Monday, 28 August 2017

Fabulous hand-felted Fedora

Left: inspiration- a computer generated image of a Fedora found on the internet. Right: the hand-felted reality (made by L, a 12 year old student)
I love working with kids; I love their ambition and enthusiasm; and there’s no where quite like a Special School to find young people (with Autism) who are determined to complete their vision.

While working as textiles teacher at Brantwood Specialist School, Sheffield (Mar 2015-Nov 2016) I had the privilege of working with a broad range of students with various special needs including Autism and PDA (Pathological Demand Avoidance) and guiding them through various, completely unique, textiles projects.

The Felted Fedora made by L, a fairly new student to the school, was completed in my last few weeks at Brantwood. L (aged 12) had spotted the felted top-hat which had been made by one of the senior students at the school and he decided that he too would like to make his own felted hat. The major difference was that the older student was a fairly experienced felter and L had no previous experience of felting at all. But it is pretty impossible to say no to a student who is determined on a project and so, even though I knew that I only had a few weeks left at the school, I let him go ahead with his project.

We used two colours of Norwegian wool fibres, sky blue and lavender, to make L’s Fedora. Norwegian Wool is really suitable for; felted hats, slippers and handbags because it results in a firmer felt and is less prone to pilling than Merino wool fibres.

The first step in making a made-to-measure felted hat is to measure the circumference of the wearer’s head. Other measurements of importance are; the depth/ height of the crown and the width of the brim. You also need to know how much shrinkage to expect during the felting process. I phoned Maggy at to check my shrinkage and then got my pencil and calculator out to work out these measurements (see photo below).

L wasn’t very involved at this stage partly because of his special needs and also partly because I knew we had a very limited amount of time left until my leaving date.
However he was involved with every other stage in the process and was very focussed on his project. 

I then drew out the bell shaped template on a piece of paper and cut out a resist from stiff builders' plastic. 
L also watched several videos on YouTube which explained the need for a Hat Block. I let him research suppliers and costs of hat blocks and then explained how we could economise by making out own hat block. Give a student a saw and a block of polystyrene and they are obviously going to enjoy the (messy) practicality of this wet-felted hat project! 

The first layer of the 'laying-out' process
Building up the layers until there were five layers of wool fibres on each side of the plastic resist
Flipping the wool/ plastic 'sandwich' over and rubbing to felt the wool fibres together.

After rubbing, rolling in a bamboo at is another method of tangling the wool fibres together.
L cutting through the felted layers to remove the plastic resist.

Tossing the wet and soapy and fedora. This tumbling action is yet another method of continuing the shrinking process.
Still some work to do! 
Over the next few textiles sessions L progressed through his wet felted Fedora project. He seemed to enjoy all the stages but especially the process of shrinking the the fedora onto his own bespoke hat block and the finer detail of the shaping of the top of the crown and the curve of the hat brim.

Marking and cutting the brim to size.  

Rinsing the soap out.  

L worked to get the achieve the traditional Fedora shape.

L made design decisions as his project progressed. He decided to finish the edge with bias binding made from fabric that he had found in the textiles store cupboard at the start of the project. 
Adding a red gem to the front of the crown was the finishing touch. 

L was incredibly proud of his hat (and quite rightly so!) He went on to wear it at school and at home every day for almost a year. This was also an excellent experience for me as his teacher- it was so good to see a young student's confidence blossom. I was lucky that my head teacher gave me the freedom to run projects which were bespoke to each student as this enabled me to achieve so much more success with students in this Special School. 

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Perfect Craft Parties for Creative Kids in South Yorkshire

Cute Owl - dry fibres BEFORE wetting and felting 
 AFTER the wet-felting process
Every year mums (and dads and carers too) want to do their best to make their children’s birthday celebration memorable and extra special. 

It is quite a challenge but if your son or daughter likes making things and being creative then a good start would be to Google, ‘Kids creative birthday party entertainers’, and to make things easier you could then add where you live- like, Sheffield or South Yorkshire. So maybe Google, ‘Children’s Craft Parties Sheffield’.

That’s how so many of my customers seem to find me and often they don’t come directly to my website or Facebook page to very often they find me through Netmums or FreeIndex

Whatever way that they find me, very often the next step is a phone call, e mail or text to chat about dates, when the party will be and most importantly, what the birthday girl or boy is into and would like for their Perfect Crafty Birthday Party

Rainbow- dry fibres BEFORE wetting and felting 
AFTER the wet-felting process
I love working with children- I love their energy and enthusiasm and I also like their honesty; for example if they don’t like something they will soon tell you. 

