a life of fibre

Teaching the teachers September 18th, 2014

On Wednesday afternoon I found myself at Holy Trinity Primary School in Ossett teaching the teachers how to make felt. One teacher had made a piece some 4 years previous but other than that they were all novices.



As usual, it’s amazing the variety of work that people come up with from the one set of resources.



The school is aiming to have every one of their 400+ pupils make a piece of felt by half term and the theme will be poppies for Remembrance Day.



I did try to take a photo of all the finished poppies, there were quite a few, but sadly that photo was too blurred to use. To my great delight, I do believe at least 1 and possibly 2 teachers will be pursuing the fascinating craft of felt making in their own time :-)

Doodling September 18th, 2014

I found an old folder in my Mums’ flat, battered and definitely beyond it’s best but I had a use for it so I began to doodle.


Doodling is fun. On this occasion I was doodling with a Tipp-Ex pen. It’d be nice to say this was my idea but I have seen it done before and more beautifully than mine. But you know what, I think it looks good and this old folder which has a mundane purpose of paper storage gives me pleasure each time I use it at work.


It may not have greater longevity but it’s definitely prettier.

More hidden texture September 16th, 2014

This is the shape of bag I set out to create but not the colours! It just seemed a good idea to set myself an extra challenge to make this bag using nothing except what was in my cupboard. After laying down two layers of Blue faced Leicester wool I searched around for texture I could hide between the layers.


The felt cord had been hanging around for several years but I knew it would come in handy sometime and imagine my delight when it did! There was also discs of pref-felt and felt balls I could use. How is it that it’s absolutely ages since I made any felt balls and yet I always seem to have some hanging about.

Having found my texture and discovered just how many pre-felt pieces I had in the cupboard I decided that the outer layers of wool would be pre-felt. This has the added advantage of helping to trap the texture without the fibres slipping and revealing what’s beneath. We begin with a view of the back.


You can see the odd shaped pre-felt pieces, I rather like them. The felt cord handle was made separately and then stitched on afterwards with yarn. I wanted the stitches to be seen and form part of the texture of the bag. Now we have the front.


I know it’s busy and it shouldn’t work but I think it does and somehow this bag has snook ito my affections.


All pre-felts on the front too. The handle curls around a pre-felt which is hiding a felt ball and you can clearly see how large a texture using the sturdy cords between the layers has created.


There’s another felt ball for a fastening, this time passing through a cut in the felt. There are two inner pockets and the flower decoration was also found in my pre-felt bag. I believe someone started it at a workshop, fell out of love with it and I squirrelled it away for later. Just loving the extra dimension it adds.

I wonder if anyone has spotted that this bag and the one I showed yesterday were actually created on the same resist. It just goes to show that how you remove your felt from the resist has a huge impact on the shape.


Hidden texture handbag September 15th, 2014

This is one of my samples for the workshop I’m teaching this coming Friday – hidden textures. You could use the technique to make any items like cushions, pictures and scarves and of course, bags. I love texture and usually add it to the outside of items but in this instance it’s created by adding it in the middle of the layers.


After covering the resist with two layers of fibre I briefly worked it until it became a soft pre-felt. Then I’ve added the texture, in this instance wool cord and wool balls chopped in half. Then the whole lot was covered with two further layers of fibre before felting and fulling.


This  bag is made from Blue Faced Leicester wool with an interior pocket and a long strap which I felted seperately and fastened through a tiny cut hole after felting. The knot in the strap adds to the texture. The next photo is my favourite.


It was quite hard to get a good photo of the texture for you.


The fastening is made from a felt ball and a handmade wool cord. I left the ends of the cord open and needle felted them onto the flap of the bag before refelting to ensure it’s absolutely secure. I should have a second bag up for you to see tomorrow.




Pleated bags workshop September 12th, 2014

You may have noticed I’ve been quiet of late, Mum died quite recently and there’s been a lot to do. However, I’m getting back into the swing and thought I’d start with a quick photo of what you might expect on the pleated bags workshop.


