Little little

Big Ideas, little space

My new great passion in life is needle felting wool & silk fibers! If you can make jabbing motions with your hand, arm & wrist over and over again, you have already mastered the work of sculpting with fiber & needle! Felting needles have tiny barbs that draw the fibers up into itself as you stab repeatedly creating matting or felting of the fibers.

Sailing ships of old use to have wool felted sails and recently, a felted wool swan was found as lost treasure rediscovered. Felting is simple, relaxing and very gratifying. You can watch your piece come to life in your hands right before your eyes! Though it is simple, it requires your attention. This is not a craft you watch TV to. You can listen but if you look away, you risk poking yourself with the very sharp needle. Always use a soft surface-pillow, foam or even a stuffed animal or doll to work on.

Here is Adam & Eve

 

They both have leaves but Adam prefers to wear his on his head (male pattern baldness) and Eve prefers to burn hers as incense or make a nice pot of tea. They are hanging out in the garden on some dangerously poisonous rhubarb leaves. Be careful you two!

Adam has a googly eye and Eve doesn't shave her armpits but love is blind and they love to hang around the garden looking for their children, Peace & Quiet (not born yet.)


WTH!?

I found it interesting, the comments made, when I offered some felt balls I made for sale at a local market.

 The main question asked was 'what are they, what do they DO?' In this day & age of commercialism, electronic toys and such there seems to be a lack of imagination on the part of the consumer. My pat answer was, roll, throw, catch, toss, bounce, play. By the end of the day I was saying-oh, it's a Ipod-just buy a cord & plug it in to the computer & it will record & play music. 

I'm not sure what the message is of the consumer who lacks such appreciation for simple beauty & pleasures...

 

Whose Got Felt Balls?

My latest craze has been making felt wool balls.

(every gal needs a pair or three!)

irresistable balls!

The colors are vivid, crisp & set well. Nobody can resist smelling my wool balls because of the flavorful colors! 

Sometimes I tuck a chamomile or catnip tea bag into the center or a homemade rattle for added excitement.

After I degrease/precomb the wool I lay it out in long strands side by side on 3 sheets of plastic wrap laid out on top of blank newsprint.

raw, degreased wool

lay out long strips

I dye it 'in the wool' which means before spinning. I use unsweetened kool-aid powder, an artificial flavor/color drink mix.

sprinkle on dry drink mix

spray generously w/vinegar                  

Sprinkle powdered drink mix on prepared wool. Spray with full strength white vinegar, saturating thoroughly.

sausage roll in wrap

prepare to microwave

Roll wool into plastic wrap making a sausage & put into a large microwave safe bowl. Fill the bowl to cover wool with hot water-using a spoon to submerge if needed. Microwave in 1-2 minute intervals checking (careful-HOT!) inbetween. When water runs clear the wool has taken up all the dye. Cool on counter. When cooled to room temp. run under warm water to cold water briefly while still wrapped up. Drain as much water as possible in colander w/o squeezing too much.

wet, cooled, fresh dyed wool

 

Dry wool separated into strands, artisan ready!

Unroll plastic from wet/dyed wool & lay out to dry on hangers in the bathroom, a sweater/drying rack or on blank newsprint. You now have beautiful raw dyed materials to use in your next project!

You can also use dissolved kool-aid for a more uniform/solid color. I heard it works-I haven't tried it yet. Just add wool to hot water in the bowl that has kool-aid dissolved to desired strength. Heat in microwave as instructed. (never leave items in microwave unattended.)

Making wool felt balls

 

Look at the soft & fluffy, lovely goodness!

To begin wrapping your ball you can use a teabag or rattle or pompom to begin. Use your raw/undyed wool for the center, saving the colorful wool for the finishing touches.

Just roll the strands around & around building the ball as you go. I have found the bigger the ball the more uniform they turn out in the end result. We like big, uniform balls! 

Like a cloud of inviting buttery fluffy goodness!

Wrap & wind the colors making texture & abstract design

 

Take your dyed wool & wrap it around the wooly ball, interlacing & weaving & winding it until you are satisfied. You can leave raw spots or not, depending on your preference. I opted to cover most I could.

Fully wrapped, large wound ball

Take small, wispy pieces and add them to the spaces the winding & weaving left uncovered, if desired.

Just lay the wispy wool colors together, gently pressing them into piece.

Cover all the space you don't want to see show thru.

Ready to be bagged & felted

Tightly wrap balls in netting, using twist ties to fasten or preferrably,(not pictured, yet) place each felt ball into a pair of pantyhose or socks, knotting each one off separately & trimming them so they aren't attached.

