Thursday, September 29, 2011

Adventures in Felting!

A while back my boyfriend took a trip to Iceland and brought back some lovely Icelandic wool. I had never seen anything like it before and was so excited to work with it. The only problem was the yarn was not really spun and if you pulled too hard on it, it would tear apart. Since I have no idea how to, nor do I have the means to spin strands of wool into yarn, I figured what the hey I'll try to crochet anyway! I had read about felting and thought it could be a good way to make the project actually stay together. I thought a small project would be appropriate to begin with so I grabbed my tiny crochet hook size F and got to work on a little clutch purse.

I used a simple single crochet stitch and established the width of the purse first. It was slow going at first because as I said, the yarn (if you can call it that) was very fragile and kept tearing. But I found that just twisting the two ends together sufficiently repaired the breaks.

Crochet until the length is three times a long as you want the final piece to be, making sure to leave a button hole about half an inch from the edge. Do this by chaining four (more if your button is bigger) skip four stitches and single crochet in fifth stitch. continue single crochet to edge.

Next comes the felting. Felting is a process that shrinks the wool fibers creating a denser, stronger fabric. Generally only 100% wool fibers will work. Wool/acrylic blends are not the best choice yarn for a felting project. One way to felt is to put the piece in the washing machine on high heat with some towels thrown in to create the friction needed to complete the process. I, however, chose to felt by hand so that the individual stitches in the piece would still be visible.

What you will need:

  • bucket or wash basin
  • hot water
  • liquid dish soap
  • and a whole lot of elbow grease
Fill you bucket with enough hot water to completely cover your project. Add just a few drops of the liquid dish soap to the water and mix so that it gets nice and sudsy. Begin by swirling the fabric around the water making sure to completely saturate it. Rub it against your hands, the bottom of the bucket, and against itself. This is where the elbow grease comes in! It can take a while but be patient. With enough friction you will begin to see your fabric transform. It will begin to get denser and fuzzier and will even shrink a little bit. Felting it in the washing machine will cause even more shrinkage and a denser fabric. 

How long you continue will determine the look of you final piece. The longer you felt, the more solid the fabric will look. I prefer to have more stitch definition so I stopped after about fifteen minutes of felting. When you are finished, rinse out the piece in clean water. Press out the excess water and lay on a towel to dry.

If you want your clutch to have a lining now is the time. Cut a piece of fabric to size and sew along the outside edges. But make sure not to cover up your button hole. When finished, fold up the bottom of the piece leaving about a third of the fabric left for the front flap. Sew along either edge. Attach a button for a closure. Make sure you line it up with the button hole on the flap and you're done! 

I really love the way these came out and cant wait to try my hand a felting again! Good luck with all your felting endeavors! 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

That Darn Cat!

So I have a cat. Her name is Jelly (I will explain!) and she is just the best. She is an absolute nut but I love her. The story of how she came into my life is kind of a strange one so I figured I'd share. I think it was around February or March of 2010 and my boyfriend was going to school in Newark. He was a member of a fraternity so every now and then we would hang out at their house. The backyard was kinda small but nice. Well, as nice as a backyard in Newark can be. There was a small patio with a grill, a little grassy area, and a wood platform that they used as a stage. This is where Jelly and I first met.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. The story begins a few days earlier. I was laying in bed late one night watching tv. There must have been a commercial for Jello right before I fell asleep because I had the strangest dream about it that night. I was outside in my backyard next to an old grey shed that we have. Strange noises started coming from under the shed so I decided to take a look. As I got closer the noises got louder. Something was under there. I knelt down to take a closer look and found a small orange cat curled up in the dirt under the shed. I started speaking to her (somehow I knew she was a girl) and she eventually came out. And the last thing I can remember before waking up was that she had a collar around her neck with a tag that read "Jell-O" but I decided to call her Jelly for short. 

The next morning I woke up thinking, "Well, that was strange." But of course as the day wore on I forgot about it until I got a phone call that afternoon. It was my boyfriend. He said that there was a small cat living under the little stage in the backyard of the frat house. I said, "How weird! I just had a dream there was a cat under my shed!" I told my parents about it later that night. My mother got a sick look on her face and my father made it very clear that we have two dogs already we DO NOT need another animal in the house!

The next weekend I went down to visit and we ended up having a bbq at the frat house. The minute I stepped into the backyard I saw her. She was adorable. A tiny black and white kitten. I sat down in a chair and she jumped right into my lap. From that moment all was lost. I knew I could not leave this small creature to fend for herself in the middle of Newark. She was my cat now. They asked what I'd name her and I thought for a moment. The dream! This is her! It's JELLY! It was fate. I took her home the next morning (much to my father's chagrin) and we have been together ever since!

Her crazy antics always keep me laughing
She loves to climb into small places

She's an attack cat! 

She loves to do the laundry

But most of all she loves to snuggle! 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

First Post!

Welcome to my blog! Four words I never thought I would say! I've been wrestling with the idea of starting a blog for few months and finally decided to go for it. I'm a twenty something graduate from art school with a teaching certificate attempting to figure out where I belong in the world. My passion is jewelry making but I also love ceramics and crocheting. Now that I've been out of school for a while I have had the opportunity to work a lot more on my art. And let me tell you I've been a jewelry making machine. When I first started designing jewelry I would almost exclusively make chainmaille pieces. I learned how to do it online through various tutorials and fell in love. The idea of making something so incredibly complex from materials as simple as a spool of wire and a pair of pliers was beautiful to me. I started out making simple chains with not much creativity to them. Once I started I couldn't stop. I had to learn every pattern. When I would exhaust the patterns on one website I would scour the internet for new weaves. Honestly it felt like I had looked at every website about chainmaille that had ever existed. I felt like I had seen it all. I was stuck. Until I realized maybe I could use the existing weaves that I had learned and modify them. Then a light bulb went off. I am an artist! I don't have to follow instructions to create something beautiful! I thought that I had been creating works of art but realized that I hadn't even found my own voice as an artist in this new medium. I struggled at first trying to come up with ways to make the chains more interesting until one day I took a trip to my favorite place, AC Moore. I was looking at some of the bicone crystals and thought, "maybe these could fit inside the inverted round weave!" I immediately bought some, brought them home, and went to work. It took a bit of trial and error to figure out what size crystals would fit inside what diameter rings made from what gauge wire but I eventually figured it out. The end result made me so happy that I went on to make the same bracelet in every color crystal I could find.

This is the first one that I made. I thought the contrast between the deep red and the bright silver was very striking. Since then I don't think I've made a piece of jewelry with only one design element. At first I was really into using the crystals to add a feminine touch to an industrial look. However lately I've been using semiprecious stones for a more natural look. I think I almost like those pieces more. They have a more professional and polished look to them. I will post more pictures of them later and more of my works in progress in future posts. But for now that is all. Here is a link to my etsy shop if you would like to see more!