So you’ve lost your felting mojo

2016 was a bad year.

We all know 2016 was a bad year. Virtually every celebrity died, UK and US politics burst into flames and Hodor was killed off in Game of Thrones.

I lost my felting mojo.

You might have noticed – my online activity dropped lower than xxx Ok, so I did a bit here and there, but the passion was – gone? Hmm, maybe not gone. Muted? I wanted to feel, but all I got was apathy. You see, for the first 6 months nearly all of my time was taken up with fibromyalgia and buying a house – felting had to be scaled right back. Then my nan died. It was horrible and unexpected and all of a sudden I just didn’t want to felt any more. My nan was fascinated by felting and, as she was with all her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, she was a proud and supportive influence. I made her a rabbit that my mum knitted clothes for, and it sat by her bed. Without her, even though I have dozens of loved ones who show me support and encouragement, I lost interest in a lot of things.

That wasn’t the only reason felting took a back seat, and I won’t bore you with the ins and outs, but there did come a time when I looked at my fibre stash and thought ‘Am I done here?’ I honestly thought that there was a very real likelihood that I would never get back into it and, bizarrely, I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. I mean, if you’ve lost interest in a hobby then what do you care if you’ve abandoned it forever? Yet I still felt sad. Did I want to put this hobby to bed, or did I want to get back the spark I once had? I honestly didn’t know.

So I made balls.

No, really. Get your minds out of the gutter, I’m only talking about the shapes! But I did, I made balls. I didn’t have the passion or the energy to make anything even vaguely challenging (having moved to a new town, my new commute to work took it out of me for a few months); as the proud owner of a new Burmese kitten (a breed so people-orientated that they can’t bear to be apart from their humans) I wasn’t able to snatch more than half an hour here and there, lest the cat try to run off with one of my needles. By making balls I was getting back into the right frame of mind – and I cannot emphasise enough how important that was – whilst slowly building up a stash of ‘parts’. When the time did come that I felt ready to start making things again I already had a bag full of basic shapes that I could use as a starting point for any future project.

So… Not the funniest post from me today, but I wanted to give an update of sorts. My felting mojo is most definitely back, and I have a bit more of a plan, a direction, than I had before. There are things I want to do, and you will also notice small changes happening on this website as I tidy things up a bit, move things around and update my branding and images. Nothing major, but I want to start making some exciting little changes. But more on that another time. For now I’m just happy to be back.

So if you’ve lost your felting mojo, you know just what to say.

Balls.

Here’s the cat by the way!

I am Arthur. I am the carnage that comes in the night.

 

PS – I also wanted to point out to those of you who follow my blog – even though I don’t update my blog very often (although this will change) I do still update other parts of my website, but I don’t think you get notified when I do that.

Some random felting tips

imageA short while ago I was asked by someone in a felting forum if there were any tips I might be able to pass on to someone new to the felting process.  I had to read the message a few times because the sudden swelling of my head was starting to impair my vision, and I already wear glasses as it is.  

Obviously one of the main purposes of my site is to provide guides to felting, and many of my tips are/will be found on subject specific pages.  Here, however, are some more general tips, in no particular order:

