While browsing in a Minneapolis yarn shop last fall I spotted a grouping of small hollow vessels which appeared to be made from wool. I’d been knitting and fulling items in the washing machine for about five years and had been having lots of fun. I started a small business selling handbags and home décor. I’d created a website and called my business Bagaroo Bags. But these vessels seemed to be made by another method. I inquired and learned that a class was soon to be offered on how to make these beautiful little art objects.
In the class I learned that the process was called wet felting. It involved using combed, dyed wool that was laid out over a piece of plastic called a resist, agitated with warm water and soap until the wool had felted together. After a few more steps to solidify the wool, a small hole was cut into the felted piece, the resist pulled out and voilà! A small, hollow vessel.
Then in October I took another class on how to wet felt a tote. My tote turned out so well and I so enjoyed the process but I didn’t have the confidence to try it on my own until December when I wet felted a piece of red wool to use as clothing for a Christmas tomten. I slowly began making more and more felt, becoming more and more confident and making bigger and more complex items.
I started with felted wool as dresses for needle-felted dolls, then moved into tapestries and then began experimenting with 3D objects. Before long I became obsessed! I absolutely loved making things with the process of wet felting. I love how the loose wool fibers become soft and smooth under my hands with the addition of water and soap and then how they become one firm, sturdy object of my choosing.
So feltmaking became my full time occupation. I started out in my kitchen, moved to my basement, then rearranged the basement to have a larger space and more shelving for my supplies. I dream of having a studio space away from home someday soon so that I can work on larger and more complex pieces.
I’ve added nuno felting to my repertoire – the process of felting wool and fabric – usually silk – together. I joined the Minnesota Felters’ Guild and one of the women I met there worked with me to make a nuno-felted scarf. Then I discovered that Robbin Firth of HearFelt Silks Studio in Hudson, WI, had arranged a Fabulous Fiber Month for October. I took four felting classes from four fabulous and talented teachers and learned a tremendous amount.
I work with felting almost every single day. I miss it on the days I don’t felt. My hands are protesting a bit but I’ll learn to live with that. And I’ll learn to take some breaks. But I know that after many years of loving my career as a Spanish teacher, then being forced to leave the profession due to illness (now mostly resolved), I’ve found my second occupation and I am thrilled!