Friday 27 December 2019

Nuno felting - a lighter touch

Nuno felting scarves...

Before Christmas I bought a lovely hand dyed length of chiffon scarf from Perran Yarns at a local Etsymakers Fair here in Cornwall. It’s in lovely shades of blue/grey and I thought it would be great to use in felting.  Perran Yarns also have the most beautiful hand dyed yarns - would love to try these in felting one day too.

Felting including fabrics is known as nuno felting. Nuno is the Japanese word for cloth, and for a fabric to be successful in felting it’s best to be loose weave or very fine so that you can feel your breath through this chiffon is perfect.

Having a rummage through my wool stash, I found some fibres in complimentary colours.

It had been a while since I'd done any felting, so it was good to lay out the fibres to just make a 'thing'.  My plan was to make a neck cowl - not too taxing, but careful felting required.

Getting the fibres to migrate through the chiffon, it's better to start with just cool/warm water and soap.  If the water is too hot, the fibres will just felt together without attaching to the fabric, so slow and steady wins the race!  Gently, gently with the rubbing until happy that the fibres have worked through the silk, and then you can up the pressure and get rolling.

I laid some lengths of tapestry wools on top of the fibres, and these felted in really well and gave a nice effect to the finished fabric.

I felted my scarf into a loop around a resist, and I love the end result. It was difficult to capture the colours on the camera...they are much more vibrant in real life.

I think the next one I make I won't make it quite so wide, so that the surface design is more visible when being worn.  This one can be worn in a number of different ways, and because it's seamless it can be reversed as well!

I love the way the colours of the chiffon scarf peek through the fibres and of course you get some lovely textures where the wool has shrunk around the silk making lots of scrummy puckers. This photo is a better representation of colour - although still not 100% accurate!  The inset photo of it being worn shows the more turquoise tones in it - I gave up trying to photograph it in the end!!

Keen to do another one, this time I used a piece of dyed cotton scrim/cheesecloth - this has an open weave which makes it perfect for felting with.

I then selected some merino/silk blend fibres and yarn which has ribbon included in it to use as a surface design.

Same felting procedure as before - a fine layer of wool on top of the cheesecloth, the yarn on top of that and then tepid soapy water and gentle rubbing until the fibres had migrated though the cloth before felting thoroughly.

The pictures below were taken whilst the piece was still wet and soapy, but you could already see the colours of the cotton scrim showing through the thin layer of wool fibres.

Once felted, rinsed and looked rather yummy!  You can see where the wool has shrunk and drawn the cloth in and created lovely puckering and surface texture - I love that effect.

Here are some more pictures of those lovely surface textures that I love so much...

Moving forward with nuno...

Practicing nuno felting by making scarves has been fun, but this is also a technique that I want to explore more in my felted pictures.  Whilst I already use fabrics in many of my landscapes and still life pieces, I tend to go a little thick with the wool layers.

I have made a New Year 'Intention' to really work on using the nuno technique in a much finer, lighter way in my 'paintings'.  I have an image in my head of how my work might look - and it looks great in my mind!!  The challenge will be trying to get my imagination in to some form of reality!

Imagine those fabulous textures achieved in the scarves I made being used within a landscape using layering and extra fine layers of wool...can’t wait to get stuck in!

I will need to be patient and accepting that not everything will turn out 'right', and not everything I make will become a finished piece - one of my biggest faults is that I can be too eager to get to an end result and then wish I'd done it slightly different!!

The piece below used fabrics and fibres in a lighter way, but I want to go finer and use the cloth to greater use in terms of colour and layering.

I already have quite a stash of silks and loose weave cotton, so I have plenty of materials to choose from!  I’d also like to try and incorporate more of my favourite mediums...perhaps including printing, but we’ll see how it goes with the experimenting.

I have one commission to do in the New Year and then I'm looking forward to starting the challenge.  I have written a few New Year 'Intentions' down - it's good to have a direction to head off in.  I may end up in a different destination than first imagined, but I will enjoy the journey along the way.

