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Feltmaking

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One of the activities on offer in the evenings, especially during the winter months, is to learn to make items out of felt. Pupils can participate and learn as much or as little of the processing of the wool before it is ready to be made into the felt item as they like. Some of them have done the whole process, starting with a raw fleece fresh from the sheep's back.

They have been involved in first skirting and then washing the wool, this has to be done at quite high temperatures to remove all the lanolin, the grease that helps keep the sheep waterproof. Then dyeing the wool to the required colour using either commercial acid exhaust dyes or natural plants like onion skins, the wool then needs to be carded so that all the fibres are running in the same direction to enable the layers to be built up to make the felt.

So far the items that have been made are slippers, bags of various designs and a scarf.

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The felt making process that the pupils learn is a wet felting method and involves plenty of hot water and loads of soapy bubbles. The heat from the water plus the mild alkaline solution from the soap plus agitation makes the microscopic scales on each strand of wool open up and interlock with the scales on the others in close proximity to them thus the fibres felt together and form very strong bonds that cannot then be forced apart. The pupils have been surprised at how physical the process can be and how strong the items produced are.

What Came First: the chicken or the egg?

Kyeran has been busy again with his felt-making. This time he has made a bag for his Auntie for her to use to collect the eggs from her chickens. Hence the design of a chicken on one side and the egg on the other.

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