Sunday, March 29, 2015

Real Handmade - Food for Thought

Ideas: bursting the maker bubble (part 1)

This thought provoking article if from HANDFUL OF SALT, an online magazine that highlights the best of the best of handmade design out of Berkeley (a bit too high-brow) and this is the first time they've covered an issue that does anything BUT promote quality handmade.  For those of us who create to sell, it's an issue that we have to deal with on a daily basis.  When is too much too much?  When do trends eat away at the original goal of good handmade products which is to feed the creativity of the person who makes it as much as the person who appreciates it and buys it?  

As I have said many times before, I do believe that Etsy is part of the oversaturation problem and have had enough experience with the site to question their motives.  By letting millions of sellers label commercially produced junk as "handmade" has not only eaten away at prices and values, it has forever damaged the reputation of real handmade.  As Etsy prepares to go public in a couple of weeks, their huge and unrelenting negative influence on handmade will, woefully, continue.  Etsy is not about true handmade.  It's about becoming such a commercial behemoth that they thought it was perfectly logical to turn it into a mini-Google and make sellers pay-per-click for "advertising on the site" or their listings would no longer be seen by its visitors.  Sellers are now paying huge sums for "promotions" with no proof that all this excess spending converts to real sales.  (That info is not provided.)  Those unwilling or unable to afford to play that expensive ad game are knocked out of the traffic flow and what might have once been a viable online venue to selling real handmade has turned into an unrelenting assault on the long-lived reputation of good, quality, lovingly made true handmade.  (50% of the sellers I buy essential supplies from on Etsy have left the site in 2014 & 2015.)The world is not about advertising 24/7 and turning everything including handmade into an ad-revenue generating commodity....especially real, shame on you Etsy.  

