Monday, 21 May 2007

Good Old Felt !

I seem to have an affinity with Felt . Not the craft of "felting" you understand , which I haven't had the nerve to try , but the flat , bright squares of material .Nowadays it is , unfortunately , manifestly different from the gorgeous soft stuff that used to be available . Throughout my childhood and adult life , cheap , humble Felt seems to have been my accomplice in creativity ! I will readily turn to my pile of kaleidoscopic coloured pieces ; collected over a few decades of "hunter-gatherer" expeditions to haberdashery departments , and I love to ripple through them , compare and contrast them , smoothe the squares , and often cut free-hand in to them without patterns . Much of my stash can now genuinely be referred to as "vintage" , as its origins stretch back in to the 70's . Several pieces still have 16p labels on them from when John Lewis Department Store introduced innovative price tags with magnetic strips ! Tills could read them ! WooHoo !

I must start with "Fuzzy Felt" ; who could forget it - that bastion of 60's and 70's toddler art , and source of ever changing master pieces ! I can remember the fascination of peeling pre-cut shapes off the flocked "fuzzy" board in order to carefully replace them . It was a big disappointment to me on searching out this same toy for my children that the thin nylony texture of the bits was all wrong ; not so clingy . Anyway , my children loved it all the same .

Next in the gallery of Felty art was the handkerchief case , somewhat like a folded wallet , which I sewed for my father . I couldn't have been much older than 4 ; I can't imagine 4 or 5 year olds being encouraged to use real needles at school now ! Features of this ingenious design were the sugared almond pink colour ( of course !) and the worst edging Blanket Stitch ever to grace "an object given as a present " ! I was convinced it would be a highly useful thing for a Daddy with an office desk , and he seemed to think so too ! He kept it in faithful service through his working life and still has it now . In the chest of drawers with his hankies .

A few years on and Felt enabled me to produce chi-chi little dresses for my troll ( in reality hacked out blobs with stretched arm holes )That was so "de rigueur " in 1972 . My troll was a flame-haired beauty called Sandi-Dandi , who liked to encourage my artistic urges . With a tiny rectangle of felt sewn around then shoved on her unprotesting feet you could make ice-skating boots . They were usually , well , pink actually ! All you had to add was a thin pressed roll of tin foil sellotaped along the bottom seam for blades . Of course you had to plan ahead a bit , and freeze a foil dish of water overnight . Then you could whirl the little creatures around on the ice by their hair for ages ... until the damp sellotape fell off !

Just a few years later would see me , and my sister - often "creative partner in crime" - venturing on a Saturday , in to bicycle-bustling Cambridge ,to one specific tiny shop along The Backs ( of the University). It smelt strongly of joss sticks ; but the big attraction for us were the Zilly Kits : little packets of pre-cut felt with a card base and instructions with a colour picture . Oh they were so enchanting ! A multi-coloured array of animals each in its own toning shades ; like a big head with feet underneath , in a witty pared down design . There were various dogs , cats , a lion , a frog - easy peasy to assemble with a few dabs of glue . The finished little character would look just like the photo .

At 13 years old I managed to really amaze even myself . In the sewing rooms of the Upper school I discovered not only the stirrings of creative needlework , but a really old craft book with scanty black and white photographs . I found this book intriguing and chose a fairly ambitious project to make an adult reindeer with a fawn . I used a bright red felt with black and white appliqued detailing , and had to construct a thick wire armature for the bigger deer and a pipecleaner one for the spindly legged baby . I made forward branching antlers from white felt , supported inside by fluffy wire stems , and they had black hooves , almond shaped eyes and tiny freehand white spots sprinkled across the backs , which I blended on to the red with the tiniest stitches . Even the under gussets were in two pieces . After such an intensive labour of love I can't recall that the teacher gave any critical reaction , but my friends and family were impressed ! The Reindeer became a beloved Christmas institution and would annually take charge of a sleigh full of sweets !

Once I was on my second job ( optician's receptionist ) I was well and truly hooked on "creating" . I decided I could liven up the Christmas window display and bought red , green and white felt ; turning it in my own time in to tiny stockings and even a replica of the company logo , which was an owl .It was very satisfying when more than one person came in from the street to ask if they could buy the cute little props !

Yes , Felt is my friend , and I wouldn't be without it for making accessories for my miniature bears . There are even exciting finishes available ; printed patterns , glittery , curly and the long plush style . It's all very good to work with - no fraying and easy to sew together .
I recently saw an old school friend whilst staying with my parents - guess what ? She asked after the reindeer !

Hope you like the pics of felt bear accessories ... Ta Ta For Now !
Ruth xx


Vee said...

I do indeed! I love the little guy popping out of the huge hat! lol

Ruth said...

Thankyou so very much for stopping by ; that's made my day !! Hugs , Ruth

fribbles said...

I share the same affinity for felt---it's where my first creations sprung from too!! Love your bears, Ruth!

Raggy Rat said...

hi ruth - i too lament the loss of old fuzzy felt
erk i feel old
would love to trade blog links with you
cat xxx