guild liaison, it was decided that I would show up on Sunday. I was super responsible and wrote down a list of all the stuff I needed, and added to it after asking for help on my Facebook and Instagram. I even packed the day before! I must be growing up.
After I packed, my other half looked at everything and announced he would go with me so I didn't have to struggle with it all. I'm not sure he was being romantic or afraid I'd collapse under the weight of it all, but I wasn't going to complain.
If you've never been to London, this city has one remarkable trait: it's definitely huge, but one thing that makes its size tolerable it's the amount of parks there are. Mudchute Farm is a bona fide farm with chickens, ducks, guinea pigs, goats, lamas, alpacas and sheep, right in the middle of the city. Once you're there you forget you're in an urban setting and, in a way, you aren't.
The whole place was busy by the time I arrived. There were plenty of visitors already, and there were food stalls, craft stalls and even water throwing contests.
My happy place would always be the animals, so imagine my joy when I saw a feathered kindred spirit - this chicken must be a distant relative of mine, judging by the hair on its head... Someone told me it refused to live among its fellow chickens, showing instead an interest in ducks. You go, you amazing looking rooster you!
After setting up the wheel between my fellow members of the London Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers, I got to work. I had brought an art batt I'd made a while back (to salvage some fugly wool tops I bought at a fair), some commercial yarn, and I started to do some core spinning.
We all had different brands of wheels, and we were doing different things. Hazel was doing long draw, whereby you get woollen yarn, all fluffy, lofty and warm; Christine was doing worsted spinning to produce some (hah) worsted yarn, a sturdy and shinier end result; I was, as mentioned before, doing core spinning. Core spinning is when you get some pre-existing yarn and use it as a core to wrap your own fibres around it, producing a yarn that's also lofty, lightweight and with a very distinct colour definition.
People would come into our room and ask us questions. Children were naturally very curious and some men wanted to know the engineering bit of the wheel - your typical muggle reactions. We had a table set up with some clean wool, some yarn and a knitted hat, so that people could see the progress. That hat got worn a lot by little humans!
When I went on my break, it was time to look at more animals.
Now comes a part I'm not sure I enjoyed. I really love owls and birds of prey in general, but seeing them under a tent to be looked at didn't sound dignified to me. To be honest, I felt sorry for them.
In a similar context, the organisers had planned a goat racing event but it got cancelled because people complained it was cruel. One of the persons there assured me they wouldn't make the goats do anything they didn't want to, and they were jumping animals by nature. What do you think?
Finally, it was time to collect our bounty! None of us spinners was going to miss out on getting some nice fibre. I can tell you that there was a bit of a Fleece Hunting thing going on, since we had to look in three different locations before finding the "good stash." On the other hand, now we know all their secret fleece storing facilities. We might have made a joke or two about breaking in at night and taking all their good fluff.
Sundae has been working at Mudchute for 15 years and she was nice enough to help us go through two huge bags of wool. In case you're wondering, yes, those were raw fleeces. Since we're fibre addicts, I can assure you none of us had any qualms about sinking our hands into them. I came home with two lovely fleeces, one white and one curly black one.
After all that excitement (and thorough hand washing) it was time for a little more spinning and then packing up. Now I have big plans to wash those fleeces in a special way, and I'll share that with you very soon in another blog post.
So, what did you do with your weekend? Share your thoughts and comments with me below.
Isn't this a weird post title? Well, it's more or less the absolute truth.
You see, I never had what I call the Princess Dream, that thing where as a young girl I'd imagine myself going through the aisle in white, and then reaching my Dream Guy and getting married to him to live Happily Ever After. I didn't imagine what the dress would look like, or the man, or the place we would live in. The whole thing seemed like a weird exercise to me and I was never able to go with it when friends did it. I just didn't get it.
In fact, after realising the whole ceremony was more or less about a male (in this case, the father) transferring his property (that would be me, the female) to another male, the feminist in me rebelled. "I'm not anyone's property and I'll never feed that absurd machine of fluff and ceremony!"