One of my mottoes is ‘You can’t kid a kid’, and I have to say that in the 9 years since setting up in 2007 I have never had a child say that they haven’t enjoyed one of my creative craft parties. 

Even one of my most skeptical customers; an 8 year old boy at a felted cushion party where he was the only boy and he had had to miss his football practice session for the party-  Even he was thoroughly won over. At the end of the party he was busy munching sandwiches while proudly sitting on the football cushion that he had just made!

A design making use of cut shapes from pre-felt- dry fibres BEFORE wetting and felting 

AFTER the wet-felting process
Often I find that people are a bit puzzled by the idea of wet-felting- I mean, 
How exactly does it work?

Well you 
1. Gently fluff out two or more layers of wool fibres.

2. Gently arrange a final layer into a picture. I describe this as ‘drawing’ with wool.
3. You cover this all in netting 
4.Then you wet the wool with (slightly) warm soapy water 
5. And gently rub to tangle to wool fibres together,

This is the magical wet-felting process. 

Samiah using knitting yarn to write her name - dry fibres BEFORE wetting and felting 

AFTER the wet-felting process
While I am leading a children’s craft party I tend to whizz around the table making sure that every child has all the attention, encouragement and also freedom to work with whatever colours they prefer and also to create a design that is completely unique and their own.

A graphic design in a dramatic colour scheme - dry fibres BEFORE wetting and felting 

AFTER the wet-felting process
Given completely free reign to make a felted picture what would you ‘draw’? 

The photos above show a selection of pictures made by 11 year old girls in one of my creative two hour sessions.
Yes they only had two hours to, not only devise these design ideas, but to also make their very own first piece of handmade felt!

For more craft party options (cushions, bags, mini-beasts and jewellery) and feedback from previous parties visit

and you can also watch a short video of one an AllSensesArt Felted Flower Jewellery Craft Parties. 

Prices start at £105 for 7 children with £15 per additional child.
South Yorkshire UK.

e mail
text or phone 0773 995 9951

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

One-to-One felting sessions. Make what you want with expert tuition

Moira's lovely sunny studio, complete with spring flowers! 
Felting is such a versatile medium and it has given me the opportunity to work with all sorts of people in all sorts of places. Sometimes I am working with large groups in a school, sometimes I am working in amongst the books in a busy library and others (like this really enjoyable Saturday) I was doing a one-to-one session with Moira in her own garden studio.

Moira is actually a Food Technology teacher but she had decided to give herself a creative treat (that didn’t involve food) and so booked me to spend the afternoon with her.

The garden studio was full of fabrics, yarns and beautiful papers as Moira is someone who loves to work with a wide range of materials, making her own soft furnishings to mixed media cards and her daughter, Laura Hallett is a professional illustrator. 

It was a lovely sunny day and Moira had the kettle on and lots of lovely biscuits too; not that we had a lot of time for tea breaks!

In our three hour session I introduced Moira to the basics of wet felting. 

One way that I like to do this is to actually make an item at the same time; usually in a one-to-one session people want to go away at the end with more than just samples so I have devised sessions where we actually make a selection of felted flower brooches.

These flowers are all made using slightly different methods. 

 a selection of felted flower brooches

To summarise, what we cover in a one-to-one session is:

  • Handling the felting wool fibres (usually Merino tops as they are the easiest to work with if you are a beginner).
  • ‘Laying out’ the fibres. 

Laying out two layers of wool fibres 

  • Wetting, soaping and rubbing.
  • Making felt to the pre-felt stage and learning to recognise what stage in the felting process you have reached. 
  • Adding textured and decorative yarns and fabrics and felting them in using the wet-felting technique.

Adding sparkly fabrics and interesting yarns to give surface detail 

  • Shaping the flowers - solid petal version and daisy petal version.
  • Making felted balls 
  • Making felted leaves and tendrils.

Moira's solid petal flower brooch
It was also relaxing for me working with Moira. I have to admit that I am someone who loves to fit as much in a day as possible but when working with Moira it was really lovely to be able to feel that I had shared a bit of my felting knowledge plus at the same time soaked up some of the lovely calming vibes from her studio.

