one felted cushion front

From the painted silk…

painted silk

To the fleece laid out on the reverse…

silk and fleece

through several hours of rolling, rubbing and throwing, to the front of a cushion-to-be.

felted piece


detail 2

Now I’ve just got to find all the work I’ve done for this assignment, and get it sent off to my tutor. Weaving next!

cushion design

I’ve been developing this on the computer, thinking about colours and contrasting textures and struggling with the challenges of measurements and shrinkage. The design is flat, before felting. The border will be narrower and the circles will be smaller when it’s done. I’ll paint it using the same technique as the sample, with gutta and silk paint – not sure yet about the salt effect – then felt the border and the circles to create areas of dense texture with gathered folds forming between.

IndigoNightOwl commented on Flickr that the sample in yesterday’s post reminded her of ‘reflective colours on bubbles’. Which enriches it for me, tying in to my image of the foamy waves. I hope the cushion will convey an impression of sea and sand, eddies and ripples, and at the same time relate back to shibori patterns and the pure physical qualities of gathered fabric, an exploration of the manipulation of fabric with fibre.

design for cushion front
design for cushion front

finally felted

It’s taken me since early November when I last posted to get these pieces felted. I cut the silk painted sample I had made in two, and added a thin layer of white fleece – around the circles only, in one piece, and on the circles only, in the other.

painted silk with layer of wool

This lay for a month on my table. Then we needed the table for Christmas so I rolled the not-yet-felt up in the bubblewrap and put it on the shelf where it lay till last weekend, when I got it out and felted it.

painted silk, felted to gather the fabric in different ways

This image is of the side that wasn’t visible in my ‘before felting’ photo. I think that side is much more interesting but I will take some pics of the other side tomorrow, if there’s light enough, and put them on my Flickr.

I haven’t quite decided where to take this for my assessment piece. I like the effect around the felted circles very much, both the gathering and the distortion of the resist outlines; and I like the way the circles are connected; but I also like the textured background on the other piece, and the contrast between that and the billowing circles. I’m leaning towards using elements of both; and I think it will be a cushion cover, not a scarf. I may use one of my photos of the summer sea around the island to inspire the colours. Maybe this one.

waves at Balevullin, Tiree

I just wanted to thank you all for your encouraging comments about this process, and especially Trisha for taking the time to email me as well. I’m sorry I haven’t replied to you all. I struggled a bit through the period leading up to Christmas when Alan was away for three months but I’m feeling more positive now. And I’m really looking forward to the next module, which is ‘textile structures’, and focuses on yarn and tapestry weaving. (I’m just a little obsessed with yarn at the moment after all.) Alongside that, I must choose a personal theme around which to collect visual information into a book, to use in the final design project of the course. Like Emily Dickinson, I “dwell in possibility”…


a little bit of weaving

Plan A

I’m working on ‘A Piece of Your Own’ which is the first extended assignment of the OCA Textiles 1 course I’m doing. I never really got going again on the course after moving house last year and though I’ve only completed half of it, I would have run out of time round about now, but the OCA has kindly given me an extension and a new deadline of early next summer. Right now I’m not sure whether that’s a good thing or not!

The textile piece is to form part of an item such as a garment, cushion, bag, wall hanging – it doesn’t have to be the whole item, and you are asked to keep an open mind about the end product for as long as possible.

The piece has to be developed from design work and techniques accumulated throughout the course so far; I gathered a lot of previous work together and did some design development on the computer back in July, and then some felted samples using ideas that came out of that. Gathering felt was one idea that I’ve already blogged about; these are some more experiments with that, before and after felting.


Then I took another of the computer designs and have been playing with it. I tried stitching needled merino before wet felting (using yarn made from the same fibre so some of the yarn would ‘disappear’) and felted half onto muslin and half onto white fleece.



Nothing is really working though and I desperately want to get this module over with since I’ve been stuck on it forever… It’s not that I’m not producing textiles at all – I’ve made several felt scarves over the summer – this is the latest.


I wish I could just use this scarf for my textile piece! I’d be tempted to but there’s no link with any design work, which has to be the starting point, or if there is, it’s inside me somewhere. When I make something in ‘real life’ I usually have an idea to work to – in this case a wrap and the word ‘flame’, or something I’ve seen or heard that’s inspired me, and the materials do the rest. Sometimes I write down words that extend the idea, like a mind map. My imagination tends to be verbal and then tactile. I don’t seem to be able to start visually, with drawings and designs, and then progress to something that means anything to me. When I draw or paint that seems like an end in itself. I don’t understand why I find a visual design process such a struggle, but it feels like there’s a magic casket and I can’t find the key – and it’s frustrating because I’m sure my work would be stronger and more defined if I could get to grips with it.

Anyway, enough moaning, my plan is to persevere with the circles design and to try and interpret it in fabric manipulation (using nuno with silk). Silk painting was one of my favourite bits of the course, so I’ve painted a big piece of silk to sample with and, well, I still prefer the original computer design, but if I don’t compare it with that I am quite pleased with it, apart from the dark splodgy bit in the middle where I used too much salt! I want to see how it looks with the background ruched and the circles felted, and vice versa, and if either works it could be a cushion cover or part of a bag or scarf. That’s Plan A, at any rate…

silk painting
silk painting
silk painting

gathered felt

I only had time for a short felting session this weekend; and, in the first of the samples for my ‘textile piece’ assignment, I started with this digital image:

digital image

This has elements of marbling, ripples distorting the original stripes, creating movement and asymmetry, forming new relationships between the lines.

Influenced by the way shibori captures the stitches into the surface of the fabric visually, even though the thread has been removed and even when the fabric is flat, I thought, what if the effect of stitching into fleece before felting could be captured in a final flat surface?

I laid out 3 gossamer layers of merino – white, then stripes of colour, then a soft pale pinky brown. I intended the top colour just to tone down the layer beneath it but it actually enhanced the surface in a way I didn’t anticipate.

I needled the layers of fleece lightly, just enough to keep them together while I put in the gathering stitches. I have a wonderful little multi-needle tool made by Dianne Stott called the Fabulous Felt-O-Matic which was invaluable for that job; otherwise I’d have wet prefelted the layers as minimally as possible before stitching. This piece started off about 60 x 50cm; shrank to 11 ~ 22cm x 40cm. On a larger scale, it would have to be needled more tightly or wet prefelted before stitching because of the difficulties of handling a very lightly needled fleece in large pieces.

Here’s the stitched and gathered fleece:

gathered fleece

To stitch, I used crewel wool in blending shades, and left it in; I could also try a synthetic yarn that would pull out after prefelting, or else a more dramatic yarn that draws attention to itself. I then went though the normal wetting out, felting and fulling process, and this was what happened.

gathered felt

Held up to the light, you can see the way the gathers form thicker and thinner areas of felt – it would be interesting to try with undyed fleece, to maximise this effect. The whole piece is thin but strong; even where there is more fleece it isn’t bulky, because the layers were so thin to start with. If you run your fingers over it you can just feel slight indentations where the gathers were, but against the light the ghosts of the folds appear.

gathered felt against light

I was very pleased with how the stripes distorted; and interested in the way the top layer moved with the gathers, forming a netted pattern over the surface. I have new ‘what ifs’ now. What if I use wider stripes? What if the top layer contrasts more strongly with the one below. What if I pull up the gathers more tightly, make them closer together, or further apart? What if I start with a grid? What if a larger piece was made up of several smaller pieces, and what if the gathers ran in different directions from one piece to the next? if I want to explore any of my other design ideas before settling on one for the textile piece, I’ll need to keep most of these questions till after the course is finished!