Learn the fascinating art of felt making for yourself!

Now you can learn the fascinating art of felt making for yourself, with leading UK feltmaker and textile artist Mary-Clare Buckle ... and come on one of her courses to create your own stunning piece of felt art or craft!

"Thanks so much for the felt making course. You put so much in to it, I really appreciate your dedication and patience.
The scarf looks really good now it is washed and dried, I can hardly believe I made it. It is very soft and drapery, just as I hoped for. I think felt making may be addictive, I am feeling definite withdrawal symptoms!
 Ann Piker

Click here to look at a webpage with more information about my workshops and courses in Abbotsbury, Dorset
Click here for more information about my feltmaking workshops and courses page as a pdf file, for printing (opens in a new window/tab)
... or to email me for further information about my feltmaking workshops, courses and classes

Since you're looking at this site on a phone or small tablet, you can click here to move down the page to read more about Mary-Clare ... or just read on about her ever-popular feltmaking workshops and courses!
'Kiss Kiss' by Mary-Clare Buckle (detail)

Feltmaking courses :: What is felt?

feltmaking workshops with Mary-Clare Buckle - one of my students, with the scarf which she made Felt is the oldest fabric known to man. Highly sophisticated felted artefacts were found preserved in permafrost in a tomb in Siberia ... and dated to 600BC.

In the process of feltmaking, wool fibres shrink and come together to form a dense mat when subjected to heat, friction and a change of alkalinity - ie hot water, soap and a lot of rubbing and rolling!

"There was a very friendly, welcoming, informal atmosphere on Mary-clare's felting course which helped everyone get to know each other quickly and got the creative juices flowing. The space was good and the biscuits very tasty!

"I think your feltmaking courses are incredible value for money. Really you could charge more, though I shouldn't say that if I want to come again should I?! Abbotsbury is a beautiful part of the country and I'm sure that weekend residential felting workshops or longer week's holiday courses would work well in the summer time. I also thought you were very accomodating Mary-Clare - letting people like me stay late to finish off work. It was a real treat to immerse myself in a whole weekend of creativity, learning a new skill and trying out different ideas. I never realised quite how versatile and varied a process felting is - and how colourful it can be. I can't wait to do more, though I'll have to find space for a few sacks of wool and a large waterproof table first! I also feel confirdent enough to try some feltmaking in school. Thank you."
 Cathy Ebbels

'Indian Bazaar' by Mary-Clare Buckle (detail)

The history of felt and feltmaking

Many cultures have legends as to the origins of felt making. It is said that Noah's Ark was lined with fleece and the combination of urine and the trampling animals left behind a felted wool carpet.

feltmaking workshops with Mary-Clare Buckle In Britain, UK feltmakers often used felt to make hats, whilst clothes were woven and then felted (to make them warmer and more waterproof) by trampling in troughs, or by use of water-powered mills. English wool merchants made huge fortunes in the 15thC and were the richest in mediæval Europe. The superb quality and range of English wool was renowned throughout Europe and the Islamic world.

By contrast, modern-day British farmers have to virtually give away their fleeces, because of the widespread use of man-made fibres. I feel that it is very important, therefore, to encourage the practice of the ancient craft of feltmaking - particularly by developing new techniques and uses, which I teach in my felt making workshops and courses.

But it is the nomadic Mongolians (and other central Asian peoples, such as the Kyrgyz and Kazakhs), who have become particularly well known for their feltmaking techniques and use of felt - especially for their felted wool tents - yurts or gers - which are so weatherproof, well-insulated and strong that they amount to fold-up houses!

In essence, felt is one of the most versatile natural fabrics: it can be moulded, during the feltmaking process, into solid three-dimensional forms, such as hats, bags, purses, children's toys, sculptures and balls; made thick and hard, to produce, for example, boots or buckets; or very fine, to make scarves or my own
'Floating' felts, which are very thin - almost transparent - textile art pictures.

"Just thought I'd send you a line to say thanks for all your helpful teaching and encouragement on the felt making course last weekend. I came home totally inspired and have got all sorts of felting projects on the go already. It's great to have come on one of your corses and had the felt making process clarified in my mind, after all that trial and error on my own! The opportunity to use so many different fibres with your experience guiding us was very useful indeed and I have much more confidence with what I attempt.

