The Village Knitiot, Barbara Henry
Felt Maker, Arden, Delaware
I am in love with wool – always have been, probably always will be. There is something about its texture and versatility that attracts and fascinates me. I am thankful I moved to Delaware from Texas in 2000 so I can enjoy wearing wool seven months of the year!
It is wonderful you can take a string and two sticks and make a fabric from them. Or you can take the fleece of a sheep and create not only that string (yarn), but wisps of wool that can be made hard and stiff enough to build a house.
I started knitting and crocheting in the 1970s, but didn’t keep up with it. Soon after moving to the Village of Arden, a fellow villager taught a class at the Buzz Ware Village Center on knitting a wool hat to felt later in the washing machine. It wasn’t long before I learned about true felt making – skipping the time involved in knitting – and working with the processed fleece to create anything you can imagine.
Around 2010 I began taking classes in felt making – both traditional wet felting, using only wool roving, and Nuno felting, using wool roving and silk fabric pieces. I like wet felting and Nuno because, unlike knitting where you follow a pattern, it is free form — you decide on the pattern, the shape, the colors. To me it is a more creative process.
My current work focuses on hat making using a resist. The resist (a piece of flooring under layment) is cut to represent the shape and size of the hat. Roving is placed on both sides of the resist and the piece is wet felted. The resist is removed and the piece is shaped on a hat block of the appropriate size. While damp, the hat is manipulated into various shapes.
During the summer of 2018, I experimented with botanical printing on silk scarves. The garden yielded many delightful, and unsuspected, results.
I spent 25 years as a medical librarian working in health care systems in Texas and Delaware. My creative side was satisfied as I spent time sewing, quilting, crocheting, and knitting. In college I took a semester of costume design to fulfill a fine arts requirement. Little did I know that years later I would put that to work for ten years as assistant costume designer and milliner for the Arden Shakespeare Gild. Then I discovered felting!