By Regina Connell at HANDFUL OF SALT
We’ve been at this for a few years now, covering indie makers, talking about issues in the space, and exploring what it means to be a maker. And it was heady for a while, covering all these awesome artisans/craftspeople/entrepreneurs, especially when the rest of the world was starting to cover them too.
Renegade Craft Fair, Via
Renegade Craft Fair, Via
Soon, even conglomerate-funded fashion and lifestyle brands (hello Gucci, fancy seeing you here, Hermes) looking to align themselves with “authentic” and “soulful” started telling “maker” stories, talking up the (quite valid) traditional artisanal qualities of their work. Makers even became advertising mascots for Chrysler and Budweiser. Soft-focus videos of artisans bent over their workbenches (which we love) proliferated. A sudden discovery of “process” and “materials” transpired.
Soulful videos Made by Hand
Soulful videos Made by Hand
Almost weekly, it seems there are Renegade fairs, Unique fairs, and local versions of the above. Traditional retail chains like Williams Sonoma started having farmers markets in their stores and just recently, Target came out with a “locally crafted” collection of goods for men called Target Collective.
Well, if that’s not the best sign of the death of the maker trend, I don’t know what is.  Even from my daily perch in San Francisco’s Mission – a bastion of maker-loving, Tom’s wearing, bearded, precious hipsterliciousness – I’ve been seeing and hearing it. And “God, I hate hipsters” is a phrase I hear more and more often.
If you’re reading this, you’re likely to have more than a passing interest in craft and making and all that jazz. So let’s look at this industry of craft, and figure out what’s happening. Because in understanding what happened, we may see what needs to happen next, for this maker movement – which I dearly love and believe in – to thrive.
Start with the demand side. The first thing is that lubricant of all trends: money. The economy was bottoming out in 2009 and has been heating up ever since. Then there’s the continuing growth of traditional and lifestyle tech (all those apps), located near to the maker centers of San Francisco and Brooklyn. All that money has to go somewhere. The fact that all these tech geeks (and those in geek culture) could embrace things by their fellow geeks in craft was kind of perfect. And of course, this love affair was consummated at the Maker Faire.
The 2009 recession did what all good recessions have done before: it made it cool to question the big systems, to get countercultural, to eschew “mass” anything.  The whole maker movement was perfect for this. The rise of all those maker platforms like etsy, and all those “curated marketplaces” (yes, we went that route too) made it easy.
Another cause is our perennial search for difference and change.  In 2009 till perhaps early last year, craft and makerishness felt different and new. It’s easy to decry consumers’ love of all things new, and blame it all on media, but this urge for change is hardwired in most humans. Media just fuels the fire.
The maker movement provided both a fresh breath of air, but also a steady stream of “new”: every year, there were new crafted brews and food; new ways to think about cutting boards (function? art?); and of course, all things decorative.
And finally, there was a new romanticism that fueled the rise of the supply side of the equation, providing us with a steady influx of new makers. In America, we love the little guy. Each of us wants to be entrepreneurs, run our own shop, live according to our own values. Idealism met opportunity: the recession meant that all these reasonably well educated, savvy middle class people were out on the street (or never employed in the first case). They read the articles about investment bankers – turned craft beer producer –started making, began using etsy and putting up stalls at Renegade, and voila they became makers.
Of course, what feeds the bubble is also what kills it.
Let’s start with the broader market again. Much as I hate to admit it, it’s true: there’s a natural limit to the number of people want the home-made look, or who really shape their preferences based on where something is made, how something is made, or who made it.  If these types ever bought into the maker movement and bought some handmade things, they probably did so only because it was trendy. During the height of the boom, notions of quality and connoisseurship only nominally seemed to be at the top of the list: it was likely all about looks, good marketing, a clever back story and some luck in the PR department.
Then there is the nature of the maker “product” itself. I’ve opined before about the quality issue: a lot of it isn’t well designed or thought through and just doesn’t last. It’s not surprising when many of the makers hadn’t exactly spent 10,000 hours in learning their skill and trade.
The later years of the maker era brought forth endless appropriation. Buyers who’d gravitated toward the whole “making thing” because they wanted to look individual and unique suddenly found themselves surrounded by a veritable ocean of triangular necklaces, rough-hewn live edge tables, waxed canvas, and wabi sabi pottery.
Doug Johnston
Doug Johnston
Finally, there are now well-known “maker brands” that are becoming pretty ubiquitous in the kinds of stores that carry them. Think Joshu and Vela, Doug Johnston, Iacoli and McAllister, Ladies and Gentlemen, Joe Cariati, David Trubridge, Rae Dunn, and so many more. There is nothing wrong with these “brands”: their products are great, their design is solid, and they clearly have the ability to create and deliver on a consistent and professional basis to their retailers. These are mature, serious makers and they deserve to thrive. But clearly, a consolidation is going on.
Glide Chair by David Trubridge
Glide Chair by David Trubridge
So what’s going to happen? Is the maker market – and thus much of the movement – going away? Are we all going to return to the world of mass manufacturing, not caring about how things are made or who makes them? Will there no longer be any more soulful maker videos?
Stay tuned. All will be revealed in the next part of this series.

Nuno Felting When the Air is Very Dry - tips & tricks

Many of you may live in places where the air is very dry which makes nuno felting more of a challenge.  I moved from a humid and cool town to one that is almost as hot and dry as the desert and it has been one hassle after another, one problem after another.  Static, sticking, fly-away fibers, you name it, it happens with every single project.

My recurring problems are listed below with solutions to each.
1.  My plastic sheet sticks to the wet, soapy fibers when I try to pull it up to make changes, adjustements, or complete the Wrapped Edge.
1.  Solutions:  I am now adding a lot more soapy water to my projects straight off - not so it's leaking out the sides of the fabric, but much wetter than I used to.
I also lift of the plastic very slowly starting at one edge and coax the edge fibers off the plastic as I pull.
A lot of the sticking is due to the buildup of static which is a chronic problem in very dry air conditions.