Well. You can see where this is going, right?
I kept on not having any ideas of matrimony, even after being in a great and stable relationship with my partner. The way we were was good enough for me, and I was also blessed with a family that never pressured me into "taking the next step" in our relationship. I was happy, why mess with a formula that was working?
One day, my other half phoned me to let me know he was on his way home. We chatted about this and that, and apparently one of his comments led me to make a joke on commitment. It was an interesting conversation that went something like this:
HIM: "That finger tattoo I did on you the other day, I'm very curious to see how it'll age."
ME (mockingly): "Well, stick around and you'll find out."
HIM: "You know what? I've had enough of this crap. For the last few months I've been trying to find the perfect occasion to pop the question and every time I get close to it you crack a joke and ruin the moment! Do you want to get married or not?!"
ME: "Wait. Whaaa? Are you asking me to marry you? Over the phone?!"
HIM: "F*ck yeah, it seems I'll never find the perfect occasion so this will have to do. Wanna marry?"
ME: "Er... okay. Sure." (I might have had a slight moment of hyperventilation.)
And that was that, we were engaged. There was no ring, no asking the father for permission (I'd kick him if he'd suggested this), no special ceremony to mark the occasion apart from a really long walk under pouring rain. In fact, I wouldn't be able to tell you when exactly this happened apart that it was Spring, and that it took us over two years to do the deed; this is exactly what you can expect from people like him and I, and we're perfectly fine with that.
We registered intention to marry last July, and had one year to get married before it expired. No worries, we have plenty of time, we said. Shall we do it this month, or next? We'll do it soon. Yeah, sometime in the next few weeks.
This obviously led to us not making any specific plans until we realised our time was almost up, and me running to the registrar's and telling them I needed to get married soonish, what dates did they have available? That conversation was sure interesting, and I wonder if anyone in the room imagined I was pregnant or desperate... We set the date for two weeks later, Summer Solstice.
We decided 5 days before the date we wanted rings, so I rushed to find some nice ones on Etsy. The day before the wedding I chose what I'd wear - I went for a pencil skirt and a black corset after asking for opinions on my social media. These were clothes I wore for goth parties in the past, the stuff I'd have close enough to merit being called "fancy." Would I have married in jeans and combat boots? Yes, yes I would, if my mood had gone in that direction.
A week before, we created an event on Facebook to let people know what was happening and where, and that whomever read it was invited. We knew not a lot of people would be able to be present at a Wednesday afternoon at such short notice, but again, we didn't mind.
And just like that, after a 20-minute ceremony I was someone's wife. No fuss, no transferring of property and no adding extra surnames to my already long, long name. It felt like home, arriving at a cozy destination.
The day after our wedding my (ahem) husband got ill with the flu. I'm very glad we decided to skip the whole honeymoon thing for later or we'd have a really fun time staying in the hotel room with tissues and medication...
After the ceremony we went to a nearby pub with our friends and had some drinks, caught up with everybody's business and then went back home. A simple event, surrounded by a few friends. Perfect.
If you read this far, I salute you. I bet reading about other people's weddings is a little like looking at friends' holiday pictures, or newborn babies...
Did you ever dream of getting married? What does that feel like? I'm honestly asking, so let me know in the comments section. Now off I go to enjoy how different my life has now become (not really)...
I completely forgot to add an interesting tidbit to this whole business! Here goes: at the moment of this writing, we're in a bit of a legal relationship limbo. You see, we're married in the UK, but until we let our embassy know we've gotten hitched, we're still officially single in Portugal! I've no idea about the rest of the world. You can imagine the jokes I've managed to extract over this... Got to love me some bureaucracy.
Recently, I got asked by my good friend and fellow fibre artist Nicole if I wanted to do a collaboration with her. I jumped on the idea immediately because I knew whatever she had in mind had to be amazing.
Nicole wanted me to make some felted flowers that she could incorporate in her spinning - after telling me what colour scheme and how many she wanted, I was left to my own devices. Once she receives them, she'll create some glorious chunky art yarn and add my flowers.
