Tuesday 20 November 2012

Roomy and Stylish Felted Handbags that you'll use every day!

Bryony models one of my spotty big bags- notice the mauve colour that I used for the inside.
I have often seen bag making felting workshops advertised but when I have checked the dimensions of the bag I have realised that it is a very small bag; and even some felting kits that are available online are for tiny bags, the kind of bag that I call a ‘wedding handbag’. 
So I decided that if I was going to run hand felted bag making workshops it would be to make a practical and roomy handbag; the type of bag that I would like to use everyday. 

I made my first All SensesArt 'big bag’ back in Summer of 2011 and I have been using it everyday since. Over the months it seems to have softened and moulded to my body shape...a bit like an old Harris Tweed jacket, so it has actually improved with age!

I have run several day long AllSensesArt Felted Big Bag workshops since making my own so I thought it was time to share some of my creative process. 

This is how much it will shrink in size!
I used a favourite bag as a guide for the shape and proportions that I wanted my bag to be. From experience I know how much shrinkage to expect so I scaled my outline up and then cut a template from plastic. I like to use the builders' roofing plastic that is easily available (and very cheap) from builders merchants like Wickes and B&Q.
Laying out the wool takes time but is worth the effort.
To get a good finish and to help reduce the chances of the surface of the finished bag pilling I laid out twelve very thin layers of wool fibres (six layers on either side of the plastic). 
This is much better than laying out fewer thick layers.
I love Cate's choice of rich colours and flamboyant design. 
Even in a day long workshop there isn’t really lots of time to lay out a very complex  design. At the beginning of the session we make our own two sided pre-felt i.e. with two different colours of wool fibres so that it can be used either way up. I often keep my decoration simple by cutting circles, but simple flower shapes, leaf shapes and other geometric shapes are all possible.
Extra decoration can be added using whisps of other coloured wool tops or fluffy knitting yarns such as mohair. 

Cate. These projects can seem enormous at this point!
As we are working on a large scale I have kept the size of workshops quite small- with just four participants per workshop. This means that everyone can have a table to themselves and also that there is enough room when we need access to the kitchen sinks (the hall that I have used has two stainless steel sinks which is great). 
Cutting open to remove the template and further work the handle strap.
It is always an exciting moment when the fibres are felted together enough to cut the template out. But not the time to get too relaxed as there is still quite a bit of felting to be done to further shrink the bag! 
Getting smaller but not quite there yet.
Trish with her finished bag.  For her design she needs to sew on her orange and red felted handles.
Some people like to add a magnetic closure but I have opted to sew a gusset of heavy duty satin lining in with a zip closure. I really like this as it isn’t visible from outside, doesn’t spoil the way that the bag hangs and makes sure that everything is secure inside. 

Cate's completed bag; it is fantastic!
If you would like to make your own felted big bag with me then just get together a group of friends or work colleagues and I can run a full day workshop for you. I need just four people to be able to run these full day classes for only £69 per person. These classes are usually held at Martin Heath Hall, Christchurch Lane, Lichfield, Staffordshire. WS13 8AY but if you prefer I can come to a venue of your choice. 

Cost: £69 (this includes all wool fibres, use of equipment and tea coffee and biscuits).

Friday 8 June 2012

Australian themed felting fun for school Arts Week

Paintings by contemporary Aboriginal artist Minnie Pwerle were the perfect inspiration for my very young felters

Wow working with children is so rewarding and so exciting! Children have so much energy and so much enthusiasm and this is especially great because sometimes in a school creative felting session we have to work quickly. 
Last week I was invited to work with all of the children in the Reception year at Cherry Orchard School in Worcester. During one day in their School Arts Week I worked with 90 children aged between 4 and a half and 5 and a half.

The school had devised an Olympic themed Arts week whereby each class focused on art activities relating to just one country. The Reception year children were researching all things Australian.

When I discovered the art work of Aboriginal artist Minnie Pwerle I was really inspired as I could immediately see a take on Australian art that was achievable by children so young. 

Minnie Pwerle painting on the left and Harley's wonderfully energetic felted design on the right. Using a dark background and bright colours for the design was especially effective.

Understanding different levels of dexterity and people’s abilities to manipulate wool fibres to make designs helps me when devising creative felting projects and as I’ve been making and teaching felting for 15 years I was confident that my young creative students would be up for it!

Each session was between 75 and 90 minutes long so really not very long at all. 
As always I was most concerned that everyone felt comfortable and happy as all the best learning and creative experiences happen when those basic human needs are met. 
I worked with 30 children at a time and there were 2 or 3 helpers in the class with me. The team work was fantastic and I was so happy that the children all made such original felted pieces. Every single pupil made their own unique piece of felt.