2.  When I use my sander (after completing the Rubbing Stage) directly on the fibers, they start to dry out and LIFT OFF the fabric.
2.  Solutions:  See the photo above.  I now use a spare piece of solar pool cover, bubbles down, to sand my project first perpendicular and then vertical on BOTH SIDES; it makes the fibers adhere better.  I then SAND ON TOP OF THE FIBERS once (2-3 times more on Paj Silk) on each side.
For areas of fibers that have DRIED OUT and started to pull away from the fabric, I wet them down again generously with soapy water (using my Weed Sprayer makes this so easy) and then place the piece of solar pool cover over the newly-wet areas and sand on top of them for a minute or two, check to see everything is sticking, and then sand direct on those fibers again.  (If needed, I also use the large Palm Washboard on top of the microfiber sheet that comes with it on this troublesome areas.)
If you have placed a towel under your project while sanding, all that extra water will be absorbed so there is nothing to worry about.
RE-WET your project as often as you need to ------ dry air means that some areas will just be finicky.

Please note that I have adjusted my technique to deal with the constant physical strain of working on several projects on the same day.  I have cut the Rubbing Stage in half, use the Palm Washboard on top of my plastic, and have doubled the time I spend on Sanding.  I have also doubled the number of Throws to get to the final nuno felted stage.  (When you Throw, the Shrinking Process continues, that's how important it is.)

My 100% merino rovings are also very finicky in the dry air, especially when they are fresh, fluffy and new.
In order the tame the fibers as I pull them off, I divide up the roving into much thinner "ropes" and constantly run my hands over the rope to keep it intact in between pulls. 

It takes a little longer but it does work.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Buying your first Sander? See the new safety tips for 2015 models


This is a great question from a blog reader - if you are buying a sander for the first time or replacing your worn-out model, please be aware that most NEW sanders come with a "pipe at the back" right underneath the handle where you attach a "bag to collect the dust from sanding."  (In fact, it's hard to find a portable sander without it.)

Starting in 2014 most tool makers stopped making 1/3rd sheet sanders (the perfect size for us) and are only making small 1/4 sheet sanders (usually labelled PALM) with this pesky  dust-collector attachment.

No fear  --- you CAN USE THESE SANDERS without a problem, just NEVER ATTACH a bag to them.  NEVER.

The "vacuum suction" through the holes in the plate of the sander WILL NOT WORK or suck in any water if you DO NOT ATTACH a bag.  The suction only works if you attach a bag.

The only problem you will have with this kind of sander is when you press it on your wet nuno felted fibers.  It will often leave a "impression of a hole" but that has no impact whatsoever on what a SANDER CAN DO FOR YOU.  (Any impressions left by the sander plate will disappear during Throwing and Agitation.)

"DO I NEED TO COVER THE HOLES IN THE SANDER PLATE?"  No, you don't need to.  Don't attach any collection bag and there is NO SUCTION.  

10 years ago when felters discovered that sanders were sent from heaven most sanders had metal plates.  NEW SANDERS HAVE DENSE PLASTIC PLATES.  (It used to be that we were told to glue a thick smooth plastic cut to size for old-metal-plate sanders but I would NEVER EVER USE A SANDER WITH A METAL PLATE.)

Faster Nuno Felting Techniques - 2 BOOKS by Nunofeltdesigns

Create better, more intricate nuno felt faster!

TOPICS include:
Part 1: How to use the new tools including the Palm Washboard, Edge Tool, Felting Stone & Felting Mat
Part 2: Tumbler Dryer Method & Shelf Liner Shortcuts, Rolling Machines - what they do, where to buy
Part 3: Importance of Color in Nuno Felting including How to Work with White, Using Non-Wool Fibers, Using Cotton Base Fabrics, Prefelts & Batts, & What went wrong - my fibers fell off?!
Part 4: How to make an Infinity Loop, add Ruffles to your designs on the edges and inside, make Felt Lace, the Two Layer Technique, Mosaic Nuno Felt, add how to quickly make and add Prefelt Swirls as a design element
Part 5: List of sources for supplies including fibers, tools and fabric


Kindle COVER
Kindle Digital Edition*:

PRINT Edition on***:
*NOTE: The Kindle digital edition is readable on all Apple and Android devices including tablets and smartphones using free Kindle Reader software.


