So what is wet felting and why should you have a go?
It would seem that although I had never heard of wet felting or needle felting until last summer, turning wool into felt actually predates spinning and weaving and is regarded as the oldest form of textile. The word ‘felt’ has always conjured up images in my mind of the fuzzy variety played with as a child, or the stuff put on flat rooves to make them water tight, but in fact this hard wearing, warm and water resistant material has been used to make clothes and shelter for many different civilisations throughout the centuries
Felt is produced by matting wool fibres together. When this is achieved by wetting and rubbing the wool fibres it is called wet felting, when it is achieved by stabbing the wool with special barbed needles (watch out as those needles are sharp!) it is called needle felting.
Back to why we recommend having a go:
1. The wool is so soft
For our pictures and figures we use mainly merino wool. This is the softest type of wool
available and we find handling it very therapeutic and relaxing. I suppose it’s like stroking a dog or cat, except in this case it’s a very soft sheep! When you put merino wool, a glass of wine and a good natter together you have a recipe for a very relaxing and creative evening.
2. Range of colours, textures
Wool can be dyed almost any colour you can imagine. As well as that it is very easy to blend colours together which helps to create stunning effects in landscape pictures. We also use a variety of other wool types, silks, and more modern fibres such as soybean and bamboo which all produce different textures in our pictures and figures. The possibilities are endless.
3. You don’t need expensive equipment
Taking up a new hobby can prove very expensive. Felting requires a minimum of resources, most of which you probably have hanging around at home.
For wet felting you need a foam pad, a piece of old net curtain, bubble wrap, soap, a bamboo mat (like a sushi rolling mat) and a piece of pipe insulation. The needles are the only truly specialist equipment necessary but these can be bought very cheaply online from Ebay or a specialist wool shop such as World of Wool or Wingham Wool. Apart from that it is the cost of the wool itself, but even here you can buy starter packs of most colour varieties and types.
4. Easy to start over or rectify mistakes
Since starting felting I have heard myself say many times that I am not an artist. It’s true I can just about tell one end of a paintbrush from the other and the most I ever do with paint is put it on the walls. However, we’ve found that felting is a much more forgiving medium to work with which allows us to achieve very artistic results. When you lay out your wool you can simply pick it back off and start again until you are happy. Even when it has been felted you can still make some adjustments.
This has been very important to us while developing our craft. Felting has always been a recreational pursuit for us (with wine and a chat as already mentioned). We don’t have to lug around heavy equipment or be limited to one room or house. All we need fits neatly into a big, hessian Bag for Life. As long as the foam pad is thick enough you can even manage on your knees (as we successfully trialled in a recent craft fair).
So, how about it? Do you fancy a go? There are lots of kits online to try with everything you need already included, in fact we are developing some ourselves, or else you could try a workshop like we did. If you want to try out something you have seen on our web site or Facebook page let us know and we can put a kit together for you. If you fancy a workshop experience get in touch and we can discuss your needs. Lastly, as with any craft, practise makes perfect. We thoroughly enjoy practising and the only downside we have experienced are the self-inflicted stab wounds from the very sharp needles.