Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Cast Away & Folk in Santa Rose CA - Railroad Square

This knitting shop has a lot of workshops and classes every month - I get asked all the time about where to learn how to needle felt and this is the place.  If you are near enough to get there for a workshop there are so many good ones to choose from.  They are located in the Railroad Square area which is just about the only area in downtown SR worth going to.  Parking is always a major problem so call ahead and get their recommendations about where to leave your car.

Nicola Brown's Tuscon Workshops in April 2015

Showcase debrief and Tuscon Arizona, workshop details!

by Nicola
Gosh, apologies for the delay in giving feedback from Showcase, it was a wonderful event but I've been in bed with a toxic flu ever since returning home to Clasheen. I'm still not over the worst so please forgive me if I don't write a very long post today.
IMG_8851 Stand C13 at Showcase George and I had a busy and successful week, the pared down simplicity of the stand worked very well and I'm delighted to have secured new orders in both Ireland and the UK with companies who I think it will be very easy to work with going forwards. Thanks a million to Patrick McHugh and Peter Martin, both worked really hard to have the website , printed materials and the video ready right at the start of the event, I know it was touch and go but it all came together brilliantly! Here's a picture of the stand, as you can see it's simple and natural looking, having information boards about the process on the walls and the video on a loop helped really drive the eco printing message across to the public.
Stand C13 at Showcase
Speaking of eco printing, I very excited that I'll be making my first trip to teach this fascinating technique in Tuscon, Arizona this April!!! Thanks Karen and Dawn for inviting me, please email Karen Herhold (putting "Nicola Brown class" in subject line or it will be deleted) if you would like to book a place or need some more information. Now for all the details...........
Intensive two day natural printing workshop with Nicola Brown 17th and 18th April
During this intensive two day workshop participants will explore the fascinating and exciting art of printing on protein based fabric and paper using natural materials from the hedgerow, kitchen and garden!
Using simple, easy to find natural plant materials bundles will be created by tying the organic matter up tightly in various weights of felt, silk, wool and silk/wool blends. Nicola will bring a good selection of samples with her for participants to study and she’ll explain how she achieves different effects and strong leaf outlines depending on fabric pre-treatment, materials used, pot selection and various other determining factors. Different ways of folding, bundling and tying the fabric also help to create different designs in the finished pieces. Once wrapped, the bundles will be heated for hours to aid the release of colors from the organic matter, when onion skins or other items are included in the dye pot wonderful lines will be achieved where the string ties act as a resist. NB Where local hedgerow materials are not available we will substitute easily located vegetation from the florist.
Over the course of the two days we will have a selection of pots on the go so participants will have plenty of options and decisions to make. We will also be able to print on paper or card, naturally printed heavy duty manila luggage tags make particularly beautiful gift tags. Participants are encouraged to bring along plenty of silk and wool yardage, scarves, previously completed felt bags, vessels and wall hangings (not just wearables) as well as plain thrift store clothes in wool or silk. These may all be included in the dye pot, the more the merrier, space providing!
Attention will be paid to the after treatment and care of these naturally printed textiles and participants will learn how Nicola prepares her work for sale or gifting.
NB Nicola likes to restrict printing to cream or white items during a workshop as this avoids commercial dyes running and ruining someone else’s work. If participants are keen to try printing coloured items it’s possible we can put one of the pots aside for this on day two, this will depend on the requirements and best interest of the group as a whole.
OPTIONAL ADD ON WORKSHOP only for participants who have already participated in the regular natural printing workshop 19th April
NEW for 2015 - Advanced one day workshop, natural printing on cellulose fabrics

Printing on cellulose fabrics is a much more time consuming process than printing on felt, silk and wool, results can be varied and are often disappointing. During this one day class participants who have previously completed a natural printing workshop with Nicola will be able to learn the different ways that cellulose fabric may be encouraged to hold a print. Nicola’s been having great success with linen and cotton this year achieving many really clear and beautiful leaf imprints. Some of the pre-treatments are very time consuming and possibly may not be to everyone’s taste or even smell, others are quicker and seem to result in good prints and colourfast results. This advanced class will share the tips and tricks that Nicola is finding helpful in her own artistic practice to achieve good prints on linen and cotton.

WORKING WITH PAJ or any nuno felt project - less work, better results!