NFT&T has hundreds of secrets and tips for how to nuno felt better and faster using the newest and latest techniques and tools. It's so popular that it's now available in several bookstores and public libraries in the US and UK. Available in print and digital editions.

Best Silks for nuno felting with a list of types and weights
Cottons for nuno felting
How to dye your own fabrics with RIT and DYLON powdered dyes
Non-wool fibers and nuno felting
Using a microwave
Using a portable electric sander; detailed directions
How to "water" your nuno felt
Soaps for nuno felting
Learn how to make great EDGES and ENDS
Make "ROVING YARN" to create outlines & designs
What to look for when buying custom-dyed/mixed fibers online
Best throwing technique
Using the "ALL COLD WATER" method
Fix a "mistake" with needle felting
plus many, many more!
or you can buy it from my online store at a discounted price


Thursday, March 26, 2015

Same Fibers, Variations - Layering Color

The greatest advantage of nuno felting on fabric is that you can achieve incredible color-depth based on the choices you make for the color of your base fabric and then for the colors of your fibers.

As you all know I am a big fan of handpainted merino rovings because they make choosing colors so easy but they also reveal color combos that work well but I never would have tried on my own. Today I often mix and match solid merino colors based on what I've learned using high quality handpainted roving.

This is a red-combo that I bought during the holiday rush but ran out of time to use.  It now makes me think of spring rose gardens and those lovely, ethereal cosmos (both big obsessions here in Petaluma house gardens) from Woolgatherings on Etsy:
The loop on the left was nuno felted on dark terra cotta and the one on the right on scarlet red.  It's the deep dark colors of the base silk gauze (4.5m) that makes all the difference!  For each loop I also added a solid merino in terra cotta on the left and ruby red on the right to pump up the color-volume.
2 different looks

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

For Better Drape Results Stretch and Shape Your Nuno Felt - see special note about LOOPS

Finishing up your nuno felting projects to make them the best they can be takes a few minutes using tips & tricks from several sources. If you don't have access to workshops, check out the felting supply sites that have how-to sections because they often have information to help you improve your techniques & skills.
One of my latest sources for great finishing techniques is Treetops Colors Harmonies (Australia)( and their Felting Tips section including this gem:
"Always stretch your work in the fulling stage. Inbetween tossing pull the piece in all directions trying to stretch it back to size. This will give the felt better drape and encourages the fulling process."
If you haven't been including this step you will see a real difference once you do it on a regular basis (please see note about LOOPS and stretching at the end of this post.###)
If you're making a wearable like a scarf, wrap or garment the final "drape" of the nuno felted fabric is important because it looks better, wears better and shows off the special and unique qualities of this fascinating fiber art.
All of this is done after you throw & agitate your nuno felted fabric:
1. Throw your fabric at least 25 times on a textured surface on one side, open it up, fold it up again with the other side exposed, throw another 25 times
2. Straighten out and flatten your fabric and pull out all the edges and ends
3. Dunk in soapy water so it's completely soaked through
(a) use cold water if you are using the All Cold Water Method***
(b) use warm to very hot water if you are using the heat-it-up method (which I rarely use anymore)
4. Toss your very wet fabric back on the textured surface, press down and rub it in all 4 directions (top, bottom, left, right) - this is known as Agitation
5. Pick up the fabric and pull it gently in one direction all along the length, then gently pull all along the width (this is STRETCHING) (see ### below)
It makes a huge difference! It even makes your ruffles "more ruffle-y."
There are times when you don't want to stretch your fabric and I learned the hard way that if you add embellishments under and/or over your fibers when you create your designs, you might "dislodge" these elements if you stretch it during the final stages.
For example, if you have added commercial or handmade yarn under or over your dry fiber layout that yarn is never as flexible as your loose fibers ----- if you stretch it, you may pull the yarn right off the fibers and fabric you worked so hard to felt into your fabric base. (I've made this mistake a lot more than once, yikes!)
Another way to think about it - if your embellishment(s) doesn't have a lot of textural "give" and flexibility it's not going to be flexible during stretching.
***Throwing, Agitation and the All Cold Water Method are covered in detail in Nuno Felting Tips & Tricks - Second Edition. These are all basic techniques you can adapt to fit your own skill level; you may not use them for every project but the more you nuno felt, the better you learn what works best for your creative process.
###LOOPS and stretching-------since I make hundreds of loops every year I learned that it is BEST TO ONLY STRETCH THE FINISHED LOOP ALONG THE LENGTH and NOT along the width; by pulling on the width, it makes the loop "ruffle up unevenly" and it never sits right once you loop it twice or more around your neckline.  

