Although the Coat has been revealed to the world (and she’s gorgeous, no?), we’re not quite done explaining all the skills that went into making the Coat.
The Coat’s final touches, hand-felted cuffs and collar and hand-made buttons, were the pieces that pulled the design together. In this post we look at felting and button-making.
What is Felting?
Felting means to bind fibres together into a tight fabric. You’ve likely had the experience of accidentally putting a wool sweater in the washing machine only to discover that when the cycle is over your sweater is substantially smaller. This is the felting process in action: hot water combined with the agitation of the washing machine will cause the wool fibres to pull together, which equals a smaller and denser sweater.
Unique Pieces of Fabric
Felters create unique pieces of fabric that can be formed and shaped according to the artist’s vision.
Following the patterns created by Jennifer (the Coat’s designer), Maura layered wool over the pattern, making sure that each layer was perpendicular to the previous.
Wool from Rose, the Newfoundland ewe from Linc Farm, formed the white base for the felted cuffs and collar. Laid on top was the natural dyed wool from Sleepy (also from Linc Farm). It is here that the artist gets to play, creating shapes, swirls and colour changes that will emerge in the final product.
Felting On Purpose
To create a felted piece that follows a particular pattern, the artist can’t just toss the wool into the washing machine. Instead, they must felt on purpose. Maura, our expert felter, used soap, warm water and bubble wrap to roll the wool and create the agitation needed to pull the fibres together. She rolled, rubbed and pounded the bubble-wrapped wool, switching directions and shifting the wool to make sure everything is felted equally.
The result of all this rubbing and rolling are uniquely shaped and coloured pieces of wool fabric that were then applied to the Coat as sleeve cuffs and a double collar. Hand-spun yarn was used to attach the pieces and add decorative embroidery.
The 50 Mile Coat is entirely locally sourced, including the button closures in the front placket and decorative buttons on the cuffs. Luckily, EHS is a multi-talented guild. Finding local buttons simply meant chatting with Guild member Cheryl, a machinist by trade and fibre artist by choice.
Enter the Woodworker
Cheryl began by gathering dried Black Walnut from her backyard. She then decided on the design of the buttons based on the shape of the wood, letting the original shape of the wood be expressed. Debate ensued with the Coat’s designer as to the attachment style: drilled hole? notched centre? In the end, drilled hole was the final decision.
The final buttons are smooth, elegant and expressive. No stains or urethanes were used, just skilled polishing. These buttons are truly works of art.