Today, I am handing over the blog to my partner in crime writing, Julia. She has been on a course to find out about the wonders of needle felting…
“Felt wasn’t a fabric I had really thought much about since I last made dolls’ clothes out of it as a child – it didn’t need hemming, so a great advantage. Having recently read about Sue Lewis’s lovely wet felt pictures and visited the Bellacouche studio near where I live in Moretonhampstead, I’d started to think about felt in a new light…
I booked myself on a needle felting course at the lovely sounding Cowslip Workshops on the other side of Dartmoor. Run by mixed media artist, Kate Toms, the course was entitled ‘Make a Dog in a day’, so how could I resist? As some of you may know, I am the owner of Moss the Dartmoor Dog Blogger and, like Joanna, am a confirmed dog fan. Kate creates 3D characters as well as being a published author and illustrator of books for the very young. Needle felting is currently her favourite technique.
I, and nine other enthusiastic students, gathered at 10am for the workshop that would take us through the process of making a small felted dog. Needle felting is a wonderfully simple technique where barbed felting needles are used to interlock wool fibres forming a solid mass.
Kate is an excellent tutor, extremely knowledgeable and with a great sense of humour. She patiently took us will through the various stages to ensure we all managed to take our own little dog home with us at the end of the day.
We were faced with huge balls of wool (actually called ‘rovings’) in a mix of lovely natural colours. We made our selections and dutifully copied Kate’s demonstrations as we built up our little canine figures. And then the fun began! Stabbing yourself with a felting tool is painful… when you somehow manage to keep doing it, it is extremely painful! The air was peppered with little squeaks and cries as we all managed to stab ourselves every few minutes. (Note to self: buy a finger guard!) But never mind the pain, it was so exciting to see these amazing structures emerge out of wispy scraps of wool, that none of us showed any signs of flagging.
It is a fascinating technique and, once you know the basics, easy to create 3D figures. I assumed needle felting was an ancient technique, like wet felting, but apparently not. It was ‘invented’ in the 1990s. You can use a variety of tools, from a very fine single needle to create detail, to a long vicious-looking sturdy three-pronged affair that Kate calls a ‘claw’, to the smaller and very effective five-needle tool that allows you to stab away and create shapes really quickly. To minimise pain and blood loss, you work onto a foam block or a thing that looks like an enormous nail brush, the latter being a great way of carding the wool as you work.
After lunch (there’s a lovely café selling loads of delicious home-made dishes!) things got a bit more mellow as we all wallowed in a post-lunch slump. Kate, who had run the workshop the previous day, realised we were getting behind schedule and chivvied us on, saying she was happy to stay until we had all finished. We were scheduled to finish at 4pm… I finally left – tired, battle scared and not a little emotional – proudly clutching my little dog at 7pm!
The studios were as delightful as I’d imagined and Kate was an inspirational teacher and I can’t recommend them highly enough. A regular supply of tea, coffee, biscuits and even cake, throughout the day, ensured we didn’t run out of energy. I had a wonderful time and, as promised, everyone on the course produced a dear little dog at the end of it. They were all very different, reflecting their creator’s own personality. I, rather predictably, was trying to make a dog that looked like Moss… you can judge for yourselves whether I succeeded or not!
If you fancy having a go at needle felting, you can find everything available online. It is a relatively cheap hobby to take up, so if it appeals to you, why not have a go? I intend to make more figures… after I’ve bought a finger guard and some sticking plasters!