Northeast Fiber Arts Center

Home >Fling Hat Workshop - The Devil is in the Details

Beth, who is organizing the Felter's Fling this year asked me to put up a page that provided some background on me and showed pictures of some of the hats I've done. So here goes -

About Me & Felting

I first discovered felting in 1983 when my sisters and I went to a spinning retreat in western NY state. I've loved it ever since, but, like most everyone, I work to support myself and enjoy the usual activities of "life" that meant I didn't have much time for it for the first decade - grad school and a 10 year stint in the corporate world meant that I was only able to periodically dabble with any of the fiber arts I loved so much. And since I was on planes a lot, I mostly had a chance to enjoy my love of knitting at that point in life.

But in 1996 I decided to leave the corporate world behind (it felt like I was jumping off a bridge into the unknown) in search of more meaningful work and a balanced lifestyle.While I figured out the what and where of my next step, I took a year off to indulge in another passion I had (chocolate and baking) with a year's diversion studying pastry at Le Cordon in Paris - life is short and I had worked hard, so why not.

So it was late fall of 1997 that I returned to the US, decided Vermont was for me (lots of family in the New Engand area and I'd lived here in the past both for undergraduate studies and while running a molecular diagnostics lab so I knew that I loved the area). I opened the Northeast Fiber Arts Center in Williston Vermont and began selling supplies and teaching classes for knitting, felting, spinning and weaving. And so although it took some 15 years after first learning to felt and spin, I managed to work my passion for knitting, felting and spinning into every day of my life! And have been doing so for 20 years, this year!

I feel very fortunate to be surrounded every day by color and texture and tons of incredibly creative customers who inspire me. I love to knit, felt, spin and weave. Customers often ask me which I prefer most and I have to say I love them all equally but for different reasons. I tend to knit and felt more than spin and weave - but that's because it is the knitting and felting that keep the lights on, chocolate in the cupboard and kibbles in my dog Winnie's bowl!

I have taken workshops with many talented fiber artists (not just felters, but knitters, spinners and weavers) over the years to learn as much as possible about wool and fiber and yarn. So when I'm helping a customer in the store, or teaching a class, I am able to share a lot of knowledge about the topic . I'm sure my need to experiment with and understand the materials and medium stems from the years in the lab setting up experiments! I feel that understanding the hows and whys of my materials and medium results in better choices about both the type of wool or yarn and the approach or technique(s) best to achieve a particular end product.

I got into felt hat making in a big way about 15 years ago and since have studied millinery at the UVM Theater Dept and taken many millinery workshops independently of that.

But equally productive and instructive during these last 20 years that I've had the store has been the time and resources I've spent exploring and experimenting on my own and with my sisters - with different breeds of sheep, different techniques and approaches to felting, and in felting a wide range of designs and products. At last count, I had felted with over 44 different breeds of sheep in an effort to explore their various qualities and characteristics. I have enjoyed felting everything from whimsical window boxes full of felt flowers to jewelry, neckpieces, wristwarmers and accessories like hats, bags, slippers and boots. I spent a few years on house furnishings like felt coverlets, rugs, drapes, and even a few vessels. And like just about every other felter on the planet, I've made scores of nuno scarves, shawls, wraps and seamless garments, as well.

Although I have sold coats, seamless tunics, hats and bags, I don't felt for the purpose of selling my end products. I felt because I need to. I felt because I love to explore different fibers, different color combinations, new techniques, new design ideas. I love the feeling of felt taking shape and form in my hands. Of manipulating it how I want. In fact, I discovered that nothing squashes my creative spirit like felting "in order to sell" does! I did it once for a gallery show - so I've been thru the process of considering size and shape and colors that other people would like and that would sell - and I know it is not for me. I felt what inspires me creatively and if someone likes it and wants to buy it - fine. But that is not my goal with felt. like knitting and spinning and weaving - I pursue them entirely to feed a creative need.

It is the endless possibilities of what can be done with wool that makes me felt, knit, spin and weave. I am constantly in awe of what can be done with wool. And am so grateful for sheep - that every year they provide us with such a wonderful resource as wool ! And I really appreciate the range of sheep breeds that all have something different to offer. And I really appreciate the people who raise this wonderful resource for us.

It is accessories that I most love to felt. I LOVE making (and wearing/using) my bags, hats and boots. You'll see below that my aesthetic is generally pretty classic. Because that is what I likie to wear! But I've done edgy and theatrical too, so if your style is different - no worries - if you join me for this hat workshop I will guide you to making the hat(s) that suit your aesthetic!

 

3 Day Hat Workshop: The Devil is in the Details August 20 - 22, 2017

you can register and/or find more details about this workshop here: http://feltersfling.com

 

I hope that if you're interested in making a great felt hat(s)and/or fascinator that you won't get hung up on MY "style" if it isn't yours! I hold a lot of classes here and have seen felters dismiss taking some great workshops with some terrific teachers because they didn't like the colors of the models or the style of the instructor - even tho' they would have learned so much!

So if you are usually drawn to a class because of an instructors' aesthetic, and my aesthetic is not yours, I hope you won't dismiss the class summarily. My job as instructor is to share with you great technqiues and skills and provide you lots of creative options and possibilities while guiding you to making hats in a style that reflects your interests and tastes.

I I like pretty traditional shapes so I happen to make lots of cloches for myself. I also love feathers and flowers so I use a lot of silk ribbons, veils and feathers for myself. I've knit veiling from stainless steel and silk and I've felted veiling as well as used commercial veiling. I wire some brims and not others so I'll show you a few ways of handling edges. I use a lot of silk fabric for ribbon work, but I've also made a lot of felt flowers and embellishments too.

This class is about making great felt to begin with (and to that end we'll look at and discuss different fibers and breeds of sheep's wool for hats), blocking it beautifully to the shape you want, and covering all the important millinery techniques, stitches and finishing tricks that I think elevate a handmade felt hat trememdously. The devil is in the details!

So, if you've never felted a hat before, I hope you can join me and get started on the right foot. And if you've felted hats already but want to take them to a new level of professionalism, this is a great class for you too, so I hope you can join me as well.

I'll share an inexpensive alternative for making your own hat block that provides endless possibilities! We'll cover, ribbon work (both silk and felt) and feathers, wiring, veiling, and even stiffening options.

And because I'm a sucker for understanding the historical aspects of all fiber arts, I'll work in a look at the history and tradition of hats thru the ages too.

And PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE.....don't say you "can't wear hats"! That's just not true! I have some fun exercises to share that we'll go thru in the workshop that will help you figure out what style hat you look great in (high crown or low, rounded or flat, no brim or big, rolled or asymmetric, for example) and how should you wear hats (tilted, back, forward, etc). This is fun and usually entails lots of giggles and "ah has".

 

A few photos at the end of the scroll are either buckram or draped hats I've made (the leopard draped hat just before the buckram hats is a trial for a series of nuno felt hats I'm exploring next!) I hope you can join me!

I'm not out on the teaching circuit so I'm sure you've never heard of me. And I haven't been trained as a teacher (tho' a lot of teachers that have taken workshops with me have expressed their surprise at that since they have found my classes very thorough, clear and organized). But I've had participants in my classes and customers at my store comment that my knowledge is "encyclopedic" (their words not mine) and the store is "like a museum it offers so much inspiration" (again, their words not mine) so I'm confident that if you are able to join me for this class you will learn some new things and leave inspired to create wonderful hats. And we'll have fun in the process!