The steps below detail the changes I have made now that I work on Paj Silk; because it saves me time and, most important, saves me from all the hard physical labor, I do this for ALL MY DESIGNS:

Get ready:  The steps below come after you have wet down your project (fibers on fabric) and ENCASED IT IN CLEAR PLASTIC 1m THICK:

RUBBING STAGE (modified)
1.      Spray soapy water on the surface of your plastic – just enough so that your hands can move easily over the surface.  Add a drop of soap if you need to help your hands glide on top of the plastic.
2.       Rub perpendicular for 2-3 minutes, Rub up and down for 2-3 mins and then rub in circles for 5-6 minutes over the entire length going from one end to the other.  Spend a little extra time on your edges.
3.   Use your Edge Tool back and forth along the edges - this really helps everything felt at the same rate especially if you used the Wrapped Edge technique; if you don't have an Edge Tool make sure you rotate the Palm Washboard all along your edges - you'll get the same results
4.     Use your Palm Washboard using circular motions over this same soapy surface (add more water if you need to) at least 4 times along the entire length.
5.      Using your hands again, rub in circles 6 times over the entire length of the scarf
6.       At this point I usually remove the soapy water with clear water and an absorbent cloth but you can just throw a couple of towels on top to dry up all that water and soap on top of your plastic – it makes it so much easier to open the plastic and remove your scarf

One tip – when you open the plastic to remove your scarf, use your fingers to coax the end-edges up off the plastic by a couple of inches – it makes it a lot easier to lift up the whole thing with a lot less sticking.
1.       Lift up your scarf from the plastic and place it on a dry towel on your worktable.  (you do not need to have anything under the towel)
2.  Take your 3' by 3' piece of Solar Pool cover and place it, bubbles down, on top of your wet-down project
3.  Using your Sander, sand on top of the smooth side of the Solar Pool Cover press down in a tiling fashion (overlap so you don't miss an inch) 1 time perpendicular, 1 time vertical and 1 time at an angle; turn the project over and repeat on the other side - you will be able to GLIDE the sander rather than picking it up and pressing down all along the surface of your project.  (Less physical effort!)
TIP:  You can sand for as long as you like but remember that very little SHRINKING takes place during this stage ---- you can further shrink the project by (after using the Cover) pressing your sander DIRECT on the still-wet fibers.  (I recommend you do this if you are nuno felting on Paj because it will look a lot better if you force more shrinking - it's very dramatic when you first use this lovely stuff.)
TIP:  The rest of your shrinking - to get to a total rate of 40% - will take place in the steps below.
place Solar Pool Cover bubble down over project
sand on smooth side vertical over entire project

sand on smooth side perpendicular over entire project


I vary the number of times I throw the scarf on a textured surface (my herringbone bath mat) from 25 times to 50 times.  I always throw one side then turn the scarf to the other side and REPEAT the throws. 
You can usually tell when you’re “done” ------ the surface looks “pebbly” and you should be able to see and feel that it has shrunk another 20% (your base fabric is puckering).
1.        Straighten out all your edges and put into cool soapy water, dump it water and all back on top of the bath mat and rub in all directions 4-6 times (this is your AGITATION Stage)
2.        Gently squeeze out the excess water/soap
3.       FULLY RINSE your finished project in cool water -------------- I usually dunk it in clear water 4-5 times and then use a 2T white vinegar/1 gal cold water solution
4.       TIP:  You don’t need to re-rinse unless the vinegar smell drives you nuts; it will disappear as the scarf dries.

5.       TIP:  You must get all that soap out of your finished nuno felt -------- leaving any soap on the fibers will cause the fibers to deteriorate over time --- to save on water usage, go with the vinegar rinse.  

Monday, January 26, 2015

Working with Paj Part 3 - NEW BETTER TECHNIQUES

As I said before, working with Paj silk forced me to change the middle parts of the nuno felting process; there are 2 main reasons why:
1.  Because of its glossy surface, Paj often builds up static after the first wet down and it can get worse once the wet project is encased in plastic;
2.  The air in my town is very dry and this just adds to the problem with constant and increasing static (sticking to everything).  The problem is that the fibers often lift off from the Paj especially after completing a good and thorough Rubbing Stage.  I had to come up with a way to prevent this from happening.

I am only dealing with the middle steps which includes the Rubbing Stage, Sanding and Throwing/Agitation.

My new method takes into account the huge physical toll nuno felting takes when I do it for several hours a day...........most of you will not have this particular problem but all of us experience fatigue at some point.   (The whole rationale behind no-roll, throw in the dryer method!)  This one is much easier on your upper body.