Initially we’ll make prefelt (part made felt) then insert pleats and then move on to finishing our designs. There’ll be more samples and ideas to inspire you as you work through this method to create your unique bag.  I’m trying a couple of new venues over the next few months and this workshop will be held at Gisburn Festival Hall, Bentlea Rd, Gisburn,BB7 4LL on Sunday 9th November. It’s a lovely hall, nice and light with plenty of space. I hope you can come along.

Sewing box delights September 6th, 2014

When I was growing up my Grandma’s sewing box was always out and in use then it passed to Mum, who did sew but not a huge amount and then not at all in recent years. Now Gran and Mum have both gone the box has passed to me. It’s a sad reason for the box to pass on but the box has brought pleasure with it. There were quite a few buttons, so much so that my button stash now occupies two tin boxes.



I don’t recall ever seeing these folding scissors before and they still cut quite well. Next will be for me to research how I can bring them back to their former glory as they will be very useful. The next item I correctly guessed as a glove darner.

Don’t ever remember seeing this in use either.  A few rug tools were discovered too and I do remember Gran using those – lots. This next one has a huge eye at one end and a crochet type hook at the other. Is this something to do with rug making, does anyone know?


Now this one really has me stumped. What is it, what is it used for? I do hope someone can help.


Finally, is this last one a laying tool? It has a kink in the shaft and it’s unclear if that’s deliberate or an accident.


The box which contained these treasures now has pride of place in my hall and I wait with bated breath to see if you can assist with identifying these last 2 tools.

Edited to add – Wow, you’ve done well at identifying the last two items. The flat wooden one is a thread winder and there are lots of versions if you take a look at google images. Thanks Kate and Rosie. The final item isn’t a proddy but a fid. The very tip was bunged up but I’ve had it under a magnifier and there is a hollow channel all the way down it. You can pull the metal out of the handle to thread something through and then the bend prevents it being forced too far back into the handle. Thank you so much Lorna for identifying it.  That just leaves the large needle with the crochet hook end which I’ve identified as a locker hook. These are the primary tool for making anchored loop rugs.

Autumn workshops August 26th, 2014

So far, August has felt like we’ve moved early into Autumn so this seems the perfect time to let you know about my Autumn workshops. In addition to the studio workshop dates in Ilkley I’ve added some weekend ones at Gisburn Festival Hall and Clifton Village Hall (Otley) on a Saturday or Sunday. So do take care to not which venue it’s at and on which day.

Thursday 11st Sept in Ilkley – learn to spin on a drop spindle.You won’t believe how easy it is to start spinning your own yarn.

Sunday 5th Oct at Gisburn – Lacy felt wrap, soft and very warm.

Friday 10th Oct in Ilkley – Nuno felt vases. Combining wool and fabric in 3D work.

Saturday 8th Nov at Clifton – felted soaps. Pebble style or swathed in colour they make great presents.

Sunday 9th Nov at Gisburn – Pleated bags. After making the pre-felt we’ll create scupltural pleated handbags

Friday 5th Dec in Ilkley – Felt for Christmas – felted tree and felted tree ornaments

Saturday 6th Dec at Clifton – Christmas stockings. Style and colour of your choice with plenty of examples to inspire you.

There are a few shows coming up soon as well.

Bristol Wool Fair - 5-7 September
Rheged Knit & Stitch Show - 14 September
Masham Sheep Fair - 27/8 September
Yarndale – 28/9 September

If people would be interested, I can offer an introduction to crochet workshop – what do you think? I’ll be adding workshops for the new year in the next week so keep checking back.


First August 24th, 2014

The skirt went from this


to this


and I got


Ilkley Flower Show is a small local show which I have to say seems to have gotten much smaller this year. The main reason for entering was to ensure that I completed the project and didn’t just push it to the back of a cupbaord. Working with all recycled materials forces you to think and be creative and is very enjoyable – give it a try. Perhaps it should be a workshop theme?


Skirt remodelling part 4 August 22nd, 2014

I bet you were beginning to think I’d never finish this project and I do have to own up to an amount of dithering. Happily it’ is finished. This is a long post with a lot of pictures so grab a drink then relax as I take you through the journey It began life like this.


