I wasn’t raised on a farm. I’ve never even been on a farm, frankly. I’ve seen farm animals up close, but only at the State Fair.
I’ve read about farm animals—much of my knowledge comes from James Herriot’s series of books and the PBS series, which gave me almost all the information I needed. He writes honestly and lovingly about the farm animals he helped while working as a veterinarian in England.
Of all the farm animals, I’ve got a singular fondness for sheep. They seem so sweet and unassuming, yet can be driven to extreme and valiant measures if threatened. This information I got from watching Wallace and Gromit’s “A Close Shave.”
Emboldened by the vast knowledge gained from these reliable sources, I entered the world of wool this weekend. This latest interest of mine has nothing to do with fashion, mind you. I can’t tolerate the feel of wool against my skin. I might as well be wearing an outfit made of cockleburs—the sensation is that unpleasant. No, instead, it all has to do with Christmas ornaments.
The other day I bought a charming bird ornament made out of a felt ball. See how adorable this is!
And it drove me to coveting more. I wanted far more than one of these. I wanted an entire covey, a flock, a gaggle! Whatever a gang of bird ornaments is called, I wanted more. Of course, I didn’t want to pay for them. When faced with limited funds, but an enormous amount of creativity, pluck and clumsy skill, I tend to make my own objects of my desire. I decided to make felt bird ornaments much like the one I have.
But first, I needed felt. I didn’t even know what felt was before I started this adventure in crafting. I thought felt was the stuff bought in small, tidy, colored squares at JoAnn Fabrics. Silly me.
Thanks to Google, I discovered an entire world of felt—wool felt roving, in particular. But woe is me! Woe, woe, woeful day! Where was I to find felt roving? Of course, I could purchase it online! But those prices! My goodness! Is the wool felt roving I found online gathered from the Queen Mum’s sheep?
This wouldn’t do. I couldn’t embark on yet another craft that would inevitably require much of one paycheck to develop into a profitable sideline.
So, in great discouragement and frustration over having craftiness and an entire set of felt bird ornaments thwarted, I gave up … sort of. I decided to stop by some thrift and antique shops in the hopes of finding ornaments made of felt balls that I could take apart and use for my darling little birds.
After an hour of searching, it was clear that I wasn’t going to find the raw materials for my new project. And my two Boston Terriers were becoming fidgety and annoyed. I said, “Okay, girls, we’re going home.” And as soon as I said that, I decided to stop by an antique store on the way back to my house. I was certain that I’d find an ornament or two made of felt balls.
Not so. But upon entering one small vendor’s area of the store, I noticed a wall of craft materials. I bent closer. Closer. On the bottom of the wall hung a very large plastic bag packed with wool roving. Fortuity! Coincidence! Providence! Whatever. I grabbed the bag, paid the dollar for it and hurried home.
In my studio, I opened the bag of wool roving and began to pull it out. The sensation was unpleasant. The wool was quite greasy. Okay, no biggie. Sheep = lanolin. It all made sense. Following the directions from one web site, I managed to make this one felt ball.
Imperfect, yes, but I knew that I could do better. I went back to the large bag and pulled the entire contents out onto my painting table. The sensation then was one of pure horror and revulsion.
This was not clean wool. This was not the wool you’d purchase online. There were things in it. Brown, clumpy things. The smell was horrifying. Imagine sweating sheep roasting on a tanning bed. Imagine sheep being dipped in lanolin, left out in the sun for a month. Imagine Satan’s breath.
But I couldn’t give up now. After all, I only paid a dollar for the stuff! So, I tried to wash it in my utility sink. I didn’t turn the lights on in the utility room because I couldn’t bear to see this mass of wool up close. The smell was overpowering. The water turned dark, dark brown.
I gave up on that method. I didn’t want to touch it anymore. I gathered it up, threw out some of the larger chunks of brown unmentionables and put the entire mess into a nylon bag. I shoved it into the washing machine with ample detergent, turned the water temperature to high and prayed that my washing machine would tolerate the stink and not spit it all out onto the floor in disgust.
After taking it out of the washer, I put it aside to dry. The next morning, I removed the mass from the bag and saw this:
Pretty, huh? And it doesn’t smell bad at all.
I proceeded with the next steps in felt ball creation, using a different method, which involved dipping small masses of the wool into soapy water, rolling them into balls, tying nylons around each one, and then tossing them into a grateful washing machine. After the cycle completed, I have this:
This is not what I expected. There is work left to do to get a nice compact ball. But, hey, I’ve got 364 days to work on this.
This is my last post before Christmas, and besides wishing all of you a wonderful holiday and my everlasting gratitude for having you all as readers, I leave you with this thought:
Seize 2012 by the scruff of the neck. Don’t be thwarted by negative comments and opinions; don’t be waylaid by negative people nor events. Believe in yourself. Believe that you can do what you set out to do.