Monday, 24 August 2020

Surface Texture Explorations


How are you doing?  I can hardly believe we're marching towards the end of August...and the end of summer!

If you follow me on social media, you will see that I've been finishing off some pieces and getting them framed so that they can go out into the world.  Framing always takes more time than I bargain for, but it's worth it as often a piece can be transformed just with a well placed mount and a nice frame.

Always learning...

Although I don't have many 'new' things to share, I have been spending more time in an exploratory way...trying new things within felting (new for me anyway!).  I've also been reading a lot of 'art' books to try to help me with use of colour, line and composition - sometimes great things happen intuitively, but other times I really need some starting points to get me going.  The book I seem to be referring to most is the’s not too big or overly wordy, has lots of pictures and is laid out well and personally I’m finding it really useful.  Have you got any favourites to share?

I can be guilty of throwing too much of everything into a picture, so I need to exercise a little more self control, no matter how seductive all those textures and colours might be!

I guess not having what might be described as an educated art background, I do sometimes need to be reminded of basics - other than that I've always felt that rules are there to be bent a bit in exploration and learning.  

Felt exploration...

I've been having a good rummage in my stash and trying different materials within felting to see what works well and what effects they might give...I absolutely love surface textures, so it's a great exercise to have a record of what can be achieved before diving straight into a main piece of work.

I even dug out my embellishing machine, which I hardly ever use. It was one of those purchases that I researched at the time and thought I would utilise a lot, but as it turns out it has been collecting dust on the shelf. I always seem to favour working by hand rather than machine, however it was time to remind myself of some of the effects that can be achieved so I dusted her off, switched her on and revved her up! 

In short, my embellisher needle felts with 5 needles, so mashes away at layers of fabric, wool...or whatever you dare embed the fibres and create a ‘new’ piece of material.  There are a number of models on the market...mine’s  a Janome and if it’s something you are interested in finding out about, there are lots of tutorials on YouTube.  It will do the job quickly, thoroughly..and noisily (I’m in an upstairs room and it seems to reverberate through the house, ha)!  However I don’t have as much as control as I do when needle felting by hand.

After doing a few samples using fabrics that wouldn’t easily be usable in wet felting, I quite liked the backside of the fabric where the little loops and subtle shading are a few photos of the just some of the results of using the embellisher and wet felting.

The scraps of fabric were laid on top of some white prefelt and then put under the embellisher, which basically ravages the surface slightly but meshes the two layers together.  You can needle just from one side, or from both...different effects are achieved each way.  I like the little loops that appear...I can see how this could be effective in a landscape picture.  The top picture is a shot silk, and you can see how the different colours are revealed.

The top blue picture was wet felted first...I attached it to the prefelt with wool stitches and then felted it which worked quite well - a way of incorporating ‘tricky’ fabrics within wet felting - the wool stitches felted in and gathered the fabric.

Different effects viewed from the top and bottom.

The top blue fabric wet felted in quite well, but I then partly put it through the embellisher as well once dry...I like the subtle blue shades that appear underneath. The pink yarn wet felted in just fine as it was...the mohair type fibres were good for felting.

I also tried wet felting with different sorts of paper...paper and water and agitation don’t really go together, but there was some success depending on the paper type and this opened up the possibility of printing/writing/painting on top...hmm, imagine the possibilities!  More trials needed to perfect that one though...and a fair amount of patience!

I’ll keep these little samples to refer of those might be just the effect I’m looking for in a future picture.

What’s next...

So that’s some of what I’ve been up to...moving on to a new piece I’m always inspired by the beautiful flowers I’ve been bringing in to the house from our garden to enjoy, particularly the hydrangeas. I’m using this photo as a starting point and will aim to use some good composition and colour mixing without getting too carried away...fingers crossed!

If I’m feeling a bit down, these blooms always bring some fact just being out in the garden has proved a great antidote to what’s going on in the world. What have you found to bring you some calm amongst the chaos?

I’ll see you in September...hopefully with a new finished piece to share!

Take care and best wishes 

Tanya xx

Monday, 27 July 2020

As time flies by...

So, we are nearing the end of July already as I type this...what is turning out to be a very strange year is also passing by at the rate of knots!

There have been other things going on here that have taken me away from my felting for a little while - making time for family, the allotment and garden and just generally keeping on top of the day job...oh and making masks/face coverings!  Never thought that would be something I would be sewing, but I've made a fair few over the past few weeks so that everyone's got a good supply.

