A bit ago I found myself with the usual thousands of small left-overs from cutting up pre-felt or fabric and yarn for different projects: pieces too small for beautiful regular patterns of shapes, but I really could not see myself throwing them away…some may say that I am a bit of a hoarder, I really call myself a forward-looking creative (it applies also to scraps of paper from paper projects, and bits and bobs from many other creative ideas and ventures)!
I am certain all creative types here will sympathise, at least all hoarding ones!
Anyway, what to do with all that treasure of tiny pieces? Wet-felting is downright wonderful for using all of that to magnificent effect, even the shapeless or tiniest bits: they all become embellishments for your project. Just find yourself a nice wet-felting idea that fits with what you need, and then make it interesting and colourful with all those scraps!
My project to use up some of my stash of scraps is an easy but very effective bowl, made with a very simple circular resist: any bowl or vessel looks stunning with bold solid colours and with the addition of scraps of pre-felt, fabric and yarns, I find.
Here are the steps to make a colourful wet-felted bowl, with the aid of a sander if you have one, although it is not necessary to use one, especially if your left-overs are all wool based and so very easy to felt in.
Bowls are very forgiving of mistakes in layout when you make seven or more layers, so they make for a fun layout practice. I used merino wool, as it is the wool that I have mainly, and also one of the types of wool that I like best working with: it felts very easily, and is just so soft to handle!
For resist, I just cut a circular shape from a bubble-wrapping sheet, easy peasy.
I have been very busy during my recent summer holidays, unfortunately not busy felting, so I am a bit behind with my felting experiments and learning right now!
That is because I lately have used my holidays to challenge myself with something different, taking with me only a few of my stash wool and supplies, and focusing on a single idea that I wanted to try and learn better. The fact that I can’t bring with me my usual tools and implements is a challenge in itself: I have to use whatever I can scavenge around, and I feel that it teaches me to be less reliant on my routine and my favourite tools. I do not truly need any of those, I found out that you truly do not need any fancy stuff to felt, it just takes a bit more effort sometimes, and understanding companions that will put up with you grabbing the rolling pin and all the bin plastic bags from the kitchen.
On my first year, I tried to wet felt vessels and pouches.
I had never gone that thick before, and I tried a sander for the occasion: that was a first as well! I managed to felt two vessels, one with a basic truncated-cone resist, and one with a strange resist (a truncated cone with add-ons at the corners, do not ask me why, spur of the moment thing). I understood that you need more than 4 layers: it was a concept that I did not readily welcome, as I realised that I did not have enough wool with me for more trials!
I used my newfound awareness about thickness to wet felt an almost A-4 sized pouch: it was my first one ever, and I was terrified that I would not be able to find the resist of the pocket in the end if I included one, so I just went for the basic shape! I had never done a rectangular shape before, so that was a first also: learning how to make straightish lines and corners! I also understood that it takes a lot of elbow grease and time for a wet felted vessel or bowl, and you need to add quite a bit to your resist size if you work with merino wool and you want your vessel to stand upright in the end!
On my second year, I was back on holiday after Covid had forced me to skip a couple of years of travelling: I had to isolate myself for a while before being able to move around, so I practiced patience! That is, laying fine layers of wool: I mean, extra fine layers!
That helped me enormously with layout control, passing time very pleasantly, and also solved my problem of what to gift to my various friends and sisters-in-law: I made a lot of extra-lightweight scarves in merino wool with accents of silk fibers. Everybody was so happy, it was a win-win. Afterwards, I was able to make more uniform felt, and tackle other challenges such as wet felting kids mittens.
I also enrolled in a yearly subscription to Lena Archbold’s online classes (here her website): I was eager to learn a lot from her, although I find her voice and manners the uber-treatment for insomnia! I managed to complete three or four of her online classes and to actually try making 2-3 of her suggested coursework designs, mainly during or right after my holidays (of course), but then did not have time for more. Pity, because I learned quite a lot from her (she also helped me sleep most evenings, that is not to be sneered at). Only a couple of the suggested designs really worked for me, the others that I tried I did not like the results, and I had major failures on a couple of occasions! That was totally my fault, because I tend to , ahem, be creative with instructions sometime. Also because I do not really like her style of fashion, so I often change materials and combinations with supplies I own and like. Anyway, when I had the patience to try again and understand from my previous mistakes, I got very good results. More importantly, I learned some good techniques and tips from her classes.
