"What one can see out in the sunlight is always less interesting than what is behind a windowpane."

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Sculpting with Wool

To think, I spent the first 39 out of 40 years of my life never knowing it was possible to sculpt with wool! Because I love you, I want to save you from my same fate. Let me share with you a secret....it can be done! And it's got a name. They call it........"Needle Felting".

Browsing through Etsy.com around this time last year, I came across the sweetest little elf ornaments made out of wool. For the life of me, I couldn't figure out how they were made. Finally, I emailed the artists asking for their secret. They graciously shared with me all their knowledge and know-how.

Needle felting is actually an ancient Japanese pasttime. First, take a clump of wool that's been cleaned and carded. Then, using a tiny barbed needle, continously jab it into the wool until it literally felts. Because the needle is barbed, it grabs hold of the wool and pulls it tightly together. The more the wool is poked, the tighter it becomes, allowing it to be sculpted just like clay. Imagine my surprise!

What I love best about needle felting is the feel of the soft, warm wool in my hands as I create. Even the smell of the fresh wool makes me want to go lie in a bed of daisies. Hey, just call me a silly romantic.

Although I was very intimidated to try needle felting, it beckoned me every day until I finally gave in. I surprised myself by how quickly I learned and went straight to felting people. I used mostly alpaca wool to sculpt the bodies.

Creating the clothes was a completely different process. At first, I bought wool squares, then I realized I could make them myself. After purchasing 100% wool suits at the local thrift store, I put them in the washer for a few cycles and then the dryer. Presto-chango! Felt was born! I then had the fabric needed to create clothing. Here are a few of my first felted figures:

I've now moved on from needle felting faces to sculpting them with clay. Lately, my passion has been combining mediums and this is no exception.

If you would like to try needle felting, feel free to email me with any questions or advice. I must warn you though, it can be highly addicting!

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