Balls wrapped in nylon

Throw the wrapped balls into the washing machine with HOT water. Use additional kettleful of hot water too, after washer fills. Add 1/8-1/4 cup liquid detergent to help felting process. I use cheap, liquid lemon dish soap. Start washer, regular cycle. Lift lid & check every so often to make sure nothing is snagging or twisting & making mishapened balls. When the nylon is integrating into the ball so much that it sticks & has to be peeled off then you know the felting is complete. Spin, rinse, spin.

VOILA!

Finished washing machine made, hand dyed felted wool balls. Great for babies, kids, moms, dads, dogs, cats-anyone that likes this kind of thing! They juggle great & are easy enough on lamps & furniture to play with indoors. Wool's wonderful properties make it a very safe material especially for asthmatic or allergic children. Wool doesn't harbor mites like other stuffed toys/animals can. Also wool absorbs heat as it is held, which is a comfort & welcoming-especially in a treasured doll or stuffed animal.

Wool brings good things to life!

 


It should look something like this when completed

This is some of the 1st wool I dyed using the technique described here. Strawberry, grape, black cherry & cherry.

Find this info useful, interesting or intriguing? Leave me a comment, please. I love feedback! Thanks!

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Microwave Fiber Dye Technique

equipment needed

  • Microwave safe bowl(s)
  • colander or strainer
  • wooden skewer
  • rubber gloves (optional)
  • mesh laundry bag
  • unsweetened powdered drink mix in desired color(s)
  • microwave
  • drying rack
  • wool fiber


This is so easy! It just couldn't be any easier! If you have some wool fiber you want to color-this is the way to go! All you need is simple equipment you probably already have in your kitchen and some light color fiber. Add powdered drink mix to hot water in microwave safe bowl (I use pyrex). Stir to dissolve with skewer. Use 1-2 packets depending on amount of wool used and desired color saturation. Moisten wool with hot water under faucet before adding to dye bath. Squeeze out excess water and push down into dye bath with skewer or hand protected with rubber glove (or dye your fingertips like I have done!) Microwave at 2 minute intervals for about 6-8 minutes or until all the color is absorbed into the fiber. Let cool to room temperature or strain immediately in a colander over the sink. (I have done it both ways!) Put the strained, wet wool in a mesh laundry sack and spin them dry further in the washing machine before laying out to dry completely on racks or baby gate racks like I used over the bathtub. The wool dries a lot faster if you spin out the excess water in the washing machine before laying out to dry. Remember to use the end spin cycle only.

Now see? I was right! That couldn't be any easier! You will be so pleased with the results. I use small batches to dye individual pieces I have cut out of felted sweaters with great results. You can use this method to dye skein wool, socks, sweaters or anything wool that can fit in the microwave (and take the heat!) When I cut out pieces to dye in the microwave from recycled wool felted sweaters, the process gives the wool a more compact & fuzzy texture. It's very lovely. If you cut out the pieces after dyeing a swatch of felted fiber, the edges of the innermost fiber can sometimes be undyed and depending on what you are creating, this may or may not be something you desire. The idea is to experiment and have fun!

 

It's nice using these powdered drink mix dyes because they work well, have strong, vibrant colors are inexpensive to use, are readily available and are safe to use in your own kitchen cookware and require no special additions or equipment.

Here I've moved the wool aside in the bowl so you can see that the water is clear as the wool as taken up all the color. This is exactly what I want to happen! The heat of the water bonds the color to the fiber making it permanent. It won't fade with washings. This is a permanent dye.

 The colors I used here are ice blue raspberry, secret twist green(dark olive), cherry switch blue(robin egg), grape illusion red/orange, strawberry lemonade pink, and lemon lime green.




I lay the wool out over the tub to dry on a baby gate turned drying rack that I covered with mesh cloth.


Fluffy fiber goodness! Ready to become anything your imagination can inspire!

I've become a new 'moth'er!

Once upon a time there were a pair of the finest stockings made entirely of silk...

One of my new hobbies has been raising silkworms. I have had a fantastic time of it, thoroughly enjoying my 'moth'erhood. I have 100's of eggs right now going thru a false winter (diapause) in the fridge.


Look how beautiful they are! They look like moon moths if there were ever a fairy tale about them this is what you'd see. The 2 facing each other ate all the way to the center of the leave ala Lady & the Tramp style. You can see the frass they leave behind in the bottom of the cake box I raised this batch in. I like using cardboard to raise them in since it absorbs humidity and keeps the environment dry and free from deadly molds & disease.