Now, I'll be honest - wet felting isn't what I'm used to. My felting is usually done with a needle so having to Think Flat (as in, not in 3D) really posed a challenge. In these cases YouTube videos are your best friends, even when it's Russian ladies explaining stuff in their native language whilst you try to guess what they are saying.
I didn't follow the real anatomy of any particular flower, but some looked more like the real deal than others - the left one above does resemble a rose.
This lily might have been the only I made with a specific goal in mind; I saw some in a neighbour's front yard and wanted to see if I could recreate them. I don't think I did too bad.
A tutorial... sort of.
Ok, so I promised in the title there'd be some form of explanation on how to create flowers, and here it comes. I hope I manage to convey it, and apologies in advance if I make a mess of it. The reason I'm not calling this a bona fide step-by-step set of instructions is because I forgot to photograph a couple of steps, so I hope this still works.
This is for a flower with two layers of petals stuck together in the middle.
Decide what your colour scheme is going to be and what materials you're going to use. I like to sort my fibres out in bowls so each thing has its place and I don't confuse one project with the other when I'm doing multiples. If you're going to repeat your flowers you might want to weigh the fibre in advance to make them more or less the same.
For this project I am using:
Add to this list all the stuff you'll need but isn't part of the final object:
Lay your fibre thinly on your felting surface, starting from the centre out in a circular shape. Add as much as you need: less fibre for a delicate, airy look, and more for a sturdier shape that stays in place. Take into account what will be the bottom layer and the top layer of your flower. I went for blue for both, since I'd be adding silk to the the top layer which would make it different from the bottom.
Most people use bubble wrap as a felting surface but I found something more durable that I like, it's a drawer liner from IKEA. I'm not sure what it's called but every store of theirs has it. It's got little bubbles on the surface just like bubble wrap, but these don't pop. This plastic isn't as flexible but it's more important to me that I get to reuse it.
The photos below don't show it, but after I finished adding all the fibres to the bottom layer of the flower (photo on the left, below), I added a resist and proceeded to add my second layer of fibres over it (photo on the right, below).
A resist is nothing more than a surface you add between layers to keep the fibres from felting together. Mine was a doughnut-shaped piece of bubble wrap (round with a hole in the middle); the hole makes sure both layers of wool will felt together in the middle but not the outer bits, which will be the petals above and below.
You'll be able to see a picture of the resist later below.
Now comes the top-most layer of your flower. If you have a special item you wish to felt with the wool, now is the time to add it. I used my own hand dyed silk hanky. You can see how thin and fragile it looks (and if your hands are dry, they'll snag on the silk!) Silk hankies come in stacked layers so all you have to do is separate one and add to what you're making for a dramatic effect.
Since the flower is round, you'll want to lay the hanky so it's more or less the same shape, and try to keep it smaller than the wool beneath it.
Now wet the fibres carefully by drizzling some warm soapy water on top with your hands. Tap the middle carefully, where the hole in the resist is, to ensure both layers start to rub together.
Now turn the project around. The silk is now facing down and the bottom layer of the flower is facing you.
Wrap the wool sticking out from the edges of top layer (now on the bottom) over the layer now facing you. Use the shape of the resist inside to help guide you. You don't have to do this if you like the petals to look rougher but I wanted mine smooth.
Turn the work again so the silk hanky is again facing you. Make sure its edges haven't moved to the bottom layer that you just tucked in; if they have, gently give them back to the upper layer. You want to do this so you're not cutting into the silk later on.
Add a little more soap to the fibres and start felting by gently rubbing them together: first from the centre out, then in a gentle circular motion. You can use your fingers; I had an extra piece of resist I didn't need for this project so I used it to rub the soap in and speed the felting after rubbing with my fingers in the beginning. Make sure you rub the centre really well, you want those top and bottom layers to stick together.
Keep rubbing the fibres on both layers by turning your work around often during the felting process. The wool will start to shrink and become more compact after a while.
