When I first started wool felting, it was just for fun. I’d begun with needle felting, pictorial, as if I was painting with wool. I thought that was where my interest was strongest, but I quickly moved on to wet felting. Now this is not the kind of felting where you basically shrink down a knitted object… a technique with which you may already be familiar. Instead, it’s using the combed and dyed wool from the sheep, laying out layers of the fiber and adding soap, water, and agitation to produce a fabric. And of course I wasn’t satisfied with just making a flat piece of fabric. I wanted to make something three-dimensional! Now mind you, this was only supposed to be a small indulgence of crafting in another medium to break up all the time I spent working on my copper jewelry. Something to rejuvenate my creativity and provide a small vacation from metalwork.
And then I made my first Spirit Vessel… Oh man, was I hooked! I’d begun learning with an instructional DVD, but now I wanted more knowledge. I quickly acquired a small library of used books on the subject of felting. Each night after dinner, I’d curl up on the sofa and school myself on the history and techniques of wet felting. It became an obsession. I joined the Northeast Feltmakers Guild, discovered an online chat board called Felting and Fiber Studio and got myself an electronic subscription to Felting Magazine. I spent hours on end with wool clinging to everything in my studio, my hands wrinkled like prunes from rolling wet bundles of fiber. Before long, Spirit Vessels, Amulet bags and wall hangings were accumulating upon every flat surface available. And, as you may have suspected, my love of symbolism naturally worked its way into each creation.
Watching a roll of wool roving go from a wispy pile of fibers to a sopping wet fragile mess, which eventually results in a three-dimensional object, is just pure magic! Although I carefully plan each project, consult my formulas to allow for shrinkage and apply experience and research, there is always an element of serendipity involved in the final outcome. It’s not an exact science, but where would the fun be in that?
So, how does it work? Well, very simply put, if you were to magnify a strand of wool fiber you would see that there are tiny barbs along the shaft. When the wool fibers are piled together and wet down with water and soap and then agitated, gently at first, those barbs begin to catch on each other. As you work the wool by rubbing and eventually rolling in bubble wrap and a towel… (the bubble wrap acting like little fingers massaging the wool) …the fibers begin to work closer and closer together resulting in a more cohesive fabric. As this fabric is worked further, it begins to shrink and become a solid form. That’s the basic gist of it, though there are many more details involved which aren’t necessary to relay unless this were an actual tutorial.
Each piece begins with a story in mind and I hope to express it, albeit abstractly, through the colors and hand sewn beading and decorating that I add after the vessel or amulet bag is felted. I never work on anything when I’m not in a good mood, as I believe we transfer our intentions and vibrational energy to an object while we are creating. Native American flute music plays softly in the background whether I’m felting or making jewelry. It’s soothing, it allows me to create without outside influences affecting me or my work and it provides the atmosphere I seek for deeply connecting with the spiritual nature of the work. If you cook, garden, quilt, knit or indulge in any other creative activity… and I’m sure you do... then you know the state of mind I’m talking about.
While there isn’t room enough to include all of my wool items in this post, you can click over to the web site and not only see more of the work but also read the symbolism and stories that accompany each piece. Working in wool… so soft, light weight and forgiving… is quite a contrast to the metalwork and it provided a welcome change. It won’t replace my jewelry, but it has allowed me to play with luscious colors and create in a much larger format than pendants and earrings. Oh, and then there was that time that it led me to learn how to spin yarn… but that’s a story for another day…
Thank you for stopping by the blog! My name is Carol and I'm a metalsmith and fiber artist who makes amulets and talismans. You can find my work at Willowsongstudio.com