Monday, May 31, 2010

A Treasury for Dads

Oh, how fun! A set of my felted juggling balls was included in an Etsy treasury. The theme of this collection is items that Dad might like.

It always tickles me to see what connections people make between the various items displayed on Etsy. I wouldn't necessarily have thought to put these 12 items together...but they absolutely fit as a cohesive whole. Nicely done, Dawn!

Viking Wire Weaving: 4 necklaces

In addition to the felt work I've been doing recently, I've also been experimenting with the Viking wire weaving. (The tutorial on how to do this is here:

This first necklace, so nicely modeled by my daughter Michelle, is made of 24 gauge copper wire. The slide bead is created with Delica seed beads that have been peyote stitched together. I'm living in Arizona, and copper is one of the 'three c's' that the state's economy was based on. (Cattle and Cotton were the other two.) So I decided to go for a desert Southwest feel, with the black and turquoise focal bead to complement the copper.

These next two are made with non-tarnish silver Artistic Wire. That one on the right is a collaboration with gem carver Epaul Fischer ( It was a high school graduation gift for my daughter. The phoenix 'Wings' design was inspired by a needlepoint work that my folks had up on their bedroom wall when I was a kid. It read, "There are two lasting gifts you can give to your children. One is roots. The other is wings." So, this was her gift of wings.

And then I got to thinking about the Artistic Wire. It is copper wire, with a coating plated onto it. It comes in a variety of colors, which looks great to work with. But I'm not sure how durable the coating is. So, I decided to experiment. This last necklace is made of 5 colors of 26 gauge wire for the chain, and about 20 gauge copper for the clasp. I wove an inch of each color, and then pulled it through the draw plate. The coating didn't scratch in this process at all, and the sections are still even in size.
I'm wearing this necklace right now. I love the way it looks! But I'm still worried about the durability. I'm going to wear the necklace pretty much non-stop for the next few weeks, and see how it fares. I'd hate to put in all those hours weaving a piece of jewelry, if it won't hold up to normal wear and tear.

Has anyone else experimented with the Artistic Wire? What is your experience with it?

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The magic of wet felting

The weather is just about perfect here in Arizona, so I've been taking the opportunity this week to play in the back yard with hot soapy water and wool roving. That's right--it is felting time! Wool felt is made by taking a mound of soft fluffy roving, and dunking it in hot soapy water. Then you rub it and beat it and throw it around, agitating the dickens out of it until the fibers velcro together and it shrinks down into a strong, durable fabric. And I do mean shrink! Just for fun, I took some before and after shots of this week's projects.

A couple of days were spent making sets of juggling balls. These are made by wet felting wool down around a golf ball core. The golf balls give them a good weight for throwing and catching, and the seamless wool coat gives the balls a bit of texture, so they're less likely to slip out of your hands. With these, I wet felt the balls by hand until I get a good shape, and then toss them in the dryer to finish hardening. Let me tell you, a dozen golf balls bouncing around in the dryer makes a gawd-awful racket, even if they are coated with wool!

The rest of my felting time this week was spent making pocket camera cases. I posted a tutorial on how to do these awhile back, at . The one that I made for that tutorial has been living in my front pocket on a daily basis for several years now, and is still going strong. Real felt is not that flimsy craft stuff you used in kindergarten--this stuff wears like iron! The only real result of being in my pocket that long is that the felt has continued to compress down, molding itself to the shape of my camera and becoming an even denser material.

Here's before and after shots of a couple of the camera cases I made this week. It really feels like pure magic. Abracadabra, add some elbow grease, and you have an amazing transformation.

And for fun, here's a couple of group pictures of the projects. The juggling balls are already up in the Etsy shop, and the camera (or cell phone, or Ipod, etc) cases will be joining them soon.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Textile terms and phrases hiding in our language

Yes, in addition to being a textile arts geek, I'm also a word geek. And I love it when the two worlds collide! I've been poking around the internet the past few days, and stumbled across some cool things.

Do you know where the word 'rocket' comes from? From 'rocchetta', an Italian term for a 'little distaff'. Evidently the early 17th century experiments in rockets reminded folks of the cylindrical shape of a distaff loaded with fiber. So yes, our rocket ships to the moon are named after a spinning tool.