At this point you might want to wrap the project around some bubble wrap and roll this tube multiple times in various directions. This will firm up the felt. Keep in mind the fibres will shrink in the direction you're rubbing, so you'll need to unroll the bubble wrap, turn the project, wrap it again and roll in a different direction to keep it round.
The following pictures show you the same type of resist I have inside the flower, which I'm using here as a felting surface.
Once your fibres feel felted enough, it's time to rinse them - alternate with hot and cold water for some extra firmness. When all the soap is gone it's time to remove the resist from the inside of the flower - use some sharp scissors and carefully cut around, making sure you leave all of the silk hanky on the top layer.
Once you've cut all around, pull the resist out gently from the top.
You should now have two layers of felted fibres stuck together in the middle.
Once the resist is out, you can gently pull on the fibres at the edge, to create a little wavy effect.
Now you need to shape your flower the way you want it to look. I scrunched mine in the middle and pulled the outer edges a little more until I was happy with the end result. I also pulled the middle down a little.
You can also decide to create individual petals by cutting the layers with your scissors. Make sure you don't cut the top and bottom in the same spots for a more realistic look. Round each petal up at the top with your scissors slightly so the petals don't look too square.
Place your flower on a glass cup and leave it to dry.
Once it's dry you can add other embellishments such as beads, or a felt ball in the centre. I chose to add some bright mohair locks that I needle felted into place.
I hope you've found this tutorial helpful. If you make a flower like this, or have any tips on how to improve on my technique, let me know in the comments below! Thanks for reading.
It's hard to believe it's almost Summer here in London. This year is going too fast for me, and I confess I haven't quite gotten around to believing Spring is already here, let alone that it's almost the end of May.
There's signs aplenty of Spring all around me, even if the temperature isn't one of them - the flowers, more sunny days, longer daylight hours. England really does wear her best during this time of year. Allow me to show you some of her outfits.
Very pretty, right? Having come from a part of the globe where it's mostly sunny and dry, I didn't usually get to see this type of lush landscape (think cacti and the occasional weedy flower, and grass if we were lucky). I know some will think me mad, but I'd rather have more wet and gloomy days if it means I'll get to see these pops of colour sprouting from the ground. London has me spoilt for parks and gardens.
Now, let me confess: the flowers aren't my number one favourite thing about London's parks. The thing that makes my heart sing with joy is its cheeky furry and feathery inhabitants! If you bring tasty morsels for them to eat, the squirrels and birds will gladly allow you the honour of taking the food directly from your hands and eat near you. I call this my Disney Princess moments...
Since an image is worth a thousand words, let me show you what I'm talking about, using myself and some friends as protagonists in Hyde Park.
In case you're wondering, these birds (parrots?) aren't native to England. It's speculated that their ancestors were probably captive pets who managed to free themselves of their cages, and set shop in these parks. I'm not sure how they survived - and thrived! - the harsh Winters, but that they did, and their progeny is definite proof of this.
I didn't take any pictures of passers-by looking at us like we were wildlife seducers, but believe me, there were plenty of those. My friend Helena always brings extra bird and squirrel feed, and she often asks those looking if they'd like to have a go - the brave ones receive some food, instructions and off they go! The joy on their faces when an animal trusts them is lovely to behold. Now I also bring extra food and offer others; since you've probably noticed I don't exactly look like a regular citizen, I love how they sometimes look a little confused by my black clothes and generous behaviour. Goths don't bite, promise!
Lastly, squirrels. I love them, their little paws, their soft tails and how the most courageous ones realise they can just stand on me and eat the best food safely at their leisure.
If you ever decide to have your own Disney Princess moments, just bring along some sunflower seeds for the birds and some nuts for the squirrels, some patience and I guarantee you a goofy smile when watching these cute guys nom nom nom away. You can do this even in Winter, as they no longer hibernate - they're so chubby they haven't the need.
Happy Spring, everyone!
