I have been putting together some new batches of kits, starting with sheep and foxes.
The first step is washing the wool, an ideal job to get done when the weather is warm. The fox kits use white-faced woodland wool and sheep Lleyn. Both wools are ‘grown’ locally in the Peak District.
The next step is mordanting and dyeing. For the foxy coloured wool, it is first mordanted in alum to fix the dye, then added to the dyebath. The fox colour comes from madder root. Madder gives anything from a salmon pink through to a deep red or orange. The shades are altered by amongst other things, PH and temperature.
For the sheep kits, grey is needed for the sheep’s head and legs. I use a synthetic dye from this, which is fixed with vinegar.
Once dyed, the wool is carded on my drum carder, one of my favourite pieces of equipment. This brushes the wool and makes it easier to work with and achieve smooth results.
The wool is then weighed and added to the kit boxes, along with foam, needles, wooden needle holders and felting needles. They also have instruction sheets, which are step-by-step guides with plenty of photographs. For these and workshops, I make lots of models to show the different stages.
The sheep kits are a special collaboration between me and a local women’s refuge. The refuge has a farm, which is a key part in helping women recover in a beautiful and purposed filled environment. They currently have a flock of 22 Lleyn sheep. The ewe in the photo was bottle fed as a lamb, so is very friendly and runs up to everyone for a stroke.
We worked together to originally design the kits and usually put the kits together at the refuge, but with lockdown, I’m making the latest batch in my studio. The kits were an idea to start an enterprise to raise funds for the charity. With every sale the refuge receives £10.
The kits are great for building confidence in needle-felting and once you have the basics, it’s fun to adapt your models. I spent a fun afternoon in a friend’s garden (socially distanced), making a white-face woodland sheep. They are pretty sheep with pink noses.
The picture on the right shows some models that some children made with madder dyed wool. I especially love the red panda.