Saturday, 30 June 2012

Happy customers

This morning I was busy working at the studio trying to catch up on outstanding orders.  The big embroidery machine was kept busy doing the embroidery for more Hebridean Hoods as we have none in stock and two of the shops we supply are waiting for more.   Mid morning the phone rang and it was the owner of Scotch Corner in Oban.  "Good morning Ruth, I am afraid I have a bit of a problem with your Hebridean Hoods".  

Oh dear, what was coming next......?

"My problem is I keep selling them...... so I have none left!"  So, it was a good problem to have after all.  I promised to send him some as soon as we get them made up - just as well I had decided to make twice as many as were on order.   All the embroidery is done now, but they still have to be made up.  By next weekend both Scotch Corner and Canongate Jerseys & Crafts in Edinburgh should have some in stock - and I will be left with just two to take to the craft fair I am attending on 7th & 8th July at Eden Court Theatre, Inverness.

Later on I checked my emails and found a lovely email from another customer.  A while ago she had asked me to make her a bag in which she could carry her yoga mat and we had a bit of email and snail-mail correspondence sorting out just what was required.   The first attempt proved just a bit too tight for mat, but I put an extra panel and zip in the side.  There was still a problem getting the mat in and out and I realised it was because the yoga mat is non-slip.  Not doing yoga, it was not something I had given any thought to, but testing against all sorts of fabrics proved that it really is non-slip.  The solution was to use a bit of organza fabric and velcro straps to wrap around the mat before sliding it into the bag.  It now goes in with ease.   I posted it yesterday and it was received this morning.  Jane was delighted with it - so much so that she organized a lovely photograph.  I assume this is her garden - she chose the right place to stand to co-ordinate the colours!

It is lovely to get such positive feedback.

Here at Anna Macneil we make quite a range of bags from small purses and pouches to large shoulderbags but if you don't see something that is exactly right you can email us or come into the studio to discuss your requirements.  We are always happy to develop new designs - and for the designs we already have, you can choose your own colours and embroidery designs.   Whether you buy off-the-peg or opt for a custom-made bag, it will be unique - we never make two identical.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

The Cromarty Firth - a felt map - Day 2

This was the second day of our two-day project to make a felt map of the Cromarty Firth.   (To see what we did on day 1, click here) The participants were the pupils who are starting at Invergordon Academy after the summer holidays.  This week they are at the school getting a taste of what is in store for them as secondary school pupils - and to have some fun with feltmaking!

We started off with the largest group of students doing some more needle-felting, adding in more detail and firming up on all the detail that was already there to make sure everything was fully attached.   The class were very enthusiastic, but we managed to go through a packet of 50 needles!    Once all the needles were used up, we moved onto the next stage.

The felt was covered over with an organza sheet.  This is sheer enough to see the design through the fabric, but smooth so that we could easily slide our fingers over it without disturbing any of the needle-felted details.   We then drizzled soapy water onto the appropriate areas and rubbed gently over the detailed areas to ensure that all the fibres were fully felted in.   We had a team change during this and the new team took over with gusto.  I have never seen a group of 12 year-old boys have so much fun with soapy water!

Eventually we decided that the felting on the top surface was complete so we turned the felt over and did more rubbing on the back, concentrating on those areas which had been needle-felted.

Another team change and it was time to start doing the milling - rolling the felt in bamboo blinds to squeeze out the water, shrinking and firming up the felt.   This part involved real teamwork and the students did an excellent job.   After lunch we did a bit more milling with another team and then took the felt through to the sink and rinsed out as much soap as we could.  The sun was shining so we went outside to wring the water out of the felt - great fun! 

Then it was back inside and we held it up for a photograph before laying it out on the table for the Head Teacher, some of his staff and some of the other pupils who had worked on it to come and admire the work.

All that remained was for me to pack everything up and take the felt back to my studio.  There I popped it in the washing machine for a final rinse and spin before spreading it out to dry.   Next week once it is dry and pressed I will be heading back up to Invergordon Academy to deliver it, ready for their Technical Department to frame it and get it up on the wall.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

The Cromarty Firth - a felt map

Today was the first part of a two day project that I had been invited to run at Invergordon Academy.   This is the week where Primary 7 pupils spend time at the secondary school so that they find out what it is like to be at the "big school".   But as well as ordinary classes, a bit of fun had also been organised - making a felt wallhanging.

Throughout the day, small groups of pupils came and helped with the project.  The idea was to make a map of the Cromarty Firth - the stretch of water which is so important to the town of Invergordon.  In the firth you will see dolphins and seals rubbing shoulders with oil rigs and cruise liners.

We started by making a piece of half-felt using a variety of shades of blue, laying the fibres out roughly in the shape of the firth.  We then wet it down with warm soapy water, covered it with bubblewrap and started rubbing.   After a little while, we turned the whole thing over and rubbed some more from the back.   Once it was rubbed enough to hold together, we cut out the shape of the firth and put the piece to one side.

Next stage was to lay out the fibres of white wool to make the background.  As we had an area of 2.4m x 1.2m to fill this took some time.  Once we had two good layers of wool - on top of a layer of icewool fabric, we wet it all down with more soapy water and covered with bubblewrap - more rubbing.   After a little while, we peeled back the bubblewrap and spread out the blue half-felt to as close as possible to the position it should be in.  Then it was back on with the bubblewrap and more rubbing...... and more rubbing....... till it was all felting together nicely.   At that point, we turned it over and started rubbing on the back.   After a while, we were beginning to see blue fibres coming through from the front - a sure sign that it was all working out as planned, so we took away the bubblewrap and worked directly on the felt. 

After lunch, with the felt turned back so that it was right side up, we did a bit more rubbing and then rolled it up and carried it outside to squeeze out as much water as we could - we had a good team effort and it was much lighter to carry in having shed at least a bucketful of water.

We now had the basis of our map and were ready to start adding in the details.  The felt was spread out over a piece of expanded polystyrene and we employed the technique of needlefelting to add the detail.  Some students worked on place names, other worked on things like trees and wind turbines.   We had some problems with scale - what started out as a dolphin quickly became a whale! Some people had to work upside-down - a bit of a challenge!  One student spotted my camera (I had been taking photographs when I remembered) and asked if he could take the photographs - he snapped away happily for the rest of the afternoon and managed to capture the happy atmosphere as well as the details in the felt.    By the end of the day it really was looking like a map of the Cromarty Firth.

Next installment tomorrow!