There was a healthy attendance at Maggie’s felt-making workshop at September’s Community Market in St Mark’s Hall. While it is possible to learn the rudiments of any craft activity from a book or DVD, there is no substitute for actually getting your paws on the materials and experiencing things for yourself. Maggie explained how to gently separate the first layer of merino wool fibres before gently pulling on them to remove a section and lay that across the bubble wrap where the design was to be made. Once a complete oblong had been made, the next task was to lay fibres in a perpendicular direction across the first layer to make a strong foundation.
Then came the creative part of laying coloured fibres across the base layer to form the design. We were shown examples of different fibres which could be used; bamboo has a particularly unpleasant gritty texture when rubbed between the fingers for instance.
Once all the designs had been constructed, the hard work of felting began. It begins with dribbling soapy water over the fibres, laying bubble wrap over the design, dropping a little more soapy water on the back as lubrication, then setting to with knuckles or fingertips, working in small circles to start the process of locking the tiny scales on the fibres onto each other. After 20 minutes or so, the felt is now ready to be ‘shocked’. This involves throwing it violently into a sink several times, to help mat the fibres together even more securely. Then it’s just a case of rinsing, leaving to dry and admiring. And if you feel inclined, adding embroidery to help define the design. By the end of the workshop, everyone had learned a new skill and had a picture to take away with them, all at a bargain price.