And then one day they took all the energy from all the leaves they had been eating & eating & eating and spun & spun & spun for days until all was dotted with silky cocoons and silence.


Like little apartment buildings full of hidden treasures in the windows.


And then one day-here she is! Beautiful moon moth mama! Newly emerged from her silken cocoon to greet the world with all the love she's got in her to give and a whole lot of eggs. She has diminutive antennae compared to the male and a very large abdomen to hold all the eggs she will be carrying & laying.


It just takes moments for them to find each other and the ecstasy begins! They will stay connected for hours even days.
You can see the opening the moth makes with spit from her mouth before she emerges out from the woven silk web of the cocoon. You can also see the brown skin left behind by the pupae inside the sack.





They do it here, there and everywhere! They don't care! It's au naturel!

The males are highly distinguishable by the huge, hairy antennae they sport.


And between all the mating the eggs, the eggs! Look at these beautiful, fresh eggs! You can tell they are fertile if they darken (as seen below). These are so fresh they haven't darkened yet.


And in true, natural form, a sweet, hungry lizard invited herself in to eat one moth everyday after all the mating and egg laying were completed and accomplished. This was a pleasant surprise to have her help for I had planned on taking the moths to the chickens to eat afterwards and this saved me the trouble. Feel not sorry for the brief though pleasant arrival & departure of the illustrious silk moth. She has left her most precious gift of silk to leave her blessings to those of us fortunate enough to receive the gift. You can see all the eggs on the leaves and paper rolls. All fertile! BEAUTIFUL! What a spectacular little celebration of life!

Please note: These moths are so hybridized that they have are born without mouth parts. This means that their only purpose in life is to mate and lay eggs. I prefer to let the lizard eat them, then let them starve to death once they are finished procreating.
Each cocoon is 1-3 miles long if completely unraveled.
I thought I was going to make 'peace' silk this year. PS is batches that you let each moth hatch from the cocoon. After raising over 1,152+ caterpillars this year-this just from the 15 I started with last year, I found it to not be feasible until either the kids move out or we get a new addition on the house to accommodate the huge hatch. I wasn't equipped to deal with that many mating and meconium spurting insects so stifled the bulk of my batch this year.
These are the 2008 batch photos.


 This is a newly hatched antworm. They are so small you cannot touch them without crushing them. I use a paint brush to move them if I have to.



You can see it in scale with the tip of a ball point pen.



The first few days after hatching, the antworms can live on fresh cabbage or beets greens. These particular cats can live only on mulberry, It can be white, black, fruiting or fruitless, it just has to be mulberry.
 
Note the netting I use to lift the cats from the frass to clean the box. I lay fresh leaves onto the net on top of the cats and they all come crawl right up and thru. Any that don't crawl up may be weak or diseased and go into the cat quarantine.



Here are 2nd instar cats.




Lone cat cruising the box.


This brave jumping spider came by and bit this poor unsuspecting cat right on it's head a couple of times before I chased it off. She must have thought she found the Mother Lode!




This is just one small corner of one of 14 boxes of caterpillars I raised this year. Last count over 1,152+ not counting the stray that got loose and spun on the wall next to my kitchen table and the couple handfuls my dd raised in her own box. I probably gave away over 1,000 to the local schools and to nice folk who answered a craigslist ad I posted to find them homes.
You can see I am using coarser bird netting as they grow at (g)astronomical rates! They will grow 10,000 times their size from hatch by the time they spin! That is amazing!




THAT was A LOT of work! I was feeding them up to four times a day and the ones I fed first where done eating by the time the last of the batch where getting fed!
I don't fail to see the irony of them eating constantly in this form and being born without mouth parts and unable to eat as moths.




I glued 3 oz. dixie cups to the tops of my boxes for them to climb in and spin on and around.
More pics of the whole batch of spun gold silk to come.... thanks for taking the journey with me!



 

Here's a freshly cocooning cat. See the yellow stain left on the paper next to her? That was the contents of her stomach. They purge any undigested food before beginning the process of spinning. She will rotate her head over & over in a figure 8 for days spinning her silky golden fiber. When she is done, all is still as she molts into a moth. The yellow in the silk is from her spit. Once the silk is de-gummed, it will be a vibrant, bright white.












 Spinning it up at the Silk Hotel! I had up to 4 cocoons in one tp roll! These cats sure know how to roll! Spin it up, girls!
 The Silk Hotel is a little like Hotel California... You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave!


