I am Caterina, and you probably have seen me around the Forum asking questions about felting and trying to learn from scratch and the web.
I have started felting just around the time we were all stuck at home with the pandemic, and it was a revelation, though not an instant success 🙂 I guess the other beginners here will sympathise with my struggle to get a precise idea of steps to take in order to get the magic of felt to work perfectly: I was instantly fascinated by the sheer freedom of not having a set of precise rules to follow to get there, and at the same time frustrated by so much choice of different paths to take!
I guess that it is the fact that this is based on traditional craft, and, like many crafts and women’s works, it is a fluid collection of honed instincts, oral passed wisdom, intimate physical knowledge of materials and creative whim. Like cooking, like spinning I guess, like parenting I am finding. And all those hundreds and thousands of years of crafting, I suppose: felting is so old and it shows on how many ways of going about it there are around, from before humans could leave written shape to their rules and steps.
So, I guess felting is something that you need a community of fellow humans to help you figure out, through apprenticeship, passed wisdom and experimentation: I am glad that I found the very supportive Felting and Fiber Forum community to guide me through my beginner’s steps on wet and needle felting.
My first experiments had mixed results, and all the successive tries have not changed this trend also!
My kids were very forgiving with my first needle felted tiny penguin, a misshapen thing that my son instantly appropriated and called like his younger cousin ( I am not sure what that says, I wouldn’t want to overthink it..). It is so tiny that he lost it a million times already, and I had time to curse my decision to make it so small while going around the flat looking for a squishable scrap of wool called Giorgio!
My daughter asked for a cat: I will not go into that, it’s best left forgotten. I only have blurry photos for it, mercifully.
She lost it soonest, and is now wary of asking for more pet animals (she is very kind and well behaved and couldn’t bring herself to say “What’s that thing??” to my face, it was a gift, you know, and she had seen me poking needles into my fingers for a long afternoon).
Luckily for my kids, I then dramatically improved my animal shaping skills by using real life photos as reference and learning to change needles as my felting progresses. (I still occasionally poke my fingers, I am told that this is normal?) A Waldorf style little playmat with tiny needle felted animals ensued, and I discovered the possibilities of wet felting that really got my mind reeling.
I felt on top of the world, and decided that I could make more of those playmats with animals, and start a home-based business! The idea was not exactly new: there are several businesses selling that type of toy on Etsy, as I discovered in time! Unfortunately, it is not as simple as that: I decided that I wanted to understand regulations on selling toys in United Kingdom, and found out that I could not really make those tiny needle felted animals pass official Health and Safety regulation tests. They are just too tiny, and too easily breakable, and I like them as they are. Also, it costs to have some of tests done (you can do some of them in your home, but not all of them).
If you are interested in understanding the requisites for toys in UK and Europe, check current Regulations for Health and Safety of toys with the British Toy & Hobby Association, that is the biggest Toy Makers association in United Kingdom, here.
Here is another maybe interesting link, to the British Toymakers Guild.
Here is a list of Toy Makers associations in United Kingdom, if you feel like checking other Toy and Games associations.
Other people would maybe choose differently, one could market the toy as something else, forget the labels and hope for the best, but I, on my part, would not feel comfortable with the idea, and decided to shelve the handmade toys budding business. I made only another play set for a friend’s 7-year-old kid as Christmas gift: I had other experiments to try, and wet felting to explore! More on that in following posts..
I am sure that many have had to shelve craft business idea, after discovering that they were impractical, or not profitable or not-the-right-time-for-this, or not really what their heart felt like making: I would love to hear about what those ideas were and the reasons for letting them drop. Please, leave a comment and tell us about your shelved plans.