This flower made using the wrapped technique. It requires sewing to keep the petals in place but does look very effective. 
Here I am modelling the red and black felted flower brooch that I made on the afternoon that I worked alongside Moira. 

A great felted flower completely made by Moira ... who had never felted before...with felted in sparkly fabrics

If you would like your own one to one felting session with Kirsty from AllSensesArt then don't hesitate to get in touch either by phoning 0773 995 9951
or e mailing

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Children's art and craft workshops using all sorts of materials and techniques

3 colour lino cut print. Design was inspired by a slapstick circus routine
I’m an artist who enjoys working with a wide range of materials. 
Back at Lichfield College when I had finished my Foundation Course in Art and Design the external examiner commented that because of my abilities in such a wide range of techniques and materials I actually had a choice of artistic directions that I could follow.

As it turns out since graduating from Manchester Metropolitan University in 2006 I have mainly been making mixed-media sculptures (using textiles, found objects and industrial scrap) but more recently I have also made collages and now two short films too. 

In my outreach work I have mainly specialised in wet felt-making. 

This has been for two reasons. Firstly I discovered the therapeutic properties of the wet felt-making process and have found that it is an amazing medium for relaxing participants and I have devised a range of techniques which have made it accessible to people with a wide range of abilities. I am very proud that I have been able to work with people of all ages and abilities and that I have helped to empower them and to raise their self esteem.

The second reason is simply the practical issue of storage space for workshop equipment and materials.

But it is good to remind myself of all the other creative activities that I have led over the years and which I am sure I will continue to do as and when opportunities arise.

Some of these have been workshops led on a voluntary basis and others have been me working as a professional freelance artist.

At Lichfield College I did several years of life drawing which I was quite accomplished at however my heart was always in non figurative work and especially in mixed media. 

Collage of images from magazines on a handprinted base. 
I had a very strong art education a school and we did a lot of drawing. I found that I especially enjoyed dramatic pencil work and also using indian ink for drawing.

Study of butterfly wing- watercolour and indian ink
I was delighted when I was able to include a drawing session in the felted firebird project for Wirksworth Festival  
The children’s bird drawings were so wonderful that I digitally scanned each of them and resized them and then made a digital file which could be printed and assembled into a beautiful little zig-zag book. 

Drawing with non-conventional materials is also great fun. In some of my sessions children  and young people have used pipe-cleaners to ‘draw’ 

Pipe-cleaner 'drawings' made by a young person in Ocean Ward Birmingham Children's Hospital
or in my sessions with Foundation 3D design students we have used wire, springs and straws amongst other things.
3D Drawing made by a Foundation Level student at MMU
Of course these mixed-media materials lead onto sculpture so making vegetable creatures is an obvious creative session. It is especially good as it is enjoyed by children of all ages from the very young upwards.

Vegetable Creatures made by children at John's Lee Wood Family Camp 

Since 2004 I have run several creative workshops for children and families at an annual  family camp John’s Lee Wood in Leicestershire.

We have done glass painting sessions several times. Painting on jam jars which we later used as tea-light holders and also using offcuts of glass supplied by a local glazier. 

A beautiful angel painted by a 10 year old at John's Lee Wood Family Camp
We have made our own paper by making paper pulp from shredded, old maps, paper bags etc.

I enjoy working with recycled materials so I developed a workshop where we made badges by embossing designs on recycled aluminium drinks cans. This was an idea that I developed which was inspired by metal artist, Val Hunt’s, work. 

Making Peg Dollies was a lovely session. Once made, the children used the dollies as puppets and we even had a session where we interviewed the children and asked them all about their dolly; his or her favourite food, hobbies and favourite TV programme etc.

Peg Dollies are always a favourite with all ages of children. I made this one!

On occasions at John’s Lee Wood Family camp I have also assisted in workshops which have been led by other artists - willow weaving workshops and mini hooked rug making sessions are two which I assisted with. 

Chris and Jack doing some willow weaving at John's Lee Wood Family Camp

small patches of hooked rug are really effective addition to this teenage boy's bag

In the last couple of years I have broadened my skills even more and have experimented with Fimo polymer clay. Using a pasta maker to make millefiori patterned beads which are then assembled to make a butterfly brooch is simple when you know how! 

And finally, Card-making is a relaxing activity and even more fun when you do it with a friend for company. 

And I have even had a hand-made card sent to me by a young lady to say thank you for the craft birthday party that I ran for her.