Thursday, October 29, 2009

Shibori Felting Techniques

So as promised I'm sharing the method I use to create the textured lace scarves I make.

You need to start with fabric made with animal fibers. No acrylic and no superwash wool. Keep in mind that it will shrink. I knit my own blanks for felting, but you could use this technique on second hand sweaters or cloth so long as it is all wool. If you are knitting, I recommend Patons Classic Wool or Lambs Pride.

Next you will need some objects to create the texture. I used hazelnuts for this, but I've added some other weird stuff I sometimes use. You will also need rubber bands to secure the items in place.

Stretch the fabric over the object tightly and secure with a rubber band. Repeat this creating whatever pattern tickles your fancy.

Once you have created your pattern its off to the washing machine. Place the object in the wash. I recommend adding some other clothing to help agitation. Keep in mind that fibers will be coming off the fabric so choose wisely. Next set your water to hot and agitation to high and start the machine. Stop the machine and check the item every so often to see if it has felted to your desired stiffness. When it's done drain the machine.

Leave the nuts (or whatever you use) in the fabric for at least 12 hours until it has dried. This will create the maximum texture. After drying, remove et voila Shibori felt.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

What a Week I made the top 10

This is a picture of my cat hat featured in the window display of Lava 9 in Berkeley. I stopped by to take a photo and drop off new tags for the items. The sales lady informed me that my gray cat hat had sold the very first day it was in the store. I had to replace the tags because the original ones had my etsy shop. I didn't want to undermine their sales as my etsy items are lower priced.

Well apparently I was too late, I got a convo on Etsy from someone who saw one of my hats and wanted me to make it for her for my etsy price. I haven't replied. Is that bad karma for me if I do it?

I drove by the store yesterday and the cat hat was gone replaced by my frog. I guess they sold that one too.

So I'm totally riding that adrenalyn rush when I discover my gingko hat is #9 on Timothy Adam's top 10 list. That's just crazy. He has over 95,000 people following him on twitter and 1,600 fans on his blog.

He hasn't posted it on his blog yet but it went out over twitter.

Here's the twitter page

It should eventually be here

OMG better get knitting.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Good Neighbor ups the Ante

This morning as I was leaving to run an errand I found the above on my doorstep.

It's a goody delivery from my neighbor. It contains some Indian spices, chilis, apricots, her homemade tomato chutney and the recipe for the same.

So the background for this goody delivery is kind of funny. Our new neighbor bought the house next to us about two months ago. Prior to moving in she had some work done while the house was empty. Every day about an hour after the workmen would leave, an alarm would go off in her house.

Since there was no one in the house to complain we wrote a note explaining that we weren't fussy but the alarm was kind of making us nutso. I left a jar of homemade jam as a gesture of goodwill. Since I made at least 40 jars this was no skin off my back.

The next afternoon, the painter came over to tell me that she had arranged to have the security system ripped out. Two days later there was a bottle of wine and a kind note on my doorstep.

After she moved, in I asked her if she wanted any tomatoes. We have so many they are literally rotting on the vine. She looked estatic. So I've been leaving deliveries on her doorstep. Since leaving the tomatoes, I've found homemade bread, and other goodies on my doorstep.

Well today she upped the ante. Please note that we do not normally get the newspaper. (although that could be a one-time freebe from the Chronicle).

I'm kind of afraid to leave more tomatoes. She might just come over and make me breakfast in bed. Only kidding.

So the moral of the story here is that Karma does exist. I could have been bitchy in the note, but instead I included jam, and that has made all of the difference.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Felting 101

History of Felt:

Felt is the oldest known fabric. Wall hangings using felt appliqué were found in Turkey from 6,500 to 3,000 B.C. Lore claims that St. Clement, patron saint of hatmakers, discovered felt when as a wandering monk he put wool in his sandals. The resulting sweat and agitation from walking created felt. The historical use of felt is widespread.

What is felt and how does it happen

Felt is the textile created by the interlocking mesh of animal fibers. Wool and animal fibers have scales. (See the above photo of wool fiber taken with an electron microscope) These scales are shaped like barbs on a hook i.e. if rubbed in one direction it will catch. Heat and moisture cause the scales to open and interlock. Wool fibers contain keratin, which chemically bonds the fibers together when the material cools the scales close and the keratin chemically bonds the fibers together.

How to make felt.