Then it looked like this.


Ugh! I really didn’t like that. After deciding to turn it into a bag I straightened the edges.


I also decided to add some detail on top of the fabric through needle felting.


And a pocket on the inside. The fabric is flipped the other way so that there’s a contrast and the pocket stands out.


I stitched the side and bottom seams with a few tack stitches then it was ready to be felted together.


Once felted I removed the stitches and dried the bag with the top folded over giving a lovely contrast collar. I did felt a strip of fabric to form a handle but once finished I just felt it was too lightweight for the bag and had to rethink that one. A trip to the charity shops found me this belt which is just perfect isn’t it. Just look at the colour of those beads!


I used some rusty washers from a jar that I rescued from my father-in-laws’ garage some years ago and they’re stitched on with rug wool which I rescued from a skip and dyed up.


After punching an extra hole in the end of the belt I attached it using more rug wool. I’m not entirely sure I like this but I wanted to use only recycled items. If it doesn’t work out I may buy a couple of brass rings later.


After further searching through the jar I found a few more washers and a metal tube (no idea what that was for) which I used to make a fastening.


More of the rug wool used to make a linked chain.


It goes across the bag and the cylinder is used as a toggle fastening.


Do you like it?


I’m pleased the fastening works so well.


It’s a nice long strap and you can see the pattern well on the bag. One of my favourite decorations.


So pleased with it.


The only ‘new’ item in this bag is the wool I used in the felting. I’m entering this into the Ilkley Flower Show tomorrow in the something new from something old category. Wish me luck. I’ll let you know how I get on but most of all I’m looking forward to using this bag. I even made it deep enough to take my knitting needles!

My first shawl August 21st, 2014

I’ve had this yarn in my stash for a while, it’s one of  my first handspun yarns that I thought was usable and is a green and turquoise Merino and silk blend. Being an early yarn it definitely has areas which are thick or thin and even some which are over twisted but it was still usable and I had a goodly amount.

Initially I tried it on 4mm needles but the knitting was dense and didn’t have the drape I was looking for so I restarted on 6mm needles which were much better, especially when I encountered a thick bit. The pattern is not a particularly difficult one, in fact I’d say it was quite easy but what attracted me to it was the yarn used in the photos and the fact that it would be long. I love long scarves and found this one as a free pattern on Ravelry.

It wasn’t many rows before I was running out of space on my needles but fortunately a friend loaned me a 6mm circular needle. My first ever circular needle to knit my first shawl using one of my handspun yarns for the first time. Whilst knitting it I have to say I wasn’t very keen and was planning on gifting it away and oh how that position has been reversed, it’s mine all mine. Better let you have a look at what I’m on about.


That’s it after washing, being blocked.


I couldn’t wait for it to dry in case the sun disappeared so it’ll have to go back on block later to dry. You can see it’s not a difficlut pattern and yet there was a section of about 10 rows where I had repeated brain malfunctions and had to keep unpicking the work. Not being brave enough to take it off the needles and rip it back I did this the slow laborious way, one stitch at a time! After a whole weekend of messing about I finally got beyond that section and then rapidly finished the shawl.



It felt important to me to use this yarn and to finish the shawl even if I didn’t like it. In case you were wondering, I love it and have already worn it. It did turn out to be very important to use it and has actually taught me quite a lot about the spinning of the yarn. I needed no help to understand that it wasn’t perfectly even but it was enlightening to understand how that felt in use. Uneven yarn isn’t a problem, there are plenty of yarns on the market which are exactly that but I’d not used one before. Having every inch of yarn back through my fingers helped me to understand how to spin my next yarn to achieve whatever effect I want.


My spinning now is finer and much, much more even. It just goes to show that even imperfect yarns can look lovely made up. If you fancy learning to spin then why not come along to my spinning workshop on Thursday 11th September and let me introduce you to this ancient and absorbing craft. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you can catch on and start producing your own unique yarns.

p.s. Update on the remodelled skirt very soon, I promise.