  • If you have to cut away at your work for any reason, remember to patch the ‘wound’ up with some fibre or your work will shed tiny fibre dust from the wound forever-more.
  • Using core wool makes life easier, but core wool can be used for purposes other than core creation (texture, hair, long fur, top colour etc).
  • Spend the extra time making your core as firm and smooth as you can – all wool felts easier onto a firm core (and if your core is squishy you will often find the act of adding a top layer of fibre will distort the shape as you are essentially continuing to felt it. Similarly, you may find that any colour added will sink into the core if the surface tension isn’t hard enough.)
  • Underestimate the size of everything you plan to make – you can always increase the size if you have to, but once you’ve made something too big that’s it.  Nearly every single project I’ve been unhappy with has been down to making an element (like a cheek) too big and trying to adjust the scale to compensate.  Messes it up every time.
  • Few people find working with armatures easy – you are not alone.
  • Felting takes A LOT longer than YouTube tutorials suggest.  We all know they have to be edited for speed/ time, but rest assured that many of these tutors must be seriously underfelting their work for the sake of making a helpful tutorial.
  • Carded fibres are easiest to work with when adding top colour but are completely unsuitable for hair/ long fur.
  • Join a felting group if you can (there are plenty on Facebook) – they are invaluable.
  • Merino is really tough to felt with, and virtually impossible to make a decent core from.
  • There is no cheating in art – if you want to glue an eye on, glue it on.  If you want to use polymer clay, use polymer clay.  Just make it neat, make it help and make it your way, and if anyone accuses you of ‘cheating’ extend both middle fingers and ask them which one they’d prefer to swivvel on (or y’know, something less aggressive).
  • If you’re felting in the evening, the second time you stab yourself is the time to put down the project for the night.
  • Finger guards take a little time getting used to but are worth it.  However, they are not failsafes – needles can and do still pierce them, but slow the stab down enough for you to move in time.
  • Getting a very neat, fuzz-free surface requires work (and won’t be achievable with certain fibres.)  And before you dissolve into a sticky, snotty, wailing ball of frustration at not being able to replicate the god-like neatness of the Japanese and Russian felts that are all over Pinterest (you know the ones) it’s worth remembering that this neatness may have been achieved by using scissors (for trimming), wet felting, hairspray or a special fast-felting fibre, the name of which escapes me.  Food photographers use white paint to make milk look more like milk; felt photographers may also be employing techniques to make their final object more photograph friendly. Or they might just be that good.  Either way, I’m as jealous as hell.

What they don’t tell you about felting

imageI started felting in September 2014, so I can now officially say that I’ve been doing it for over a year.  I always thought that this wasn’t a craft for the likes of me.  It’s the sort of thing that you see at craft fairs and think ‘hmm, yeah, no – looks a bit complicated.  Looks a bit professional. Someone like me could never do it.’

If you’ve ever had that thought let me stop you right there – someone like you CAN do it.  I’m someone like you – a normal (shut up mum), well adjusted (I said shut up mum!), young (mum, why do you keep laughing?!) woman with a husband and a sprog and a small flat with limited space and an office job and absolutely no knitted lentils to be seen.  I watch Game of Thrones, have far too many photos of my child on my phone and periodically think to myself ‘I must do something about my hair’ before doing absolutely nothing with it at all. I didn’t go to art school – my only resource and good fortune was having a mum who instilled in me a passion for craft and creativity and a supportive husband who is really easy to distract when I’m trying to sneak a wool delivery into the flat. If I can do it (and believe me, my first attempts are not displayed on this site for a reason) then you can do it!

That said, there are certain pieces of advice – warnings, if you will – that I never had when I first started felting. Here’s what they don’t tell you when you’re just starting out:

  • Take a piece of paper and use it to calculate exactly how much space you can afford to devote to storing fibre.  Jot down the final figure.  Now take that piece of paper… and throw it in the bin.  You have just epically underestimated how much fibre you will buy in the next year. Instead decide which family member/ flatmate/ pet you like the least and inform them that they will be moving out. Their bedroom is now your fibre storage area.
  • No matter how many precautions you take, you will stab yourself on an embarrassingly regular basis. Reconcile yourself with this fact.
  • Have some professional photos taken of yourself and give them to your significant other/ family members.  That way they will recognise you when you periodically appear in the kitchen.
  • You will become fairly knowledgeable about at least one breed of sheep.
  • Congratulations – your life has now become one great struggle to source affordable glass eyes.
  • At some point you will find yourself making a pumpkin and/ or a hare (or a hare dressed as a pumpkin).
  • Sarafina from Sarafina Fibre Arts will become royalty to you.
  • The first time you see your work crop up on Pinterest and it’s NOT because someone has repinned it from your own pin – well, now it goes ‘birth of my son, day someone independently pinned Hesserly the Hedgehog, wedding day.’
  • Finding someone has copied your original design and is showing it off will send you on a rampage – seriously, not cool.
  • When you take a good look at a real sheep you start hoping that your fibres were really, really well cleaned before they were sent to you.
  • You have a favourite fibre and can talk passionately for ages about why it’s superior to anything else. Before, you didn’t even realise there were different fibres.
  • You will still get confused at times on the difference between ‘tops’ and ‘roving’.
  • You will genuinely enjoy looking at other people’s creations and, no matter how good you are yourself, you will have your mind blown by someone else’s work almost every day.
  • You will develop a ‘kill on sight’ policy regarding moths, to the extent that you make George R R Martin look like Enid Blyton.
  • You’ll need to invest in a very good lint roller as walking around with the seat of your trousers covered in short, curly white hairs is how rumours get started.
  • There is no feeling of panic greater than the moment the end of your needle snaps off and you don’t know where it went.
I suppose I must finish this by saying that, despite it all, needle felting is a fun, addictive craft that will consume you and enthrall you in equal measures, but look – you’ve just been reading a blog post on a website devoted purely to felting.  Sweetheart, I think you’re already there

