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September 9, 2010

One of the things I love is creating my own embellishments for my fibre work. Polymer clay is an ideal medium for this – it’s pre-coloured (a big advantage over porcelain), mixes easily, fires in under an hour and lends itself to all sorts of stampings, mouldings and impressions.

I started by making buttons for the closings on my bags. A few other crafties saw them and their interest was most definitely piqued! I have a small line in beads sold locally, but this was a new expansion for me. Come summer, I will move into porcelain, but for now I’m quite happy with these.

Black base with metallic silver accent

Black base with iridescent deep blue

They vary in size from approximately a 5c to a 10c piece; They could be bigger, but I’d want to know what they were to be used for and how likely they were to see the inside of a washing machine!

black base with metallic gold accent

Gold base with gold metallic accent

Of course, if they’re being stitched into multimedia work, then they can be any size or shape. I’m waiting to see what my craftie friends make of them – it’s often those conversations that spawn new ideas to work with. Anyway, if you want to see a few more, click on any of the photos and it’ll take you through to my flickr set of pictures.

Now, I’m off to dig out some Italian hand marbled paper and some velvet and beads, and make one of these.


Can you felt a cat?

September 9, 2010

Molly in the wool

Spring; myth or reality?

September 7, 2010


Mount Roland in snow

So this was the view from my front deck a week or so ago. Further inland, roads were closed by snow and some fishermen were cut off in their huts up on the great lakes.

For all that, it’s been a pretty mild winter, in line with the predictions due to global warming. The Sheffield region hasn’t seen significant falls of snow for over a decade. We do, however, get rain – last winter we got 75mm in an afternoon, and my driveway turned into a river. Rainfall, and indeed all weather, can be strangely localised; that same afternoon in Kimberly (about 10km away) they got less than 15mm. I’ve also been trapped in my house by a thunderstorm and phoned work to apologise for being late, only to be told that they are looking out on clear skies and sunshine.

Today is a glorious early spring day, and naturally I’m spending it at work. Last weekend was solid rain, and the forecast for the next one isn’t shaping up to be much better.

Maybe it’ll be a weekend to stay in and make more of these:

wool and silk flowers

frosted flowers

These are made from a soft merino, silk (I think it’s bamboo, but I could be wrong) and firestar. Suppliers are wooliebullie for the silk and firestar, and Artemis Artemis for the wool.

A few more pics:

Frosted flowers 2

frosted flowers 2

Frosted flowers 3

Frosted flowers 3


More pictures if you click through to flickr…

So, although the weekend was a bit of a washout on the gardening front, I did get quite a lot done. More flowers on the way, and butterflies, and a whole box of finished bags as well.

The only issue I have to deal with is that Molly’s obsession with wool seems to have exceeded my own. I have learned the hard way to shut away all completed items in the spare bedroom; she has learned to hook newly felted sheets off the dryer onto the floor, where she stretches out on them, purring madly. She has also taken to sleeping on my worktable, her head on a felt bag, her tail mixed in with the yarn. shouts of outrage are greeted with a combination of bewilderment and disdain.

I have given her her own box, complete with fleece – she slept in it for a few days and then migrated back to the table. She even has her own sheepskin rug! Any suggestions for (gently) curing her of this obsession gratefully received…

Colouring in Mondays – more batts!

August 2, 2010
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Blast – missed last Monday, but hopefully this one will make up for it. Lots of orangey goodness – not autumnal, not yet – more like summer cocktails, you know, the kind with little umbrellas in glasses with frosted rims. Though we’re in the depths of winter here in Tasmania, I’m imagining sitting on a warm beach somewhere, nibbling on a piece of cool watermelon and sipping something alcoholic.

(In reality I’m sitting by the wood heater drinking hot chocolate and waiting for the endless rain to…well…end.)

Multi coloured wool soy silk bamboo batt from Extreme Spinning

Desert Sunrise Batt by Greenwood Fiberworks

Phoenix Fiber Batt by Syrendell

Sunrise fiber batts by Artemis Artemis

I’m hanging out for summer now – the first daffodils are starting to show themselves, and I saw a couple of native hens gathering nest material at the weekend. Spring is on the way!

A Weekend of Handbagging

July 27, 2010

Well, that wasn’t quite all I did, but it feels like it!

Anyway, a couple of weeks back I bought this from Jenny Fields on Etsy:

Art Batt Spinning Fiber- Nature Girl

I sort of had an idea of what I wanted to do with it – I’d just made some felted bowls for the Coast exhibition at the Sheffield Artspace, and thought I might make some with a more land-based theme. However, when I unrolled the batt, I had another idea. I like to make things that people can really use, and I’ve been moving towards making bags. why not, I reasoned, see if this might work instead.

So I wrapped some merino around a former, laid about 1/4 of the batt on top, and needlefelted it gently so that it would stay in place. then I subjected it to the washing machine technique – with some trepidation – and this is what emerged:

Handbag (phase 2), wool by Jenny Fields

It does have a few added Wensleydale locks from Larkspur Funny Farm, but other than that, it’s made from a single piece of this amazing batt. Over the next few days I’ll line it and try to decide what sort of strap to give it.

Oops – I always forget – dimensions are about 20×20 cm, or 8×8 inches.

A few more images from this bag, and the other products of my weekend:

Close up

 This batt has firestar, silk and all kinds of other goodies tucked into its depths.

The little curls of Wensleydale were quite lightly felted on, but have attached reassuringly firmly during the wet felting process. I’m still wondering whether to embellish this further – a butterfly is my thought, but it’s difficult to come up with something that doesn’t overstep the mark and become either twee or overembellished.

