I may have mentioned a slight obsession (can you be slightly obsessed or only completely obsessed, I wonder?) with felt, having been introduced to felt making at our daughter’s Steiner primary school where the children create lots of things that they need out of felt that they’ve made. Felt making, and creating small items from the felt that we’ve made, consumes a large part of the energies of the small Tuesday morning craft group I belong to at the school and slowly my technique is becoming more refined. One of the women who sometimes comes to the group has found a ‘Master Feltmaker’ in Bellingen and begged classes, and I’ve been a bit jealous of the people who have gone off to learn feltmaking in the redoubtable Eileen’s garage. For the next few weeks, however, I have the opportunity to join in because one of her regular students is going away for a month or so and Eileen has kindly agreed that I can take her place.
Two cute slippers, soon to be adorned with a flower each!
I have to say I felt a bit nervous turning up yesterday to who-knows-what! But Eileen is a real character: she must have been making felt and felt things by hand for about forty years, and what she doesn’t know about the process probably isn’t worth knowing. Have deconstructed the samples I took with me (she managed to be only slightly scathing…) she allowed me to jump a couple of lessons and start by making some slippers for my darling daughter. If you’re familiar with feltmaking techniques you’ll probably know that making these lovely little slippers involved laying out wool tops over an oval plastic resist, turning the whole assemblage over, wrapping the edges around the other side of the resist and laying more layers of fleece over the top and then felting the whole thing together. A small slit is then cut in the resulting envelope of gradually felting wool, the resist is removed and hand-shaping turns the slit into an opening for the slippers and shapes the toe, heel, sole and instep.
You can see where the inner and the sole are different colours
I’d only read about the technique in books and so, being very careful with my laying-out technique under Eileen’s watchful eyes, it took me about 3 hours to make these slippers. 2 hours’ work got me to the stage where I could bring them home, and I finished them off this afternoon.
I’m supposed to practice by making another pair as ‘homework’ this week but frankly I don’t want felt slippers, so I’m cheating: our builder’s 18 month old daughter would, apparently, love a pair and if he can get me the pattern in time I might be able to make up a pair of toddler bootees in time for my next lesson with Eileen!
These may look too flimsy to be worn regularly, but in fact there are four layers of fleece in the felt and they are surprisingly sturdy.
A wine-red flower, a bit like a Dahlia, with gold beads in the centre
Eileen wanted to see samples of my work so I took along some pieces of flat felt plus these two flowers which I worked out over the long weekend. They are a development of the small flower and bird brooches I was doing before Christmas, and I was deliberately trying to make something bigger.
Unfortunately Eileen was a bit bemused by them: why, she wondered, did I go to the trouble of cutting out all those petals, and why are the petals so narrow? I didn’t really catch her meaning until she brought out her own box of flowers-in-progress and I saw the light. Her flowers have fewer petals, but they are bigger and she works the individual petals, stretching them and making them warp a bit so that they look very realistic. She showed me gorgeous orchids and roses, carefully shaped and then painted on both sides with dilute PVA glue to strengthen and stiffen them. Once dry, she then assembles layers of petals and beads/embroiders a centre before sewing them to a brooch pin.
I still like my flowers and I want to try making bigger corsages too, but I must say that her flowers are just beautiful and I will try a modification of her pattern and see what I come up with. When I have a spare moment.
The centre of this flower is an antique button