The sewing machine is not my natural environment, but with the enforced practice I think my skills have improved...slightly!!  The upside is that it has been a good opportunity to use up some of my substantial fabric stash!

Not wanting to dwell on anything pandemic related in this blog post, I will move on to other things...

Since my last post, I continued with my hare wall hanging which I enjoyed making immensely - it's finished and on the wall in our sitting room.

I also managed to fit in a little needle felting and created a couple of small pieces which just need framing up before being ready to put up for sale.  These were made on the surface of some thick off cuts of handmade felt that I had here - it was really nice to work into.

Now that the sewing machine has been put away, my table has been freed up and I can't wait to get felting again - I'm really looking forward to experimenting with a few ideas and did this little sample to see how some of my eco-dyed silk would work during the felting process.

Wet felting involves a lot of hot water, soap and rubbing and rolling, so I really wanted to check that the colours would stay 'fast' with all that action!  Really pleased to see that the colours didn't run or fade at all which is great because I love the effect given by the variegated colours on the silk created from flowers and leaves...and look at those scrummy textures 😍.

I actually really like the little square piece as it is...

Encouraged by the results of the sample square,  I have done some more eco-dyeing so that I have a slightly bigger stash of  silk to use.  I have some pieces in solar jars in the garden, and I steamed some silk bundled up with leaves, flowers and onion skins in the aga.

I will need to wait for the solar jars a few more weeks I think, but the hollyhock flowers will give a lovely purple shade - I've also got jars containing verbena, red onion skins, white onion skins and coreopsis.  Just need some more sunshine and let nature do its thing on the threads and silks stuffed inside the jars.

The steamed bundles have given me some great results - I'm hoping to use these in some abstract landscape ideas I have.

So, before the week is out I hope to have a few more felting experiments on the go...I've been making lots of notes and sketches and trying to be honest about the the type of work I WANT to produce rather that the pieces I feel I ought to be making, because sometimes there's a bit of a difference!  Thinking about the type of art I’m personally drawn to,  I am currently being pulled towards a slightly more abstracted approach, and I'm quite excited about the possibilities...and felt is a really versatile medium in which to explore the ideas I have, particularly in terms of surface textures.

It's going to be a case of playing, exploring and trying a few new things...which may work well, or they may not...but I won't know unless I try will I? 

Garden update...

Just a little update on the garden pond and new border we created during lockdown - I can't believe how well it's all taken off!  From bare ground and little life to being absolutely stuffed full of plants (from a cheap box of seeds) and life seemingly appearing from nowhere in the pond!

That’s my lovely mum in the picture above...probably thinking we’d gone a bit mad!

There are LOTS of dragonfly and damselfly nymphs in the pond, as well as water beetles, pond skaters and water snails.  There are also other tiny, swimming things that I have no idea what they are...but it's all good!  We have more bird visitors, some of which like to have a little bath in the shallower water - before the planting took off, I even saw a swift swoop down to have a drink from the pond on the wing - fantastic!

The whole border is buzzing, humming and fluttering constantly with bees, hoverflies, butterflies and moths.

So it really is true - just plant the plants and create the pond, and the wildlife will find it.

Have you been creative in the garden? Would love to hear about it...or any pond tips you might have?

So until next time, keep well, keep safe and find some joy in the simple things in life.

Tanya xx

Tuesday, 5 May 2020

Sow and Sew...

So we are in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s pretty rare for something awful to be touching the lives of everyone around the world at the same time isn’t it?

How are you all doing?

It’s a really strange time isn’t it...very unsettling.

As I write this we are still in lockdown in the UK...our own and countless other businesses are affected by COVID-19 and so many lives have been is a big worry. Unless you're a keyworker (huge thanks to all) the best we can do is to look after ourselves, our neighbours and more vulnerable members of family and community as well as support local businesses and charities as much as we can...sometimes it doesn't seem enough. But it is.

I read a very truthful way of describing our current basically said that we’re not all ‘in the same boat’. We are all sailing in the same storm, but all in our own individual boats...some boats will be shipwrecked and some will not...some people are in little rowing boats and some are in tankers.  

Our little boat is managing to ride the storm so far - we get the occasional wave coming over the side, but nothing we can’t bail out.  I truly hope you are all okay, and that we will all find ourselves in much calmer waters very soon.