Have you made any New Year resolutions or ‘intentions’? 

I've had a lovely few days over Christmas spending time with loved ones, and with the New Year nearly upon us, it is perhaps a time for reflection as well as a time for hope for the future; to feel gratitude for the good in our lives and to be kind to ourselves and others...always.

Sending you warm wishes and look forward to sharing more work with you in 2020.

xx Tanya xx

Tuesday 26 November 2019

Washing wool for felting

A while ago I was very kindly gifted a big bag of greasy fleece from a Jacob sheep. I’ve never processed wool from that state before, and I finally got around to preparing some of it so that I could use it for wet felting.  I thought I'd use this blog post to share what I did and what I used the fibre for once washed.

So, here's the bag of  raw fleece which has lots of colour variations in it, so it could be separated out or blended.

I had to google what to do with it, and without the facility or space to do the whole lot in one go I have washed and cleaned a couple of small batches.

I used a mesh laundry bag and put a good couple of handfuls of fleece inside and then submerged in a bowl of hot water from the tap and left it for 10 minutes. It’s important not to let the water go cold.

I drained away the very dirty water, and then repeated the process.

The water was much clearer on the second go, and as I was going to use the wool for wet felting it didn’t seem vital to get it 100% clear. Any other dirt would be well and truly removed during the felting process, which of course involves lots of water, soap and rinsing.

On removing the mesh bag, I gentle squeezed out as much water as I could without wringing or agitating the wool too much - the last thing I would want is for it to start felting already!!

I lay the fleece gently on a towel in front of our Aga to start drying it took a couple of days of gentle drying.  I did a double take a couple of times when walking into the kitchen, because it did look like there was some sort of creature lying on the floor!!

Now, I'm not sure if my method is 100% correct, and no doubt there are many ways and opinions on how to wash a greasy fleece, but this seemed to work okay for me on a small scale.  Feel free to let me know in the comments if you've tried this and what method you used, I'd be really interested to hear!

Once dry, the colours were much more evident and there was just a little vegetable matter (bits of twig/foliage) to remove by hand.

Next was to use my hand carders to tease the fibres out - I separated some of the colours, and blended others.  I’ve ended up with a variety of lovely natural browns and greys.  The fibres are quite 'hairy' so anticipate that when felted it will be more coarse.

coarse and 'hairy' fibres after carding

Time to see how it will felt! I laid out a few small samples to see how it would do on its own and blended with some other fibres.

It felted well, despite being very ‘bouncy’, and I like the way it turned out blended with a little merino.

These natural tones really appeal to me...they are inspiring a few new ideas.  There are many breeds of sheep which all have their own colour variations, fibre quality and’s surprising how many ‘natural’ colours of wool there are, and of course they can be blended to make even more colours like mixing paints.

I had a bit of a play with the carded wool, and quickly laid out a rough landscape including lots of different things - silk, yarns, scrim, lace, small amounts of dyed merino fibres - anything I could lay my hands on!  This was done without anything definite in mind and without worrying about whether it would ever become a 'finished' piece. 

It's good to do this to find out what 'felts in' well and what doesn't.

During the felting process, there wasn't much additional  'dirt' that came out of the wool, so it seems the two soaks in hot water was sufficient for what I wanted.

So this is how it turned out after felting and drying - all the main fibres are those that I washed and carded myself, and I added some dyed merino in small amounts just add some more colour, and all of the threads and inclusions felted in pretty well.

It's quite busy, as I tested a number of things on this, but maybe I can do something with it...

You can see the bits of cotton lace, ribbons, chiffon, net and threads included - they've been secured by the wool fibres during the wet felting process.  The smallest amount of fibre laid on top of something 'non-feltable' can be enough to embed it into the fabric - I love doing that! x

Scrummy textures and layers

What's next...?