FOCUS:  I am placing a lot more effort and reliance on my PALM WASHBOARD and EDGE TOOL and SANDER than on the hands-on Rubbing method which requires too much physical effort.

I am also placing a lot more importance on THROWING/AGITATION to complete the full 40% shrinkage to get a viable piece of nuno felt.

If you'd like to try this less strenuous method, you have to use SOLAR POOL COVER in a piece approx 3' by 3' which you will move around over the fibers as you work.  Bubble wrap will not work because you'll pop all the bubbles flat in about 3 minutes using this new technique.

The first change is the Rubbing Stage where I use my hands for a couple of minutes and then continue to the Palm Washboard and Edge Tool.

The second change is that I DOUBLE and TRIPLE the Sanding Stage and do it all ON TOP OF SOLAR POOL COVER.  This means I can GLIDE the sander very easily and quickly over the smooth plastic and do it without falling over from exhaustion.

More will be explained in detail in the next post. SEE POST ABOVE.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Working with PAJ Silk - Part 2 UPDATED

Working on Paj is a lot like working on Habotai; each has a shiny layer applied as a fabric finish and it often creates another "barrier" that means you need to work harder and longer to get all the fibers to migrate through and stick.

I don't like Habotai because of its high shine but Paj has a finish that is much more subtle - it looks like "frosted glass."

Paj has a high pucker rate like Habotai but the results are very soft and luxurious which is why so many nuno felters prefer to use it.  I am sold on the effects I get even though it takes more effort.

Learning to work with Paj when I was going like gangbusters to make as many scarves as possible for all my holiday shows in November and December, I learned the hard way by making lots of mistakes.

The upside is that is made me CHANGE AND ADAPT MY NUNO FELTING TECHNIQUE to minimize the physical toll it takes when doing this kind of stuff for several hours a day.

We all know if we've worked long and hard on a nuno felting project that the fatigue level is high -- I got to the point where I could not lift my right arm at the end of the day and developed corresponding pain in my right lower back neck area that made it impossible for me to turn my head....what a mess.

I had to change and change quick and Paj made me do it!

This is the method I use now for the 3 middle stages:  Rubbing (includes a Large Palm Washboard), Sanding and Throwing/Agitation.  It's quicker and requires LESS physical effort.



Sunday, January 18, 2015

If you've seen the new trend in scarves, wraps & shawls made with paper thin wool gauze you can now get it by the yard at Dharma - approx. $14 a yard 45" wide.

Dharma does say on their site that it can be used for nuno felting but because I have yet to try it myself, news on how it works and what the shrinkage rate is will be posted here once I get my hands on the incredibly exciting for all of us who've wondered about this new fabric.

When wool gauze WITH CASHMERE (usually 5%) is available, I think it might be nuno felting heaven..................................can you imagine?

This is just one new and exciting products - check out Opulent Fibers new rovings WITH FLAX....another delight.

There is so much new stuff to try this year that we'll have a ball on the blog and cover as much as possible so you go on the journey with me as I try it all out for myself.......

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

BOOKS on Faster Nuno Felting Techniques

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


Sunday, January 4, 2015

Working with Paj - part 1

dyed paj silk
Working with Paj is going to be covered in several parts so that you know as much as you can about working with it before you spend hours trying to find where to buy it.

I'll start off with what I learned the hard way ---- because this problem applies to all nuno felt projects based on the emails I get asking for additional help --- "my fibers fell off after completion!"

Holy cow. Or as they say in Petaluma, holy hen house!

Never happened to me until Paj.

Made a gorgeous, ruffled design with hand-mixed merino and handpainted BFL and the whole damn thing pulled right off the Paj after I hung it to dry.

I did all the steps, spent about 35 minutes extra on the ruffled edges (because you are nuno felting through 2 layers of silk at those seams) and even double-sanded it.

No go.  A disaster.

The simple solution is that, generally, Paj prefers FINE fibers to work and it still takes EXTRA EFFORT (which will be covered in another post).

Paj works wonderfully with SUPERFINE MERINO which applies to merino that is 15 to 19 microns in diameter.  15 is what the European nuno felters use and is not readily available yet in the US.  It is akin to cashmere which is 11-13 microns.

Opulent Fibers carries the superfine 19 micron.

I have no doubt that Kristy at Opulent will soon have 15 micron at some point, she is such a wizard.

Outback Fibers is another source.

Or look for labels like "Australian" which is almost always 19 microns.

