Saturday, July 20, 2013

Quilt Felt Bag : Iteration #2

July has been a time to finish up some old projects, namely completing my 2nd iteration of the QFB (Quilt Felt Bag).
My first QFB (shown left) I adore. There are some messy things about it if you look closely and it was a nightmare to make since I was working out the design process on the fly. But I love the colors and each square's design speaks to me in some way. And, I got to use some gorgeous orange silk fabric my niece brought home for me from her stint in it is particularly special.
But as is the case when exploring a new design idea, the execution of this first one gave me all kinds of ideas for making the bag again....both more efficiently and neatly. 
So last year as I was stitching the felt for this first bag, I  felted up new fabric in some lovely neutrals and just this month finally got around to completing the surface design, lining, handles & assembly of it.
It went together SO much more neatly and efficiently than the first. But of course, working on it only gave me new ideas about another approach to the bag!

Since so many customers have asked me to offer this as a class, I plan on starting Iteration #3 (which I expect to be the best, when I return from vacation mid August.
The Quilt Festival must have had some impact on me as now I'm seeing everything in geometrics....
Here is a quick bag I worked up last Thursday night when I wanted a sample for the Silk Paper Making class showing how silk paper could actually be felted INTO  felt fabric and also how it could be stitched ONTO fabric.I'm still braiding the leather handle for this bag....the color of the leather matches the linen nuno felt strip at the top of the bag, perfectly.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Knowing when to hold 'em or when to fold 'em?

What a process this piece has been!

Usually when I take workshops, I'm not vested in the piece I make "being" anything. I don't have to be able to use it, wear it, even like it. I just use it to learn the techniques and explore the options.  I think that "frees' me up to just "play" since I'm not worried about it "coming out".

But for some reason, I felt differently about the piece that I worked on in Sachiko's class last year. And what a roller coaster that has made it!

Note to self - don't EVER AGAIN get vested in a workshop sample!\

At various points through out the year, this piece was in the trash can, the cabinet, the trash can a second time, pinned on a mannequin as a vest, in the trash can a third time and then relegated to a series of cabinets!

It all started as a double-sided,  orikiri and weft felt sample from Sachiko's workshop here last year, which at layout covered 2 tables! Note to self - make smaller samples in the future!

After felting, it measured about 7' x 5': so big I hated wasting it, yet so big and so busy I had no idea what I could use it for! I had learned a lot in the workshop, which was the point, so I should have just tossed the piece and moved on. But there were a couple of "elements" in it that I really liked. And it was so big I hated throwing it out.

Note to self: sample and sample small when exploring a new technique!

So I cut out the elements that I liked and threw away the rest. Now I had about half the fabric I started with!

I played with the saved "elements" thinking maybe I could use them in a bag, but one particular aspect that I had saved said "vest" to me. So I pinned the pieces all together on a mannequin and, pleased with the outcome, went to bed.

The next morning, I got a chuckle at what had the night before had looked good to me....

Could it have been the wine?

 Shown left is the back of the vest....asymmetric with 1 short sleeve off the right shoulder. The only part I liked was the bottom piece....the gold edge with the turquoise 3d flower!

Note to self: hold off on the wine when working thru a design process!


So I took it apart, cut away more pieces, threw them away and repined another vest before, with disgust, tossing it back in a cabinet. I was down to a bare minimum....

Wasn't it Ansel Adams that famously replied, when asked by an interviewer what his favorite piece of equipment was, "the trash can"!

The next time I came across it in the cabinet, I decided maybe a shawl/cape would be a better goal for the pieces. So having reduced the original felt rectangle to the pieces shown above, I took some time to play with various arrangements of the pieces on the table -next couple of photos.

 When I found one I liked, I diligently photographed the layout (since I didn't have time then to stitch it together at that point and knew it needed to go back into the cabinet once again until I had the time to pull it out and stitch it up .

But of course, when I finally found  time a couple of months later to stitch it together, I couldn't find the photos I had taken such care to record the arrangement with, so I was back to square one!

 Note to self: remember where you file photos!

So this  arrangement, shown left, is what I finally ended up with.... Not anything I could/would wear.  I suppose the process of cutting and throwing out, of  arranging and re-arranging, and of "trouble-shooting" some of the issues that came up when I finally pushed thru to stitching it together, taught me some things that I'm sure will come in useful on future pieces.  And in the end, I certainly like this shawl better than any of the earlier shawl arrangements and far better than either vest or the original 8 x 6!

Note to self: less is better, sometimes.