On my third year, I managed to scrounge some me time to enroll on Felting&Fiber Studio member Ruth Lane’s great online class on Embellishing Felt with Surface Design Techniques: fabulous!
I managed only the module on Printing, Stenciling, and Playing with Thickened Dye on Felt, as my time is always limited, but it was very inspiring and I had a real learning summer, full of ideas and experiments. It was challenging, because I had to learn a whole new set of creative tools, and I am by no means finished with the learning about it. Still, summer is short and I need to pace my creative work during the year, unfortunately: I am constantly adding to my printing stash the odd interesting surface, waiting for the time to play with dyes in future! I would love to take other Felting and Fiber Studio classes in future: during holidays, of course!
I also had some ideas on surface embellishment through stitching and embroidering to try: I wet felted a couple of small key trays in blue to try my hand with.
And, lastly, this summer I have been wanting to experiment with differential shrinkage and manipulation.
I only brought white merino wool with me, with a bit of other colours and silk, a small bag of orange locks, and I came back with a good half of what I brought untouched: I had very little time and I managed to complete only one vessel. I really like it though, and I think that I would like to follow through with my other ideas to try. I found the layers felt easier than what I remembered from my first tries without sander (I lately always use my sander when felting thicker felt, but I did not use it in this occasion): maybe I am just becoming better at wet felting or I get less impatient with my rubbing and rolling and fulling. I did not find the manipulation part of the project as exhausting and boring as I was afraid: possibly because I had to complete the job in two times, a week apart, and it felted faster and better because of that?
It was a bit of a complicated summer for me, and it does not signify that I could not felt as much as I originally planned: I am sure that next year will be different!
I find that summer is a very good time for me to try one or two different things and learn, as bringing only a few supplies forces me to focus only on one aspect of my felt, and I very determinedly embrace the idea of learning something each summer. I tried taking online classes during the year, but it gets too much for me with my family commitments and job commitments, it just does not work well for me.
Do you set aside a time specifically for learning or experimenting too?
Going around here in West London and in England, I have come across some textile-based community projects that maybe you will find interesting.
They are crocheting and knitting public projects that use those skills creatively to raise awareness and educate the public, and also inject beauty and fun in our lives of course! Maybe something similar is done in your own neighbourhood and community: it would be nice if you could share other similar projects in the comments.
The first couple of projects that I want to show you are projects that I came across to inside the Royal Botanics Gardens Kew or Kew Gardens.
This is a UNESCO World Heritage site that holds a collection of more than 28,000 taxa of living plants and around seven million of dried specimens in its herbarium, not counting the lovely historical buildings and surroundings that make for an enchanting visit: it is definitely a picnic favourite of Londoners and tourists alike, although the ticket is a bit expensive. I personally always try to go for the Orchids Festival, as I am a fan of orchids, but my kids like the yearly Children Science Festival!
In a small and quiet separate greenhouse very close to the famous historical Temperate House we found two textile pieces: one horizontal artwork about Food Security, and the other a vertical artwork about natural life classification for plants or the Plant Tree of Life.
Both were created as community projects by people coming together to express what the themes meant to them through knitting: the Community Learning group of Kew Gardens is aimed at people who may have difficulty in accessing the Gardens and would like to know more about plants and be involved.
If you would like to try your hand at knitting nature, as those ladies did, here is a link to some free patterns on the Community Learning Kew website that you might try. The Community Learning group is the one who created those two beautiful works and it is made up of people who face some barriers to accessing the Gardens and are part of an organisation who applied for a Community Learning Access. Barriers to access may be such as some physical, mental or psychological impairment or social and financial barriers.
The other project is way more informal, has been going on in my Ealing neighbourhood for a while and I recently saw another one in Norfolk, and realised that it is something widespread in England, UK: all British crocheters and knitters, please, let us know about something that you can see around your neighbourhood as well.
So, now that I have created a bit of suspence, here it is, a Pillar Box Topper: a crocheted or knitted shape is fitted on the top of the iconic red Royal Mail pillar boxes, and on top of that layer there are different clever crocheted or knitted shapes representing a theme, to raise awareness on charity associations or local features or something that takes the fancy of the artist. I gather that it is not usually something that you need to plan with the approval of Royal Mail, as long as you keep well off the critical bits of the post box, and do not cover the hole or the signs.
