Sunday, 31 January 2010

Wanting things done yesterday

This was supposed to be yesterday's post. I can't quite remember what happened to yesterday - I remember just popping into work for a bit and it all going downhill from then on.

Today, however, my little sister (well, she's not that little any more!), my nephew and my mum called in to visit. Whilst frantically attempting to 2-year-old-proof the flat I unearthed some forgotten craft box gems. 2-year-old proofing is process which basically consists of running to the nearest hardware store buying as many clip lock boxes it's possible to carry, running back, sweeping everything into them randomly and chucking a throw over the whole lot. Amazing things surface as you do this and I know how the prospectors of old felt when the saw glimmers of gold in the silt.

Anyway - last year, ten of us at work all decided we needed a break from the lab and booked a long weekend in Prague. Prague is a beautiful and amazing place, but unfortunatly full of bead shops so therefore not the best place to put a renagade crafter with an addiction to shiny objects.

This is just a small sample of the reason I was ditching stuff at the airport to bring the hand luggage in at a respectable weight and doing the old trick of wearing all of the clothes I'd brought with me on the way back to make space.

*note to self - beads and airport scanners are a bad mix due to the tendancy of beads to diffract x-rays forming a pretty mess on the observer's screen. You will get searched and questioned as to the reason you are wearing two pairs of trousers, three t-shirts, a sweater and an evening dress. Answering "because the master told me to" is a bad idea.

I really ought to do at least something with some of this stuff. I can't just drag it out every so often and admire how shiny it is.

For beading, my weapon of choice is normally lycra beading cord. This stuff:

I like lycra beading cord, it doesn't rust, slice through your fingers or give you amusing tiger tail related injuries - you know, the sort that make you look like you've lost an arguement with a deli counter cheese slicer. It looks pathetically thin and weak, but you could bungee jump a hippo on it. I've never managed to snap it as yet and I've tried really hard. Here I've doubled over long bit threaded a crimp bead on the end to give a loop - teeth, scissors and tweezers were dismissed as a poor replacement for jewellery pliers - after twenty minutes of searching for pliers I realised they were in the bottom of the first box I shoved in the avalanche cupboard this morning - all sorted.

As always, I will spend ages getting organised - laying everything out in front of me...

..then I'll get distracted and just start threading things together.

I do have this odd sort of reverse entropy when it comes to this. I love the irregular abstract patterns I see on so many other bits of work, but myself have this odd aversion to disorder. What was supposed to be random turned out rather regular in the end. This is a simple repeat working on two threads - the purple flower beads have two sets of holes for double stranded work.

A fight with a lobster clasp and we're done for the day.

Now if I could just work out what I did with yesterday, I'll be fine. That and why there is a squashed biscuit stuck on the oven door.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Scientific method

Okay, I've had one hectic day. I came to the conclusion a long time ago that the human race would be far more advanced if the concept of "meetings" did not exist. If I spent the time working rather than having a staring contest with an overhead projector, I'd be unstoppable. You can't be unstoppable if you can't get started because you're drawing doodles on the minutes from last week *insert heavy sigh*

This weeks problems have all been "reverse engineering" types ones - loosely where I have an outcome and now have to work backwards to work out where it came from.

Hmmm... excess wool roving... maybe a spot of reverse engineering is in order here :)

If you have a look at the "making section" on folksy, you'll find a great tutorial by glassprimitif (who's wonderful glass things I covet very much) about making felt beads. I have a lot of left over wool roving from another one of those "ooohhh isn't that shiny!" moments, so I thought I'd have a go. Nothing like taking out meeting frustration by pummelling inanimate objects after all. Inanimate objects don't answer back for start. Or write presentations.

One of the major lessons learnt from my last foray into felting is organisation is key. Aims and objectives clearly defined! So, this time I got everything in place to start with. Plastic sheet - check - warm water - check - wool - check - detergent - check - rubber gloves - check. I think that's everything on today's agenda.

Same principle as before - fibres need heat, water, detergent and friction to mat. My rubber gloves are great as they have a grippy rough surface for extra friction. Wet wool, add bubbles, roll into a ball until it mats. Simples.

I carried on until I was bored. Then I made another ten. Okay, I admit, I have the attention span of goldfish - I can't help that.

