Sunday, August 12, 2012

Silk Marbling with Laura Sims

Back in July I took a workshop with Laura Sims at my good friend Linda Veilleux's studio. Linda's studio is in her lovely Vermont home and she offers some workshops as retreats; with rooms and food for a small extra charge that is REALLY worth it. It is so much fun and more relaxing to be able to stay where you are, work longer if desired, and just hang out with new friends. I have been thinking about offering classes here with a room for overnight too, but I could not do what Linda does with pampering her guests with food and treats (plus I really don't like planing meals). I also don't have such a nice studio space or this gorgeous view...

I have wanted to learn marbling for a very long time. I remember going to a program at one of my children's elementary schools where the kids were able to do some marbling on paper. I really wanted to try it too. Years later I learned more about it in my favorite class at Smith, The Art and History of the Book. I even bought some supplies for marbling when I started dyeing my own silks for felting. But what finally got me to do it was seeing Laura's work, which goes beyond the traditional patterns and lends it self to nuno felting. At a guild meeting Linda showed us this coat that she had made with silk that Laura had created.

When I was at the Felter's Fling last year, I had also seen this beautiful jacket by Elynn Bernstein which was made with some of Laura's silk .

I did not take many photos at the workshop; I really just wanted to relax and not be distracted by trying to remember to take pictures to share. Laura shared so much information with us, not just about how to marble silk. She has so many handy tips of how to make tools on the cheap that she could teach a class just in that. This is the kind of frugal thinking that I grew up with and I felt an instant kinship with Laura. Here she shows a straining funnel for the paint and a silk 'handle' that are made easily with items from around the house.

And here is one of her clever drying racks.

Here is a photo showing a dedicated student taking advantage of being able to work after class hours and how elaborate the set up was. Laura really has a lot of work before and after a class like this.

Here are some of my samples of the techniques Laura taught us. She showed us so many that I did not even get around to trying some of them! I hope I can remember enough to try them when I have time.

Along with learning more traditional marbling we learned to do "scapes. This is something I really want to explore more. I did get one of ocean waves that I love.

 We were getting some wonderful textures that Laura thought might be attributed to the water we were using.
One of the exercises was to lay down colored strips of fabric to see how differently the same paint looks on different colored backgrounds.

Here you can see by the way the fabric overlapped just what the color was before the marbling.

With the help of my friend Jean Gauger I made a scarf that I was proud of. It is was made using a Spanish wave pattern where the paint is pushed down the length of the tray as the fabric is moved back and forth. Jean and I had to try to get our movements to match as she held one end and we slowly laid the fabric down in the tray.

And here is a scarf by a master...

Here are some of my samples made into small bags. Making these was a good way to find out what patterns and color combinations work in nuno felt.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Dreaded Wool Moth

When I was feeling so discouraged about felting, I had the additional fright of seeing what I thought was a wool/clothes moth in my upstairs studio. Then, when I was cleaning in the basement I thought I saw two...or three? This is such a big fear for those of us who have huge stashes of wool and other natural fibers. The very thought of it was so overwhelming to me that I wanted to throw everything away and be done with fiber. Having to look in all my bins of wool; hoping, yet fearing to find where the greatest infestation was; possibly having to throw out so much money in wool was all way more than I could handle at that time. I put it off for a week or two but finally decided to peek in one bin. No moths or anything that looked like the eggs or casings I was seeing in images on the internet. But there was some dirt and dusty stuff in the bottom of the bin. Could that be the eggs? I decided to go to the best resource of all things having to do with felt Pat Spark's Feltmaker's List and ask questions about how to go about my hunt. The information was not quite as definite as would have liked so when I found my 'problem' I thought I would take photos to show just what an infestation can look like.
Before I show the nastiness I want to share some information about the little buggers. First off, clothes moths (Tineola bisselliella and Tinea pellionella) aka webbing clothes moths and casemaking clothes moths...
  should not be confused with Indian meal moths (Plodia interpunctella) .
The clothes moth wants your natural fibers especially that yummy wool. Indian meal moths (Mom always called them 'millers') want your cereal and crackers and flour and chocolate and dried fruit and dried flowers and spices and...well, you get the idea.
I was quite familiar with the meal moths, as Mom often had a nice crop of them. After I moved in here I went on the attack to get rid of them and discovered that although the pantry and kitchen cupboards had been cleaned of the pests, they had set up camp in other places such as in the dried flowers that Mom used for crafts and in old, unused spices. The meal moths are bigger and darker in color than the clothes moths are. They are pretty easy to catch as they fly (I remember the cats loved getting them). The clothes moths flit too fast to get them and seem much more desperate to hide from the light than the meal moths.
 I tried to catch any little moths I saw without squashing them too much so I could try to make the positive identification that what I was seeing was in fact a clothes moth. It can be hard in the heat of the moment not to smash them into dust! Those that were still whole-ish I looked at with a magnifier to see the head. That is what I found  to be the best way to differentiate between the two, since the body size and color can vary so much. In the photos above you can see that the clothes moth has a fuzzy head. The moth that I had found in my upstairs studio had a smooth dark head and was actually just a very pale and small meal moth. When I looked at him with a loupe I could faintly see the stripe on his wings too.
I went through all my bins of wool upstairs just to be sure that there was nothing lurking anyway. I refreshed the sachets of lavender while I was at it. One thing I discovered in my research is that all those scents and oils such as cedar might make your wool less attractive to the bugs but to really be noxious to them it would have to be in such concentrations as to be noxious to us too. And the traps for both the meal moths and the clothes moths only catch the males so they do diminish the population but mainly serve as a way to monitor the situation, because by the time you see one or two of them you really have a nasty invasion somewhere.
My somewhere was down in the basement. The little buggers were in some scrap wool that I had in a felt bowl, and in a bag of locks from a fleece that I had cleaned. The felt bowl was in a dark corner of the studio and not put away in the cupboard where I keep my wool bins. The bin with the locks had also been out of the cupboard. The moths prefer dirty wool and the locks had not been washed too much as I wanted them for my natural rug felting. The scrap wool was mainly wool that had been dyed with natural dyes. There is much more helpful information on the internet than I can include here so it is a good idea to look at sites such as this one from Cornell and this one from Colorado State University.
Here are my photos of the moths, casings, frass (aka bug poop which can be any color depending on what color wool they are eating), and eggs. Here is what I found in the felt bowl.

 And here is what the bag of fleece looked like.

I hope this gives you a good idea of what to look for if you ever have to go on the dreaded wool moth hunt. (Sorry about the type in the photos but I am too antsy to go back and fix it now.)
By the way, I left the scrap wool outside for the birds as nest material. I am using the freeze thaw cycle for the fleece. And I plan on washing the the felt to try to save it though thankfully it was not a treasure.
Next up a post on a fantastic marbling workshop I took with the wonderful Laura Sims.