While I spent most of the summer far from my felting studio, my hands were still full of wool much of the time. Wherever I went, I had some sort of project in a tote bag: colored roving, foam and felting needles for making balls at the beach, collecting beach rocks to wet felt outside at the cabin while the kids played.
There were lots of questions from curious neighbors out for a walk, kids coming over to play and strangers on the beach. What is that pokey thing? What are you making? Can I try that? How does that work? My children and parents were proud ambassadors, explaining the process to the fiber novices, initiating them into the world of needle and wet felt.
The most entertaining project by far was felting pebbles collected on the beach at the end of the path. We made piles and piles of rocks, sorting them by size and shape, wrapping with roving, felting them outside standing on the patio while the kids played soccer in the grass or played games at the picnic table. When it was time to leave the island, my father packed up two plastic totes full of finished felt pebbles and beach rocks ready for felting at home.
The first batch of rocks went to Venue, the store in Ballard where I have been consigning for the last year. Before dropping them off, I photographed the collection on our front porch and posted the shot to Flickr. A fellow blogger saw the shot and suggested I post some to my etsy shop. I indulged her request, though I was trying to juggle completing several last minute projects at the same time. The listing sat and sat for several weeks with little activity and interest.
When we returned from our holiday in New Hampshire at the end of August, the merchandising staff at Venue asked if I would make some large rocks, really large rocks. Intrigued by the idea, I bought one dozen rocks from a landscaping company, each weighing 5 lbs and measuring between 12-18″ across, felting them in the same way as the smaller rocks.
The most difficult part of this process was moving them around for the photographs and getting them to the store: upstairs, downstairs, porch, driveway, car, store. I seriously strained the muscles in my right wrist, trying to lift and carry two at a time when I’m really not accustomed to that sort of awkward weight. Next time I will take more time, moving them one at a time rather trying to hurry the process.
To my surprise, Venue made a beautiful window display, featuring a big pile of rocks in assorted sizes. A few weeks after school started, one of my daughter’s third grade classmates rushed up to me in the hallway. “We saw your rocks in the window of a store when we were walking down the street on Sunday,” she said. We both squealed with excitement.
All of a sudden, the listing in my etsy shop started to attract attention and the pebble sets were moving. Really moving. Generating conversation. Two different people asked me if I could make small cushions that looked like felt pebbles, similar to those made by Ronel Jordaan.
The first prototype was a hit with my son and his classmates who thought it made a perfect seat. After working on these miniature versions, I know that the originals are worth every penny charged. The South African cooperative employed to produce these cushions is providing an income for families. I support their work and would always encourage customers to buy the original.
What about felt pebble soap? I searched on etsy for a soap maker who was already making round soaps and pitched my idea. Surfhound Soap Company agreed to make 25 pebble shaped soaps in two scents: Coffee Mocha and Cool Water, now wrapped with wool felt.
All along, the felt pebbles in my etsy shop were getting lots of attention. For a week they were on the wallpaper for Etsy’s Twitter page. They were featured in several treasuries and selling consistently in my shop. A columnist in a major newspaper asked me whether I would like to be featured in their holiday gift guide (more details once the issue hits the stands).
In the meantime, it was time to gear up production for a large, two day craft fair at our neighborhood community center. Many friends agreed to help felt soaps and pebbles at a production party, and my family pitched in with the process.
The next iteration will be sea glass pebbles, as suggested by ms_curmudgeon. Using colored roving in heathered tones, the sea glass pebbles will be available in the colors most often found on the beaches around the world. We’re still working on assembling the colored sets, but the pile of finished pebbles in our basement is growing. At this point we have 27 dozen pebbles finished, with a goal of 50 sets complete before the fair in two weeks. Needless to say, we’ve used up all of the rocks my father carried with care from our island, and we’ve almost finished a 75lb bag of river rocks bought from a landscaping company.
Somewhere in here, I have to give credit to Moxie, who first presented this idea to me last November. She had begun editing a book about felt, collecting submissions from various authors. The publishers wanted someone to write a tutorial for making felt rocks, but at the time I was overwhelmed with holiday production and couldn’t work on the project. I shelved the idea until late spring as I was prepared to walk away from my studio and started searching for a small project I could do on the fly.
I’m not the only person making felt pebbles, soaps or cushions, nor can I take credit for the ideas, but as my friend Erin said, one of the distinctive aspects of SpiderFelt is the collaboration, taking suggestions and feedback from friends, students and my family to grow my body of work. Each project has been a lot of fun, and I hope to continue exploring the theme in the coming months.