Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I Never Felt This Way Before: Meet Mary, Our Felt Artist

Hey Y’all,
Time to meet another fabulous fiber artist that teaches at the shop. This time around, I got to talk to Mary Macaulay, who teaches felting classes—in fact she’s got two coming up this weekend and another in September. (Check the store’s main website for info or give us a call.) The picture above is one of her spectacular felted hats modeled by one of her spectacular dogs. See below for more pics of cool felted stuff.

Spike: How did you become a fiber fanatic?
Mary: I’ve had a love affair with wool my whole life. I grew up in Minnesota, so I was swaddled in wool from a young age. I’ve Knitted since I was 9 and I’ve made zillions of sweater and all sorts of attire out of wool.

Spike: Besides the felting classes you teach, you’ve also taught other classes. Tell me about that.
Mary: I used to be an art teacher and I’m retired from that now. When I taught I taught a lot of fiber arts in high school. I’ve got a loom and a spinning wheel and too much yarn and wool.

Spike: When dod you get into felting and why do you love it?
Mary: In the mid 90’s I started felting and that’s really been enjoyable for me. It frees me up, I can do anything I like, and it’s very forgiving. I don’t ever work with patterns so I can just have fun. It’s a good outlet for me to be creative with. Besides wet felting, I’ve also gotten into needle felting a little bit.

Spike: To be honest, I’m not real clear about how felting works, besides when I accidentally put a sweater in the washer. Is this felting you do—does it involve knitting?
Mary: Normally for felting you use carded or combed wool—that’s wool right after it’s cleaned its combed. It doesn’t have to be spun or knitted. You lay the combed fleece out in thin overlapping criss corssed layers in opposing directions like plywood is made. Its is sprinkled with hot soapy water and then it is rolled in a mat to agitate it. Then all these little tiny fibers start to migrate and lock into one another and that’s what causes the hard felt—the transformation from soft fleece to hard felt. You can use alpaca for something softer or another fiber for a stiffer purse or slippers or a rug. It’s very versatile. HCW has beautiful dyed fleece—it’s painted fleece. It’s soft. It would be nice for just about anything.

Spike: And what is needle felting?
Mary: For needle felting you use barbed needles. They have little barbs that go up and down. As they go down they take the thin fibers and push them into another fiber—a base. I like to do needle felting onto another piece of wool. Needle felting is good for embellishment. You can needle felt on just about anything but it works best on wool. It’s repetitive motion with your hand, up and down. They also have machines that do this, called embellishers. Just four needles that go up and down very fast and push that fiber. You can make all sorts of beautiful designs.

Spike: Do you have a favorite felted project you’ve made?
Mary: I made a cape—a big cape at one o’clock in the morning. It took several days to lay the yarn out. It’s called Blooming’ Blizzards Cape. I will never wear it— it’s very theatrical. It has white blooms to remember all the people who died in a blizzard I read about in a book—a true story. I made the cape because I had just processed reading this book and I was getting notes from up north saying how cold it was.

Spike: What do you do when you’re not felting?
Mary: I garden a lot and just work as an artist. I do sell some of this felted stuff. I have my finger in a lot of pies. And I have three grandchildren and four grand dogs.


Knitting Octopus said...

This mistype about how to wet felt struck me as pretty funny: "Then with heat, usually hot water, and a lot of education..."

I believe it actually requires a lot of agitation instead of education :)

brenda said...

Hey, Spike, I really enjoy reading your blog! Nice voice! So much to love about HCW!