There definitely are various charity associations doing this, but it is also used just for a bit of fun and to commemorate events as you see. It is quite popular here: check out its history here on Wikipedia, and here you can find a blog with the list (unfortunately around 2 years old, sorry) of the places where you can find them in UK and links relating to groups of Post Box Toppers enthusiasts.
And, if you wish to try, here is a link to free crochet and knitting patterns for Post Box Topper by the Townswomen’s Guild: of course, those are only the basic Post Box covers, without all the knitted and crocheted embellishments. There are other free patterns online, if you wish to try your hand at one.
As you may have guessed, my family lives in London, United Kingdom at the moment, but English is not our mother-tongue. We happen to celebrate our birthdays all in UK, though, so during the years I managed to collect a few birthday party buntings here: of course, all of them celebrate “Happy Birthday!” in English and none in our language, Italian. Also, I only have a short felt one and all the rest are plastic. I like the felted one a lot better than the plastic ones, it’s so much easier to store without worrying about creases, it is always in perfect shape and luxurious looking, even though it was not actually more expensive than the flimsy Lego themed one!
I decided to make us a new felted bunting with the Italian equivalent of “Happy Birthday!” written on it: as it will use Italian words, it will be longer than the English one, and I will be able to add more elements to make it longer still. It will be very colourful and it could be used for all our birthdays for years and years to come, and no more worries about creases and folds. It seemed a nice plan.
It is a fairly easy basic kind of felting project: one just needs to make as many flat triangles shapes as needed to spell the words and punctuation (in my case “Buon” and “Compleanno!”, so it’s 15), with one more for the space between the words, and as many more for decoration as one likes. On the triangles, you can needle felt the letters in contrasting colours.
Then, a satin ribbon will be passed through slits on the upper part of the triangles: this will mean that one will be able to adjust the length of the bunting to different size spaces. If you do not wish to have an adjustable bunting, you could make a felt cord of the desired length and attach the triangles to it at fixed intervals by needle felting or sewing them to the cord. And the bunting will be ready to go.
I wanted to go for needle felted triangles, although I guess it could be a much quicker job if you wanted to wet felt them : just wet felt different wool colours and cut them in triangles, then seal the edges with rubbing.
Well, I need the needle felting practice, so I took out my needle felting supplies and had a go at making a needle felted triangle shape.
I needed a thicker needle for the first shaping stabs: that would be a 32 gouge, that is silver coloured in my set.
Never mind the photo, that I was taking with my phone while moving the needle with my right hand: I actually started shaping my triangle by stabbing and shaping the edges of the triangle first, then moving towards the center.
I lifted the shape from the foam mat and stabbed a bit more on the other side as well, adding some more wool if I thought that some parts were uneven or not thick enough.
Then, I saw that it was the time to change the needle to a thinner one.
I usually like to use a 38 gouge needle, colour coded red in my set, to do more detailed work when I am needle felting. Sometimes I pass through the 36 gouge needle (green one in my set) before the 38 g, or use a 40 g needle (blue in my set) to finish, but in this case the job was fairly basic, and I did not want to change too many times.
After stabbing more, I felt that the shape was looking good. If you wanted it more regular, and were not lazy like me, you could make it more regular than mine by starting at the beginning with a rectangle shape and then folding the rectangle in half diagonally into a triangle shape, and stabbing more. But if I have to make more than 15 triangle shapes I am not going to bother making them regular: I am just so lazy!
I guess one could stab on and make the shapes very firm, but I have no patience and was eager to go on (14 plus triangles to go, you know…), so I selected a bit of merino wool roving in teal for the first letter to add to my triangle shape. You do not need a big amount to complete one letter, you can use leftovers from other projects. I like to use carded merino slivers if I have them for small areas of flat needle felted decoration, I find that it is easier to shape them into small regular shapes.
I used the same red 38G needle to stab the teal wool on the triangle shape. It is not difficult to make the wisps of carded wool take the shape that you want, you just need to work on the surface, really, without stabbing too enthusiastically.
I managed to finish my first letter quite quickly, but, guess what, I stopped there and never mustered the will to make all the other 14+ triangles! Well, the first birthday coming is not till ages….
P.S. the nail varnish was courtesy of my daughter, who wanted to play nail decorator that day!
I wish to show you my last abstract piece: I am quite proud of having included free crocheting and free knitting bits and of having gone bigger than my usual size, all things outside of my comfort zone that were inspired by other artists’ and crafters’ works.