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Opulent Fibers' Inspiration for a Colorful Spring


Spring in Portland Inspires Creation...

Learn the simple steps for blending your own colors and let your creativity bloom!

With so many colors visible to the eye, how can one paint without first knowing the formula for mixing colors, tints and shades? This workshop is geared for artists (and the color obsessed) and designed to expand your individuality, reduce inventory and overhead, and give you color confidence.

As seasons and styles change, the color boards created in class will guide you to...
Match the palette of the runway, discover patterns and new color relationships, and pair fiber and fabrics with ease.

Multiple dates available. Learn more.

Workshops are updated on the website and the Spring calendar is getting full!
I look forward to exploring fiber, felt and color with you in the new studio.

Below- Photos from my trip to the Woodburn Tulip Festival this past weekend. Festival runs through April.
The glorious flowers inspired me to felt a tulip miniature, pictured top left, working with techniques from the solid-form sculpture class and matching the colors of the flowers to my handy-dandy color palette.

Monday, March 23, 2015

ADDING FRINGE PART 2 - (see post below for PART 1)

Adding fringe with yarn sounds easier than it looks.

I've added lots of yarn to my nuno felt scarves but found that it was so time consuming that I wouldn't attempt it again - until now when fringe seems to be making a comeback (let's hope it's a brief one).

Felted fringe takes even more work and since I'm not a "natural" at it, the most I can do is sigh and oooh and aaah at FeltedPleasure's talent for making the most gorgeous felted fringe (most of which end in a leaf shape) I have ever seen.  No one I know can match it.

I found an incredible handpainted, handspun merino yarn in all the right Fall colors at Dharma Trading's store in San Rafael a couple of months ago.  Expensive but I just had to have it.  My plan was to add it underneath the fibers to add substance and body to my designs and knew it would work for fringe.  It was really the yarn that made me do it!

If you add yarn and want to minimize the amount of extra work, use 100% wool; it will felt better, stick better and end in better fringe.

You are always going to have these problems with wool yarn:
1.  it will shift and move around when you wet down
2.  it often does not stay in a straight line - see below

Lay out your fabric and lay out a very thin "underlayer" of your fibers in the spots you are going to lay down your wool yarn (here it's along the entire length) and place the wool yarn ON TOP of this underlayer.

Cover with screen, wet down, press, remove excess water (with an old towel) and remove screens.

LOOK AT YOUR ROWS OF YARN TO SEE IF THEY ARE STRAIGHT - they will not be perfect -- use your fingers to coax wonky areas back into line.

DO NOT PULL the yarn to straighten it --------- because if you do, it will shrink at a different rate than your fibers and PULL AWAY FROM your fabric while you complete the finishing steps.  See more about this below.

Just try your best to straighten it out without pulling.

PLACE THE REST of your fibers on top of the yarn and repeat screens on, wet down.  Cover with plastic, move on to the Rubbing Stage.

