Seize the day

I was supposed to be teaching this weekend – a course on land restoration and habitat creation. Sadly, it had to be cancelled and I was left with three empty days, Not that my days are ever really empty, but I was very conscious that some time had appeared that would otherwise have been filled with teaching and I was keen not to let it slip away. Happily, I got the chance to go on a  felting course today… an opportunity too good to miss.

So, I have been making felt slippers at Denmark Farm Conservation Centre with Lorraine Pocklington of Greenweeds. In fact, it’s a course that I have done before, but a girl can never have too many pairs of slippers and I knew that I would really enjoy myself. So the day was seized and there’s now a soggy pair of handmade slippers drying in our bath!

We started off by selecting the wool that we wanted to use: Masham, Texel, Gotland, Icelandic or Hebridean, all produced in Britain so not many yarn miles!

A selection of undyed, British wools

A selection of undyed, British wools

Then we made our resists (the thing that goes in the middle or your felt to stop the two sides sticking together and allowing you to make three-dimensional objects without the need for seams). Once you have a resist, you build up layers of fiber around it, using water and soap and then you begin to felt.

The felting begins

The felting begins

You rub the fibres to encourage them to mat together, and once they have started to develop a structure, you keep on working them to form the felt. Today we rolled our felt in bamboo mats to achieve this

Bootee slippers still joined as a pair about to be rolled up in a bamboo mat

Bootee slippers, still joined together, about to be rolled up in a bamboo mat

And eventually, you form two slippers and mold them around your feet… or get a friend to do it!

Felting to fit your feet

Felting to fit your feet

Get a friend to help!

Get a friend to help!

And at the end of the day, we all ended up with at least one completed slipper!

Lovely slippers - mine ore front left

Lovely slippers – mine are front left

Since I had the advantage of having done the course before, I finished both mine: Gotland exterior, Texel Interior with decorations using some scraps of yarn from Colinette. What a productive and satisfying day.

Never felt better

I decided this weekend to take some time off from paid work and do some activities that I would enjoy just for myself. I did get slightly distracted yesterday and spent rather a long time on the phone arranging a trip away (which will be great when it happens, but required quite a bit of organisation) and writing a piece of text for the Permaculture Association, but today has more or less been just about me… a lie in with an audiobook, a walk on the beach with the dogs and my sweetie in the sunshine (yes, sunshine in west Wales in November), tea and cake when we got home and then an afternoon of felting.

My first ever attempt at wet felting

Making felt is an activity that I had been interested in doing for ages, but it wasn’t until two years ago that an opportunity finally presented itself to go and learn how. I know that I could have bought a book and just got on with it, but wet felting is such a tactile activity that I really wanted to learn from a real person. And the autumn before last the wonderful Lorraine Pocklington of Greenweeds ran a beginners felt-making workshop at Denmark Farm. And from that moment on I was hooked. I started off, at the workshop, making a case for a passport… a simple thing, but it introduced me to the idea of being able to create three-dimensional objects without the need for seams. I knew that this was possible in knitting, through the use of double-pointed needles, but the fact that felt can be thick enough to hold its own shape and can be sculpted opens up a whole range of possibilities.

Slippers from the recent course – mine are the front middle, awaiting decoration

Last year I went on another course to learn to make felt hats and last month, another for felt slippers, both again at Denmark Farm, which is less than 15 miles away from home. The slippers are not yet finished as I want to decorate them with some needle felting and I haven’t got round to it … I just need more hours in the day, or fewer projects on the go! Next spring it looks like there will be a course on nuno felting (that’s where you felt onto fine fabric)… I can’t wait.

The camera case under construction

However, this afternoon’s project was to make a case for my new digital camera. Because felt can be thick, it can be used to make covers for electronic equipment to provide protection. A couple of months ago I made a case for Mr Snail-of-happiness’ new tablet computer. This did not come out quite as I had intended because I was using a new fibre that shrank more than I expected, but it is still serviceable. Today, however, I used I wool that I have worked with before and the properties of which I know reasonably well. I wanted to experiment with a sort of flame effect with the colours, and I’m quite please with the result. It’s drying now and I will finish it off with a couple of buttons to close it and possibly a wrist strap.

After cutting – felting needed around the edges

Felting is a particularly enjoyable activity for me… it’s very tactile, involving repetitive physical activity that isn’t too strenuous. Your mind can wander whist you are being creative and for me it beats meditating. In fact, this afternoon, I listened to part of an audio book whilst I felted… my mind has been busy enough recently as it is! My next project will be a peg bag…

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