Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Wet Felting: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

This is my favorite Minion so far. I called him "Black Hearted Minion." (OK, not very creative, what can I say?) The heart I made in the wet felting stage and had to tweak just a tiny bit of it with needle felting when I was finishing him up.

On a less successful note, I have been trying to make flowers. I keep seeing these lovely wet felted multi-petal Dahlia brooches everywhere but am having a hard time recreating them. These to me look a little sad. But hopefully practice will make perfect!

I am a little happier with these flowers I felted onto a long strip of silk. These I learned how to create from a tutorial I purchased on ETSY. I wore them wrapped around my neck as a necklace and was very happy with the look. (Though a friend generously pointed out to me I will never make enough money to cover my time. Geez, thanks for the input!)
More flower experimenting to come!

Post Workout Cast Iron Skillet Frittata

I am always trying to come up with new high protein meals for after our morning workouts. We are both training for the Tacoma Half Marathon in May and lately have been upping the intensity and length of our workouts. As a consequence, we come home craving fat and protein and carbs. If I don't have something planned, we will eat junk food.

Today I made Frittata. I like to cook with eggs quite a bit. Usually I am poaching them on sauteed kale. Today I decided we needed something heartier but still wanted to use kale.

Onion, Kale, and Cheddar Frittata

3-4 Tablespoons olive oil
1 large red or white onion, halved and sliced into slivers then halved again
1/2 large bunch kale, sliced thin
4 cloves garlic, minced
6 eggs
3/4 cup sharp cheddar
2 Tablespoons pine nuts (optional)

Start by heating up your skillet to medium with a little olive oil in it. Add red onions and cook, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes.

While the onions are cooking, chop up some kale. Yum. Any type of kale.

Add to skillet along with a little more oil and a smattering of salt.

Stir and then cover. (Like my improvising on the lid? Gotta work with what you have.) It looks like a lot at first but then it cooks down. Cook, covered, for about 8 minutes, or until kale is really wilted.

While that is cooking, blend eggs with fork in large bowl. Add cheddar and mix again.

After kale is pretty well cooked, remove cover, add garlic, and cook for about 30 seconds. You don't want to burn that garlic.

Add kale and onion mix to bowl of eggs and cheddar and blend well. Wipe out cast iron skillet and lightly coat with 1 or 2 Tablespoons of oil. Pour egg mix into skillet, keeping it over medium heat. Not high heat, or the bottom of your frittata will be burnt! Cover again, this time with a sheet pan. You want it to cook just enough for the top to set, but it will still be wet looking.

While frittata is cooking on stove, preheat your broiler. Check after 5 minutes, but it could take up to 10 to start to set.

Here it is just set but still wet looking. Put under the broiler for 1-2 minutes to brown the top. I added a couple of Tablespoons of pine nuts just before putting it under the broiler.

It's a little harder to tell in this photo, but the frittata is nicely browned and set in the middle. You don't want to over cook it, however. Overcooked eggs taste rubbery.
With only 6 eggs, we managed to split the entire yummy goodness for lunch.

Note: I used a 12" cast iron skillet and the frittata came out extra thin. A 10" might be better or next time I will double my recipe and cook it a little longer and then have leftovers for lunch the next day.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

New friends: Minions!

So I've started calling these little guys Minions. I like this photo; it looks like are doing the side-eye off camera to some other Minion.

And I just made my first flowers today. I screwed up and made the connector too short. I wanted to be able to wrap it around my neck like a scarf. Oh well, guess I'll just have to make some more! Also, I think I will add some needle felting to them too. They are still wet right now so that will have to happen tomorrow.

So on another totally different note, we are loving our new heat pump. It takes some getting used to having it run all of the time versus the oil furnace you try to turn off all the time. But we just found out today that we probably need a whole new roof on our house, not just a little patch like we were hoping. Sheesh. At least we will be warm and dry!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Advanced Tutorial: Wet Felting a 3D Bunny Part 2

I should have called the original post "Felting a Critter" because these don't really look like bunnies anymore. I started by wet felting the 3D form and with this posting I am showing how I stuff them and close the seam and how I use needle felting to add detail.

You can find the wet felting stage of these critters on my Advanced Tutorial: Wet Felting a 3D Bunny Part 1.

You will need:
wool for finishing the seam and adding any details that you want
polyester fiber fill
felting needles
optional: skewer

You will need to start by stuffing your critter with the fiber fill. On my smaller bunny, the the ears felted closed and I was unable to stuff them. I don't really like the way that they look. So I made a larger one and the ears turned out just fine.