WHAT MIGHT ALSO WORK is Optim and Short Fiber Merino but because I have not used these yet, can't guarantee it----------only my understanding of these fibers is that they are FASTER than regular-staple-length merino available for purchase from most online sources.

OPTIM is a merino fiber that has been stretched by a special machine and it does FELT A LOT FASTER.  (see Opulent Fibers).

SHORT FIBER MERINO is just what it says and is available at New England Supply and some Etsy and eBay sellers.  It's been "chopped" into shorter staple-lengths so that it migrates through your base fabric much faster.  (Opulent has SHORT FIBER BATTS but not all of us like working with batts.)

NEXT:  Nuno felting a scarf on Paj step by step.  What to do to avoid disasters.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

PAJ Silk - Where to Buy in the US
Paj is still very hard to find in the US but there are some sellers on Etsy and eBay who offer it (undyed and dyed) - and it usually sells out fast.  Prices are about 30% more than most other suitable-silk fabrics including Habotai, Gauze, Crepe and Chiffon.

If you qualify for a business wholesale account you can buy Paj White 4.5m at in Hayward CA (all orders 15 yards + $100 minimum) which is where I get mine.  It's the only weight they have and I love it.   (I use the same weight silk gauze for 60% of all my designs.)

Since doll-clothes-makers prefer it as the perfect silk for little people and those fabulous art dolls you can also get it at A Child's Dream with a current price of $7.50 a yard, 45" wide.


All I can say at this point is that I do have some trouble dyeing it using my usual methods ------ but that is more an issue with the horrendous soft water here in Petaluma.  I still haven't figured out how to solve the constant problems I have with colors coming out the way I expect them to ------on Paj, it's so iffy that it may force me to change my dye sources and process. 

Boiling water and doubling up on the salt seems to help but each batch seems to make up its own mind what color it wants to be. 

It does help if you soak it in warm water before you place it in your dye bath.  It helps eliminate "spotting" and uneven coloring.

NEXT:  Paj is finicky and won't nuno felt with all wools - pick the best fibers for best success.  You will also love the final effect - this silk looks and feels expensive!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

More from Fiona Duthie - learn how to make those "puffy silk circles" in your own designs

If you love the look of those deliberate "puffy silk holes" that give your nuno felted surfaces more dimension and textural interest you can figure out just how to do it in this wonderful post from Fiona Duthie.  See how she makes a prefelt and cuts out the holes before placing it on top of the silk?

UPDATE:  Posts and new stuff will have to wait until after the holiday season since I SOLD OUT at my weekend show in Sonoma and have nothing in stock to prepare for 3 more big shows coming up in the next 14 days.  In addition to moving 3 times in the last 8 months, I just can't keep up.  Will post items of interest here when I can, but the blog will not be super-active again until late December.

Fiona Duthie: fiber, color, texture

Posted: 17 Nov 2014 07:21 PM PST

  I have been working in one version of my most perfect place... there are several variations on this... but this is definitely a good one. The Okanagan is beautiful. And home to Canada's best wines, including some amazing reds. I'm staying on the Naramata bench, right on the KVR walking trail, in a vineyard... overlooking the lake.... with fine sunrises and sunsets. It is heavenly...and that is just my mornings and evenings.

  All day I spend at the Shatford Centre, home of the Okanagan School of the Arts. Some days I am teaching... and then others I am there as Artist in Residence. I'm using this time to tidy up some old work, refine my plans and goals for 2015/2016 and then start to enter into the mindspace for my upcoming exhibition in February. It is a wonderful world! Even with a separate studio space at home, and older children now, who are pretty self-sufficient, it is still a unique experience to go to a different space and focus. I think that is the have clear goals to work towards in this special time set aside....with some breathing spaces allowed for...of course...and a fine glass of local red wine.

  This weekend was a three day session on Joomchi Feltmaking. We had a small class, due to a few cancellations, so I had the opportunity to make my own piece as a demonstration. With experienced feltmakers in the class, we delved deeper into perfect fit in garment construction and with a focus on lots of surfaces and composition techniques. 

All of the pieces were beautiful and perfect for their individual wearer and creator...

  And my own, red study....working with a single colour to really highlight the textures in the piece.

   This is first class I have taught in years that was not full. It was a tiny ego hit...being honest with you... but not for long...this smaller class size opened up opportunity to go much farther with my students and create something alongside them. We had more time for discussion and even a short "felt clinic" looking at past projects and tips for improving each work. It was a great gift of space and time.... These were three calm, creative, wonderful days, in an incredible setting and facility. It was pure pleasure.

