This hat is the newest in a series of fantasy hats I've been felting this year. Nature and "Middle Earth" have been sending me strong vibes. I've always liked things that are unique and a little bit different. Seeking inspiration through fairies, elves, gnomes, wizards, trees, flowers, skies, water, fields and pure fantasy brings me joy. I find joy in creating something from nothing more than fibre. From the fluff off a sheep's back. From the threads of a silk worm's cocoon. All those tiny fibres woven and tangled together to create the fabric of a one of a kind hat or scarf or bag. With my hands. And water and soap. Sustainably. Making something beautiful and practical. To keep people warm. Expressing my creativity. I do it all for me, but it makes me very happy when other people recognize it as something special and love it too. When people connect to me through my work it completes a circle. And life is a beautiful circle. Felting is my circle.
I've made a few pair of baby shoes over the last couple of years just because they are so completely precious. I also like a new creative challenge now and then. I have been making them free form because baby shoe lasts are as scarce as hens teeth around here. Much to my delight, a lovely friend just gifted me with the most beautiful, antique, wooden, size 2, baby shoe lasts and I am thrilled! Just look how perfectly they shape the little shoes. These will fit a 6 to 12 month old tiny human being.
The baby shoes below are some that I made free form and stuffed with tissue paper to shape. They are cute but don't have that beautifully defined shape of having been stretched over lasts. Can you see the difference?
Ahh! That's better!
This summer I took a felting workshop taught by Eva Camacho Sanchez from Massachusetts. It was a wonderful experience and she is a beautiful felter and a beautiful teacher. I spent a week ahead of time preparing my fibres, selecting my wool colours and hand dyeing my silk and cotton fabrics. Eva uses a Nuno felting technique based on a traditional Japanese 'Boro' method of patching cloth. I think the effect is stunning and I have been able to carry it over to my hat felting. The purple fedora is patched with hand dyed silk which is how the various contrasting colours are introduced into the piece. Boro is originally connected to hand stitching which was the way people patched their clothing when they could not afford new things. Eventually an entire garment could end up completely covered with patches that held the original fabric together. Some of the existing pieces are now treasured works of art. This technique, despite its perceived beauty and the skill of the sewers, eventually went out of vogue as new clothes became more readily available and desirable to people. The art of Boro has seen a revival in many forms of contemporary textile making. It is the perfection of the imperfect and it partners beautifully with felt.
This is the Boro scarf that I made in the workshop with Eva. I am in love with all those colours.
This is my lovely friend Estelle modelling the Boro scarf. She was very quick to point out that these were her perfect colours! I agree but I'm not ready to part with it yet!
At the workshop someone noticed Eva's beautiful Boro felted bag and so she showed us how to fold a rectangular piece of flat felt to create a long, narrow bag . It was the first project I worked on after the workshop so I would remember how to use the technique I had learned. I was also anxious to use some of the eco-dyed fabrics I had recently spent a summer's day dyeing in big pots, around a fire with some very talented and creative friends.
In keeping with Boro traditions I did do some hand stitching on the bag. Some of the stitching holds the seams together and some is to add design and texture to the surface of piece. The fringe was from the ends of a vintage wool scarf which I dyed and felted in. I really wasn't sure if I liked it on the finished bag but I took a poll on FaceBook and the fringe won out! So I put the scissors away.
Dyed silk above and below are dyed wool (left) and cotton (right). The rich brown is from walnuts, the coral is from osage and madder and the chartreuse is from avocado and eucalyptus.
A close up of the organic cotton below. All of these fabrics are incorporated into the wool felt to create the surface pattern design of the bag.