September 2012: Felting

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Our September meeting was led by Susan Hibbert, who began by declaring herself a felting fanatic.

She told us she had been felting for five years and that it was a passion for her. She showed us the huge range of things she had made with felt, even describing the process as “magic”.

Her enthusiasm was infectious and we went off to our work stations armed with lengths of wool in all kinds of colours.

It soon became clear that technique is very important in felting. To begin with, we were told to be gentle when teasing out sections of wool to use, then to place them carefully in the shape of a flower on top of some bubble wrap, building up layers until the outline of a petal became clear.

Once there was enough wool in place, we doused it with soapy water and placed another piece of bubble wrap over the top. Susan then told us how to begin turning the wool into felt, with a lot of elbow grease!

In her demonstration, Susan was quite rough with the wool, rubbing it vigorously between the bubble wrap to encourage the fibres to come together and form a fabric. We must have been looking a bit nervous because she said she thought she’d scared us all, but after a cup of tea and a cake, we felt strong enough to give it a go.

As a technique, felting is not for those who are uncomfortable with quite a lot of mess. You need a lot of water and soap to get the right texture, and it does seem to go everywhere – at least, it did for me and everyone else I could see! Susan had brought her daughter, Lucy, to the meeting, and between them they went around the tables giving us help and encouragement, and saying “It needs to be much wetter than that!” a lot.

Once our felt, and most of our clothes, were suitably sodden, we rinsed out the flower to get rid of the suds and began encouraging it into a more attractive shape. It was hard work, but by holding it correctly and handling it very firmly, it did begin to improve.

Some of the flowers produced were beautiful, with bright colours and stylish shapes. Others were… less so, often resembling starfish, wilting leaves and dead insects. However, everyone certainly learned something about felting, and lots of ladies bought a kit from Susan so they could have a go at home and practise the techniques they had been taught.

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About Spa Sweethearts WI

A young, fun and diverse 'new wave' WI based in Harrogate, North Yorkshire. We encourage women to leave their preconceptions of the organisation at the door and find out what the modern WI is really like. Guests are welcome at our meetings - why not give it a try? Spa Sweethearts WI meets on the second Thursday of each month, 7:30pm, at St George's Social Club, St George's Road, Harrogate.

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