Well, with one thing and another, I haven't done as much physical making as I'd like over recent weeks, though I did finish off some pieces to drop to a local gallery. A break is sometimes a good opportunity just to spend some time thinking, making notes and plans for the things I'd like to try next.  I have ideas within felting that I'd like to explore further - such as including fabrics (or nuno felting) because I like the effects this can give and it's good to do things you enjoy, right?  It's important to stretch yourself rather than just keep making the same old thing, so I'm looking forward to much more sampling and playing to try and get the ideas in my head working practically.  

Outside of felting, I've got an itch to get some paints out.  I really like the immediacy of painting,  the ability to make marks quickly and spontaneously.  So, hopefully I can make some time to do that over the coming weeks and months.

I've been making some soft furnishings for our house, so I've got a few things there to finish off - trying to make friends with my sewing machine!!  I have no idea why I have such a phobia of my machine - I nearly always veer away from it in order to sew by hand - but I've been using it to make cushions and it hasn't bitten me yet, so I'll carry on!!  Can anyone else relate?

So I'll leave it there for the moment...thanks for reading this far!

Feel free to leave a comment, or if you have any questions I'll do my best to answer.

Sending best wishes

Tanya xx

Tuesday 27 August 2019

Taking inspiration from nature

When you go for a walk in nature on your own, you observe so much more and can take the time to really delight in the colours, textures and sounds that surround you.

I don’t often take the opportunity to go for a walk on my own as it’s usually something I do with my other half.   When I do it’s always a bit of a treat, as I can stop to take more pictures of random things and actually listen to nature without distraction. Of course walking along quietly, without the noise of chatter, can also reward you with seeing things that might normally be missed.

I recently took a walk around the Cape Cornwall and Cot Valley area, and walking down a quiet lane I stopped and held my breath as there was a little stoat in my path.  It had paused on its journey and went up on its hind legs, meerkat style, to check me out!  It was total cuteness overload, and I couldn’t believe my luck! It scooted back into the grass and then reappeared with another one and they proceeded to scamper across the lane, squeaking away, right in front of me. Well, that was my day made complete! It’s moments like that I wish I could take pictures with my you know what I mean!? I didn’t dare move to reach for my phone to try to get a picture, but just to observe them for what was probably no more than 10 seconds was wonderful.

I found this image on google of a stoat, and it's sourced from .

sourced from

Continuing on my walk I reached the cove, Porth Nanven, that I stopped at for a while just to watch the sea coming in over the big rounded boulders there.

Back up on the coast path, there were lovely colour combinations of the heather and gorse against the blue of the sea, and leading up to a brick chimney. Whilst admiring the views I heard and saw two choughs wheeling about in the sky above me.

Heather and gorse along the coastline

Can you spot the bird on top of the chimney?

Further along my walk, the coloured boats at Priests Cove made a nice composition leading down to the water.

The piece of grassland left at Cape Cornwall is giving lots of seed heads for birds to feed on, and  was a nice foreground to the little white house on the cliff in the distance.

Whilst I couldn't take a reference picture, as I was driving it was striking to see the mass of crocosmia in the hedgerows alongside the roads. That wonderful pop of orange against the green of grass and bracken.  There were a few isolated crocosmia along the path in the Cot Valley - not quite so impactful as the roadside hedgerows, but pretty nonetheless.

Lots of inspiration has been taken from just this one walk, and I’ve chosen one of my photos as the basis for a new piece. I’ve been finding the Procreate app on my iPad really useful for getting ideas down quickly - I’m still a complete novice at it, but as I’m only using it to ‘sketch’ there’s no pressure to create a Procreate masterpiece!

So I started with this photo:

I then loaded this onto Procreate and using the tools ‘painted’ over it, adding more and more layers, creating a sky and popping in a chough, just like the one I saw and heard on my walk.  I have a long thin frame to use, so that's the reasoning behind the dimensions of this sketch.

I'm really liking  Procreate - there's so much to learn, but it's perfect to use just as a reference guide - and no need to get the paints out (although it's nice to do that as well!).

