You would be surprised how many common household items I use in my workshop to make my hats and other felted creations. Sometimes Grumpy Husband gets a little grumpier because he can't find a pot lid or a particular plastic spoon I "borrowed" from the kitchen for my latest project. As you consider your own crafting projects keep in mind that figuring out how to make an item requires just as much creativity as it takes to actually sit down and make it. You may not need that expensive specialized crafting tool after all!
To help inspire you as you puzzle out your own crafting projects here is a quick list of three common household items I use every day in my workshop:
I've actually been using wood skewers for a long time and I've amassed quite a collection of different sizes and lengths. If you do any kind of sculptural felting these wooden sticks are perfect for holding up different parts of the project until they dry. The pointed side of the skewer means that the stick will not move and it will not damage your project. I also use the skewers to smooth or shape parts of my projects that my fingers can't reach.
Baby Powder Bottle
Wet felting requires a good amount of water spread out evenly across your wool project. Early on I started using empty baby powder bottles to apply water because they have several benefits. They stand up easily when you put them down, so they will not roll around or leak in between water squirts. The holes in the top of the bottle sprinkles and spreads the water out evenly. They hold a good amount of water which can save you a trip to the faucet on those larger projects (and they are pretty easy to fill too). But the best reason to use them is because they do all these things and are inexpensive to purchase. You can get one from the store for a dollar or two compared to specialized "hand sprinklers" that have fewer benefits and can cost up to $20.
Flexible Cutting Mats or Placemats
Much of the work I do is sculptural, especially when it comes to my hats. That means that I need 3D structures that I can layer my wool on. To make these structures I tend to use flexible cutting mats or flexible plastic placemats. I cut them into pieces and tape them together in such a way that I can create various 3D geometric shapes. I have created cones, pyramids, tubes, and even cubes. The plastic mats are water proof too, so they can stand up to my wet felting projects. Just make sure to get some good quality duct tape too.
I hope this short list inspires you to think outside of the box as you plan out your next crafting project. Remember, at the end of the day it doesn't matter what means you use to make your project (silly or serious). It only matters that you have created something that you enjoyed making and that you (and others) can appreciate. Make the story of your creation as fun and interesting as the item itself!
It's getting cold outside and my weather app says there might even be snow in a few days. Worst of all, because of Daylight Savings Time it feels like the sun is going down pretty much right after lunch. Around this time every year I start to feel a familiar combination of sadness, lethargy, and frustration. I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and it actually runs in my family.
But this post isn't just about my mental health. I think that stuff is important (and my husband is a counselor so we talk about it all the time), what I want to talk about though is how something like SAD impacts my creative output, and what I have done to cope. Lots of creative people out there suffer from SAD, and if you are one of them I'm hoping that by sharing a tiny bit of my personal experience I can help you figure out your own.
The first thing that I have figured out that has helps me cope during the winter is trust. It used to be that I would force myself into my workroom for long hours during the winter. I wouldn't make much but I had this nagging belief that if I went too long without making anything that I would somehow "lose the magic touch," that I would no longer be able to make the things I loved to make. Eventually though I realized that for all those hours I was only making a few hats, and they weren't up to my standards of quality. I had to let go of this fear. What I found out was that even if I took a day off (or even several) that when I returned my fingers would know what to do. That creative part of myself was still there. I learned to trust it and to trust myself. That creativity was a part of me and wouldn't just vanish. Sometimes I still have days where I push a little too hard and hold on a little too tightly. But when I realize I'm doing that I just disconnect and come back later when the time feels right. And it usually works out better than I thought it would.
The second thing I have figured out that helps is that I really need to be careful to engage in good self-care. For me in the winter that means going out to do fun things as often as possible, even if I don't feel like it. Making plans with friends, going to greenhouses and florist shops, and even spending a little extra time in the produce section at the grocery store are all examples of what I've done. There is a real temptation to isolate myself or to stay buried under blankets. So instead of pushing myself to sit in my workroom, isolated and miserable, I push myself to do whatever might help me get out and get moving. This doesn't cure my SAD, but I do find I tend to have a few more hours a week in my workroom than I used to where I actually making things that live up to my standards, even though I actually spend less hours in my workroom overall.