The 20 stages of needle felting

image

  1. Oh my god, I’ve got the best idea for a project ever, I can’t wait to start it!!!
  2. Ugh, I can’t start it until I’ve finished my current project.  Stupid project.
  3. Actually there are about 8 projects I want to do next – which one should I choose?
  4. Ok, project finished, time to start the new one! Dive right in!
  5. Should have planned it a bit more.
  6. I hate starting new projects, just making basic shapes out of core wool – so tedious.
  7. Ok, adding features in core wool now, a bit more interesting.
  8. Ack, this looks terrible, I’m the worst felter in the woooorld!
  9. That’s it, I’m giving up on this project.
  10. I’m giving up felting!
  11. Maybe if I add some colour it will start to look better.
  12. Should have waited before adding colour.
  13. I wish I’d chosen a different design to make.
  14. Oh, this is actually starting to look pretty decent.
  15. Ah, it’s coming along nicely now.
  16. I like it!
  17. Getting bored of it now.
  18. It’s looking good, maybe I should stop here.
  19. I should have stopped when I first thought of it.
  20. Oh my god, I’ve got the best idea for a project ever, I can’t wait to start it!

On the question of names

imageI’m pretty certain that one day my son will be lying down on a long couch and sobbing to a therapist about how his mummy made hundreds of toys but he was never allowed to play with them.  For me, if not other needle felting parents, this is what causes me the most grief.

He’s 3.  I barely trust my husband with handling my creations, let alone the heavy-handed, sticky-pawed mini Dexter that lives with us.  He tries so hard to be gentle and, for the first 5 minutes (if I’m lucky) he remembers to be ‘very carefully’ [sic] with my models.  Then it all goes to hell.  Limbs get pulled off, eyes mysteriously shift position, wool fluffs up so much it may as well be back on the sheep – you get the picture.

I’ve stopped showing him the majority of my creations now partly because of this, and partly because he doesn’t especially like my Dead Eric series and quite frankly I don’t handle criticism well (especially when it’s being dished out by a certified poo poo head.). My son doesn’t sugar coat things – he licks the sugar off his opinions and studies you out of the corners of his eyes before dishing out devastating repostes.  That’s my boy.

So we’ve reached a compromise.  I make him his own felted creatures, which he is welcome to destroy to his heart’s content; he abandons them after a cursory glance and resumes his efforts to reach Barry the Bat (with his irresistibly fragile wings).  Hey, I didn’t say it was a good compromise!

He’s too young for needle felting himself (well duh!) but I do like to get him involved.  We have a little ritual now that we both enjoy – the viewing of the sketchbook.  Whenever I’ve designed a new character or creation we sit down together and it’s his job to come up with their names.  This is how we’ve ended up with names such as Hesserly the hedgehog, and Apple Boo and Cooloo the Felted Fiercies.  There are names that make sense, such as ‘Stampy Feet’ the monster and ‘Little Ears’ the sheep (although its ears aren’t particularly little, if I’m honest).  ‘Mr Nose’ the pig I can see the reasoning behind; the same with ‘Running Around’ the fox and ‘Scruffly’ the badger.  I’m not too sure of the logic behind ‘Swoo’ the rat, ‘Agorda’ the wolf or ‘Lops’ the owlet, but I presume there is some in his little three year old brain.  I don’t know where he got the idea for ‘Derek’ the seahorse or ‘Barry’ the bat, but they’re proper names at least.  ‘Dratty’ the bee I quite like.  I have my reservations about ‘Splats’ the Day of the Dead figure though, and Deydrick the raccoon just baffles me.

i think everyone needs a 3 year old to name things.  Hours of fun.

Distracting him with this new position of authority doesn’t stop him from asking, twinkly-eyed with hope, ‘is that a new one, mummy’ whenever he sees me surreptuously sneaking a new creation onto my designated felt-shelf, but it at least distracts him long enough for me to stand a Dead Eric or two on guard to protect them.  He’ll probably be mentioning that to the therapist one day too.