You will be surprised at how much stuffing can go into one of these little critters! Pack in as much as you can and then take a little bit of wool roving that matches the color of your critter and start to close the seam. You can either pinch the 2 edges together or needle felt a little more to add more felt to make the critter sit flat.

Work your way across the seam. I have found that it is easier to do just a little at a time versus trying to control a huge handful of roving all at once.

Before you completely close the seam up, add more stuffing.

Finally, you can add detail with needle felting. I started by putting pink around the eyes and then realized that it didn't provide much of a contrast.

I also made a larger critter out of wet 3D felting because the small one was a little awkward and I wanted to play with making a bigger shape.

With the larger one I did the exact same process as the small one: stuff and needle felt.

My finished critters. My friend's kid said he thought they looked like Totoro's minion's but I don't think they are quite fat enough! The small lavender dots on the larger critter are needle felted as well.
Now I want to make a giant 3D slug!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Photos From My Day

Today has been and interesting day. I found this bird skull when I was working in the garden. Look how teeny tiny it is! It's amazing that I didn't crush it before I realized what it was.

Here is our old oil furnace. And ducts. We are getting a new heat pump and brand new ducts. Nice. Only I just found out this weekend that we need to replace a large part of our back roof too. When it rains it pours, I guess.

The nicest thing so far about my day was this delicious noodle dish I made for lunch. Stir fried veggies over rice noodles with a soy/sherry/fish sauce dressing. That was delicious. I did get a good amount of work done in the studio today too because the guys were in the crawl space right under my office banging things around and I couldn't think straight so I escaped out to the studio.

Soon we're off to Rosewood Cafe for dinner. Barry, the owner, has generously offered us some wine for my fundraiser next week and I thought we might as well stop to have dinner when we pick the wine up!

We won't have heat tonight because the rest of the heat pump has to be installed tomorrow. At least I brought in the little space heater from my studio and it seems fairly mild outside right now. Ah well, it's good to feel like you are roughing it once in a while!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Advanced Tutorial: Wet Felting a 3D Bunny Part 1

This is Part 1 of a 2-part tutorial. This first stage is making a 3-dimensional wet felted bunny shape out of wool roving. The second part will be on finishing the bunny and adding needle felting as embellishment.

For this stage, you will need:
wool roving (I refrain from amounts because you might make a giant bunny!)
bubble wrap
synthetic fabric (for your pattern)
hot lightly soapy water (from shaved glycerin or olive oil soap)
work space that can get wet! and towels to act as buffers

paddle or some other agitation device
pool noodle to roll up bunny in for agitation

Learning how to make a 3D object in one piece out of wet felting was a revelation to me. I had seen demos on how you can make a hat around a form but this way is to make a 3D object with a flat pattern and no sewing involved!

Cut out a shape of a bunny out of your synthetic fabric. This will act as a resist and the center of your piece. Remember that felting shrinks about 30% so make it larger than what you want to end up with.

Hand tear your roving and lay out so that it is just larger than your pattern.

Set pattern/resist on top of felt. You will be felting around this pattern/resist.

Wet generously with your hot soapy water. Remember, less soap is better in felting! Too much soap and it stops the fibers from attaching to one another. Ideally, you want the exposed outside edges dry as it is easier to fold them around the pattern. I got them pretty wet as I was taking photographs. Pat the form gently to make sure it is all wet. At this stage we are just wetting and layering the wool, we are not felting yet. If you start tapping or pounding on the wool too early, your layers won't build up in a solid felt.

Carefully fold over edges around pattern.

Without flipping pattern, cover top of pattern and wet and pat gently, no rubbing!

Flip over entire piece carefully and keep adding layers in opposite directions, wetting, gently tapping and folding edges, and flipping the whole piece and repeating until you have at least 6-8 thin layers total. Your pattern/resist should still be inside the bunny. I added some spots as I was adding on layers. At this point I have only gently tapped the wool and have not begun felting. This took me about 15 minutes to get to this stage but I work pretty fast.

Once you have all the layers you want, then you can start the felting process. I like to just tap firmly with my fingers like I am typing or playing a piano. If you are doing it right, water should be flying everywhere as you tap. If not, add more water! Keep flipping the piece and working the wool. Don't rub at this point, you want the layers to attach to each other top to bottom.

Once you can pinch up a bit of the wool and it "tents" or stays all in one piece, then you can start tossing the felt around or whatever wet felting strategy you prefer. I also rolled it up in bubble wrap around a pool noodle and rolled it back and forth and that helps the felting process along too. The key here is to keep the form wet at all times with the hot soapy water and agitating the fibers like crazy so they start to cling to each other and shrink.

After 15 minutes or so of tossing and rolling, you can see this little bunny is starting to felt.