And there are still 4 more days to go....

Warm wishes, 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Fiona Duthie on Layouts using Batts - great tutorial!

Fiona Duthie: fiber, color, texture

Posted: 27 Oct 2014 02:26 PM PDT

  Wool fibres can be used like paints, laid out to create surface colour changes, but also combined in layers to build new colors through shadowing. We can also use this simple technique to create a shift or transition in colour progression.  It can be easier to imagine how to blend the layers when using wool roving than when using wool batting.  This is a method I use to create a more subtle shift in colour when laying out using wool batting.

This technique is illustrated using C1/Pelsull and C1 wool batting from New England Felting Supply.

 For many projects, we only need half the total thickness of the batt.
Unroll the batting so you have it at its full thickness. Then open up the layers into two- divide the sheet into two thicknesses. The wool batting divides easily this way…like sheets of phyllo dough….one half will usually be a little heavier than the other. For this layout, I am using the slightly more thick layer. Remember to do this for all your wool colours.

 On the area where you want to continue your layout and start the colour transition, divide this wool layer into two, and pull the top layer up about 2 inches (5cm). This amount will depend on the size of your overall project and composition.Pulling up a larger amount like 4 inches (10cm) will give you a large transition area with more opportunity for gradation.

 Using one hand as a clamp, pull off this part of the top layer.

 Repeat this process on your next colour. In this case I'm using two complementary colours.

 Lay the thin section of the new colour, over the thin section of the previous colour. Because these are both half thicknesses, the transition area now will be the same density as the full colour layer.

  Repeat this same process for all of your layout and colour transitions.

  Wet out and compress as usual.

 You may want to add this the very lightest, finest wisps, not adding weight, but another layer to deepen the gradation through the transition.

 Felt using your usual methods.

 In your transition areas, the two colours overlapping migrate through one another, creating colour shadowing. This migration is what will create the seamless colour transitioning. Tossing your felt really helps to get those fibres integrated and achieve good migration. It is very important to full your felt completely. If you are not seeing any colour shadowing, you probably have more felting to do!

 The transition areas show clear colour blending. A definite purple between the analogous blue and fuchsia, and a brown/orange tone coming from the lime green and fuchsia. This transition could be even more graduated by making a more deep overlap, and lightly adding wisps to the edges of the transition area in the closest colour. The colour transitioning is more subtle between analogous colours than complementary colours. This would also be true when using natural wool colours.

 This is a beautiful and simple technique for adding more depth to your felt composition, with just a simple variation in wool layout.

  A question about laying out using batting in this way was asked by a student in one of my online classes. I started writing out a text description of how to achieve the gradated result, and realized pictures just would tell it so much better! It was a fun exercise for me....a nice distraction from larger projects I have on the go, which I so need from time to time....and also a great opportunity to write a post here!

Warm wishes, 


Friday, June 13, 2014

Watering Part 2

from PINTEREST not me!
This photo from a great Pinterest Board shows the weed sprayer in action.  Talk about a match made in heaven.....

I got the cheap-o $10 one and after wishing only the worst for the idiot who wrote the directions about how to fit all the parts together, I finally looked at the pix on the front of the box and voila, done in 5 minutes.  Or ask your hardware store to put it together after you pay for one.  They sell hundreds of these things.

The pressure for spraying is created with a hand-pump designed into the handle (she is holding that handle) and YES you can add your soap be it Dawn or olive oil soap - I thought the pumping action might create bubbles, but it does not. 

This works perfect for my All Cold Water Method.  (All sprayers are for cold or room-temp water, NO hot.)

Works like a felter's dream of going to nuno felting heaven and everything is easier and faster!

PERFECT for watering down batts which, as you know by my posts about using the fab batts from Decadent Fibers, are so hard to saturate since batt fibers are full of air pockets.

NEW:  FABULOUS for wetting down felt bracelets and necklaces too....makes it so much easier when all the fibers are saturated in a consistent manner ---- this sprayer has cut my process for making these 2 items in half!

I was singing while spraying!

Incredibly helpful for felters who are starting to have a lot of discomfort using a spritzer or other watering methods that require repetitive hand-movements.  With me it's the increasing arthritis in my this was like I sent my hands on vacation.


Those ball watering thingies cost $25-$35 which I think is nuts.  A really basic weed sprayer (nightmare directions thrown in for free) runs you $10.