So here's the reason I was quiet for so long. I moved house! In my life I reckon I've moved at least ten times, and that's including two trans-continental and one transatlantic moves. I feel tired just thinking about it...
Moving can be daunting, especially if you have a lot of stuff, which we did. We weren't planning on changing addresses anytime soon, and had lived in the same flat for five years (a rarity in the London rental scene) but when we had the opportunity to move to a house with enough room for me and my partner to each have our own studios, we couldn't pass it off.
Preparing for the move took me three weeks, packing included. If I thought this would be the hardest part, I was sorely mistaken - turns out, unpacking is much more challenging and takes even more time! Deciding where everything goes ahead of time for the movers' sake, then changing my mind when all the boxes are already in a particular location, plus having to think about where the furniture, which fitted so well in the previous place, can go in the new rooms... argh. We ended up having to sell and give away some furniture and having to buy a few new things from IKEA - when the food counter lady remembers you from a few days before, you know you've been spending too much time at the store.
All the hassle was definitely worth it, though. The cat loved having the extra space; she was also delighted to return to her former territory, since she used to live in this very same house before we adopted her. We have dedicated work rooms now, and can actually use the living room as a food and relaxation space, plus for the first time we get to enjoy the weird feeling of having to shout to get the other's attention because we're in different floors. Ah, extra space.
But enough of me writing, allow me to show you my new HQ. I didn't really bother cleaning it up too much for the pictures, so you're getting a bit of the "messy artist's room" effect. Here it is, clockwise:
And that's pretty much it! I can't really explain how wonderful it feels to have a dedicated space for work. I'm still needing to use the kitchen for my dyeing, but to be able to have my fibre and equipment in a special room is just too great a feeling for words.
Now, confession time: could I use more space? YES. I have stuff under the work table that I can't fit elsewhere, and I would have a lot more fibre to work with if I had where to place it. But now that I moved, I keep wondering how I managed to live in such a small flat and share it with my painter other half, and keep ourselves from murdering each other.
Bonus footage: Marshmallow the cat doesn't usually care for fibre, but when the sun shines on the table she makes an exception...
Now off I go to sit in that former dining room chair, and work on a new dog commission. In the meantime, leave me a comment! Let me know what your work/craft room/corner looks like, how you make it work and whether you'd like a different space.
Well, that was a big hiatus, wasn't it? So sorry. Regular posting will be resumed very soon. I'm preparing a blog post with a bit of all the new stuff I've been up to and I plan to have it up in a few days. Thanks for your patience!
In the meantime, it seems some of you tried to contact me through the comments section here, but unfortunately I missed a couple of you. I'll do my best to find you but if you read this, pretty please contact me again?
So... talk soon!
These past few weeks have been very fun for me in terms of fibre dyeing. I've been busy slowly stocking the shop with new colourways and new yarn bases to make the most of the Christmas season - the perfect excuse to play with fluff.
Since the yarn part of my business is still quite new, I don't usually dye more than one skein the same colour at once, but I keep good notes to make sure I can repeat colourways in the future (hint hint). In my dye sessions I came up with a few new colourways that I'm very smitten with. Allow me to introduce you to them.
I've always had a soft spot for singles yarns. I just love their soft structure, and it reminds me a lot of hand spun yarn for some reason (I've always been very partial to hand spun singles).
Needless to say, when I got my hands on this new base I just had to play with it.
For this base I decided to stick to semi-solids, for no particular reason. I love red, so that was naturally my first choice to dye, and "Sangria" was born. To achieve the depth you see in the picture, with different shades and tints, I had to kettle dye it in three different phases. It's definitely more work, but so worth it! Click here to see the listing for this yarn.
Next was "Emerald City." I have a special obsession with teal, and have been wanting to create the perfect shade for a while. I really, really like how this turned out. The photo shows the colour as a bit more on the blue side, but it's really a tad more green. It's beautiful to my eyes and I hope you agree with me! Here is the link for the Emerald City singles superwash merino yarn.