It was about experimenting with felt without the distraction of colour, and I decided to use undyed or white and whitish materials, so as not to distract my eye from the final purpose. This made me think about “lack of colour” and “white” in terms of emotions and morals: how you are not supposed to show a lot of true emotions if you are a “good girl”, how the colour white has been linked to “good” in certain cultures, how silence and demure behaviour (not showing your colours) had been linked to “good behaviour” in such cultures.
So, this has made me think about what “good girl” and “bad girl” meant when I was growing up, and how problematic those concepts have become for me in time (and have been even then). This led to me choosing specific fabrics and fibers, and techniques to add to the piece. So, I guess, concepts and techniques called one to the other from the beginning of my project and I can’t say which came first, if ideas to express or techniques to try.
I thought of the piece as layered, as our life experience and identity are layered, and being a “good girl” or “bad girl” is not something straightforward either. So, firstly I made a layer of felt to go over a pre-felt background.
But how to make the surface layer? I remembered about the layout for cobweb scarves that had been suggested in the Felting and Fiber forum, the one that is made by tearing a long length of merino tops and then carefully teasing the whole length open: I wanted holes and different thickness on my surface layer of felt, so I went for that type of layout for it and it worked very well.
The surface layer was embellished with undyed locks, undyed white eri silk fibers, scraps of undyed habotari silk, white flax, and silk carrier rods. Its shape is very irregular and there are vertical holes from which one can peek at stuff underneath. I liked the fact that it’s not one single white, but many different shades of undyed natural white and of bleached or optic white. Even stretching the idea of “white” a bit to include cream and beige even.
I added a natural-fiber net that I got from my grocery shopping, and on the background strings gotten from labels of clothes and scraps from a cotton handkerchief, to remind me of all the mother-work wife-work women-work that is the “good girl” ‘s lot in life.
I lightly rubbed it and then used the sander to be sure that all the bits could stay firmly in place. I did not want it felted firmly, and I rolled it only a few times in two directions, horizontally and vertically. I washed it and left it to dry.
In the meantime I prepared the background layer, with 3 layers of undyed merino wool in a simple horizontal-vertical lay-out. I rubbed it and rolled it a few times, leaving it at the pre-felt stage. I washed it and let it dry.
On the second day, I combined the two layers, that were mostly dry, and all the other embellishment elements.
I wanted to explore what it used to mean to be a “good girl” and to make mistakes and be a “bad girl”, so on the background and peeking through the holes I placed different things that had been linked to women’s craft and life, including commercial lace, scraps from a child’s wool vest (mothers always used to make their kids put their vest on underneath their shirts) and different fibers and yarns, and strings (women forever tying and untying shoes clothes bags families).
On the background, like alpha and omega at the top and bottom, I also wanted “wrong” (but free) crocheting and “wrong” (but free) knitting pieces, and the making of those was an experience in itself, as I found very hard to let go of purpose and of “perfection”, especially in the knitting. I used a cotton yarn for the crochet and a mixed wool yarn for the knitting, as those two types of yarn are most closely related to those crafts to me. I have to say that I quite enjoyed the free crocheting and I maybe will use it again soon, whereas I doubt that the freeform knitting will become a favourite of mines!
After placing all the elements where I wanted them to be, I hand stitched them in place with a few hidden stitches each, starting from the top and the outer edges towards the inner parts and the bottom. It took me a bit, but it was essential, as I was much more confident that nothing was going to move when I went on with the following wetting and sanding and rolling. I hate hand sewing, but this time I felt that it was worthwhile!
I washed and dried the piece, and then waited to see if anything else was needed: I often find that I need to let the work get washed and dry out to be able to see what is not fine yet! In fact, I found that the merino wool vest scraps had not quite felted in as I wanted them to do, so I decided to needle felt them with a bit of added merino wool top fiber. This gave me the itch to add a few needle felted 3D shapes, vaguely organic shapes that are a symbol of the “good girl” sense of her body.
I really liked the journey and I think that the piece says what I wanted it to say. Moreover, I enjoyed trying new things in making it, and using those techniques in an organic way to express a world of meanings and experiences that I hope will find resonance in the viewers.
