Have Ewe Any Wool?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Shenandoah Fall Fiber Festival

This is another favorite festival in the fall - always a great time!  Wonder vendors and fabulous food (especially the Boy Scouts with their cobblers - mmmmm!!!!!!)

This festival has classes, things for the kids to do, sheep dog trials, and tons of vendors for wool, yarn, felt, rug hooking supplies, honey, wine....you name it!    This year, there was even face painting!

And I found a neck kerchief (shawlette) that's just gorgeous - I love the colors and the pattern of this one!
It's definitely going on my "to do" list!

It's a good sized festival with a nice variety of things to do set in Berryville....a beautiful drive in the Fall!

I volunteered at the Blue Ridge Spinners and Weavers Guild's booth.   I love looking at all the fabulous creations...from woven to knitted to felted.   Every one....a piece of art!


I even managed to catch some sheep "jumping" as they were herded by their sheep dogs!  I've never seen that in real life before...only in the movies!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Fiber Study - Brown Manx Loaghtan and Cheviot

The spinning group of the Foothills Spinners and Weaver's Guild started a fiber study.  Each month, we'll spin one ounce of the selected wool and provide feedback and analysis on the breed under study.    We had ordered 24 one ounce samples of various breeds, so we've got a couple of years of analysis planned.  All of the fibers were washed and combed for us.  

The first fiber was Brown Manx Loaghtan.   I'd never heard of this wool before...let alone spun it.   I had a hard time spinning this wool...and keeping it spun.   I haven't used my Kromski Mazurka for a while, so it could be that I don't have the tension set properly.  I fiddled with it quite a bit...but I never really succeeded in getting the proper amount of twist.  Each ply seemed a bit week, but I was able to spin it together easily.   It resulted in a very lofty yarn that bloomed well.   It produced 76 yds. of two ply yarn.

The second fiber, the Cheviot was MUCH easier to spin.   My main challenge with this wool was that I couldn't spin it thin - it "insisted" on being spun a bit thicker than my usual.   I did really like the two-ply yarn it produced.  I have spun Cheviot before.  This was much better prepared and a much more pleasant experience my previous one with this breed.   Since I was spinning so much thicker, I only managed to get 58 yds. of finished yarn from this breed.

Here they are side-by-side for comparison:

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Bluemont Festival

I love this little festival - so many crafts!  Apple dumplings at the Methodist Church!  And....all the fabulous handcrafted goods from the members of Blue Ridge Spinners and Weavers.  There are so many beautiful items...and the sales really kept our cashiers busy!



PLUS...we get to demo spinning and weaving as part of our booth.  Kids LOVE to touch and play...and a festival like this is the perfect place for them learn a new skill and try it out.   Beth seems to really enjoy teaching these kids the finer points of rag rug weaving....

There was a LOT of spinning going on as well....


And even some supported spindle spinning.  Of course, one of the things I love is checking out the alpacas that come to the festival too!

Little cuties!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Open Air Art

This morning, on my way to the Foothills Spinning and Weaving Guild meeting, I made a stop in Old Town Herndon  because I'd spotted an artist with her easel painting on the street corner right next to the Great Harvest Bread Company.

She was busily painting the corner building across the street - Zeffirelli's Restaurant.   Art Space in Herndon had various artists stationed throughout the town....painting "en plein aire" (in the open air).   I spent a few moments chatting with her before my meeting this morning.

Here's a view of both the painting....and subject- Zeferilli's Restaurant.


It turns out that the artist, Karen, and I both belong to the same guild - Foothills Spinners and Weavers....but don't recall ever formally meeting.  We introduced ourselves to each other and had a quick chat about fiber/spinning/dyeing.    She'd recently tried dyeing with poke weed (berries)...something I definitely need to try.  Karen is multi-talented - a fiber artist as well as a painter!!!

When my meeting was over, I stopped by again.   She'd completed her first painting and was already working on another one!   Amazing!!!!

I'm constantly amazed at the talents everyone has - so many fabulous artists, talents, and interests.  Painting is one thing I really don't want to tackle.  My "renditions" of even a still life  leaves a lot to be desired.   (I did, however, make a surprising discovery several years ago on my niece's "golden birthday".   I found I could draw a great donkey - totally from memory!   Unfortunately, there's no big demand for that skill, so I keep that pretty much to myself....LOL!)

Finished Buttons!

The buttons and the bowl that I glazed last weekend have been fired and all are now finished!  I love how everything turned out.

I lucked during the firing....none of mine broke/fractured.   I wasn't quite as lucky with the glazing - there were a couple of minor catastrophes.....two sets of two buttons touched in the kiln while being fired, so they fused together.   I lost 3 of my purple heart buttons and one of my ox blood hearts.  Everything else came out great!

Breakage and failures are inherent  hazards with ceramics and adds to the unknown nature and excitement of the final result.    You can create the most incredible pot, and the initial firing could cause it to break.  Or, two things could fuse together during the glazing process if things shifted and touched.   I lucked out in the initial firing....none of mine broke/fractured.   I wasn't quite as lucky with the glazing.   I'm not sure I'd be able to handle it if I'd made a large ornate project and it broke.  Buttons are one thing, but large pots are quite another.  