If you have ever accidentally thrown a wool sweater in the washing machine only to find a shrunken facsimile come out you have some idea how this works. Technically, felting only refers to the meshing of FIBERS not fabric or yarn. The meshing of fabric or yarn is referred to as fulling. In either case, the principal is the same. In order to mesh wool you need 2 things, agitation and warm water. The use of a little bit of soap can quicken the process allowing the scales or barbs of the fiber to slide more easily across each other.

The easiest method for meshing the fibers is to start with wool fabric and use a washing machine. Top loaders are the best as you can stop the process at any time you feel the fabric is meshed enough. Simply load the fabric. I tend to add something else to the wash to increase the agitation. Keep in mind that fibers will be coming off the wool so don’t use anything you can’t get wool pills off. I usually use a pair of jeans. Add a small amount of detergent and run the load using hot water. Stop the cycle every so often to check the progress. When it’s shrunk enough take it out and allow it to completely dry. While it is still moist you do have the opportunity to add some shaping. For my hats, I place them over a bucket to create a head shape.

This is the basic technique. I will be adding more advanced felting techniques such as Shibori and needle felting in further posts.

Try it out. I swear it’s just like shrinky dinks.

Photo by Gerry Danilatos

Under Creative Commons license

This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License. In short: you are free to share and make derivative works of the file under the conditions that you appropriately attribute it, and that you distribute it only under a license identical to this one.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

How Breast Cancer Taught me to Knit

This started as an attempt to write a very academic how-to in series about felting it’s history and techniques. Maybe because it’s October and breast cancer awareness month, this kind of turned into my own story.

I think I first fell in love with felt when I was a child. My godmother was Austrian (thus the weird spelling of my name) and my parents regularly traveled to Austria and Germany. My dad obtained a boiled wool jacket in the black forest of Germany. I had never seen such a thing. It was obviously made of fiber but was thicker than leather. Water beaded on it and the wind just could not penetrate it. It had hand hewn silver buttons and I totally coveted that jacket through my teen aged years. I mourned the loss of that jacket but did not give it much thought until my 30’s.

At age 33 two weeks after taking the California Bar I was diagnosed with stage 2b breast cancer. With Chemo and hairloss impending I did what all crazy people do. I had a party and had my friends dye my hair blue. (my mom even bought the dye). At the party, my friend Eleanor presented me with a hat that she had knit. Since it was looking like I was going to have a lot of stressful time on my hands I asked her to teach me to knit.

Eleanor was a free-form knitter. There were no mistakes only cat toys. I had so little to do and so little energy, I began to pass time in rows, feeling proud that I had at least something to show for my time. Then I discovered my local yarn store Dharma Trading. This was my salvation. They offered free drop in knitting classes every day. The woman who ran the classes was known (behind her back) as the knitting nazi. She was very proper and I think I sent her into heart failure when I presented my half knit socks which were knit inside out. But who can be too angry with someone so obviously going through cancer so I got a pass. I did not go out much but I pretty much went to Dharma every day.

That Christmas my I presented my husband with the most god-awful misshapen sweater that I had to pry out of his hands this year to see if it would felt as I couldn’t stand looking at it.

Later, I saw an article in interweave knits for a felted purse. My skills (which weren’t much at that time) were up to the task. I tried it and I was hooked. I practically shivered in anticipation by the washing machine as my ludicrously large sack of cloth was magically transformed a la shrinky dink into a dense beautiful bowl.

Well that’s how it started and next post will be the actual how felt works and techniques post.

So if you know someone going through this. For sure knit them a cap, then ask them if they want to learn how to make one.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A messy situation the secret to clogged drains.

Yesterday night after dinner I discovered that my kitchen drain was clogged. Now granted it could possibly be the remnants of my greasy meal, but I was also concerned as I am a felter. If you have ever felted in a washing machine you will understand the amount of fiber that comes off wool. Normally when such things happen I rely on my husband. (I'm not much of fixer unless it involves duct tape). Unfortunately said husband is in Germany at the Frankfurt book fair.

So I do what any normal person would do and I buy some draino. I pour it down and wait and wait and wait. Being of the school that more is better, I decide to buy 2 more bottles of draino to add to the mix. When this fails to fix the problem. I call the landlord, who informs me that he would have used draino too but that I should leave it overnight and call a plumber in the morning. I'm a bit dismayed at the prospect of spending the night with toxic soup in my kitchen, but understand that emergency plumbers do not come cheap.

