Quick, Last minute holiday gift ideas with NEFS!

There are several holidays coming up, and if you celebrate them, we thought you might appreciate some project ideas to wrap up and hand over to happy friends and family.  If you don’t celebrate anything coming up, you can still make ’em and give ’em away as tokens of your undying affection.  There’s nothing like a handmade gift to make someone feel special!

I turned to the creativity of some of my coworkers for some ideas.  Here they are, in no particular order:

Jess (a former employee who has come back to join our ranks again and is already making a huge impact with her incredible work ethic and humor) plans to needle felt some jewelry, because the materials are inexpensive and the vibrant colors make a beautiful finished product.  She recommends making unique geometric shapes and then stringing them on some thread.  If you’re feeling like you want to get your hands wet and soapy, you can also wet felt around some drab jewelry that needs a little love!  Take some hoops and a really small cup of water and soap together, dampen your wool, and cause friction by rubbing it.  Short fiber felts quickly, though if it’s by a place that will rub often (like a bracelet) it might pill.  Our Merino roving will take a bit longer, but you can felt it in your hands a little bit before attaching it.

Trish has made phone cases with a pouch for her loved ones.  Use a resist, and do seamless felting. (Wet your wool out, pat it down, felt it a bit, and do the skin test.  Then lay the resist down, fold the edges on top, and lay out more wool.  This will make a pocket.) Make your resist ½ to 1/3 inch bigger than the size of your phone, cut a hole in the top, and close with a button or tie.  Feel free to needle felt a design on the front using prefelt or C-1 and a green needle!  You can use C-1/P for a very durable case, though she used the vibrant roving or short fiber merino.  It might pill, but you can always shave it with a razor.  If you’re using a small amount of wool, it will shrink more; a large amount of wool gives extra padding and is more durable.

Chris L, our manager, plans to needle felt an ornament, including a bauble, which is basically an orb with a wire hanger.  If she can find the time, she also hopes to make slippers using our slipper book by METTE OSTMAN, which calls for Merino combed top roving (though you can also use C-1/P), a ball brause, a resist (foam underlayment), soap, netting, bubble wrap (or a rolling kit), and prefelt and C-1 for decoration.  If she only has a few minutes, she’s going to make package decorations with names pinned on them, which can also function as ornaments once they’ve served their purpose.  They also make great teacher’s gifts and aren’t very expensive!

Lastly, I plan to make landscapes.  The Pioneer Valley, for those of you lucky enough to visit, is blessed with green forests, pristine rivers, and hot-pink sunsets.  And, to be honest, every single city or town in the United States- in the world!- has some landscape worthy of artistic depiction.  We sell excellent books by Moy Mackay (Art in Felt and Stitch, Flowers in Felt and Stitch), as well as Creating Felt Pictures by Andrea Hunter.  There is enough information in those books to answer your questions.

You blog readers, however, are an intrepid bunch, and I thought you would appreciate some insider’s tips from Trish, our Art and Design Coordinator.  First of all, the all-important reference photo.  Trish recommends finding something with an interesting composition- in this case, that means something with a foreground, middle ground, and background.  Also, it is helpful to work with an image that you love, either because of fond memories or wishes or hopes, because that way you can change and enhance the photo based on an emotional attachment.  Trish recommends that you start with prefelt.  In her class, students use uncarbonized as a sturdy base, but any kind is fine.
BEFORE creating a general background, make a horizon line in a color dark enough to see but light enough to blend in with other colors once you’ve added more detail. Trish sometimes likes to start by wet felting merino combed top in the background for a painterly effect.  This is done by laying out your wool and rubbing it in small circles with some soap (any kind without hand softener) and warm water.  Work from the sky down; the background often has more general shapes and hues, while the foreground has the details.  It’s much easier to start with the big things and get more detailed than the other way around!
Trish recommends using a variety of wools to add texture and nuance.  She often uses merino combed top to add definition and shadowing to forms and the background and then uses our C-1 for details.  Luxury fibers such as bamboo add some sheen and are also great for outlines.  Just roll some in your hands to make a long string and then needle it firm. Experiment with the difference between fibers to see what effects are created, there is a wide variety between fibers and their finished outcome, especially when combined!

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