Tuesday, April 24, 2018

From Beeswax to Ewe Smooth to Swax to Tacky Wrap: What's what?

Sarafina offers many original and unique products, made in house, for use in perfecting your needle felting sculptures or making the process more efficient.  Over the years we have used them in our video tutorials as they developed; therefore, not every tutorial makes use of our current product line and more products may arise!  If we had Swax when filming the mouse, for example, Sara would not have used beeswax on those tiny toes.

The following will inform you about the possible uses of each product allowing you to choose the correct one for your project.  Keep exploring the many uses of these materials to see how they work for you!

Beeswax:  The original beeswax, which Sara used early on in her tutorials, is for fingers and toes on animals and people.  You dip the wire into the wax and it helps the fiber stick.  We offer it in clear (white) and black.  Beeswax is not for use on top of wool as it will dry brittle and flake.  If you are interested in a product that can be used both under and on top of the fiber you will want to consider Swax.

Ewe Smooth:  Ewe Smooth was our first development to help tame fibers.  It can be rubbed onto your hands as you work with fiber and does not need to be melted.  We considered stopping the Ewe Smooth production once we had Swax and Tacky Wrap, but people said "No!  Keep it!"  So we did :)  Felters like having it to rub onto their hands when working with wool, especially in the winter when hands are dry.  A fun discovery was that it is good to have some on your hands when working with Swax.  It helps the stickiness of Swax stay off of your fingers and it is easier to press Swax into fiber to create a smooth and shiny finish.

Bunny Butter:  We are tossing this in here because it is another product that we make in house (in Talbot's Waxology Lab).  Bunny (and Gnome) Butters are intended to be a hand lotion.  It really does a nice job with dry hands.  It can also be used when working with Swax to keep the Swax off of your hands and smooth onto the project.

Powertex/Fabric Hardener:  We offer the fabric hardener for anything that you want to completely stiffen on a project.  This is great for application on things like a horse hoof, beak, talon, or horn.  After experimenting with Powertex and Swax, we have found that your fiber will do much better accepting the fabric hardener when it is well felted.  It essentially solidifies any texture or imperfection.  You can add Swax to the top of the Powertex.  For a smoother finish, we would suggest only using Swax.  It is best to experiment with these applications on a piece separate from your finished sculpture first so you know what to expect.  You can apply Powertex with a paintbrush and it will wash out.  Do not let it harden on the paintbrush though!

Tacky Wrap:  Tacky Wrap can be rubbed onto your wire before wrapping.  There is no melting needed.  It keeps the wires nice and sticky so you can get a small amount of fiber wrapped onto the wire and it will stay put.  It will stay sticky so you do not want to use it on top of wool.  Tacky Wrap is offered as a "Sticky Bun" or as pre-dipped Tacky Wrap Sticks.  The sticks are thoroughly coated and convenient to use.  The Sticky Bun can be rubbed onto any wire and even allows you to omit the pipe cleaner on aluminum wires if you really want a skinny wrap but need aluminum wire (like on the Doe project).  Tacky Wrap is one of Sara's favorite creations and we are so pleased to offer it to needle felters.  Sara shows its use in detail on the Tacky Wrap Tutorial.

Swax:  Another favorite at Sarafina is Swax.  This must be melted to use.  Once melted the wire can be dipped into the Swax, then you can press fiber into it and it will dry but stay somewhat malleable.  Swax will not stay sticky and dries smooth to the touch.  Swax can also be colored with powdered pigment, so if you are making something like a gorilla and want a "shiny" face or chest you can use black powdered pigment in Swax.  Swax can also be buffed a bit when it dries, which creates a nice "shine."  Swax is best applied with a rubber tipped applicator like the Colour Shaper chisel set.  You do not want to use a paintbrush to apply Swax.  You can see Swax in action on the Swax Applications Tutorial.

Happy Felting!

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Blending Top Coat Roving Fibers

In the Sarafina Art House we like to have fun with fibers to come up with our house carded blends.
Sara continually creates special blends with fibers for her own use which then work their way over to items that are available to you through our SarafinaFiberArt Website.

On Friday, March 9, 2018 Sara went live through the Sarafina Fiber Art Facebook page with this video to explain a bit about color blending and makes three kinds of wool batts.

At the Sarafina Art House, we receive a lot of phone calls and emails asking us for specific colors for very specific projects, and we often suggest picking up a few different fibers and blending them to get the result you want. In the Carding Fiber: Color and Texture Video, Sara discusses which fibers she picks to make a core wool blend, top coat blend, and a fur line blend.

A great place to get you started on your color blending adventure would be with our line of Top Coat Roving Samplers.

To achieve similar results to what our photo shows, grab a Sarafina™ Roving Sampler Pack and pull equal amounts of each color. 
We like to use our Strauch Drum Carders to blend colors because we work in larger batches, but if you have a pair of hand carders, you can get the blending job done.

These samples below were passed through the small drum carder 3 times.

Sarafina™ Berries Roving Sampler
Sarafina™ Super Fruits Roving Sampler
Sarafina™ Summer Roving Sampler
Sarafina™ Spring Roving Sampler
Sarafina™ Easter Egg Sampler
Sarafina™ Americana Roving Sampler
Sarafina™ Forest Roving Sampler
Sarafina™ Natural Lights Roving Sampler
Sarafina™ Natural Darks Roving Sampler

 The process of blending fibers on a drum carder is pretty simple, but you must pay attention so you do not get hurt as there are moving sharp parts. Check out the Sarafina™ Carding Fiber Video.

Jennifer using the Strauch Petite Belt Drive Drum Carder

First you pull the colors you want to blend.

Align some of the fibers so they will feed into the carder.

Gently place your hand on the fibers as they feed in giving them a little resistance so they are not sucked in all at once. Please watch your fingers as the blades are SHARP!

Continue to add more fibers until the larger drum is full.

Remove the fibers from the carder, pull the fibers apart into smaller sections, then run them through the carder again a little at a time. Repeat this process until your fibers are blended as much as you want (we usually blend 3 to 4 times through).

Sarafina™ Berries Blended on the Drum Carder - 4 times through.

Here is a link to watch Sara show how to blend fibers using the Sarafina™ 8" hand carders.

Marsha's Notes: On my day off a couple of summers ago, I came into Sarafina with my tub full of top coat roving. I was on a mission to blend up a lot of new colors to use in my needle felting projects. I used the Strauch manual carder in the shop to blend all of these, just varying the amounts of certain colors to achieve new blends. It was just like mixing paint colors, but with wool. I would recommend taking photo notes of colors you use for blends as you work so you know how to repeat it if you love something. And if you don't love it, you can always break it up and blend it with other colors to see what else you can make.

Grab all of the Sarafina™ top coat colors and really have some fun blending colors!

I was also working on some wet felting vessels and wanted to combine merino fibers to make new colors. I did not need large amounts of these blended, so I opted for using my 8" Sarafina™ Hand Carders which made an easy job of creating nice floaty colors. But we will save those color blends for future blog posts. 
Sarafina™ Merino Roving (21 micron Merino) Random Hand Carder Blending.
Please be adventuresome and combine various top coats, merinos and other rovings we carry and share your results through social media with us.
Use the hashtag:
to show us your color blends!

Show off what you make with your Sarafina™ products with

We may show off some of your images through future blog posts!

Join the Sarafina Felting Fanfare group over on Facebook to show off your projects using Sarafina™ products, get help with projects, and join in our community of fiber enthusiasts.