How Time Flies

20161104_114532_hdr-2I can’t believe how quickly fall went for me. And the holidays passed me right up. I didn’t get to finish as many projects as I would have liked to, but people know my schedule and tend to be pretty understanding. I think they also know how much time goes into each project, and the fact that December is the busy month for us dog groomers. Many give me plenty of time for their holiday gifts. Luckily, I don’t have anything too Christmas specific, so they can enjoy their gifts all year long.  I also had to take some time out to celebrate my baseball team finally winning the world series.  My husband may be a south sider, but that won’t stop me from celebrating!

14435342_10102735310762708_3590693832855680938_oSo after my last post, I had a few things happen.  I made a cat for my friend.  The cat has glow in the dark eyes and a pipe cleaner in the tail to allow it to be shaped.  I’m actually pretty proud of how it turned out.  I wanted to try a more cartoon figure rather than a more realistic animal.  Just to get some understanding on shapes.  I really struggle with getting the eyes the same size and shape.  I either had one that was more almond looking or one that was larger than the other.  I really need to practice making the same shape.  I’m hoping to purchase some tools to help me out with this in the future.  But for now, I have to rely on making my tracing patterns a bit more consistent.

15016256_10102849730823988_1661818890046258543_oAfter Halloween, I had to take some time to prep my poodles and westie for competition.  Took home some more medals, and I got to take home some mohair.  They had kind of a petting zoo there, and I was talking to lady about the Huacaya Alpaca she had.  When I did the alpaca days near my father’s farm, they only had Suri Alpaca, but I wanted to touch, what I call the poodle alpaca type.  She mentioned she had two over grown goats that I could shave so,  I had the luxury of shaving two angora goats and they allowed me to keep the fiber.  They were barely a year in age, so the fiber is extremely fine.  

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I have never worked with mohair before, so I asked around as to how I can work it and I got a lot of mixed reviews.  Some say they use it with felting, and others say it won’t felt.  It smelled, clearly, like a farm, so I kind of kept it outside.  It’s pretty chilly her in Chicago for November, so it didn’t seem like it would harm anything.  They were double wrapped in bags and in my screened porch, so it ended up working for me.  It also gave me time to research how to clean the fiber, and what I would need to finish the process.

img_20161115_172311I was lucky enough to have found a really good deal on a drum carder a couple weeks later, and I snatched that up, as soon as I was able.  So on an unscheduled day off, I decided to try and clean the fiber.  I skirted outside, it smelled really bad, and pulled out all the gross parts that were stained from the fiber being so matted around the potty areas.  Once those areas were gone, I grabbed one of our 5 gallon buckets from all the construction in my house and boiled up some water on the kettle.  I have, literally, zero kitchen, so that is the only way I can really get really hot water.  The tub facet water is warm, but I can stand under it on it’s hottest setting and with the fiber being so gross, I thought I might need a little extra heat.  So I did 1/4 hot tap water and a 1/4 kettle boiled water leaving the bucket only half full.  This left enough room for me to add the entirety of the pelt to be put in for cleaning.  One goat had a finer feel than the other, so I didn’t want them getting mixed together.

img_20161116_101920After I was done cleaning, I needed some space to allow this fiber to dry.  I don’t really have a set up (yet), so I kind of used some of our shelving that was pulled during construction to make some drying racks.  It actually worked quite well.  At this point, I remember thinking, ‘this isn’t very much fiber, what will I do with it?’  Until I got to the drum carder and started carding the fiber, did I realize that I actually had a lot of wool.  I’m still not done carding all this wool, and that is with the help of an extra pair of hands to kind of pick the wool while I took pieces to put on the drum.

drum-carderThe carding process was definitely a process to kind of figure out.  My mother and I, who were both curious about the whole process, kind of just threw it onto the feeder and let the drum do it’s thing, but it was tough to turn and I was loosing a lot of fiber on the first wheel, and I also learn it’s a pain to get it off.  So I researched and found that with a finer fiber, it’s easier to self feed onto the main drum, and then take it off when the drum fills.  Then run it through again through the whole process.  That helped a lot.  And with that, I got my first batt of mohair.

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I still haven’t used it for anything.  I’m deciding if I should wait to learn how to spin and use it for that, or if it will wet felt and I can use it for the inside lining of some cozy slippers.  I’m also wondering what the adventure of dying fiber is, but I kind of need to wait for a kitchen before I can do that.  Because you know, you kind of need a way to keep the water heated.  So I just keep it stored, and when I have down time, I card away.  I have a feeling, I’m going to be carding for a while.  I’m also going to see if my handy brother-in-law can make an electric carder, as I have a bad shoulder, and while it doesn’t seem like it would cause much problem, it does add up.  Did I mention he is also very handy?  He redid all our electrical for our up and coming kitchen, so I’m sure he has some brilliant ideas to turn it into an electric drum carder.