"Also, the other people on the course had such a range of previous experience with fibres or felt making and your relaxed approach enabled everyone to share these. What a lovely way to spend the weekend, can't wait for the opportunity to do another one of your workshops or courses."

Mandy Symes-Davidson

'Burning His Roses' by Mary-Clare Buckle (detail)

Feltmaking courses & workshops

feltmaking courses with Mary-Clare Buckle - I run courses for children, as well as adults Now you can learn feltmaking yourself! I run regular - and very popular - felt making courses in my home village of Abbotsbury (West Dorset) and beyond. I am also much in demand to run feltmaking workshops for schools, women's groups, art and craft groups and for people with learning difficulties. I have recently been invited to run feltmaking courses for an international textile company, based in Kolkata (Calcutta), India.

"Thanks again for the wonderful weekend course - as a complete beginner I had a hunch that I might find the feltmaking process satisfying and the weekend confirmed the hunch beyond expectation. I enjoyed your teaching and knowledge of feltmaking and the freedom that you gave me to experiment and find my own way through the possibilities inherent in the materials and processes. The materials provided and ideas presented on your courses make for a weekend of total immersion in the creative process. I'm promising myself that I'll come again on another of your felt making courses, in the spring, to learn more and develop further."  Ester Wade

'For Katherine' by Mary-Clare Buckle (detail)

Felt making courses - what you'll learn

feltmaking courses with Mary-Clare Buckle My Beginners Feltmaking Courses lasts for one day and are designed as a fascinating and enjoyable introduction to feltmaking - enabling you to get a feel for the material and how it works. You will be able to create one or - possibly - two finished pieces of felt by the end of the day.

In this felt making workshop, I will explain to you how, and why, wool felts and run through wool from the different breeds of sheep and other fibres available and - most importantly - how well (or how badly!) they felt. I will also cover the suppliers of wool and other fibres.

I will also describe all the present day uses for felt and how it has been used by various cultures throughout history.

We will then discuss the benefits and drawbacks of various felt making equipment: what felting mats are best for what techniques; soaps; when to use hot or warm water; using hand 'carders' (to align the wool fibres, prior to felting) and the mechanical drum carder, including using carding to blend colours.

feltmaking workshops with Mary-Clare Buckle I will go through all the products which can be made with felt, and the various feltmaking techniques and we will look at samples of these techniques. We will also look at the other fibres and pieces of fabric which are suitable for felt making - by felting them in, so that they are included in the finished felt piece.

"After Mary-Clare's feltmaking workshop I had so many ideas, I could barely sleep that night"

"There is something very special about the tactile nature of felt making, and I like the way the colours can't be blended so easily as with paints which means you get areas of pure, vibrant colour"

"Felt making is almost an alchemical process .... it brings out the child in me who loves to play"

"There is something rather special about feltmaking....I can't quite pin it down..something to do the nature of the process... with the way a fluffy, messy pile of wool is transformed into a neat, dense, non-fraying, versatile piece of fabric - with very little equipment and a minimum of work ...."

"Excellent! Everyone should try felt making! I was never very good at art, but I managed to produce something, on the Beginners course, which I'm really pleased with - thanks to Mary-Clare's help. I will be back to try something more difficult for the next workshop!"

Specific felt making techniques you will learn on the course will include:

    feltmaking workshops with Mary-Clare Buckle - a felt bag made on one of my courses
  • laying out flat felt - a basic feltmaking technique
  • how to avoid holes
  • laminating felt together with 'half-felts'
  • 'gossamer' (very fine) felt
  • 'cobweb felt' (strong, but holey for scarves).
  • 'nuno' felt - fusing either a solid layer or small pieces of wool onto woven cotton, silk or synthetics - great for making beautiful lightweight scarves and shawls
  • three-dimensional felt making - solid or hollow - for making balls or vessels, or for felt jewellery
  • a method for making 'seamless felt', for clothes, bags, slippers or hats
  • 'needle felting' - also called 'dry felting' - a feltmaking technique which uses long, barbed needles to pull the fibres together, instead of soap and water
After you have completed one of my Beginners Feltmaking Courses, you can then come back later to learn more about any of the above felt making techniques, either over a weekend or on any of my day courses.