I had explained that Minnie used circles and lines mostly and I also mentioned that sometimes she was inspired by her dreams. I tried not to be too literal because in the time available and with children as young as five it was mostly about the experience of felting rather than getting too involved with symbols used in traditional Aboriginal art.

Lots of energy and a bit of bottom wiggling. We called this 'Zumba Felting'! 

The staff at Cherry Orchard were fantastic. They made sure that the tables were set up with space for everyone that there was plenty of water and at the end of the sessions it was perfect that they were able to peg up everyone’s felted piece on washing lines in the playground. 

And lastly a fantastic tip; It is especially good if the school has waterproof name labels to attach to damp felt. No blurred and soggy paper labels at Cherry Orchard!

Lots of spontaneity in this design and it is also a very well felted piece of felt. 

It was really exciting to see what the children achieved. You have to remind your self that they were only aged 5.

I really enjoyed my experience of leading these sessions of Australian themed felt at Cherry Orchard Primary school and would love to do it again.

Lots more pictures and information about my felting workshops with all ages of people at my website www.allsensesart.com

Sunday 19 February 2012

Fantastic Creative Craft Parties for Children in Solihull

Yesterday I had a fun day at a Children’s Party Event in Dorridge, (near Solihull). 'Get The Party Started' was an event organised by Melanie Bramich. 

Melanie like many mums feels that it is really important to meet face to face with the people that you are entrusting your child’s birthday party to.

So, yesterday’s event at Dorridge Village Hall was fantastic as parents were able to come and find out about everything party.
Since setting up AllSensesArt back in 2007 I have provided the entertainment at lots of unusual and interesting children’s craft parties for all ages of children and in so many lovely venues.

I chose to specialise in the felt-making early on as it is such an unusual and sensory process. We start with just fluffy sheep’s wool fibres and using soap and water almost anything can be made!

I have been making hand-made felt now for 15 years so I have lots of experience and have been able to devise some very cool craft ideas for birthday parties.

I am absolutely in love with the process of felt-making as it is so exciting to see how much fun people of all ages have. Felting isn’t just for children it’s a fantastic craft party activity that suits all ages.
At AllSensesArt I offer several children’s party options. 
  • Felted Teddy Bear Coats
  • Felted Cushions and Pictures
  • Felted Bags
  • Magic Ball Mini-Beasts and Jewellery
  • Felted Flower Brooches

Everyone loves their teddy so why not make your own felted teddy coat.

Felted cushions are so snuggly and of course with with wool fibres in so many colours children can make their own felted cushion to perfectly compliment their bedroom. It will be treasured!
"We just wanted to say a huge Thank You for the fabulous workshop that you carried out for Laura's party yesterday. All the girls had a wonderful time and I had some lovely texts from the mums last night thanking me and saying how the girls were still buzzing and hadn't stopped talking about it all evening. They are all so proud of their cushions and the parents were amazed to see what they had produced. We look forward to seeing you again which I am sure we will!" 
J. Hingley, Stourbridge, W. Mids Dec 2011

A birthday party making felted bags and purses is brilliant. A party bag and gift made all in one!

For younger children my felted mini-beasts party is still the biggest hit. 
"Kirsty came to do felt-making mini-beasts for my daughters 6th Birthday. It was a fabulous party, the children were totally absorbed and very creative. It was a world apart from the usual ball pool parties! The children were absolutely delighted with their creations, which were all so different. A very special and memorable day, A big thank-you." S. Wilson, Hamstall Ridware, Staffordshire 2011

The great thing about this party is that you can either make lots of mini-beasts or make a mini-beast and then a necklace or bracelet too.

For 'Get The Party Started' I made some gorgeous multi-colored bracelets to sell, but I also offered children the chance to have a go at felting and make their own magic felted ball.

Here I am at 'Get The Party Started' (Solihull).

Ellie made a lovely felted ball she was definitely the type of girl who would love the creative parties that I provide. 

And as I’ve said before, “Felting isn’t just for boys!” Read my Hand-Made Felting Projects for Boys

I couldn't resist matching this young felter's nail polish with the same gorgeous wool colours. Here at AllSensesArt we must be doing something right!

For the party event in Dorridge, we had parents and children coming from all around the Solihull area including Knowle and Dorridge. 

It was a really great chance to show people what felt-making is all about. 

So many gorgeous colours of wool to choose from and using soap and water really gets people’s interest! I am really looking forward to providing more fun and creative parties to lots more birthday boys and girls in the Solihull area.

To find out more about my felting birthday parties for kids visit www.allsensesart.com
I am based in The Midlands, UK but travel all over the UK.