with Mary-Clare Buckle
Now you can learn feltmaking for yourself!
Using natural and dyed wool, with simple equipment, you will learn, in my feltmaking workshops, how to turn fleece 'straight off the sheep's back' into felt. Not the commercially-made little squares you used at school, but a vibrant, malleable, creative fabric - warm, non-fraying and versatile - used for thousands of years, the world over.
"Feltmaking is an alchemical process. It has magical properties and that appeals to the child in me who loves to play ... ‘painting’ on wool is quite the finest way to play seriously"
"Mary-Clare’s feltmaking workshop was so exciting and stimulating and gave me so many ideas that I couldn’t sleep that night!"
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All about felt, feltmaking and feltmakers (including feltmaking workshops)
Felt, feltmaking and feltmakers (including feltmaking workshops)My work - as seen in my textile art gallery and art lights gallery pages - is unlike traditional felted wool work but I thought, as a UK feltmaker, that my customers would be interested to hear about the international history of feltmaking and feltmakers:
Felt is the oldest fabric known to man. Highly sophisticated felted artefacts were found preserved in permafrost, in a tomb in Siberia and dated to 600BC.
In the process of feltmaking, wool fibres shrink and come together to form a dense mat when subjected, by feltmakers, to heat, friction and a change of alkalinity - ie hot water, soap and a lot of rubbing and rolling!
Many cultures have legends as to the origins of feltmaking. It is said that Noah's Ark was lined with fleece and the combination of urine and the trampling animals left behind a felted wool carpet.
In early Christian times, the story goes that St Clement and St Christopher, whilst fleeing from persecution, packed their sandals with wool to prevent blisters - at the end of their journey, the movement and sweat had turned the wool into felt socks.
In Britain, UK feltmakers often used felt to make hats, whilst clothes were woven and then felted (to make them warmer and more waterproof) by trampling in troughs, or by use of water-powered mills. The nap of the fabric was then raised by brushing with a teasle (the head of a type of thistle).
English wool merchants made huge fortunes in the 15thC and were the richest in mediæval Europe. Sheep raising was the main source of income for many monasteries and other great landowners. The superb quality and range of English wool was renowned throughout Europe and the Islamic world - for many centuries raw wool was by far the most valuable export from England.
- By contrast, modern-day British farmers have to virtually give away their fleeces, because of the widespread use of man-made fibres. I feel that it is very important, therefore, to encourage the practice of the ancient craft of feltmaking - particularly by developing new techniques and uses.
The Scandinavians and Russians traditionally make - completely waterproof - thick felt boots, whilst the Romans used the fabric to prevent armour chafing and as a form of armour.
In essence, felt is one of the most versatile natural fabrics: it can be moulded, by the feltmaker, into solid three-dimensional forms, such as children's toys, sculptures and balls; made thick and hard, to produce, for example, boots or buckets; or very fine, to make scarves or my own 'Floating' felts, which are very thin, almost transparent.
The principal organisation promoting feltmaking worldwide is the International Feltmakers Association (IFA). The IFA's aims are to foster worldwide interest in felt, promote members' work and to keep members in contact with each other, for exchange of ideas and knowledge.
The International Feltmakers Association was founded in 1984 by an international group of feltmakers, who met after seeing a travelling exhibition The Art of the Feltmaker, showing traditional felts from around the world. This exhibition was curated by Mary Burkett, the chair of the IFA, after her book of the same name.
The Association publishes Echoes, a quarterly journal which members receive.
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