Bag made with Inferno from Copperpot

 This bag was inspired by the Inferno roving I purchased from Copperpot. It also uses Burnin’ firestar from WoolieBullie. The button is handmade from polymer clay (gold Sculpey).

I’ll have to try and get a better photo of this next one – there’s simply no way you can appreciate the depth of colour here:

Magenta Joy

Background wool is Ink from Artemis Artemis, and silk is Cattleya from WoolieBullie.

And just to show that it wasn’t all handbags, here is a critter felted in cashmere from Jenmark Alpacas. It stands about 25cm (or 10″) high, and is gorgeously soft.

Cashmere cat

If I can get some more of this cashmere at the Deloraine Craft Festival, I’ll be very happy…

Colouring in Mondays 3 – silk

July 26, 2010
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Since Monday is a traditionally depressing day, on Tasmanian Craftie it’s going to be the day of colour – wonderful pictures for you to look at, colour combinations to inspire you.

The majority of the pictures will be craft materials, but I’ll try and throw in some inspiration pics with interesting colours as well.

Orange and Amber Delight Hand Dyed Silk Scarf

The scarf above is from Sorkah, who has some great woven and dyed stuff on her blog, and at her shop on Etsy.

I am in awe of people who dye stuff – the colour combinations must be just right, and for me it would be too easy to default to the ‘tried and true’ rather than trying out something unusual that might just work. when I see a combination that’s stunning, such as WoollieBullie’s Smokin Cymbidium, it gives me a huge inferiority complex, which I deal with by reminding myself that we are all but one step in a chain to a finished product.

Aurora Borealis - hand dyed habotai silk by Kangaroo Dyer

Of course, good crafties don’t just use silk in its expected forms. Silk comes as cocoons, noils and in various other forms that are fascinating to the 3D textile artist.

Cocoons are what most of us will recognise – the basic product of the silkworm (which is actually a caterpillar) that forms the basis for the silk industry. Given the amount of silk produced round the world, the number of caterpillars busily working away must be staggering.

Autumn Leaves silk bombyx cocoons from Prarie Fibers

Below are carrier rods, which are the left over silk fabric that is wound around rods at the end of the sheet during the weaving process. They are quite rigid, but can be softened and used in various ways. These are from Fiber Cottage.

Silk carrier rods in mixed blues

Silk hankies are made by stretching silk cocoons over a frame to dry. Each cocoon can then be separated out into several layers of translucent silk fabric.

Hand dyed silk hankies from Wool Obsessions

Throwsters waste is often degummed (this means soaking in solvent to remove the ‘gum’ that makes the threads stick to one another) so that it forms a cloud of fibres. This is often sold mixed with silk thread, in a delightfully soft bundle.

Throwster's waste from The Fiber Studio

Throwster's silk from Fiber Cottage

Of course, you could push the boat out and experiment with all of it:

Silk Playful Packet - Passionate Purple from Larkspur Funny Farm

 Silk can be used not just in fabric craft, but also as paper. Jacinta has excellent instructions for making silk paper on her blog. here’s the link; I have a feeling I may have included it before, but what the hell – if a thing’s worth linking to, it’s worth linking twice!

I’m making a resolution to include more silk products to give that added dimensionality to my work. I’m balancing the rquirements of useability with appearance, which sometimes isn’t easy – more about that in the next post…

Polymer clay

July 22, 2010

I’ve always loved polymer clay, and am irritated by those in the art world who regard it as not being a ‘proper’ medium. OK, the first years were a bit grim, but some of the stuff emerging recently is breathtaking.  


Not that I make anything like that, of course. I make little pieces that tourists can buy. Polymer clay is useful for this as it’s not generally as fragile as ceramic or glass.  

I got into working with it when I was in different jobs round the world. You can’t lug a kiln around with you, but polymer clay is light, tidy to transport and can be fired anywhere you’ve got an oven.  

I started off with frogs, and still make them now. They are brooches, as at left, and cane-toppers, to be put on the top of bamboo canes in the garden as eye-protectors.  

I’ve often wondered if it was the fact that polymer clay was taken up almost entirely by women as a creative medium in its early years was what led to it being disregarded. Like most ‘women’s’ crafts, polymer clay does not command the respect that ceramics, wood or metalwork do. Witness the astonishment in this article, at an artist having the bravery to combine polymer and ceramic clays.  

Millefiori bowl

One of my winter set of brooches

Another winter collection brooch

 So, with winter here in the southern hemisphere, I decided to make some wintry stuff in polymer clay. It doesn’t show very well in the photographs, but the two brooches are made from clays that include mica, giving them a shimmery appearance. 

One of the best things I ever did for my polymer clay work was cough up for a pasta machine – blending by hand just wasn’t cutting it. It’s so much quicker and easier now, though I do sometimes feel I need a second pair of hands to feed the clay in or catch it underneath while turning the handle. One tip I do have is that instead of taking the machine apart to clean it all the time, I have two small sheets of waste clay, one light, one dark. I run one of these through before I switch to another clay colour – the light one if I’m switching to a lighter colour, the dark one if I’m going the other way. This takes up most stray bits without too much problem, and I only get occasional staining, which is easy to pick out.

The millefiori bowl is made using a cane technique: a long stick is created with the pattern running through it like Edinburgh Rock. This is sliced and the slices pressed into a bowl. The clay is baked still sitting inside the bowl, as it becomes quite soft when heated and needs support to retain its shape. The bowls are about 6-7cm diameter, though with this technique you can make them as big as you want.

Polymer clay is a wonderful medium, ideal for anyone who wants to sculpt and have results with only the tools they have available in a kitchen. I highly recommend buying some and having a play – you never know what you might start…