I did a couple of different techniques for the buttons - one where you coat the entire button with one or more layers....for a total of 3 layers on the front.

For some others, I painted colors in the design and then covered them with a clear coat glaze.    I really like how both of them turned out - including my practice piece.

I thought this piece was pretty ugly. when I'd painted it and covered it with the clear glaze..  I was just using it to practice the technique as well as to get an idea of what the various paint colors looked like.   I was pleasantly surprised to see the final product - I really like how this looks!

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Check out the "before" and "after" photos of the buttons and decorative items....quite a huge difference, eh?

One of the non-button items I made was a diz.   I gave it three coats of purple on half of it and two coats of purple and one coat of green on the other half.   Once the glaze was fired, the result was predominantly purple with just a hint of green.

I intentionally made the little men buttons two tone - burnt sugar for the shiny glaze and a flat brown on an angle.  I love the contrast of the shiny vs. the flat glaze...


 The glaze settles in the ridges for the solid colored buttons like the heart button.  It's hard to believe that the flat rather blah looking heart on the left magically becomes the heart on the right when the glaze is fired.


Similarly, the sheep buttons show the pattern where the glaze settled in the stamped sheep portions


I think these are my favorites....I love how the painted version turned out - so delicate looking.

Sue's angel came out beautifully!   I just love how it looks.  There is so much work in one of these.  I'm so glad I got to see how most of it was being put together.   Perhaps one day I'll feel skilled enough to attempt on of these!

Here's the side and rear views - amazing!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Let the Glazing Begin!!!!

At our July Foothills meeting, Marla taught us how to make pinch pots and ceramic buttons.   We all made a nice variety of things and sent them how with her so she could fire them in her kiln.   Today, we got to glaze our creations.....the final step in the process.  I'd never done any ceramic work before, so I was VERY excited about this opportunity!

Unfortunately, I didn't take any pictures in July, but the basic process was to roll out our clay like you're rolling out dough for baking a pie....only a bit thicker.   Marla had special rolling pins and guide strips so we would get the appropriate thickness.    I also learned that you have to roll the clay in multiple directions so it will roll out evenly.

We used cookie cutters and various other items to create impressions on the wet clay and to cut out shapes.   We then used coffee stirrers to cut holes in our shapes to create buttons.  We had to be careful when picking up the shapes though....they needed to stay flat.   I learned that clay has memory...and if you bend it, it will "remember" that and curve when fired.   I kept most of mine flat, but then I purposely curved some of them to create curved buttons.

Marla's clay studio was amazing!   Her tools were laid out  nicely with LOTS of workspace!     What a fabulous studio!  Here's the view of the left and right sides of her workspace - nice and contiguous!


 The kiln was fascinating as well.  It's deep, so you can insert a number of shelves of ceramic figures, buttons, or other creations.   I believe that Marla has hers setup with 3 shelves.

Today's kilns are all electronic, so keeping the temperature even and shutting them off at the appropriate time is much easier than it used to be. 

On to my buttons....

All of my "raw" buttons were successfully fired...as well as my pinch pot.  Nothing broke in the process.   That's always a risk....if there's a weak spot or the clay wasn't properly prepared.    The pot is made with a slightly different clay than the buttons and had to be fired at a higher temperature.  I though a little bowl would be the perfect catch all for my stitch markers.

On to the glazing...

The glazing is done in layers....basically 3 layers on each of the buttons.   I chose my colors and painted them on each piece.  The fronts got the full 3 layers of glaze and the back only gets a single coat.   You have to wait until each layer of pain is dry before applying the next coat, or the glaze won't adhere properly and will rub off.    It took me about 6 hrs. to get them all done.  Marla was a fabulous teacher and I learned so much!

The bowl wasn't painted with glaze.  Instead, it's dipped in the glaze....let dry, and then dipped again in anther color at the tip.   What amazed me was that the dipped bowl didn't change color much at all.   I did a dark teal on the body of the bowl and a raspberry color at the top.   There's a chemical reaction that will occur  when the glaze is heated that changes this rather blah looking color into the deep vibrant color I chose.   Yes...the bowl below HAS been dipped.  Rather "blah" looking, eh?

For my buttons, I made most of them by painting the entire button with one or more colors....in 3 layers.   I did a second technique on 4 of the buttons and the rose emblem.   I painted different colors in the depressed designs (again, 3 layers) and then I topped them off with a coat of clear glaze.   (The clear glaze has a tint, so it covered the colors making all my buttons look "whitewashed".)

In fact, most of the buttons look rather dull and non-vibrant at the moment.   The flat pale colors will change dramatically one they're fired.

 We also had the option of creating ceramic angels.  They are just beautiful!   Marla had two angels on her buffet as samples - they're just gorgeous!

Sue managed to find time to craft one - I left before she'd finished with the hair and halo.  I had so many buttons to paint that there's no way I could manage to work in an angel!

I can't wait till next week to see how all our projects turn out!!!!