So I am now gathering materials and colours to use for this piece - but it may be a week or two before I get around to actually doing it.  There's a busy time ahead - my daughter is off to university (I think I'm in complete denial about that one!) and we're hoping to get caught up with the 'day job' to have a few days away, so I'm going to wait until I have some quality time in my workroom to really immerse myself in this one.  I can also see other pieces in my head inspired by some of the photos in this blog post, which is great - I may well get some more sketches done on my iPad to bank those ideas for the future!


So, that's it for now...thank you for taking the time to read this and I hope you've enjoyed sharing my walk in nature - hopefully I'll have a finished piece of inspired work to show you before too long!

Feel free to leave a comment or just say 'hello' - it's always great to have feedback!

Best wishes

xx  Tanya xx

Thursday 18 July 2019

Felting the Landscape...again!

So, the heather is starting to flower and the West Penwith moors and surrounding countryside have a myriad of colours, tones and textures that just beg to be drawn, painted...and felted!

Heather, gorse, bracken, the flash of acid green in a distant capture all those things seen in a vast landscape into a small piece of work.

I actually started with a frame this time - I have a couple of long thin ones which I've had sitting around for a while, so decided to make a piece specifically to fit in one of them.

I began a layout in a slightly different way this time, using cotton scrim as a base, and then using thin layers of merino wool fibres, silks and other fabrics and meshes to create a more light and airy piece of fabric which I didn't iron flat to  maintain a slightly more sculptural look.  This was to be an abstract landscape - not of somewhere in particular - just concentrating on colours and textures.

I like to use different techniques with felting - I don't think I ever do it in exactly the same way twice!  There are so many different variations and outcomes...the possibilities are endless!

It was nice to use some of my eco-dyed silks and fabrics - these felted in really well and the colours withstood a jolly good washing and rubbing during the felting process!  You can see  in the picture below the yellow cotton scrim to the right and the grungy green colour of the silk on the bottom left - these colours were obtained from plants from my garden and onion skins.  The naturally obtained colours just sat nicely within this landscape as you might expect them to!

Naturally dyed silk and scrim have been felted in.

I've mentioned in previous blog posts about my collection of 'nature's treasures' and I decided to embellish the piece with some of my collection of dried seedheads, leaves and found feathers - they seemed to just fit in perfectly.

Using some of nature's treasures - dried seed heads and feathers
Dried fern leaves, feathers and sycamore seeds embellish the surface
I was a little worried about there not being a real 'focus' to this piece, and I lived with it for a little while before framing it up - I've decided I like it just as it is as the moors and surrounding countryside often don't have a focal point, they just go gloriously on and on! 

It's proven tricky to get really good photos of this piece - you kind of have to see it in the flesh to see the surface textures and slightly 3d effect.  It's been popped into a box frame, so there's plenty of room for the elements to sit comfortably without being squashed against glass.

Overall, pretty pleased with the outcome.

What's next...?

I loved doing this moorland landscape - the colours really appeal to me.  What I find a real challenge is a seascape, and I'm going to have a go at one next.  Getting the colours and movement of water is really hard, but try I must!  We're surrounded by beautiful coastlines down here in Cornwall, so there's no shortage of's just the execution that needs practice!

I'm also keeping a bit of a sketchbook going, so hoping to get time to continue with that.  The trouble with the summer is that there is always much to do outside here on the farm and allotment, so often creative time takes a bit of a back seat...a sketchbook is a great way to get some ideas down that I can perhaps return to in the autumn/winter.

Another sale...hoorah!

I was really pleased to find out that the picture below sold at Blue Bramble Gallery in St Ives.  It's one I did quite a while ago, and I loved it so much that I kept it to enjoy myself!  However, I decided recently to let it go to the gallery...and I'm so delighted that's it's gone to a new home, although I would  equally have been happy to have it back if it hadn't sold!  It's a win win with some pictures!

I think I particularly liked the bold colours and the simplicity of it - this one probably set me off on the 'pots of flowers' theme that I've enjoyed creating over the last year.

I've got a few more pictures to drop down to the gallery, including the moorland one, so fingers crossed for some more sales!

Thank you for reading - feel free to comment, it's always great to get feedback and get to know some of the blog followers!

Best wishes

xx  Tanya  xx