Ottawa Awesome: A weekend of tea and craft (Part II)

Jordan and Brian's final effort after a lengthy felting workshop

Jordan is co-author of the Project: Priceless blogs. Their first blog, The Free Wedding Experiment, was a year-long project to put together a cost-free wedding via social media. The new chapter, The NEST, is a tale of frugal, DIY’ing newlyweds nesting, loving, cooking, adventuring, reviewing, and regaling with tales. Check out both blogs at projectpriceless.com.

PART II: FELTING WITH ANNIE BANANIE

Jordan getting ready to felt

A recent Sunday found my husband and me at the felting workshop of Annie Bananie, local crafter extraordinaire. Annie Bananie is no stranger to us: this incredibly talented yoga teacher, daycare owner (the Singing Tree), and arts instructor is one of those wonderful people you feel blessed to have met — and we’ve had the pleasure of being taught by her before.

The tools for the day

You can see the whole tutorial on Annie’s blog, including photos of Brian and I working our butts off. But in a nutshell, let me say this: the seven hours you spend in this workshop will simultaneously be the most exhausting and the most rewarding thing you do all week.

The morning started off with a brief Kundalini yoga-based meditation. Then we started our felting project by laying out the white felt that would become the back of our hanging. I had planned to make something about 2×3, but Brian kept quietly laying out more wool, and before I knew it we had a piece about 4×5. Annie encouraged everyone to work as large as they liked, and I shrugged, figuring it would be a centrepiece in our house somewhere. We argued back and forth over the image we’d create and finally amalgamated our two ideas: toadstools and owls.

The final creation, before its dousing

When Annie encouraged us to work on a large piece, the one thing she failed to tell us was that it would mean more work at the felting stage. Another woman who had created a smaller piece finished felting her mat and left around lunchtime, while we were still layering colours of wool. The process of felting the wool involves soaking the project with soapy water, stepping all over it, and then rolling it into a tube before rolling that tube back and forth along the floor.

Rolling the wet felt flat was the hardest part of the day

Because our piece was so big, the usual technique — laying your hands on it and rolling it like a big Play-doh snake — was proving ineffective. Every time we unrolled it to peek, fibres were still lose and easy to pluck. So after about an hour of using our hands and arms, we switched to using our feet.

The felt owl, now thoroughly doused

One hour of rolling the mat with our hands, then two hours of rolling our mat with our feet, and finally we were done… Or at least, I didn’t want to roll it anymore. My legs ached for two days after this project. I got a better workout from rolling that damned wall hanging than I ever got from roller derby. It was exhausting, but the final product is something pretty extraordinary. There is nothing ‘pretty’ about our owl and mushroom scene, especially because the owl’s eyes sort of felted in different ways and he looks a bit drunk. But we love it for its funkiness, and have hung it in the bedroom.

I fell in love with felting at Annie’s workshop. I find myself plotting new designs, examining our piece to see how colours blended so that I can plan out my layers better next time. I don’t think I’ll make such a large piece again because the rolling sucked so badly, but guaranteed, I’m going to be felting again soon. As an artist who typically works in paint and pen, the less precise, more expressive motions of felting was again outside my ‘box’. But as these things so often are, it was wonderfully rewarding.

The final masterpiece display in Jordan and Brian's bedroom

We can’t thank Annie enough for having us along, and we heartily recommend you all sign up for the next one. Annie is planning another wet felting workshop in the warm weather, to potentially be held in Wakefield out on a beautiful piece of land… But if you can’t wait that long to get your hands on Annie’s workshops, other ones will be coming along soon and can be found on her blog.

Ottawa really *is* awesome! And if you missed it, read the first of Jordan’s two-part post here.