After waking, I peer into the kitchen to find toxic soup still there. So I call the plumber my landlord told me to call. The plumber calls me back 2 hours later. He does not speak English very well but I think he gets the gyst of the problem. He asks when I would like him come. I say now. He says he cannot because it is raining. "I'm sorry because it's raining??" I say. "Yes, the trap to your sink is outside and it is raining. I'll call you back when it stops raining."

Ok I'm not a plumber and don't want to insult any of you plumbers out there, but don't they have to deal with things much worse than rain. Like poop for example. Granted we are having quite a rainstorm right now but really???

At this point, I take matters into my own hands and go on-line to discover the mysteries of drain clogs. After a quick trip to the hardware store for a plunger I boil water. After pouring the water into the sink I very carefully (remember this is draino here) start plunging. Well that managed to get the toxic soup out of the sink, but the drain still clogged.

Ok here is the cool part/secret ingredient. Remember when you made volcanoes as science projects..... Yes the secret ingredient is baking soda which I funnel down the drain. I then add vinegar and put the plunger over so the pressure goes down not up. Add hot water et voila.

Who needs plumbers (Ok I may live to regret that last line.)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Weird Wonderful and Just plain bizarre fiber creations

I was inspired to share this collection by my fellow Etsy D-listers. I shared an incident in which I had been felting in the washing machine and suddenly a huge fiber poop came shooting out of the drain. My teammates suggested that there might in fact be a market for this kind of thing. Well I don’t know if anyone is buying, but people certainly are creating strange and amazing things.

Ok first photo was the inspiration for the blog post. Honestly, I don’t know who made it or I would definitely give credit where credit is due (or doo-doo).

The second image is part of an entire series of knitted superheros. Here we see Argyleman. These were done by Mark Newport. He had a show at the Greg Kucera gallery. To see more check out

The third and fourth creations are by Janet Morton. Tree Cozy anyone? Also you have to appreciate the time it took to make an entire living room.

And finally in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month knit tits. There’s a special place in my heart for these. I am a breast cancer survivor but fortunately, managed to keep my breast. You should really read the article it’s pretty touching. It appeared in Knitty fall 2005 She actually wore these instead of prothesis. The pattern is also contained there if you are interested in making and donating to a local organization that helps breast cancer survivors.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Swiss Cheese

I was asked on the Etsy D-lister board if I could make felted food as a toy. Unfortunately, this is not my forte, although it did give me ideas for next year. So as I'm chugging along working on some scarves I thought about making a swiss cheese scarf. The beauty of felted knitting is that you can cut into it and it doesn't unravel. So here is a sneak peek into my first stab at felted food. (It still needs to be trimmed before being posted) .

Should I market this to Wisconsonites? Don't they wear cheese heads for football games? I'm not much of a sports fan I admit.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

New technology meets old

I've been thinking about creating a new line of lower priced items for my etsy shop. I am so excited I just finished my first iphone cozy. Ok I know this dates me, or maybe it dates you if you don't know that this is a rotary phone dial. I really like the irony of keeping a cell phone in a handmade pouch with the old rotary phone decoration. This is the first item I've made using old sweaters that I felted and then hand sew. I hope to make more.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Meeting our new mannequin or how I found Zelda.

After a number of critiques of my etsy shop, I decided I needed to up my game with the photos. Many had suggested I find a model. Since I pretty much work alone and didn't want to show my pudgy figure in a photo I decided to either buy or create a mannequin.

I searched online under how-to make dress forms and was pretty put off. One suggested duct taping oneself, peeling it off and putting it back together. Another involved paper mache. While I am not opposed to these necessarily, what I really wanted was a model not a perfect replica of myself to make a dress from. Besides I had to wonder about the duct tape thing.

Next I checked on craigslist. et voila, a one day sale of slightly damaged mannequins. Torsos going for $25. The place was called mannequin madness, they were located in Oakland and would be open from 1-2pm. When I showed up the door was locked so I called the number on the ad. A man answered and let me in through an old warehouse to a back room. Inside...well, I'll let the photos show you. I found one that was not too crooked. Her left breast was a little dirty, but hey, my left breast is a little crooked too from breast cancer. I took her home and named her Zelda. Here she is. I hope she can help me sell my stuff.