At this point, I like to start rubbing the wool with something other than my poor over-worked fingers. Lots of felt artist use lots of different tools. I love this scraper for gutting pumpkins. Weird, I know, but it has a nice ribbed surface on the back and is small enough for getting in tight corners to smooth out and work the felt.
Now he is ready to cut open and become 3-dimensional.

I like to cut at the bottom because then I can stuff him and needle felt closed the seam and no one will be the wiser.

Carefully cut until you have found the resist and pull it out.

See, your fabric pattern/resist has done its job and the bunny is hollow! Wool won't felt to a synthetic material.

UPDATE: I discovered the hard way that wool can, indeed, felt to synthetic material. Especially extra fine synthetic material that you work way too long before cutting open. The key is to work your shape long enough for it to felt but not long enough for it to stick to the fabric.

Now you can stick your hand inside of the bunny and work around all the edges with the paddle or your fingers and continue the felting process. Keep him wet and work the felt until you are satisfied. You can even poke the blunt end of a chopstick up in the ears to solidify the shape. I left my bunny slightly lumpy because I like the texture. Then rinse with hot water to get the soap out and then a final cold water and vinegar rinse to stop the felting process. Allow to dry.
At this point you can stuff him and sew or needle felt him closed or add embellishments with needle felting.

Part 2 will be on finishing and embellishing the bunny!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

New Items on Etsy!

I've been busy this week making a lot of new items for my Etsy shop, RavenMeetsCrow.

I get so many comments on my own claw dangle necklace that I made a couple more in a similar style. These two ladies came off of a tea tin. The claws are actually made from bone.

As you can probably tell, I have been experimenting a lot with my photographs. I think I need a better way to display necklaces. I am still hunting for a perfect French-style dress form to use for my photos of my jewelery.

I especially love this little rooster pendant.

I hope you can take the time to check out my site! Now I have to go finish preparing slides for a lecture I am giving about Dubai tomorrow night.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Organizing a Fundraiser

Like most people, I have been quite troubled by all the earthquake and tsunami photos coming out of Japan. Living in the Pacific Northwest, I am especially empathetic to the destruction that can come from an earthquake. We have been living under the shadow of "the big one" ever since I can remember.

Number 30 on my list of 37 Things I Want to do Before I turn 38 is Throw a fundraiser. Now of course I was thinking I would do this in the fall and have plenty of time to plan for it and make cute invitations and the like. But the thing I learned this week is that you can't plan for disaster relief like it's a game; you don't know when disaster is going to strike. So you just have to buckle down and do it.

And so I am going to make dinner and invite my friends over and ask them each to make a $50 donation to the Red Cross. And I am going to have a small silent auction and raffle tickets for some good stuff. Now I just need to find the good stuff and plan the menu and, well, it is a whole lot easier than being in an earthquake.

Also, we decided to have it on my husband's birthday because then we can also ask people to donate money in lieu of gifts. I am hoping to raise $1000.

You have to dream big, right?

Monday, March 14, 2011

37 Things: Bake a 3 Layer Cake

I like to challenge myself on my list of 37 Things I Want to do Before I Turn 38. A 3 layer cake, while not rocket science, does require some special tools. You need 3 cake pans. (Unless you want to bake in stages, which I don't.) You need an offset spatula to apply frosting to the cake. You need a piping bag to decorate the bottom edge. You need a pound of butter.

You also need a big crowd to eat it all so you don't feel like a pig. Last night we went to a dinner party and I knew it would be perfect timing for this cake.

I am not a big cake eater in general. I prefer cookies or chocolate.....or whiskey. But a red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting is really delicious and worth the time, once in a while anyways, to enjoy. My friend Rosie took all these fabulous photos of me serving up the cake. I look like I am seriously focusing on this cake!

The key to cutting cake is a clean knife. Dampen a tea towel with hot water and wipe the blade between slices. It makes the cake slices look sharp and elegant.

I love the look of red velvet. To me, this is what cake is supposed to look like: slightly magical and unreal. And with red and pink sugar sprinkles.

I just love looking at this cake. Maybe I should make it my screensaver because I probably won't be making another one any time soon. (A pound of butter remember! And I worked out at the gym yesterday for over an hour and a half to prepare myself for this cake.)

And I did cheat slightly with the recipe. The batter was supposed to be for a 2 layer cake instead of 3 but I just divided it up into 3 pans instead of multiplying the recipe. A cake made with 3 full layers would have been truly gigantic and completely unnecessary. This cake was perfect in my humble estimation.
I notice that I am mostly focusing on the food items on my list. Perhaps I need to make 2 lists each year: one for food and one for everything else!