Now, an only child:
Merino/Silk Sock Yarn (one-of-a-kind).
This colourway has an interesting story. A while back, I was looking for a yarn/fibre supplier and there was a company I was interested in purchasing from, but they didn't do samples for prospective customers; basically, if I wanted to find out whether I liked their fibre, I'd have to order a full skein of each base I wanted to try (they were nice enough to allow me to order at wholesale prices, though). This merino/silk was one of the yarns I ordered.
When I dyed it the first time, I was still very much in the beginning of my dyeing adventure. I played around with some dye mixtures, hand painted the skein, and was happy... until it dried. If you're a beginner dyer, always keep this rule in mind: colours will always appear deeper when wet. When it started drying, I wasn't too keen on what I achieved. I still listed it in my shop (silly me). After there were no takers, I decided I'd overdye this skein when inspiration struck. Took me a while, but one day I just looked at it and knew what to do.
What you see above is the end result! Bright, happy colours that make my goth heart sing. Unfortunately I don't have the "before" photos handy, but I can look them up if anyone's interested.
In case you're wondering how I name my colourways, it depends on my mood and source of inspiration, but in this case it was the yellow/green neon that made me think of fireflies (and exactly where the light is located on their bodies).
What is the best way to present a hand dyed yarn with different colour sections? Is it to show it with the original dye blocks, or is prettier reskeined? (If you're unfamiliar with the term, that's when the skein is wound into a ball and then skeined again.)
I actually asked my Facebook and Instagram followers a while ago about this, and opinions were quite literally divided - roughly half liked yarn with the colour blocks intact, others preferred the reskeined look. Since there's no way to please everyone and I only had one skein, curiosity got the best of me and I decided on the latter. I wanted to see how the colours looked all jumbled!
If you're selling your hand dyed yarn and wonder about the same, maybe taking photos of the yarn before and after reskeining and showing both in your shop images can be a sort of compromise. Or, maybe dye more than one skein and sell them both ways, and see what your customers prefer.
"Firefly Butt" has been sold in the meantime, which makes me a very happy dyer.
Do I like, or don't I?
I just mentioned a dye job I didn't love that I managed to turn around, but what happens when you're unsure of your results? That's a harder nut to crack for me.
These two superwash BFL braids below give me a lot of mixed feelings. Believe it or not, I used the exact same colours dyeing each, but look at how different they came out! Proof that good note taking doesn't always guarantee the same results (especially with wool tops/roving).
My intention was to create a colourway that reminded me of Autumn. I saw a picture of stunning fallen maple leaves in various stages of transformation and used that as inspiration. I planned for each colour I wanted to recreate and went to work.
Now, before I go ahead, look at the image below. See how the colours are mostly warm, with pops of turquoise and green? That was a successful "Fallen Leaves" dye job, such as I imagined it. Incidentally, it was also my first attempt. This is a great example of how differently yarn and fibre dye, to my great frustration...
I haven't listed the BFL braids in my shop because I'm just not sure about them. The image on the right is quite nice, so that one will probably be available, but the muted one I might just card into a batt with other colours and see what happens.
Just when I was getting ready to throw in the towel...
...This happened. By suggestion of Nicole of Frost Yarn I decided to stop dyeing fibre on the pot and try a roasting pan instead. I bought a rather expensive pan that can go in the over as well as the hob, but I stopped moaning about how much I spent once I saw how this lovely came out.
I named it Fruit Loops, but in hindsight it should have been M&Ms. Ah, well. I'm just so happy with the colour saturation and control the roasting pan gave me. Take note: it's not always your technique, sometimes it's the materials you're using. There are no "muddy" dye spots, I can see each section clear and beautifully... Love!
Fruit Loops superwash BFL top is currently available in my shop.
That's it from me on this post, I hope you enjoyed following my dyeing shenanigans. As per usual, if you have any questions, I am happy to help. Feel free to message me or leave a comment in the section below with your thoughts/comments.
If you're in the States, happy Thanksgiving to you!