Sumerian legend claims that the secret of felt-making was discovered by Urnamman of Lagash. The story of Saint Clement and Saint Christopher relates that while fleeing from persecution, the men packed their sandals with wool to prevent blisters. At the end of their journey, the movement and sweat had turned the wool into felt socks.
Felt making is still practiced by nomadic people (Altaic people) in Central Asia and northern parts of East Asia (Mongols), where rugs, tents and clothing are regularly made. Some of these are traditional items, such as the classic yurt (Gers), while others are designed for the tourist market, such as decorated slippers. In the Western world, felt is widely used as a medium for expression in textile art as well as design, where it has significance as an ecological textile.
What I do know is that it’s a lot of fun. Merging the wool fibers creates, a warm, durable and water-proof felt, used for centuries. The artistic possibilities, beyond the basics are endless.
My talented friend Liz held a felt-making workshop for a few friends on a visit home from New Zealand. She’s become quite the expert. We started with a small pile of wool fibers and a few basic tools, and left with a finished piece. Liz is also a gourmet cook, a talented seamstress and a gifted fibre artist. You can see more of her work in the Facebook Album Fibre Art.
I wet-felted pieces in orange and black, then combined them to make a small Halloween hanging. I dry-felted the pumpkins on top,adding the orange felted cord at the end. It’s my new holiday favorite.
Laura joined me that day, and crafted a beautiful multi-layered piece in white and blue. She dry felted and embroidered flowers to the piece, then made it into a purse. A certain gardener turned 50 that year, and unwrapped this stunning purse for the occasion! Getting older has its pluses.
It can take a bit of finesse to create beautiful pieces of felt, but the basics are simple. GFWSheep offers a tutorial to get you started.