It was, as I have said, a fine autumnal day; the sky was clear and serene, and nature wore that rich and golden livery which we always associate with the idea of abundance. The forests had put on their sober brown and yellow, while some trees of the tenderer kind had been nipped by the frosts into brilliant dyes of orange, purple, and scarlet.... As Ichabod jogged slowly on his way, his eye... ranged with delight over the treasures of jolly autumn. ~Washington Irving, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Signs of Life In a Sad Winter Garden and More Felting

Yesterday the sun was trying hard to come out but , again, the fog won. I went outside a few times, took a look at my sad, dead garden....
and decided that the time had NOT come for being outside yet. I can hear the little "Help... help." coming from every corner but, other than pruning the roses and picking a few weeds, I'm not ready for working the soil.
Then I saw this,
...an early Narcissus blooming outside the gate. The fragrance was so overwhelming and nostalgic it filled my eyes with tears. It could have been that I was just cold because the sun had disappeared again and the wind was starting to move things . I picked the little bunch of springtime and walked back into my garden.
I showed Carl the flowers and told him to smell the wonderful fragrance. I tickled his nose with the flowers and he tried to eat them.
I brought the Narcissus inside with some parsley and  put a small container of it in the kitchen window.
This morning the sun shone brightly in on this lovely reminder that Spring will come and the garden is waiting for it's arrival.
I've done some felting with more of Sandy's fleece. This time I took some gray fleece that I had ordered from Knitpicks and some beautiful purple wool of Sandy's and added ribbon to it.
This is what I started with.
And this is how I laid it out. I did about 6 layers, including the ribbon.
The last layer was very thin. Just enough to hold the ribbon in place when I felt it.
Here's a close up of the fibers....

Then I wet it down with soap and hot water, wrapped it up in bubble wrap and did some arm exercise while I kneaded the fibers into fabric.

And then, for a while, without the bubble wrap.
Until the whole thing starts to hold together and becomes a solid piece of felt. I rinsed and squeezed and stretched it to get the shape I wanted and now I have another piece of felted fleece that I will use later . This was an experiment to see how fleece will felt with ribbon in it. The ribbon is not wool so it doesn't shrink.
When it was dry I was quite pleased with it. This is just the beginning of trying other things that I can incorporate into the fleece. It's so exciting to see what happens and how much you can do.
Here is the piece of felt after it had been rinsed and dried. It could have been felted longer but it would shrink more and the ribbon would pucker. I like this level of felting. 
You can see the ribbon pattern.  The ends felted around on the other side. It all felted together well and I like the way it looks.
I told a blogging friend, Kerry from Vancouver Island, that I need some ideas for these pieces of felt. She told me that  my "happy mistake", the one that I machine felted a while back, would be a great necklace with bling and buttons on it. I could sell them to movie stars for big bucks and become famous in my old age. She didn't say "in my old age", I said that. But what a great idea it is and I will see what I can do.
I'm open to more suggestions. I can cut them up or use them in one piece. The colors and the shapes are so wonderful that I could just hang them on the wall as artwork. Let me know what you think.
In the meantime, I will finish working on a purse that I'm making out of a man's old wool vest. The fun never ends.

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Felting We Will Go....

Before I show you some of my first felting attempts, I want to give you fair warning. THIS IS ADDICTIVE!! Sheep and goats have taken on a whole new and respected standing in my heart.... as if my goats didn't have my heart and soul anyway, but now I have a deeper level of affection for what they give (besides attitude). Of course, our boys don't have fleece to give us, being the Nubians that they are, but they clear a fire safe area for us around and down the hill below our house. ..... and the chickens give us such beautiful eggs... and I could go on forever about animals and what place they have in our lives.
But sometimes you get to do something that involves a process so ancient and basic that it boggles you mind with possibilities. This is called FELTING.
My Christmas present from the Prospector was an order of wool yarn, fleece and books from Knitpicks.Com. This got me started. The wool yarn to knit into pieces that were feltable....
The fleece...
A couple of books with wonderful possibilities... 
I spent the better part of December lost in antibiotics and dreams of creativity.
My first foray into felting turn out STRANGE because of my impatience and lack of information.
 I did everything right until I got tired of hand rubbing my beautiful gray and white piece of  half felted fleece.  I threw it into a mesh bag and machine felted the unfinished piece. Oops!
It wasn't ready for all that agitation and the above photo is the result. Now, someone has said that you never make mistakes, you just have "happy accidents". I like that. This piece is actually my favorite hand made piece of felt so far and I will needle felt it into another piece of fabric at some point.... maybe a purse or scarf.... something like this.
 Can't you see a big interesting button right there in the corner? This is on a piece of felted knitting that was part wool (that felted) and an acrylic yarn (that didn't). Another interesting lesson in yarn behavior. I lined it and use it for knitting projects. Now I have a "purse" for my yarn, needles and scissors, all in the same place, that's pretty and handy.
There is always a way to use your pieces that don't quite come out like you expect. Don't throw anything away. Think about other ways that you can use them.
The ideas are endless. Just try it all.

So yesterday I took the beautiful fleece that I bought from Sandy in Amador City and made it into fabric. I choose the one on the left...
unfolded the roll and PULLED the fleece apart.
I layered it, following the instructions at this site (one of the easiest to understand) and wet it down with hot water and soap. I like to use the bubble wrap. It keeps everything in place and adds the right amount of agitation without touching the fibers. You can get rid of the wrap later when the wool starts to mesh together.
This is just a magical process. The more you rub, the more the fibers felt. When it starts forming a solid piece you can just use your hand to rub and shape the piece. It will shrink into a much small size but this is when you can stretch and shape the piece in a process called "fulling". Please read up on all of this before you jump into this process. There are lots of dos and don'ts.
It will look like this....
and then this....
And finally, after you have rinsed and dried the fabric.... THIS.
Which has the most beautiful texture and color to it. You can felt it again to make it stronger. I think it would make a wonderful small purse.... or a background for a small pillow of needle felted spring flowers.... or an altered book cover....what would you do with this little beauty?
This is so much fun it's almost sinful. If you can't come to California and buy fleece from Sandy's store in Amador City here are a couple of sites to get you started:
 The knitpicks site and wistyria.com are great for buying supplies like wool yarn and fleece. Also, if you just google the word "felting", you will come up with all kinds of sites where you can learn about this process.
 Just take a look. It's so much fun.

And, have a happy day in thoughful celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. He was a man of peace and his birthday should be honored.









 

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Mushroom and the Oak Leaf

Look deep into nature,
and then you will understand everything better. 
~Albert Einstein~