It’s me again, a beginner felter, a novice in knitting and crocheting
(have I told you the story of my then-boyfriend’s knitted scarf? the one that kept getting longer and longer the more he used it, and his mother, an accomplished knitter and crocheter who knits a new woolly jumper for my kids each Christmas, kept undoing the last bit of the scarf and fixing it? well, he is my husband now, it goes to show that even disastrous knitting is useful…)
no skills in weaving, BUT I used to do quite a bit of embroidery, and that’s how I began my adventure in textiles, so I better tell you a bit about it.
I started with cross-stitch as a little girl (maybe 10-11-years-old) at my local Parish: an ex-teacher of Feminine Skills at schools (yes, she was that old that the subject existed with that name when she used to teach) had accepted to run a class of basic embroidery stitches for little girls at the Parish, with the aim of having a few of them join the Parish group of embroiderers who would sell their works for charity once or twice per year at the Church. She was a spinster, with loads of nephews and nieces to dote on, and she was prim and welcoming: we addressed her as Miss, Signorina in Italian, ate the cookies that she brought as treat, and loved her. My mum accepted to send me only if I promised not to lose my time and sight on finicky embroidery, and at the beginning it seemed that we were making quite small designs, such as cross-stitch butterflies for cards, or a grass stitch embroidery on a cotton bag that was supposed to hold bread.
I have kind of disappointed my mum during the following years: the idea of painting with thread caught my fantasy, and I started spending more and more time (sometimes secretly) embroidering, especially cross-stitch. Miss and the group of local embroiderers were an oddity like myself, all guiltily enjoying together an outmoded craft while chatting away a few hours. My schoolmates were half in awe of my skill and half disbelieving that I could spend so much time on that.
In time I cross-stitched a lot of things, cushion covers, cards, bathroom towels, tablecloths of various sizes (never the big ones, though) and place mats and runners, babies’ bibs, alphabet samplers and Christmas decorations… I loved the fact that you could achieve marvelous paint effects just with thread and a wise design. I also liked the idea of following a pattern, and the repetitiveness of the cross-stitching itself, that helped me calm down in difficult times and made me happier.
I used to have a subscription to two main Italian magazines that were my inspiration:
one is the monthly “Le idee di Susanna”, skewed towards cross-stitch, but with loads of practical crafting ideas around it, and also a bit of knitting, crochet and sewing thrown in to entice you to more. See it here if you are curious.
the other was a magazine about any kind of embroidery, especially the free stitch types of hand embroidery, it makes you dream about the highest skills of the ancient embroiderers and the top modern ones, and had been published since 1929. its past issues of the Sixties and Seventies were more practical, with knitting and useful sewing, and are still traded online by crafters. Unfortunately, it has gone downhill very quickly around the 2010 after being sold to a new publisher, and I can’t seem to find any recent issue, so I guess it is not active anymore. Such a pity, but I guess I could sell my old issues for a good price in a few years! See some of its cover images here.
Most of what I embroidered and made in those years was sold for charity or gifted to friends and family, and there weren’t mobiles to take a quick photo, so I do not have much left of them. Not because I am particularly generous, you know, it was just safer not have all those proofs of my not-studying lying around the house… Anyway, I did not need twenty baby bibs, but they were all so cute that it was hard to resist when my nephews were arriving… Oh, well, some of the bibs actually came back to me when my kids were coming in turn, so.
Here are just a couple of bathroom towels that I cross-stitched for myself when I started getting serious with my then-boyfriend (way after the longest-scarf-of-all-times): I have the photos only because those were on linen, and thus light enough to come with me when we moved from Italy to England. I loved cross-stitching on linen or cotton-linen blends: slower, but the final effect is so neat and lovely!
(I apologise in advance for the fact that none of the things are properly ironed or pressed: those are all things that I fished out of drawers as they were, and I can not face the iron at the moment, please forgive me!)
We have some more cross-stitched towels in storage boxes in Italy, to gather dust there, along with a few other embroidered things. Here are cross-stitched place mats that I embroidered on an ecru linen-cotton blend fabric, that we use as breakfast place mats. I embroidered the edges with the simplest point-a-jour: I am not really a fan of making point-a-jour, but I like having my edges neat and hate hand-sewing even more!
During my University years I started improving my free-stitch embroidery skills, and could not resist a forage into the variety of embroidery stitches that I was seeing on my magazines. Firstly, just learning about patterns and stitches, I soon started to use elements from books and magazines and adapting them to my needs and taste to create new things. Lately, I created a couple of things completely to my own designs. Here again I am afraid that I do not have much to show, because most of my creations were gifted to special persons or are in storage boxes in Italy at the moment. One day we will get all our stuff out of storage, who knows.