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I also tried to make a more realistic dog.  I thought I would try a breed that I’m not as comfortable with, so I tested out my corridale fiber on a westie.  I’m still working on perfecting the breed, so I thought I would see what I’m struggling with to get an idea.  I also didn’t want to jump into a poodle right away because they are mostly just hair, and I’m struggling with duplicating pieces, so I thought I would see what it would be like to add ears with a head full of hair.  I’m still not satisfied with the ears, but over all, I think it turned out nice for my first one.

Not that I’m entering my slow month, I have a list of projects I would like to start and ones I need to finish.  I’m trying out some wet felting.  I’m really interested in making some slippers.  We have had a pretty mild winter, but January always blast us with some intense temperatures, so I think some slippers will be nice.  I also started making my mother a purse, or laptop bag, and I need to finish.  Just needed some more colors to be able to finish up the strap.

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For Christmas, everyone was wondering what they should get me.  I just told them keep in small, I really don’t like the idea of people having to spend money on me.  Especially those I know that could use it towards their kids or have tight budgets.  But being able to buy a bit of wool and still keeping the price down was perfect this Christmas.  I knew they weren’t spending a ridiculous amount on me, and they still felt happy to send a gift.  So my color collection has grown, and it will allow me to give back to them through creation.  I like the idea of making gifts for people anyways.  I really comes from the heart.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas holiday and I am excited to ring in the new year with some time to sit down and felt!

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Working Armature

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fuzzy sticks and jewelry wire cutters

I’m trying my first attempt at building the base to my first dog sculpture with armature in it. I got 18 gauge wire from Living Felt, when I made my order, knowing that I would need this for what I wanted to do. I did have to make a run to Wal-mart to pick up, what I call pipe cleaners, and everyone else is now referring to them as fuzzy sticks. So now that the label says “fuzzy Sticks,” that’s how I will refer to them. I just thought I should clarify in case you didn’t know if their name change or if you didn’t know what they were called before of their name change.

A youtube video (she talks about the build of an armature at about 6:20) had told me to twist my wire, so that’s what I did. It turns out, it really hurt my fingers and I had a really hard time twisting. When we made our next late night trip to Wal-mart, I went back into the jewelry section and picked up the last of the fuzzy sticks (you can never have too many right?) and a wire cutter. This has helped me twist my wire so much better. It gives me a better grip and I can twist evenly all the way down. It also allows me to cut wire, which is more important than I thought.

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Once I got the armature to where I wanted it, and that includes making sure it stood on all four legs properly, I covered the armature with fuzzy sticks (pipe cleaners).  And once that was all covered, I rechecked to make sure it was still on all four legs, and then started to twist the wool around the wire.  I should remind you, work your needles at 45 degree angles, as to not jab into the wire.  I have yet to break a needle using this method.

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With this being my first one, I added slowly.  I will be adding coat all around, except for the poodles clean feet, but I still want to make sure I capture the true shape of the legs.  I’m also curious as to how I’m going to go about the face, feet, and tail.  The face and feet have no fur, as poodles have clean faces and feet, but the tail has just a tiny bit of hair, if I do the German Trim.  I think I would like to try and trim that I don’t typically get to practice on.  On the other hand, I was thinking I might need to stick with a trim that I know, as I work through the unfamiliar media.  I can’t image trimming wool would be too different from trimming a poodle, but it would be easier to work with a trim I know rather then learn how to work these felted dogs, and a new hair cut.  But we’ll see how brave I get, once I get to adding the coat in.

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I’m really not sure what type of wool I should use to get to my goal.  I  asked Living Felt what they recommended the kind of wool I should use for the coat, when I get there. They happily responded back to help, and I am so grateful for their kind recommendations.  I will share what Marie had sent back to me.

Wow, this is awesome. For the body,. of course I think you are safe with core wool and batting, it will compact nicely and smoothly. For the long fibers, experiment with: NZ Corriedale, Merino Top (though this is very fine and sometimes wants to lay on itself), and other fibers with a staple length of 3″ or longer. We also have organic POLWARTH, and other fibers like SHETLAND, JACOB and Lincoln (not all come in white tho). It is best to get small amounts to start and experiment. Plus save back a small sample from each purchase noting where you bought it, what it was called, what it cost and the name of the color. I hope that helps!

So I will be making an order, as soon as I get a little closer.  I really would like to do my research before I invest a good amount of money, and I’m definitely going to make a small order of probably a few ounces of each and play with them on a test subject.  That way I get it right on my sculpture.  I’ve also been looking into some books.  But most of them I can not get at my local bookstores, so it looks like I might be making an order on amazon.  The more research I have behind me, the better.

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A photo from my first place win, you can get an idea of what a German trim looks like.  You can slightly see his shaved spot from surgery.