Sewing together - cubic close packing (geek alert!)

and one on the back... (takes ten spheres to get this far)

A few slightly smaller black spheres...

...and a pattern starts to emerge

...add sticky eyes and true to the scientific method, a little critter that can be broken down and considered as a set of perfect (ish) spheres is born

...and not a set of minutes in sight :)

Thursday, 28 January 2010

First steps in felt

I have a destructive nature, I can't help it. I pull things apart to see how they work, I have a go at making things myself in a gungho sort of way. Sometimes it works and sometimes its an absolute disaster.... Usually something triggers it, in this case, it was a beautiful teal evening dress.

I bought a dress. I don't often buy dresses because they don't often fit me, but I was supposed to be going to dinner with my sponsors at work and I didn't think I get away with jeans and a faded NIN gig t-shirt this time. Oh no. The only problem with my dress is that it is teal blue. Nothing I have matched it and nothing I could find matched it either. It's too bright to wear black with and it was too cold for chiffon wraps, and in my head I had a perfect picture of what I wanted to wear. That doesn't help.

I'd never made felt before - so decided to start with something simple. Yeah... right..... that'd be like reading the instruction manual or writing an essay plan... or practising a presentation *laughs*

Well, what do I know about felt? Not much. It's that stuff I had as a kid with a fuzzy background and little fuzzy animals that stuck to the fuzzy background. I remember putting cheetahs in the sky because I was bored (hey come on, it's more advanced than most kids, who'd just eat it). It's what I did to my ex-boyfriends new cashmere sweater. Felt is made of fibres. Fibres have to mat together to form a fabric. Fibres mat with friction, water, detergent and heat.

I needed fibres. I found I could buy fibres on-line (I actually bought them from the that sort of matched my dress. Then I got distracted with other really pretty fibres in other colours. I bought Merino wool tops (wool roving), I had no idea if I was right or not, I just guessed as I had ten minutes before group meeting to do this. What could possibly go wrong?

So this is what I started with. Lesson 1: If you are going to do this, what I ordered is way too much. Seriously, I have enough woool roving in my house make a fuzzy felt collage the size of New Mexico, complete with life size teal blue flying cheetahs.

I was thinking about friction and decided on bubble wrap as all the little bubbles make for a rough surface. More friction = less effort. I'm liking the concept at the moment.

So I spread out the bubble wrap and started to layer on the fibres, just by pulling lumps of the fuzzy end on the roving skein. It seemed to work, but I will be hoovering them up for the next fifty years. I don't know how sheep cope.

After a while of inhaling blue fur and resisting the efforts of the God of Static Electricity to turn me into the cookie monster, it looked like this:

Well, I needed to make it wet to have a hope of it actually felting, so I went off in search of detergent and warm water, whislt really hoping noone opened a window - or indeed exhaled, for fear of returning to my living room in a flurry of psychedelic sheep fuzz.

Nothing like being organised before you start a project...

Okay - warm water, a bar of soap, a spray bottle. What could possibly go wrong...

...other than a build of pressure because of the steam inside the spray bottle. At that moment, parts of the kitchen got cleaned that don't normally see the back end of a scouring pad, but hey ho... you live and learn... and the burns will heal. Hand hot. Repeat after me.... hand hot. Got it?

Water, soap, bottle, wet sheep. Job done.

I carried on building up layers here as if you've ever dismembered fabric you can see the changes in direction of the fibres helps to hold it together.

That was the logic... I even made it a different colour :)

This process went on for quite some time! Once I'd built up the layers I soaked it and rolled it up in bubble wrap, squeezing it by kneeling on it. I carried on rolling in and unrolling in different directions until the fibres matted together. This isn't as easy as it sounds, as detergent and slippery bubble wrap is not the most compliant material, even if it does make a satisfying popping noise when you kneel on it.

I had to put some towels down as I kept squeezing out the water from the sides and even though my carpet is blue, it isn't that blue. Eventually though, it started to hold its shape.

A quick rinse under the shower to get rid of the detergent, drying on towel on the radiator and it's done :)

Woohoo! A wrap that maches my dress :)

In an odd twist of fate though, my sponsors never made the dinner that night because of the snow - so we took the rest of the lab instead.

Who were wearing faded gig t-shirts and jeans. Ah well.