the story of a scarf

I set out to make a scarf. An easy one – big needles, a ball of fancy fluffy yarn and a simple triangular scarf pattern from the web, where you just increase one stitch at the beginning of each row.

As it grew, I realised I hadn’t paid enough attention to the shape – with only a single ball of wool I should have been increasing at a much faster rate to end up with a shallow isosceles triangle that would be wide enough to go round my neck, instead of one like this…

knitted triangle

I looked at the ball band and the yarn was 30% wool – I can felt into this, I thought.

So, I cut it up …

cut up knitting

… chose some fleece …

fleece

… laid it out …

layers

… wetted and soaped and rubbed it for a while. It looked promising …

prefelt

… but what I actually ended up with was a ribbon of prefelt and a bit of felted knitting, loosely attached to each other in about three places. I think I was too lavish with the soap.

With nothing to lose I decided to sling the whole lot in the washing machine. I tied strips of calico round it at intervals to hold the felt and the knitting together, and put it in on a 60 degree quick wash with a pair of jeans.

The result was a nice uneven felted rope, joined firmly to the knitting wherever there was a calico strip. I snipped off the calico, added some wrapping highlights along the length with just a little lovely shiny embroidery thread, and here it is… a scarf, tousled rather than fluffy, and surprisingly warm.

scarf

The calico was quite well entangled and would happily have stayed where it was – another time I’d use a nice space dyed piece instead of white, or maybe sari ribbon or a yarn wrapping, and make it an integral part.

On another note, I’ve just joined an exciting new challenge – Today’s Title Is… – set up by Helen Suzanne of Heb-Art Journal. The challenge is to start from a given title and capture the first image it sparks off in the mind’s eye, in any visual medium. This week’s title is Blue Chair. Do visit to see all the wonderfully varied interpretations and maybe you’ll be tempted to join in too 🙂

blue chair

judging a book by its cover

I know you shouldn’t but sometimes it’s hard not to – this new book Eco-Colour by India Flint looks so beautiful and the subtitle is so enticing – ‘Botanical Dyes for Beautiful Textiles: Environmentally Sustainable Dyes’. I feel a moment of weakness coming on. India Flint’s web site is delicious as well – beautiful work and a sidebar that takes the phrase ‘navigation metaphor’ to new poetic heights.

It’s been a lean and hungry textile week for me, with a time-consuming project keeping me stuck at the computer, but I did sneak away long enough to make a little piece of nuno felt, on a cotton scrim base. I’m really trying to get that lovely barnacle-like effect on the cloth side – this is a bit more like the nuno felt I’ve seen than my last attempt, so progress in the right direction.

The pastel side:

pastel nuno felt

… and the bright side:

bright nuno felt

I imagine a garment with the delicately coloured textural side outward and the bright soft fleecy side within.

more felt

I’m not sure about either of the pieces of felt I made today but at least I made them 🙂 One is an experiment stitching into prefelt before felting – more play with a piece of fleece. The images show before and after the felting was completed:

embroidered prefelt
embroidered felt

I want to explore this effect some more, but would prefer finer wools for the stitching, I think.  Then, rather than getting all wet and soapy for one little piece, I also made another piece of felt based on thoughts of the sea at sunset. It didn’t really turn out as I wanted, but it’s all experience.

felt

April TIF Challenge 3

Well, I ran out of time before I ran out of ideas, so I’m going to carry on playing with April’s Take it Further Challenge during May. I think it has some connections into May’s challenge as well so who knows where it will lead?

This, anyway, is where I’ve got to.

felt samples

The piece at the top left is partly felted. The little balls of yarn are naturally dyed as well – I got them at Soay Studio on the Isle of Harris (that’s the only link I could find, but I’ll go and hunt out a photo in a minute). I’m going to do big woolly embroidery stitches into the pre-felt and then finish felting it.

Next to that is a piece with some other coloured fleece added; and then my woven samples – I overdid the felting, so they’re very hard and small! Below them is a grid with thin strips of the pink roving in one direction and colours laid across it – I want to try this again on a bigger scale.

Bottom right are the samples of knitted fleece after felting – I like the coloured one in stocking stitch and this is another technique I’d like to explore – it was very easy to bring in additional colours exactly where I wanted to.

The middle piece at the bottom is very thin and webby and the piece on the right is the one I nuno felted into muslin. It was quite a dense muslin, and having seen the lovely lacy textures of Monika’s nuno felt, I’d like to experiment with some different fabrics to see how the effects vary.

The piece underneath the nuno felt is ‘just’ plain felt. Warm, soft, comforting – and pink – it has so much in common with the fleece it came from and yet it’s not the same at all. I plan to chop it up into pieces and sandwich each between different translucent layers, to quilt into the layers and watch the subtle changes that will emerge, and the differences between them.

I just love the amazing, endless variety of textures and patterns and colours that we can make with textiles, and their physical, tactile presence.

And this is the gateway into the delightful dyer’s garden at Soay Studio on Harris, which we visited in August 2006.

Soay Studio

TIF Challenge January 3

I spent some time this weekend sampling and exploring my ideas – I was planning to stop with the visual journal and not make a textile piece but one is emerging anyway. Here I’ve tried out some ways of representing the darkness. (The idea I’m starting from is admiration of people who’ve “confronted their particular darkness by allowing something bright and fierce and tender and courageous to grow in their lives”.)

samples of darkness

samples of darkness

I found that hemp yarn, though difficult to knit with, leaves behind lovely curls and tendrils when you unravel the knitting.

tendrils

I decided to weave a base fabric of colour and brightness, and I think I’ll use an overlay of painted scrim or plastic netting for the element of darkness. Painted with acrylic or ink it keeps a shape and can be shades of black and grey – I want it to net itself over the coloured fabric like some dark, strangling thing – it should have an ugliness yet the overall effect be one of beauty. I’d like to use the plastic netting because it has intrinsic destructive qualities in the environment, the way it literally overwhelms living creatures. But I think the scale of it is too big. I have smaller nets but they’re more stiff and difficult to distort and I want the darkness to gather in some parts and be stretched thin in others. I should play around with that a bit more, but time is short….

This is the beginnings of my fabric. The warp is wire, and I plan to use the ends to form tendrils of colour growing out from the centre, through the netted darkness, an affirmation.

beginning to weave