I only have three examples of my free hand-embroidery to show you: two of them, bathroom towels and a small tablecloth for teatime, I have brought with me to England, and the third is a small curtain that I have embroidered and hand-sewed for one of my best friends, and she graciously sent me the photos during the Christmas holidays.
So, here we go.
The bathroom towels are of the finest linen and I wanted a refined effect. It took me ages to complete the complex point-a-jour of the border, but it gave me plenty of food of thought for other embroidery projects (more on that later on). The embroidery itself is white on white: my initials framed by flowers and leaves for the main towel, and a smaller version of the initials for the small towel. I am afraid that I do not know the names for the stitches in English and I am kind of hazy about the Italian names as well right now: we are talking about nigh on twenty years ago, and even then I tended to focus on doing more than on names. The design of the embroidery was taken from a book or magazine that I had, and I modified it only a bit to simplify the framing elements, if I remember correctly.
As to the teatime tablecloth, we use it as breakfast table tablecloth: I like my breakfast as you may guess! and I really need something fresh and lovely for it to work, as I am not a morning person and waking up to ugliness would be too much. This is finest cotton, very lightweight and almost see-through. I designed it completely, and I wanted it quite simple and colourful. I started by edging the border: at the beginning, it was a lot of fun changing colours randomly every little while, but it was a long way to the end, I can assure you.
The violets were quick to embroider, I remember, just a stem of grass-stitches and the violets themselves done with different violets or white (also mixed together) in lazy daisy stitches (is this the right name? I think so, I felt very lazy for sure, I wanted to finish it quickly). The leaves I outlined with grass-stitch and chose to cover only half with satin/full stitches in different greens. I like how it feels a very easygoing and modern type of tablecloth, in the end.
And, lastly, the curtain that I made for my friend. Well, that was my first curtain, so I just could not reassure my friend of the final results: she was a bit doubtful, and also more than a bit afraid of my mum’s disapproval of me “wasting my time in useless old stuff”, I am guessing.
I presented her with my idea of design for it in a secret meeting at my place: she was going to live in a terraced house and I adapted her a terraced houses outline, taking inspiration from one of the magazines, that had a very intriguing design. In my mind the idea was already taking shape drawing from my experiences with variants of point-a-jour , openwork and different embroidery stitches, but she had to take a leap of faith and trust in my skills.
We went together to the market to buy the fabric, and she sensibly opted for a mixed synthetic and cotton: after all, she would have to wash it, not I! It took my around 2-3 months to finish it and present it to her: I remember that I was so excited when she lastly saw the finished curtain!
I wanted all the houses to be very different one from the other: each of them has a different door and various windows made using different types of stitches. I made the windows all openwork, and used this as a way to practice different openwork effects. I hand sewed it completely, as I did not have a sewing machine.
I asked my friend to take photos of some details to her taste, and she sent me these:
My friend reported neighbours and passersby asking for information on her unique curtain that they could see from the outside, during the first years that she lived there. I want to think that it helped her make friends there faster.
I then went on to make two free hand embroidery curtains for myself before my daughter was born: both white on white, a small one designed by me, all butterflies of different sizes and was actually a sampler of stitches and openwork. The other one quite big, an adaptation of an idea and design from a magazine, was embroidered on all the borders (apart from the upper one) with a continuous repetitive swirling pattern, all in one single easy type of stitch, chain stitch. I finished it with my belly growing and going in the way of embroidering and sewing, but I got it done, and had the help of my first sewing machine to finish it faster. Still, it took me a couple of months to finish it (I was not working, and paused most of my attendance to my second degree at University due to not being able to move.), and none too soon: my daughter was born shortly after the last stitches.
As to point-a-jour, openwork and needle lace, they made me sweat swear and tense, but I love the look of them once it is finished, so my big unfinished project of embroidery is a linen towel set with a maybe 8-in-height border (20 cm) of openwork-needle lace. I got through maybe half of it on the first towel. I guess that it must be in one of the storage boxes in Italy, although I could swear that I brought it to England when we moved, still hoping that in time I would be able to go on..that was around nine years ago! Embroidering takes too much time for my current life style!
I hope that I gave you some ideas of embroideries to try!
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.
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.