Don't use a Palm Washboard since it will DISLODGE your rows of yarn.  This is a Rubbing Stage that has to be done by hand.  Use a very light touch for the first 5-8 minutes to make sure you have firmly pressed the fibers into and around your rows of yarn ---- they should then stay in place for the rest of the Rubbing Stage process.

FRINGE ENDS - pay special attention
The wool fringe/yarn will start to felt along with your project but you can help the felting process by using a sander on them when and if you do sanding.  (make sure the fringe is soapy wet)

Carefully check the fibers at the end of your fabric where the fringe "grows" and make sure they are securely nuno felted to the fabric (so your yarn stays straight).  If you need to do extra work to seal that area, use a sander or your hands.   It's important to make sure that the fringe does not pull the fibers away from the fabric--------be extra sure that everything is sealed.

Throw and agitate your finished project BUT NEVER STRETCH AND PULL IT to improve the final "drape" ---- if you pull it the yarn WILL COME OFF THE FABRIC and ruin it.  (I've made this mistake more than once.)

Once completely dry, check the fringe and snip off any scraggly threads at the tips.  You can tie knots into the ends, the tops (near the fabric) or add beads.  You need to see the final fringe before you can make a decision if it needs any further embellishment.  For example, if your fringe looks too "light" next to its nuno felted fabric, add beads or multiple knots so that it looks "balanced" --- you want to make it look like the fringe belongs.

SECRET:  The fringed scarf pictured here is nothing like it is in person -- this merino yarn is so exquisite that it "makes" the scarf into something enchanting that has a lovely soft and fascinating texture.   After using it, I would never settle for an inferior yarn.  (I keep a sample of this yarn in my purse so when I need to compare it for my next purchase, it will be my reference point.)

FRINGE PART 1- adding fringe to your nuno felt designs

Fringe in accessories and garments are the big deal this Fall Season and you can add this to your nuno felt projects - it does take extra work.  You also need, to make it look great at the end, to pay attention to it all through the process.
no thanks!
Fringe can look great or it can be a fiasco.  And it's an add-on that some women just don't like to wear.

I like it in very limited situations --- but it is THE LOOK in scarves for 2014.  And not just fringe; scarves are now as big as shawls and are wrapped backwards using the middle at the front of the neck with the 2 ends looped over the shoulder to the front.  That takes a lot of scarf and a lot of fabric.


wool yarn fringe

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Cuff Bracelet Workshop - Feltmakers North

Feltmakers North

Posted: 22 Mar 2015 12:53 AM PDT
Saturday's felt in was needle felting with Joanne Nordman, who is one of our talented members, it was a lovely relaxing morning. Joanne gave us good instruction on how to tackle a cuff style bracelet.
She advised us to use a needle holder than could take more than one needle to speed up the process! However Bronwen didn't have such a tool so she decided to do it with both hands!!

As usual our members made many variations, some adding in items from previous felt ins!
During the morning all eyes were down on the subject in hand, however it didn't stop the chat, which is an important part of the session!

Sadly Deirdre wasn't always her happy self, as she looked up during needle felting and paid the price! However she regained her composure and was able to continue!! Lol!
It was a great morning and we all really enjoyed being creative together under the guidance of Joanne.
Devise that holds more than one needle!
Keep checking the diary dates for what is happening over the next few months, so you don't miss out!
At the AGM for members only we are holding a UFO day when you bring along items that are unfinished or that haven't worked out the way you wanted and get advice from our panel on how to proceed. 
Our Second exhibition will be held in October at the Island Arts Centre, so we are hoping all the members will exhibit approximately four items. So that is a good goal to finish all the UFO or make that item you have had in your head to make and haven't got round too! The last exhibition was a big success and I am sure this one will be just as good if not better!!
Yes just take a closer look, very cute and I couldn't resist adding this photo to end the post! See you all soon, keep felting!
Fiona Harvey