It has been weeks since I’ve  posted anything anywhere on social media and having a break from online activity has actually been good for me.  However, whilst I foolishly thought this lockdown period might mean I could create huge bodies of amazing felting work...that just simply hasn’t happened. 

But that’s okay.

Gardening for the soul...

The weather has been lovely and we have immersed ourselves in being outdoors in our garden and allotment...I am so very grateful for our outdoor space, especially at the moment. There’s just something about growing your own fruit and veg and bringing on your own plants and flowers that is very therapeutic.   

It’s also reassuring that, whilst many of us have our lives on pause, Mother Nature carries on regardless...the other day we heard a cuckoo and the swallows have started to arrive, the bluebells are blooming and we already have some fledgling wagtails bobbing about in our garden; wonderful.

I’m a bit of a ‘have a go’ gardener...not an expert at all.  I’ve always wanted a wildlife pond in the garden, and we’ve cracked on over the last few weeks, cleared an area of lawn and dug one out...I’m really pleased with it and can’t wait to get some plants in and around it...and hopefully some wildlife too!  We’ve recycled lots of things that were just lying about, like the stones and the edging that we’ve now reused as a has been a really satisfying project.

I even made an insect hotel...guarded by a couple of very worn out gnomes I uncovered! 

Areas of the garden are starting to bloom...

Our allotment is slowly being turned and planted...the potatoes and onions are already showing and I’ve sown lots of flower seeds that are all germinating.  Gardening is a very optimistic thing to do isn’t it? Isn’t there a quote: ‘to plant a garden is to believe in a better tomorrow’? 

The apple blossom smells delicious...

Stitch therapy...

Well, you were maybe hoping to see some creating of a different kind in this blog post...I have been stitching, but only a few things for our own home - things I've been meaning to do for ages but have never quite managed to find the time for.  Firstly, I made a cushion for our kitchen...I used a magpie fabric patch from Mrs Bertimus  which I absolutely love and used scraps and raw edge appliqué to put it all together.

If you don't follow Mrs Bertimus on Instagram, I'd recommend her page - I love her paintings and she often shares works in progress on her stories.

With the cushion finished, I wanted to dive straight back in to make something I’ve had in my mind for a long time, and again I’ve used a Mrs Bertimus hare (from one of her printed tea towels) to create a wall hanging which will go in our front room.  It’s not finished yet, but here’s a peek of how it’s coming along. The hare has been carefully cut from the tea towel and then appliqued on to an antique plain tea towel, which is a really lovely thickness.

 Quite a few blogposts ago, I shared how I had eco dyed lots of fabrics using plants...

...and I ended up with lots of scrummy, unique pieces of cotton and silk.  I remember loving them, but wasn’t sure how I was going to use them and just put them away in a box. Well, I have been putting them to good use in this wall hanging by using them for the hexagon patchwork pieces...I just love them all together like this and it all just blends in perfectly. The vintage flowers had been dyed with onion skins.

I am so enjoying doing this...I actually can’t wait to spend an hour or so on it in the evenings.  It’s totally absorbing, and the rhythm of hand stitching is very calming - it has become my place of escape.

I haven’t quite decided how I will edge it yet, but I’m sure that will come to me at some point (exercising my 'make it up as I go along' method). I’ll share the finished wall hanging next time, all being well!

So that’s it for now...the quilt is all I wish to be doing for the moment, but I’m sure the wools will be out soon for a spot of felting...hopefully some more inspiration will come my way, maybe as the garden takes shape and starts blooming!

Just before lockdown, I did make a rather apt sale of 'Home to Roost' - I was due to meet up with the new owner to give it to her in person, but that didn't quite work out.  So I'm keeping it safe and hope to deliver it as soon as local travel restrictions are relaxed a little...never has a title of a picture been so fitting!

'Home to Roost' - now sold x

Looking forward...

There is much to look forward to, and I think (and hope) that we will all have learned to cherish the more simple things in life as we come out on other side of this pandemic together.

Personally, I’m looking forward to giving my son a proper big ‘mummy hug’...though he may cringe at the thought! It’s been hard not being able to see family.

What are you looking forward to? Have you managed to achieve something positive during lockdown, no matter how small? Or are you a key worker and have experienced the front line of this pandemic?  

