Monday, April 04, 2016

Felted tree

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Last weekend was Easter, and that always means the National Folk Festival here in Canberra. Being an early Easter, the weather was great. Not that bad weather would have stopped me anyway. I spent two glorious days at the festival, one with a dear friend who had never attended before (new convert, yay!), and one with family. And I was happy to see that my felted tree from last year was back on display, with many other knitted and crocheted bollard covers.

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On site during the 2016 festival

Last year the festival organisers held a competition asking people to make knitted/crocheted covers for the many bollards around the site. I didn't like the idea until I started to think of it as a kind of sculpture, rather than 'knit graffiti' or 'yarn bombing' (each to their own: but not really my scene).

I've tinkered before, on a much smaller scale than this, with ideas for a felted version of the Moreton Bay Figs I love so much. I've worked out how I can do the trunk and roots but not yet a satisfactory canopy.

For this project I needed a simpler shape. Apart from my canopy problem, I also imagined the beautiful spreading Moreton Bay roots being stepped on and tripped over. So I settled on a sort of stylised pencil pine.

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On site during the 2015 festival. On the Monday it rained and the bollard covers didn't come out at all.


It had to be a design that could be sculptural and have a bit of body, but also be built onto a hollow sleeve that could slide over the bollard. The good thing was I didn't have to worry about getting the tree to stand up on its own because the pole would take care of that.

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At home I made a rough cardboard mockup of the bollard it was to sit on. The brown felted part for the trunk could simply wrap around the pole but the body of the tree was going to need stuffing. So I made a ribbed sleeve out of horrible acrylic yarn to serve as an inside lining, and sewed that on to the trunk section. I added texture to the trunk section post-felting by hand sewing with thread, which pretty much disappears into the felt.

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And then I got out all the greenish wool I could find, and started making these leafy bits. They were not meant to be individual leaves, but more like whole branches of greenery/pine needles in that upward sweeping shape some pine trees have.

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The ones at the back of the picture have been felted, and those at the front, not yet.

After I had made a lot of these, I felted them and started sewing them together. And I kept finding that I needed to make more and more and more. A stuffed, three-dimensional shape like this has a lot of surface area. I think I was still knitting the last piece of two only days before it was due to be submitted.

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I knew that there would be many more detailed and clever bollard covers entered - and there were some amazing ones including Rapunzel in her tower (pictured below, though I think there were actually two different interpretations of that theme), an amazing pair of parrots sitting on the edge of a birdbath, and an elaborate pink sculpture of a Hills Hoist style washing line - pretty sure that was by one of the Sparrow-Folk ladies.

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So I wasn't surprised that mine looked very plain by comparison. I could have "put a bird on it" or something like that but I didn't feel it would be my style. Seeing it again this year, I wish I had thought of something to add but I'm still not sure what it would be. Christmas tree lights?


The other problem - this one really bugs me - is that I really didn't make the trunk long enough. It really should go right to the ground. Each time I have visited it during the festival (when the volunteers have been - understandably - too gentle installing it) I have to run over and tug it more firmly onto the bollard.

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I'm still a little sad that it can't come home with me. Perhaps I need to make another large, huggable sculpture. Part of the deal with entering was that it would become property of the festival. I did sew a nametag inside and though they said they wanted to display them in future years, I mentioned that I would be happy to have it back if they are getting rid of it or if it should need mending.

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Ted Sherwood said...


Jane Patton said...

We were at the festival this year and noticed all the great bollard covers. We spent awhile looking at all the different designs. It is lovely to know that one of them was yours. Your tree is beautiful! x Jane