Inspiration to write my article ‘Southampton’s Wool and Cloth Heritage’ came from a feltmaking workshop that I recently attended. The workshop took place at Hawthorns Urban Wildlife Centre, Southampton, was led by textile artist Vicki Hodgson and organised by Southampton-based Tudor Revels as part of their programme of educational activities. The feltmaking workshop is the first in a series of craft/heritage events, under the umbrella title of ‘Making Ends Meet – Tudor Style’. Forthcoming workshops will include: pottery; beekeeping; candle-making; pole lathe turning and woodcarving. For more information on Tudor Revels, please see my article, ‘Tudor Revels Southampton’ (the full activity programme is at the end of the article) or go to ‘Events’ on the Tudor Revels’ website.
Vicki’s workshop was great fun and wet felting is surprisingly easy to do, it just takes a bit of time, patience and practice. The attractive felt sample produced can be fashioned into a wide range of objects. Feltmaking is a centuries old craft and was a popular method of creating a versatile fabric in Tudor times. Felt fabric would have been used to make a wide range of clothing items, including hats. In 1583, the feltmakers of London petitioned Queen Elizabeth I for their own charter but it was not granted until 1604, when King James I came to the throne and The Worshipful Company of Feltmakers of London established. For more information on the history of feltmaking and The Worshipful Company of Feltmakers, CLICK HERE. On their website you will also find a fascinating article on the first century of the Livery Company’s existence, ‘Feltmakers 1604-1704’. See also, The History of The Worshipful Company of Feltmakers 1604-2004, (2004) by Rosemary Weinstein and published by Phillimore & Co Ltd.
Vicki only uses natural fibres for feltmaking workshops and in her own design work. Feltmaking is a very eco-friendly craft. I was absolutely amazed at the variety of fibres that can be used. Wool fibres are the traditional choice but there are a whole range of other fibres, including: silk cap; bamboo tops; fine loose cotton; soya bean staple; Tussah silk tops and the one that astonished us all the most, recycled plastic bottles! Vicki volunteers as a part-time workshop facilitator at Southampton Scrapstore so is really on-trend with her creative upcycling methods.
On a recent visit to Avebury in Wiltshire, whilst walking near the ancient stone circle, I collected a large amount of wool that had been shed by grazing sheep. The sheep had snagged their fleece on thistles and wire fences. I managed to gather quite a bit and Vicki’s workshop gave me the idea of turning this wool into felt. The wool is now drying-out in the airing cupboard but once dried, I will remove all the organic matter, hand wash it, dry-it again, card/comb it to work-out the fibres and then have a go at felting it.
Here are the results of my first attempt at feltmaking in Vicki’s workshop and I can honestly say that felting is very easy: