Have you ever thrown a nice wool sweater into your washer only to have it come out the perfect size for a baby doll or your pet chihuahua? To most people, those mishaps are worth cries of frustration, but there are some fiber artists like myself that jump for joy at the thought of shrinking their woolly creations. We are known as felt makers or felters, and the process of felting wool or other animal fibers is our creative art form. This little known fiber art is now on the rise in popularity, both the learned skill of felt making and the wonderful woolly items that it produces.
Besides the accidental sweater in the washer incidents, there are many well established felting techniques that are done on purpose. These include traditional wet felting which involves using the raw wool fibers to form matted layers of wool, needle felting which involves long barbed needles to poke the wool into formation, and fulling (or shrinking) already woven material which often involves knitting or crocheting an item first. All of these techniques have become increasingly popular over the last few years. There are now numerous instructional books on felting as well an array of unique felted accessories, jewelry, and art on the market. Below, you see lanadeflor’s blue necklace and fibrspace’s bracelet, just two examples of the raw creativity shaping felting on Etsy.
Now more than ever before, felting is a sought after skill and felted items are on a quick rise in popularity. Why? There’s nothing quite like the look and feel of handmade felted wool. Non woven wool felt is the earliest known form of textile, with its specific origins still an ancient mystery. Traditional felted items have been highly prized in many cultures for countless centuries. The ancient art form of felting produces unique visual and functional art in modern times as well. Just as in centuries past, felt is a very durable, warm, and water-resistant material. Felt is also luxurious, soft, and comfortable to wear. Wool often gets a bad rep about being itchy next to the skin, but this is really all dependent on the quality and type of wool used. Most finer grade wools such as merino are quite comfortable and soft next to the skin. Felt can be formed to make conventional wearable art as well as an array of sculptural art and home decor items. I personally chose to be a felt artist largely due to its versatility and endless possibilities. There’s a little something to appeal to everyone.
Popular fashion trends in felting right now include hats, scarves, jewelry, flower pins, and even iPod cozies! If you want to stay woolly warm this winter while being ahead of the fashion curve, then look for one-of-a-kind felted scarves from azul, lololyta, or feltedgarden.
Don’t forget to top it off with a hat from woolitbe or hatsy.
Then be sure to grab one of the extremely popular felted wool flower pins from lanadeflor, vaivanat, or whirlwend to add to your scarf or hat!
Of course, you need a little flash of fuzzy bling to accentuate your neck, ears, and hands so be sure to get some felted jewelry from pirilamporiscado, fiveforty, or bearlet.
A fun felted pouch is the essential accessory for your iPod or your business cards. Try one by Feltathome or projectfelt. There are many more trend setting felted fashions and accessories by the fabulous felt makers of Etsy. All you have to do is search for them …
Okay, so maybe you want to get your hands of a little bit of woolly goodness to make your own styling jewelry or add some uniqueness to your next craft project. Why not try some handmade felted wool beads? These small, round felted wool balls are very light weight and comfortable to wear. For many jewelry makers, they are a unique, new addition to other kinds of beads and blend well with many styles of jewelry making. They also make great buttons and sew-on accents!
Over the past few months I’ve seen a huge increase in the popularity of felted wool beads. On Etsy and elsewhere, it seems that these little woolly creations have become quite the jewelry making and crafting necessity. My sales of woolly beads has increased dramatically (pictured above with some of cherylavenue’s swirly ones), and I see that other Etsy sellers seem to be having a similar affect. To find your own burst of soft fuzzy color for that next crafty endeavor, just search Etsy for quality handmade wool beads supplies. There are many to choose from.
In case you don’t want to wear some fashionable wool creations or make your own, there’s some other popular options such as needle felted sculptures, wall hangings, and even home decor. You can find some interesting needle felted critters by RoseThistleArtworks, irischacha, madebymoxie, and motleymutton.
Or, you can adorn your walls with felted art by Deebs or TheFeltedFairyTale.
Felted homegoods are also in vogue, especially felted vases and containers, such as this one by elasticco. If you need a soft accent for your sofa, try a tree pillow by papaververt, or one by plytextiles.
You can even get some felted soap for a fragrant display in your bathroom or as a nice all-in-one scrubby to use. Here are some by AmeliaMakesArt or these holiday themed felted soaps by lanadeflor.
It doesn’t seem to matter whether you are choosing items to adorn yourself or your living space, felted wool is a desirable accessory this season.
If you’d like to find more felt makers and trendy felted items, please visit the Needle Felting Street Team’s profile. There is a great list of shops to explore for a variety of felted items and supplies. For more information about fiber art and fiber art trends, please visit the Fiber Arts Street Team‘s profile.
A History of Traditional Felting:
Felt-Art.com provides an interesting history of traditional felt making along with some wonderful images of felted art.
Richard E. Wright details the history of felt in this volume of his Textiles Research Reports.
felting.craftgossip.com – Linda Lanese, Craft Gossip’s Felting Editor, reviews the latest in felted goodies and features an array of felting blogs and resources.
rishcraftworker.typepad.com – Rebecca Hillman’s blog with many articles about traditional felting.
feltinginfibrespace.blogspot.com – Etsy seller fibrespace‘s blog with photo examples and articles.
kneek.wordpress.com – Etsy seller kneek‘s blog with excellent tutorials on felting and photo examples.
thefunkyfelter.blogspot.com – my (thefunkyfelter‘s) blog with photo examples and articles.
feltworks.wordpress.com – Etsy seller harlequinfeltworks‘ blog with photo examples and articles.
Felting Informational Sites and Forums:
www.peak.org/~spark/feltlistFAQ.html – The Feltmaker’s List of FAQs is a very thorough list of links pertaining to felting and felt artists.
www.feltingforum.com/phpbb/index.php – The Felting Forum focusses on wet felting and needle felting. It is a great community to chat, ask questions, and find information about all things felt.
www.craftster.org/forum/index.php?board=199.0 – Craftster’s forum section on felting with questions and answers to a wide range of topics about traditional and modern feltmaking.
www.textilearts.net – A wonderful site for any fiber artist looking for inspiration and information. It has a directory including links to fiber art supplies and resources as well as felt artist websites.
Felt Artist Organizations:
The International Feltmakers Association (IFA) website contains information about this coalition of felt artists as well as a gallery of felted items, upcoming events, and felting resources.
The North American Felters’ Network (NAFN) produces a newsletter, but it also hosts an online calendar of felting events.