When one teaches art workshops for children, one often finds herself with mass quantities of certain materials. One might, for example, find herself with stockpiles of fun foam or papier mache or glue sticks. Construction paper, air-dry clay, and plastic-handled paint brushes might also find their way into an art teacher's collection. In my case, however, the material which recently began overtaking my studio space was none other than the beloved felt. Truth be told, I have a love-hate relationship with felt. And, oddly, the reasons that I love it are often the reasons that I, at the same time, dislike it. In my mind, the biggest and most convenient reason for purchasing felt is its innate ability to resist the dreaded fray. Unlike cotton fabrics, felt can be cut into any number of shapes or formed into just about any craft project, all without one pesky frayed edge or a need for hemming. As a very, very unaccomplished sewer, I like this. At the same time, on every occasion that I use felt, I feel a touch of underlying shame. If only I knew more about sewing and had the ability to handle a wider variety of fabrics, I would not be forced to stoop to the depths of felt. How very regrettable.
Yet, regardless of my crafting insecurities, felt undoubtedly works wonders, especially with children. I have seen boys and girls of many ages come to adore hand-sewing after just a single experience with felt. And, why not? It provides instant success, crafting joy, and a feeling of accomplishment. All in all, I'd say that raises felt to a level of worthiness in the realm of art and craft materials. And worthy it became in my own crafted creations as well. A recent project with my students left me with an over-abundance of felt. This did not mesh so well with my also recent desire to simplify and eliminate clutter from our lives. I found myself faced with a noble goal: to find uses for this material that I both loved and hated.
When all else fails, at least in the crafting department, I turn to cards. Cards are what I know and what I love. Over the years, my card-designing style has changed frequently, often as a result of the materials that I have on hand. So, it only made sense to merge felt with paper and create felt greeting cards. And with that decision, production began and my piles of felt began transforming into tiny cut birds with hand-sewn wings and embroidered eyes. Upon being glued to the fronts of several dozen paper cards, I found the birds to be quite charming. So charming, in fact, that my love of felt began to grow immensely. As I looked proudly at those neat, little, un-frayed edges, it was nearly enough to make me forget why I had ever doubted felt in the first place.