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Fabulous Felt—The Non-Woven Fabric
Fiber Artist Terry Ross
By Gloria J. Geary
What is felt? Although those flat colorful squares in Wal-Mart’s art supply aisle come to mind, felt is so much more. When I look at the perfectly round, yellow 4” ball of felt that my cat enjoys, I think of Terry Ross. Terry is the maker of all things felted. She is a “hand-felter”.
Hand-felted fabric is a wonder. It’s widely used around the world. The felting process has been around for eons and has ancient ties to Mongolia—where it is still used today for boots, clothing, yurts, and much more. The fabric can be made flexible, hard and stiff, or almost transparent, depending on the need. Felting is gaining new devotees, because of its waterproof quality and versatility. It’s also very malleable.
How It All Began
Ross always loved to work with her hands and learned to knit and sew as a girl from her grandmother. She hopes to have some quilts in Shoshana’s December art & craft show in Northport. (Additional information about Shoshana’s show is in the “Happenings” section.) Some years ago, a friend of Terry’s had a flock Karakul sheep, an ancient breed. Terry learned the process of harvesting the sheep’s wool from this friend and has continued ever since. The friends formed a community of women who would share a potluck dinner and felt together. With felt as the media, everyone created something unique to their sensibility. Ross began to make felted cat and dog play balls, pinwheel pin cushions, and other items.
Today, for her own felting endeavors, Ross maintains a small mixed flock of sheep which provide her with naturally colored wool in earthy tones--gray, creamy white, and tan. For her more colorful projects she buys colored wool. Ms. Ross has sold her work in shows like The Custer Show in Spokane and the Lavender Festival in Pend Oreille County. Terry explains, “I enjoy the proverbial two-way street, in that I’m not a commercial consumer and I like to buy things from people who actually make the product.” She elaborates, “I like to think we’re creating a community of like-minded people—I like to support that.”
If you have ever accidentally washed a wool sweater in the washing machine, you were felting by proxy (even though the outcome was not what you wanted!). Felting is created by pounding and scrubbing wool, using water which acts as a lubricant. With friction the fibers of the wool move back and forth, causing "barbs" to form in the fabric. Heat along with the water cause the outer scales in the fiber to open, and soap allows the fibers to slide easily over one another causing them to become entangled. The constant agitation of the material creates a tight bond between the fibers and the process is irreversible—hence the aforementioned sweater you washed that is two sizes too small, forever! Yet, in Terry’s masterful hands, the process is intentional, and so is the outcome.
In Terry’s felted world, it’s a multi-layered affair. She marries other fabrics with her hand-felted fabric to create unique dolls or other items. Father and Mother Christmoose are as you might guess, dressed like Santa and his wife, using recycled fabric. Terry’s “mooses” stand approximately 22”. There are Fishermooses, and other creations such as catnip mice and dangly-legged cone people. Her short, fat, felted cone people sometimes sit on shelves for relaxation. They arrive in Angel, Santa and Elf personas. Look for Terry’s unique perspective on all things rustic—the rustic look is her personal preference in her designs.
For more information, call Terry at 722-6482. Her work will be on display at Shoshana’s 11th Annual Christmas Show, Thursday, December 7th – Sunday, December 10th. Hours are: Thurs. 3 – 7 p.m., (preview), Fri. Noon- 5pm, Sat., 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., and Sunday noon- 4 p.m. Shoshana’s is located in Northport, one block off Center Street. In Northport, look for the signs right after the Matteson House B&B. Make a right turn on 6th street, a right on South and Shoshana’s is the 3rd house o n the right.
Gloria J. Geary is an artist, photographer and writer who recently received a grant to study in Jackson Hole, Wyoming at the Art Association of Jackson Hole.