And the term 'dyed in the wool' means 'permanent or extreme in your views'. Where did that come from? Fabric can be dyed after it is woven, or yarn can be dyed, but the color can just lay on the surface then. However, if the wool is dyed before spinning ("dyed in the wool") the color goes all the way through the fibers, and is least likely to fade or change.

Here's another one: the country Brazil's name is "derived from the Portuguese and Spanish word brasil, the name of an East Indian tree with reddish-brown wood from which a red dye was extracted. The Portuguese found a New World tree related to the Old World brasil tree when they explored what is now called Brazil, and as a result they named the New World country after the Old World tree." So there is a whole country named after a red dye source. How cool is that?

'Subtle' is from the latin sub + tela, 'beneath the threads on a loom', meaning finely woven. 'Text' is from the past participle of 'texere', meaning 'to weave'.

Ooh... and cat lovers look here: . "The tabby cat commemorates a textile manufacturing suburb of Baghdad. This was al-‘Attābīya, named after Prince Attāb, who lived there. The cloth made there was known as ‘attābī, and the term passed via Old French atabis and modern French tabis into English as tabby. This originally denoted a sort of rich silk taffeta (‘This day … put on … my false tabby waistcoat with gold lace’ noted Samuel Pepys in his diary for 13 October 1661), but since such cloth was originally usually striped, by the 1660s the word was being applied to brindled cats."

So...who has some other examples of fiber arts words and phrases embedded in our language?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Country Sky triloom shawl

Last weekend at the dye retreat, the evenings got a little chilly. Luckily, I had packed one of my triloom shawls to throw around my shoulders. It worked really well, and was soft and snuggly to boot. That reminded me of how much fun they are to weave, and that I hadn't made one in way too long. And then, when I got home and was organizing my studio (it looked like a sheep had sneezed, what with all the fleece scattered about...) I found a couple of balls of yarn that I had picked out awhile ago and never gotten around to making up. So, I just had to spend the first part of the week playing on the triloom!

My daughter agreed to model again for me today, so I could get some shots of it for the Etsy shop. She just graduated from high school, and will be going off to college in the fall. Hmm...I'm going to have to figure out something else to do for a shawl model come fall.

I love the way these colors worked with each other. Maybe it is time to visit the yarn store, to go see how some other skeins look together.

(First photo by Christi Martin.)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Tutorial: Hair Sticks

I was making a batch of hair sticks today, and it occurred to me that I should take some pictures and show you all what I was doing.

hard wood dowel rod
small screw eyes
head pins
split rings

pencil sharpener
sand paper
round nose pliers
flat nose pliers
split ring pliers
wire cutters

Here's a shot of the different pliers, in case you're unfamiliar with them. From the top, and going clockwise: round nose pliers, split ring pliers, awl, flat nose pliers, wire cutters.

Start with hard wood dowel rods from the hardware store.

Cut the rod to 5" pieces, and run the ends through the pencil sharpener.

Sand the sticks down smooth, and round out the point.

Like this. If you want to, you can stain and varnish the sticks at this point, but I kind of like the bare wood.

Use your awl to poke a starter hole in the center of the flat end of the stick.

Screw your screw eye into the hole.

It will look like this. You can put a drop of glue in if you choose.

Now, the fun part. Assemble your dangles. Have fun playing with different textures and color combinations.

Snip the end off of a head pin. Using your round nose pliers, make a loop in the end of the head pin.

Add your bottom dangle to that loop, and wrap the tail of wire around.

Add a bead, then make a loop in the top. Add your split ring to that loop, and wrap the tail around again. My finished dangles look like this, though you can experiment with other configurations.

Using your split ring pliers, open the split ring and put it on to the screw eye at the top of your hair stick.

Here's my finished batch of hair sticks! They work great. I have a pair I made awhile ago, and used them to hold my hair up in a bun and out of my face for my entire camping trip this past weekend. I'd put my hair up in the morning, take it down at night, and never worry about it in the meanwhile.

(EDIT: I put this batch of hair jewelry up in my Etsy shop, at . So if you don't want to make your own, you can have one of these instead.)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Griffin DyeWorks Fiber Retreat '10

The Griffin DyeWorks Fiber Retreat (, as seen through the hands of the participants...

(The rest of the pictures can be found here: