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 during the pandemic of 2020 is on Shibori and indigo dyeing.
I’d been wanting to learn how to do indigo dyeing for several years, but found it intimidating for some reason. In March, soon after the pandemic struck, I got an email from the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen advertising a class in Shibori stitching and an intro to indigo dyeing. I jumped at the chance. It was a delightful class taught by Carol Read.
The class reintroduced me to Shibori, a Japanese dyeing method that uses stitching (among other techniques) to form resist patterns on fabric that is then dyed in indigo.
I invited two neighborhood friends, Cecilia and Rachel, to my studio and introduced them to Shibori. As I write this, we are now nine months into the pandemic, and we three have been meeting for several hours every Friday to stitch, dye, tell stories, laugh, and cry.
The stitching is very mindful, and this time on Fridays has become, for me and my friends, a mental health day that gets us away from the noise of the planet and into our own bubble of zen.
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!