Wearable Art

The 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  known  as a yurt* would soon follow, as well as blankets, rugs and clothing. 

The 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.

Feltmaking 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.   

The Artist







*A yurt is a round structure made of a wooden lattice frame and rafter and covered in wool felt.

**Wool is carded or combed with a special tool to loosen and align the fibers to prepare them for feltmaking.