This is a guest post by Anne H. (penguin), one of our forum members who recently attended the IFA Conference that was held near her home. Thanks for the post Anne!
I’ve only been felting a couple of years, and I’m certainly no expert, but when I saw that the International Feltmakers’ Association was holding their annual conference (with workshops of course!) only an hour away from me I couldn’t resist. I was a little nervous going on my own as I’ve done a few residential courses before (for embroidery) but I’ve always known some of the people there – however, the group of approximately 65 ladies (and one man) couldn’t have been friendlier, and I had a wonderful time. If you ever get the chance to go, I highly recommend it!
The whole event was also extremely well organised and there was something to do all the time – although of course you didn’t have to join in with everything. Shortly after we arrived an aluminium jewellery workshop started, and later that evening there was a mini-marketplace with a few members’ stalls and a bring and buy charity sale, and Annemie Koenen, one of the tutors and a remarkable felter, had brought an entire shop with her from Holland – lovely dyed wools, tools, soaps, silks … most of us wanted to go home with the lot!
The meetings are held alternately somewhere in the UK and somewhere … not in the UK. Next year it’s Sweden. I wish I could go! We had someone from Canada and someone from Iceland, and two or three from Holland, although most people were UK based.
The two workshops I did were with Zsofia Marx – hat making, and Chris Lines – Felt Faces. The one with Chris was on the first day and I learnt an incredible amount. I was going to use a pic of my hubby, but he’s got a fair bit of hair and a beard, which would have made him a very tricky first subject. So instead I ended up doing a brooding looking popstar – Chris couldn’t remember who hewas but I liked his face!
One of the ladies from another workshop came round and said, ‘Coo, who’s HE?’ I managed to keep a dead straight face as I said, ‘Oh him? That’s my husband!’ The look she gave me was priceless. ‘I’ll be round yours tomorrow!’ she said … but then I couldn’t hold the straight face and had to confess that I had no idea who it was really.
Chris, the tutor, was horrified that I was using Carex hand soap and gave me a lecture on why olive oil soap was the ONLY thing to use. So why had I taken Carex? Because Zsofia, the tutor for the sculpted hat workshop, had said to bring liquid soap.
Well that evening myself and another lady who was going to be doing the Zsofia workshop next day decided we had better create some liquid olive oil soap – so I made a kind of gel in a tub with a lid, and Pat made a big (lidless) tub of soapy water, which she spent the whole of the next day trying to get people to use so she could get rid of it! Zsofia was most amused at what we’d done and said the soap I had bought would have been fine! A classic example of how every felt maker seems to work differently and swear by different things.
I’m still using my olive oil gel now and it’s great! I have to say that I did actually find things felted much better and much more quickly with the olive oil soap so I’m now a convert!
I didn’t get ‘my face’ finished during the workshop hours so I skipped the talk that was laid on that evening and went back to the workshop to finish off. Just as I’d finished my effort, another lady came in to finish hers, so I stayed and kept her company until bedtime. Unfortunately she’d used Superwash for her background without realising and of course it WOULD not felt! In the end she needle-felted the rest to her background and it looked fantastic so all was not lost.
The hat making workshop was terrific – Zsofia, a Hungarian-born lady now living in Holland and speaking superb English, was delightful. She started us off by showing us a variety of hats she’d made and then had us all trying them and telling each other, frankly, if they suited or not, while we looked in the mirror in the ladies’ toilets – as there were no mirrors in the classroom! This meant that most of us ended up not making the hat we liked the look of sitting on the table in the workshop, but the hat that actually looked good on us! I wanted to make the hat with the crazy rose sticking out of the side but it looked terrible on me! (two back on the right of the photo):
So I made a much more simple, pleated hat instead.
’Thanks to some excellent advice from the Felting and Fibre Studio forum I’d taken a selection of colours too. My intention was to make the hat purple with some peach decoration, but that was shouted down by Zsofia and the other ladies, so I stuck my hank of turquoise/green stripy merino roving on my head and said ‘What about this then?’ and they all said that suited me perfectly, so my purple hat ended up green! So much for trying to move away from my comfort zone – but at least it goes with a lot of clothes I’ve got, and my glasses; I always gravitate towards turquoise!
The hat was laid out on a 2D resist with coarser wool inside and the finer, coloured wool on the outside – except that the layout was inside out so the merino was against the resist and the other wool, in my case Corriedale, was on the outside.
Corriedale wasn’t the best choice as something a bit courser would have been good, but I had a lot left over from the Chris Lines workshop so that’s what I used!
Zsofia took us through the whole process from laying out, to wetting out and rolling, rolling, rolling … and then eventually cutting out the template (see photo below).
Then came fulling the hat into a 3D shape, first getting rid of the ‘seam’ from the template, and then gradually shaping the hat through rubbing until we had a fairly shapeless and ugly cone!
Then the magic happened as Zsofia showed us how to pleat the hats and set the pleats using steam.
I must say I’m really thrilled with the result, and was amazed that we all got a finished out of the process and that they were all so different!
After the second workshop we had the ‘Gala dinner’ where we were all asked to wear something we’d felted. I took a couple of scarves and also a completely mad, over the top jacket which I’d made for an exhibition a couple of years ago but never worn. I mentioned this to a few people on previous days and the answer was basically, ‘Look luv, if you can’t wear it here, where can you?’ so I braved it and it elicited much interest and some complements, so I was glad I did!
The following day we had a big show and tell in the main hall where we got to see everyone else’s work. I didn’t photograph everything but I was especially taken with the tops and dresses from the Vivienne Morpath two-day workshop:
And of course the variety of Felt Faces we managed to produce between us:
as the AGM, (which was relatively painless as these things go), and then lunch and homeward bound.
All in all a terrific weekend and I’m so glad I went. I hope I’ll be able to go to many of these meetings in the coming years.