The last thing I've figured out that helps is to just accept that SAD is a reality for me. That doesn't mean that I resign myself to it or just give up. It means that when I am depressed in the middle of winter that I just let myself be depressed. I accept it and know it will pass. And (more importantly) it means that when I'm not depressed that I make plans to cope ahead, figuring out what I can do now while I feel okay that will help me when I don't feel okay. That means that I save big but unnecessary projects (like redesigning my website) for the Summer months when I'll have more energy. I also pre-make some hats during the warmer months so I have more room for downtime come January. Rather than judging myself for being sad during the cold months, or trying to force myself to be "normal" during those times, I accept that I will not feel like my normal self and figure out what I need to do to cope with that reality now while I do feel normal.
These are some things I've learned through years of trial and error. They might not work for you and that's fine. The only thing I want is for you to take that creativity that is so central to our lives and apply it to things like your mental health, and not just towards making something beautiful or filling orders for customers. Think about your life in new ways, and be okay with yourself when you can't think that flexibly and you just need to spend a few extra hours in bed.
If you are a fiber art novice just learning how to wet felt, using an electric handheld sander might seem intimidating.
Why do I have my students use a sander for wet felting, even if they have never felted before? Felting by hand is fine if you are doing a tiny project, but for large projects you will not be pleased if you try to tackle it with just your bare hands.
I felt every single day and I love my sander, it saves my back and speeds up the process immensely. Sanders are a must for most professional felters and even casual ones too. If you are very sensitive to loud noise like me just use cordless headphones to drown out the sander with music, or use ear plugs.
When choosing a sander I've had the most luck with the older models of finishing sanders by Black and Decker. The older models don't have holes on the faceplate that are meant to suck up saw-dust and when used for felting suck up water into the sander. My Model is the 7558 Finishing Sander by Black and Decker. Here are some other older models:
The sander must have a foam bottom face plate and not a velcor one. No orbital sanders, your sander can't have rotating or spinning parts that will touch the wool. Please remember that you do NOT need to use any sandpaper and leave the dust collecting bag unattached if there is one.
The first thing every one worries about is the mixing of water and electricity. I have honestly never even once had a problem, but if you are worried about getting your sander wet follow these simple safety rules.
Always use common sense when working with your sander. Less is more when it comes to water amounts when felting with a sander. Keep towels nearby to mop up excess water on the floor and your work area.
Plug your sander into a grounded plug when you are using it. Up to code houses have these. Faulty wiring is dangerous no matter what, avoid sanding in a location with bad or older wiring.
Placing any sort of (plastic or otherwise) barrier between your project and the sander to keep it from getting wet. This is a no-go. I have found that doing this greatly negatively impacts the sander’s ability to felt the wool beneath, and plastic slides around everywhere and limits your ability to directly interact with the project while sanding. The sander must touch the wool directly to felt it most effectively.
Wrapping your sander in a plastic bag to keep it dry. Your sander will still get wet and it becomes harder to control because the wet plastic is harder to grip. Also a plastic bag wrapped around your sander tends to shift and rip and it covers the exhaust on the sander and the sander then gets too hot. So actually this is more dangerous than not wrapping your sander.
Wet Felting with Sanders... More of an Art than a Science
Why have one color when you can have them all?
Eventually, out of sheer frustration with the slow and expensive color hunting I had to do whenever I wanted to make a rainbow item, I really decided to teach myself to dye. Up until that point I had resisted the idea of learning. What little I had read was intimidating, talking about chemical processes, the numerous kinds of dye you could buy, what dyes worked with what fibers, and a whole bunch of other details. Just like how I taught myself to do wet felting though I kept reading and experimenting as much as I could. In the end it simply was a matter of overcoming that intimidating and dunking the wool into the broth of dye to see what happened.
But no one said that making such vibrant colors would ever be easy!
By next week I hope to post photos of the finished rainbow hat that I was making in this post. If you want to see how it all ended up come back and visit in a few days!
- A needle felting pen. (I bought mine here.)
- A needle felting brush or foam work surface (I use this brush but they also sell foam blocks.)
- Rainbow roving. Preferably merino. Mare sure it is not superwashed. (This shop has some suitable wool.)
- A ribbed felting mat or a ribbed surface of some kind. (An example of this can be found on Amazon.)
- Dish soap. Preferably clear (without dyes) and fragrance free. Use as little as possible.
A Little Something More