Back in September 2007 I began my weekly felting sessions with year 5 and 6 pupils at Model Village school. I had already been felt-making for 9 years at that point but this was when I really learnt about devising interesting projects that are achievable by people of varying abilities in really quite short periods of time.
Every Friday for 2 terms I provided felting sessions for year 5 and year 6 pupils to cover their teacher’s PPA (Planning and Preparation) time. These were pretty fast paced sessions but the children were very enthusiastic learners.
You have to be honest with children if you expect them to put in their best for you and fortunately I am a straightforward sort of person and my enthusiasm and energy seem to help me be able to ‘hit it off’ with children pretty quickly.
I was absolutely delighted that after 2 terms I was asked back for the summer term. This time I did one large project with year 5 children, a banner which now hangs in their library and with the year 6 children we made the nuno felted den.
So 15 very enthusiastic children went on an adventure with me and proved that nuno felting is really not as complicated as some people would like you to believe.
I have friends who have made yurts The Scottish Story Telling Yurt being one in particular but we were not going to run to steam bending wood etc. This is my frame. It was 1.2m high and about 2.2m wide.
Getting excited about the project!
Nuno felt shrinks a lot ( usually by 50%) so I had worked out the shrinkage and cut triangles from lovely fine cotton muslin to get us started. We had to make 15 of these triangles. I had 5 weeks of afternoon sessions with my 15 pupils so we really had to make 3 triangle sections each week.
Here you can see one 'before' and one 'after' triangle. The shrinkage is quite dramatic!Here you can see I introduced nuno felting to the children by making smaller triangles first. I originally envisaged them being used as bunting but in the end the children persuaded me to let them turn them into cushions. Again I am reminded how much children love cushions and tactile cuddly things!
I knew that we wouldn’t have time for much detailed design work but as nuno felting lends itself to lose and free designs this was not a problem.
There were opportunities for everyone to go with what suited them best: lots of blue sky clouds and general blue with a tropical bird cut from pre-felt, general jungle tendrils, butterflies and even a wolf, zebra and tiger.
These boys used illustrations from children's books to get their nuno felted tiger, wolf and zebra just right.
There's always a lot of fun in my felting sessions. The children worked really hard but there was plenty of time for giggles too.
I took the finished nuno felted triangles home and sewed them together to make the nuno den cover.
Detail of a bright butterfly fluttering across the nuno felted sky (i.e. den roof)
Before we unveiled the den to the rest of the school we assembled it in the classroom, this was a very exciting moment.
Next we moved the frame to the school foyer and re-assembled it. Within half an hour the staff had strung up fairy lights inside the den and it was full of scatter cushions. It is now a very special place to sit an read a book, wait for your mum if you are feeling unwell, or simply a place to ‘be’.
Dens have a very special place in my heart and having a space to ‘just be’ is so so important.
I am extremely proud of the pupils for coming on that felting adventure with me and also very grateful that Mr Davis the head teacher recognised the value of nurture and creativity and gave me the opportunity to run a project with no holds barred.