Here’s looking forward to better days, because they ARE wishes to you.

xx Tanya xx

Sunday, 8 March 2020

Home to Roost...a felted landscape

I’ve already shared some pictures of this piece of work on social media, but thought I’d write a post about where I got the inspiration from.

Inspired by...

My starting point for this picture is a photo which  I took in one of the fields on our farm. There’s a sixty acre field with a round of trees in the middle and I often walk over there with our dog. The field is called ‘Downs’ and the trees are kind of an ‘I’m home’ icon for me when returning home from anywhere in the car.

The roads in Cornwall are pretty manic during the summer, and when I pull into the long driveway that leads to the farm and glance across the fields, I quite often breathe a big sigh of relief as I catch sight of those trees, knowing that I’m nearly back at the sanctuary of home. The farm is a relatively quiet place to live...we are very lucky.

The photo itself is pretty unremarkable, but putting it through a photo editor I played around with contrasts and effects.

I could see potential to use some of my favourite autumnal colours to create an abstracted version of my trees.

Using Procreate...

I then uploaded one of these into an iPad app called Procreate and played around with the image some more. Painting over it, smudging it around and generally just messing about until I found a good place to work from.

I enjoy using Procreate as a tool, because it just doesn’t matter what you do, you can’t ‘ruin’ anything or waste valuable materials - it’s quite freeing! 


Before I’d started to lay out my fibres, I began to change how I wanted the composition to look...I didn’t want the straight horizon, I wanted to make it look more interesting and engaging.

My physical sketchbook game is not strong, but I did a very fast sketch with pencil just to simplify the composition right down.  My brain seems to appreciate that simplification! I just found that little scribble sketch of a swooping horizon a real help, and everything else just followed.

So a little bit of a journey before actually laying out any fibres! But I think it was a journey worth taking to just clarify and make mindful decisions rather than just ploughing headlong into felting...which is something I have done before with bad outcomes! Preparation is key, right?!

So here is some of the initial layout stage of merino wool, silks, yarns and fabrics...again keeping layers fine. The layers are so fine you can just make out the zigzag pattern of the mat underneath.

I then added the trees...ready for the full felting treatment at this stage. Starting off really gently to keep everything in place.

Creating a story...

Once felted and dried, it lacked a certain something, so I needle felted some crows flying home to the trees to roost. This turned the piece into one that had a was also very apt as my original inspiration was one of ‘coming home’.

The finished piece...

And so with a bit of tweaking, some further needle felting and playing with a mount to help decide on the final composition ‘Home to Roost’ is now finished and ready to be framed.

I hope you like it...I’ve really enjoyed making this one...some of my favourite colours, the lovely layers and the story.

I’m typing this blog at home, in my safe place, my sanctuary...home is definitely where my heart is xx

Feel free to leave comments below or let me know what you’re working on at the moment - it’s always lovely to have feedback.

Best wishes

xx Tanya xx

Saturday, 29 February 2020

All about the layers...

January was a time for experimenting...

Playing with layers...

Playing with paint...

Sketchbook explorations...

Exploring nuno felting in a more painterly way...

Experiments led to two finished pictures which I'm happy with, but there's always progress to be made...

‘As the Crow Flies’

‘Pink Haze’

February was a time for trying something new...

An oil and cold wax painting workshop with Laura Menzies...

Luscious layers...

Contrasts in textures...soft/hard...creating differences.

Dissolving layers...


Pressing in bubble wrap...

Scratching through to show what lies beneath...

Colour pops...

Wonderfully waxy

Scrummy colours...

Still all about those wonderful layers, this workshop seemed so relevant to what I’m trying to explore within felting...but also now has me inspired to try oils and cold wax again in the’s such a lovely medium to spread around and play with.

February has also been spent getting our holiday cottages ready for our first guests at Easter, so less time for felting, but I've been studying, reading, listening to podcasts, following free art courses and trying to get my head in a good place for creating when the time allows...

There's no rush, but my fingers are starting itch...the need to get making is real...

I am laying out a work table of intentions...inspiration, materials, sketchbooks and notes...

Particularly liking this image I’ve created on Procreate which is basically a photo I took in one of our fields that I’ve ‘painted over’ in the app.

I can't wait to get stuck in!

Hope you are all well and have started 2020 as you mean to go on...

xx Tanya xx