I've just begun dying up some of this silk using my microwave wool technique. It's the same process only sometimes it can take a little longer for the silk to uptake the dye. I've had beautiful results so far. Must Get Pictures!

Thank you for visiting my site! Just like working with wool, it has been a labor of love!



My new batch of wool! This looks just like cotton candy!

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More on silk


Here are the finished raw silk cocoons after drying from their dye bath.



Raw silk cocoons, art ready!


Silk blanks dye beautifully in a tie-dye pattern


The color! I love all the color!


Raw, dyed silk can be used in felting, spun into knobby yarn, as embellishment, etc.



More, more more!



The subtleties in the depth of color and intricacy of the pattern is lost in the picture. You have to see these in person to truly catch the beauty!



Look closely to find faces, figures and ??? It's like a fiber Rorschach test!



If you are impatient and don't want to wait for them to hang dry, heat up and use the iron and dry them with a gentle pressing.



Fast,  fun, beautiful, creative, easy, easy, easy dye project to use on any type of silk. Use your microwave and in a matter of minutes have artistic looking, homemade, ready to wear clothes or accessories!

Dye silk clothing, scarves, handkerchiefs, skein silk, yardage, silk socks or undergarments, all, this fast, easy way. It turns out beautiful every time!
 
All you need is simple equipment you probably already have in your kitchen and some silk.


Here I've used  the powdered drink mix as dyes. They work well. Have strong, vibrant colors. Are inexpensive to use. Are readily available. Safe to use in your own kitchen cookware. Require no special additions or equipment. Easter egg dyes or liquid food coloring can also be used.

Gather the supplies
  • Microwave safe bowl
  • Colander or strainer
  • Wooden skewer
  • Rubber gloves (optional)
  • Dye-unsweetened powdered drink mix or Easter egg dye or food coloring
  • Microwave
  • Drying rack
  • Silk
Wet the silk
Choose which dye technique
If using tie-dye, wet silk, fold & tie as desired.
Stage the colors you want to use
Bowl of hot water to microwave

There's more than one way to do this! Pick which one suits what you want make and go for it!



#1




#2

1. Lay out your soaking wet silk on enough clear plastic wrap to roll it all the way up in. Sprinkle powdered drink mix on silk. The wet fabric causes the color to spread and give neat color saturation variations. Use more than one color. Roll silk in plastic wrap making a sausage, loosely twisting the ends. Place into a large microwave safe bowl.

2. Or place wet silk directly in water that the drink mix has been dissolved in, tied, or not, as you desire, in effect.

Fill the bowl with enough hot dye water to cover silk. Use a skewer to submerge. Top with microwave safe saucer to hold fiber in dye bath, if need be.





  • Microwave in 1 minute intervals checking in between each minute for 5-7 minutes depending on size of project. You'll be able to tell when it's done by looking at it. You can see the fiber has taken up most of the dye. It will still take up dye as it cools until the water is almost clear.
  • Cool on counter. When cooled to room temperature, unroll plastic, if used, and run silk under warm to cold water, briefly, to rinse. Drain.
  • Dry on hangers or a drying rack, out of the direct sun. If you don't want to wait for them to hang dry, carefully iron with a hot iron.
  • Admire your work! Now see? So beautiful! That couldn't be any easier! Next thing you know it's done! You will be so pleased with the results.

    You can use this method for any type of silk garment, to dye raw silk cocoons, silk scraps, silk hankies, play silks, scarves, socks, undergarments, blouses, or anything that can fit in the microwave. It's so easy & so very lovely.

    Experiment & have fun! The results are wonderful and everyone will be amazed if you tell them it is dyed with drink mix powder in the microwave!

    It works so well and so fast it's almost like cheating! But it's not! It's super fun and once you do it you'll want to make more and more.

    Kids love the playsilks, They quickly become superhero capes, sarongs, table cloths, head wraps, veils, baby wraps-the creativity is vast!
    The handkerchiefs make great gifts and look very nice in the front pocket of a blouse or dress shirt.
    Everyone loves the scarves.
    Silk also has natural sunscreen properties. And keeps you warm if it's cold or cool if it's warm.

    Silk really is the fiber of Emperors & Empresses! The secret of the origins of this beautiful fiber were protected for many years. Legend has it that mulberry seeds and silkworm eggs were smuggled out of China in the hollow of a bamboo cane.

    Simple beauty is simply beautiful!


Here's a miniature ornament I made with needle felted wool and silk with glass beaded hanger and tail in natural silk cocoon. SO cute!

I hope my creative works have shown you how easy and accessible this art is and inspire you to create your owns work. Enjoy! OX