Click here to look at a webpage with more information about my workshops and courses in Abbotsbury, Dorset
Click here for more information about my feltmaking workshops and courses page as a pdf file, for printing (opens in a new window)
... or to email me for further information about my feltmaking workshops, courses and classes

To see my own work, why not take a look at my website, www.1-art-1.com ... and I look forward to meeting you soon at one of my workshops or courses!

Mary-Clare Buckle
Feltmaking Workshops & Courses
13 Market Street, Abbotsbury, Dorset, DT3 4JR, UK
tel: 01305-871561 (from outside the UK: +44-1305-871561)

Feltmaking courses & workshops with
Mary-Clare Buckle

Mary-Clare Buckle in her studio gallery - click here to email Mary-Clare

"Sweeping away the two-dimensional limitations of painting, Mary-Clare Buckle's work has a tactile, three-dimensional quality and reflects her character - vibrant, colourful, effervescent and full of life."

I was born in the Philippines but grew up in Hampshire and come from a creative family of artists, jewellers and woodcarvers. My Art Foundation was at the Surrey Institute of Art & Design (Farnham, Surrey), where my brother Chris taught me. For my Degree course, I studied Three-Dimensional Design and Silversmithing, at the University of Central England (then Birmingham Polytechnic).

I designed and made jewellery for many years. Exhibitions include Aspects Gallery, London and Birmingham City Art Gallery (now in their permanent collection) and Hanku Department Store, Japan (Britain Promotion Week). Commissions included a neckpiece for Sue Jay of Central Television for a feature on UFO's and a small sculpture for Harrods. However, I always felt artistically constrained by that discipline.

On discovering feltmaking about 10 years ago, my initial work was extremely colourful, freed from the limitations of jewellery design, where it is difficult to use colour easily.

Feltmaking is the perfect outlet for me: I love the tactile nature of it and the pure colour. I can either be very imprecise - letting the medium control the design - or can immerse myself in a particular design and exercise as much control as if I were almost 'painting' with the fibres.

Inspiration comes sometimes from the actual medium itself - 'playing' with all sorts of different textures and threads. I like my work to be lively - what often comes to mind is that the fibres are 'dancing'. I've been inspired recently from getting into clubbing and dance music in the last few years. In particular, the multi-coloured glow-sticks everyone dances with, the lasers and flashing coloured lights and the abstract visuals projected onto screens behind the DJs.

I have also been inspired by places I've visited around the world, including Morocco, Central & South America, Thailand and India. I particularly love India, which I've visited several times and which holds a particular fascination for me - the motifs they use in their work and the fantastically bright, clashing colours in their houses, interiors, clothes and even food!

Other inspiration includes: costumes and film sets, especially the underground city in Matrix Reloaded and the chaotically moving traffic in The Fifth Element; mediƦval artefacts; textures used in Indian/Moroccan/South American fabrics and laquer work; Italian glass. Or perhaps a line in a poem or the title of a pop song, or just playing around with a cultural icon ... and ideas sometimes come to me in the middle of the night ...

Several years ago, I have developed the feltmaking technique of 'Floating' felts, trying to make the pieces as thin as possible - almost transparent. When mounted between sheets of clear acrylic, the light can penetrate the piece, giving it an ethereal, almost-not-there quality. Unlike conventional framing, the viewer's eye is not constrained to a rectangle and, if hung slightly away from the wall, the pieces appear to be floating in space.

I also light the floating felt pieces from behind or the side, to turn them into wall lights - intentionally blurring the boundaries between art and interior design.

I moved from London to Abbotsbury,West Dorset, shortly after our twin sons, Arran and Fingal, were born and now live in the artists' enclave and picturesque village of Abbotsbury, with a view of the sea to add further inspiration to my work. Our sons are educated at home by us.

I exhibit my felt making work primarily on my extensive and much-admired website www.1-art-1.com and at my studio gallery in Abbotsbury, to which I welcome visitors all year round.

I particularly welcome commissions, perhaps to suit a colour scheme or interior design theme.

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