But in retrospect I wish I hadn't gotten so caught up in the outcome of the "sample" piece. Instead, all the time spent working on this piece could have been put into starting fresh and coming up with a piece I might actually be able to wear in Burlington.

Note to self: I work better if I approach workshops as a time to SAMPLE and EXPLORE and NOT CREATE.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

It's been a while!

I had just geared up with lots of new ideas and inspiration for the blog when a yarn rep was visiting and in the course of conversation said that "the people who blog need to get a life"!

And of course that brings me right back to how I felt about blogging when I rather begrudgingly started this, if nothing else, inconsistent blog about everything fibers! I couldn't imagine how I'd find the time to fit it in (and from the long lapses between posts, I obviously still struggle with that!)  and I certainly didn't know why anyone would care to read anything I had to say or share. But encouraged by customers, I launched it and now, probably just as interest in blogs has moved  to the latest  online/social media phenomenon, I'm getting back to it!

ANyway, if for no other reason than  my peri-menopausal mind forgets so much these days,  I feel like I need to record my fiber endeavors for my own sake so I have a record somewhere.  And in the process of  compensating for a bad memory, if  the learning I post from my own experiments is of any use to others, then great!

Lots of experimentation this last year to share, but I'm going to start with the quickest.
Dehairing Cashmere!

I love to felt and spin cashmere....a little goes such a long way and it is so soft and insulating (and if you're selling your finished goods, a bit of "cashmere" in the label goes a long way!). I've always worked from prepared cashmere.

But when in Iceland last month with my sisters, we visited Haafell goat farm, where Johanna has taken the last 4 remaining goats in the entire country and brought back a herd of about 140, preserving the unique genetics of these animals that were brought over and kept isolated for hundreds of years.

While Johanna has mostly focused on the meat, milk and soap side of the goats, she is starting to learn the fiber end of the business and had a bit of her first batch of yarn back from the mill in Norway.  She didn't have any for sale, but had some, no, it was lots, of fleeces piled on a table in the barn. So as my sister Roby (who teaches quite a few classes on spinning mohair) looked eagerly thru the piles for fleeces she might buy for upcoming workshops, she mentioned that some spinners dehair the cashmere themselves using the dryer and taking advantage of static electricity!

Having seen raw cashmere before and looking at the state of the raw fleeces on the table before me, I was skeptical to think that would work. But I was intrigued enough by the "dryer" method of de-hairing, I decided to give it a go.
So first I washed the fleece, primarily because I didn't want goat smell (and worse) in my dryer! After drying it, I put it in knee-hi's and some more open mesh lingerie bags.

I popped them in the dryer under NO HEAT and FLUFF cycle for about 15 minutes and took a peek. first glance, I thought it might be a success since the lint catcher was chock full of coarse hair (see photo above, right). There was a lot of guard hair still caught on the outside of the bags/knee his, but it was easy to pull off (see photo of knee his showing how the guard hair was pulled thru and then the photo of the mesh lingerie bag next to the additional wad of guard hair I was easily able to pull off the outside of the bag. I was pretty optimistic after cleaning the lint trap and pulling what I could from the outside of the bags off...there were a lot of guard hairs in those piles!

But after opening up the knee hi's and mesh bags, I still saw lots of coarse hair remaining. Definitely, the more open mesh bags had worked better, but still they had a ways to go.

So I took the cashmere out, fluffed, plucked and teased it apart so it was even a little more open, thinking the coarse hairs would have more chance to escape. And I tossed the mesh bags back in for another go round.

Again....the lint trap was full....but still so was the cashmere.
So I picked up the phone and called Stillriver mills in CT. They have processed yarn for me in the past and they just did a run of cashmere roving for one of my customers (I'll have that in the store soon) that was lovely. He was nice enough to share with me how the industrial de-hairing equipment works. It is not based on static, but centrifugal force. Apparently the de-hairing equipment is basically like a regular drum carder but that moves at high RPMs so that the finer downy fibers stay stuck to the teeth in the drum and the coarser, slicker & heavier guard hairs are pulled out by the centrifugal force.

With that in mind, I put the bags in for a third try in my high RPM Haier workshop washer....but only on the "spin" cycle.
That also worked, but still lots of hair remaining (see photo left of opened cashmere after 2 dryer runs and 1 in the Haier spin cycle).
I think with about another hour of high RPMs, dryer sheets and plucking out a bit of hair between sessions, I probably will have 90% of it removed and I'll enjoy spinning up enough yarn to knit a scarf or shawl as a remembrance of our visit to Johannas, but if given the chance to buy a "raw" cashmere fleece again, I think I'll adopt the attitude "been there, done that"!