Where does virgin wool come from?

The sheep that runs the fastest…

I’ve been running fast over here but it’s all good and exciting. Maybe I didn’t mention this before: I’m officially an “art teacher” now! I’ll be teaching fiber arts at The Morean Art Center here in St. Petersburg, four six-week sessions between September and Christmas. (If you live in the area and are so inclined, you can go online and register now.) I’m going to be teaching both a fundamentals of felting class and a 3-Dimensional felt class with advanced techniques. So, of course, I had to purchase supplies while up at the fiber festival in Michigan and ship them home…boxes(the first of three batches…)

One of the qualities of wool fiber is that it can be compressed and then it can expand again, once you set it free…wool(liberated, the contents of  just the boxes pictured above. I like using the giant ziplock bags for easy storage because I can see what’s what and they’re moth proof…)

It’s hard to tell from the photo but there are many and wonderful grades of wool in those bags, as well as silk from cocoons, dyed and un-dyed. There’s baby alpaca fleece and merino top and all manner of animal fibers. By teaching class series I’ll have a great opportunity to teach techniques that build on each other and it will be more of a learning process that inspires some real creativity. Workshops are lots of fun, too- short, fast and project oriented. I’ll be continuing with some half day workshops around the area this Fall as well. First up is a pumpkin making class. Currently there is lots and lots of orange wool around here.pumpkins(Right after I took this I started in on the nerds and runts.)

I spent a little time wrapping up a few other small crafty things that were on the back burner this past week as well. Brother Bruce (“Uncle Buck” to the kids) lives near Boston and he and my sister-in-law are major Red Sox Fans. The Sox are doing well so, in addition to a couple of pint glass cozies, I made a champagne bottle size one in case they have real cause to celebrate. The cozies, incidentally, are a very big hit around here- I’m cranking them out for friends and neighbors routinely. While I was busy fussing about the bad combination of extreme heat and working with wool, I made one of these on a whim to hold my constantly sweating ice tea glass. Hands down, these are the most effective glass holders. They NEVER leave water marks and they keep everything very cold; ice stays ice for hours in one of these. All of the water proof, insulating qualities of wool shine when used as a can or glass snuggie like this. They can be rinsed out if necessary and they dry right back to shape, they never crumble and disintegrate the way those rubberized plastic ones do and they feel good to grip. A clever idea, if I do say so myself. I’m thinking of going for Gator and Buc colors next.redsox

Finally, I’m taking some longer blocks of time to patiently work on dyeing and color blending techniques in preparation for some more elaborate and detailed work I want to do once I get into that nice big art space at the Morean Center. I would really like to make some fine quality felt cloth to construct clothing and maybe some upholstery fabric. I know, I know- but the whole world doesn’t live in Florida. Here are a few samples of some hand dyed corriedale wool that I blended. These are real closeups so you see every bit of texture- which is not so pronounced in reality.dye2IMG_1833
dye1(Very strong, very soft. Felted wool tends to lose that itch factor completely, depending on the animal source, of course. But the process calms it down considerably so that even people who are extremely sensitive to it are amazed at how soft and itch-free felted wool becomes.)

Finally, lest you think this is just a niche craft, I offer you a couple of interesting video clips. A recent exhibit at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum in NYC, “Fashioning Felt” was a magnificent display of this centuries old technique for making everything from houses to the lining for knights in shining armor. The Cooper Hewitt is one of my all time favorite museums, an extension of the Smithsonian Museum. Check it out- first a short clip promoting the show and then a longer clip featuring the handmade Yurt (house) crafted entirely of fantastically beautiful felt.

Clip for Cooper-Hewitt Show, Fashioning Felt.

Clip for Fashioning Felt, including Nomadic Yurt, constructed of felt.

And then, if your curiosity is really piqued, check THIS out. It has no sound so you can watch it in your cubicle at work.

13 responses to “Where does virgin wool come from?

  1. Beautiful work!! I think that the color combinations are wonderful and subtle. I wish I lived close enough to take your classes.

  2. That wool is beautiful. Your pumpkin idea is smashing…but I have promised myself and everyone else that I will bring nothing new and crafty into my house. Your idea of Gator colors is good. Are there no Seminole fans around you? or USF? Have fun with your classes.

  3. You might want to drop a comment over at Beth’s blog. She grows her own wool, doncha know.

  4. Busy, busy!
    Great stuff! I confess to a certaing wool ignorance, but I FELT right at home reading this.
    (wacka, wacka)

  5. certain, not certaing

  6. I am growing my own mud… guess you can’t use that for glass huggies… it would melt. Sigh. Where do you get all this energy?!?!?!

  7. So loverly. And the glass snuggies? Brilliant! But don’t go for the Gator colors. The LSU purple and gold are oh so much more pretty!! I’m gettin in Geaux Tigers mode 😉 Wish I was close enough to take a class.

  8. I am packing my bags and moving to FLA. Sign me up for your class! Those pumpkins are adorable and I love the cup cozies. A great gift idea.

  9. PS I meant to ask are those designs in the more advanced class?

  10. Utterly gorgeous! I wish I lived near enough to take your class. Fantastic stuff.

  11. Gorgeous colors! Love the cozies–I’m thinking beach colors….

  12. Maize and blue, Vicki, maize and blue. When are you opening an Etsy shop?

    Do you read Susan Wittig Albert? Check out her blog, Lifescapes – http://susanalbert.typepad.com/lifescapes/. In addition to being a nature blogger, she writes murder mysteries – multiple series of them – but also nonfiction; knows and writes a lot about herbs and traditional medicine; does fiber art (aha, you knew their must be a connection, right?); gardens and cooks; and enjoys all of them. She also the founder and prime force behind the Story Circle Network (http://www.storycircle.org/) and its blog, which are dedicated to helping women tell the stories of their lives.

    I think you’ll enjoy the blog and perhaps some of the other as well.

  13. Gorgeous work, Vicki. As always. The cozies are wonderful, and I LOVE the pumpkins. The link to Martha’s video – thank you. That was a fascinating piece. The yurt was amazing as were all of the other pieces in the installation. (Did it make you wish you had a much smaller-scale roller for the whole water felting process? :D)

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