We sat in a circle, baking pans in our laps, pummeling the pieces of wool with our fingertips. Soaked by a spray of soapy water, the fibers began to fuse together into what we hoped would become change purses, Kleenex caddies, eyeglass cases.
I had always been interested in felting, so when a class was offered at our local library, I quickly signed up. Here I found myself on a frigid winter evening, huddled in a cozy room with about a half-dozen other new students of the fiber art.
Our friendly instructor-storyteller Marie passed around some finished projects, then explained the craft further as we worked. It seems that felt is very simply, matted fiber (traditionally carded wool). Moisture, heat and pressure combine to compress and entwine the fibers. Hot soapy water makes the wool slippery and causes scales to open up. The scales keep the fiber from backing up, so they get hopelessly tangled together. When they are cooled and dried the scales close and lock the wool into a tough, durable material.
We used a pattern of bubble wrap for the items we were making that day. The fibers completely encased the wrap, then the wrap was removed once the items were finished, by cutting in the appropriate spot and pulling the wrap out.
As usual when learning a new hands-on skill, I was way behind the rest of the class. They were turning their creations over, lifting, squeezing, rolling their material fearlessly, while I tediously waited, uncertain when to proceed to the next step. I was certain my project would be a complete failure.
Surprisingly, as the class came to a close, Marie helped me cut a slit in my new forest green change purse (never one to think like the crowd, I had unwittingly been the only student who hadn’t chosen purple wool for the project). All I needed was a cute button to sew on for a closure. My purse had turned out quite successfully for a first try (actually better than some of the others if I do say so myself).
I look forward to checking out more ideas for projects for this fun fiber craft as soon as my schedule permits.