ancient craft of Feltmaking originated with the nomadic people of
Persia over 6,000 years ago . They wrapped
their feet in wool from their sheep
to protect them from the hot desert sand. As they walked, the
pounding motion combined with the moisture and oils from their feet
and caused the wool to shrink and harden into a primitive
shoe. Thus felt was
discovered. The nomadic structure
as a yurt* would soon
follow, as well as blankets, rugs and clothing.
technique is simple. Wool
locks are washed, often dyed, and then carded** and laid out in many
layers. Water, usually very hot, and soap are then sprinkled onto
the wool which is gently pressed, and then rolled and pounded until
all the wool fibers, knot and shrink together to become firm
(hardened). From this simple labor intensive process, durable
garments, rugs and many other things are made. The items are very
warm, but can also be heavy and stiff.
The garments I make are
lightweight and soft. I use a technique known as Nuno
felting that incorporates fabric into the wool. The fabric serves as
a base layer for the wool. I
carefully blend together different colors of
fine merino wool
and silk fibers, often hand-dyed, to achieve the exact hue I am
looking for. These are
then laid out in lines
and patterns atop a yardage of silk chiffon or some other fabric
that has an open, airy weave structure. I then embellish the wool
with yarns, and other fibers. Using the technique described above
the wool is wetted
and rolled to create
the friction that is needed to felt it.
As the wool is pressed, the tiny fibers are pushed through
the open weave of the fabric and become knotted on the other side.
The wool fibers also
grab the surface embellishments and felt to it. No stitching is
necessary. I may use stitching to further embellish a piece or
to sew it into its final form.
is a process of collaboration. The results are always a bit of a surprise. I can never
completely predict or control what
the fibers will do during the felting process.