As I write this, my children are on bird watch. You see I have a rather vulnerable blue tit perching on our bird table and I want to know what fellow feathered friends think of it. Will it be rejected, accepted or completely confuse those attempting to land on said feeding plat-form? First reports come in. “Mummy, it has managed to scare off the magpies. They tried to attack, then flew off afraid.” Hmm, interesting. That’s a huge achievement by the way, for magpies, pigeons and even seagulls have managed to steal the five-star Spiers gourmet bird food before their smaller flying companions get a chance. So how come this little blue tit has been left alone to fend for itself against such big birds? Let me tell you a secret. My blue tit may look surprisingly life-like, but it isn’t real. Instead it is my needle-felted version made according to the very clear and concise instructions laid out in what can only be described as the needle felt Bible – a brand new craft book, launched this month, called Making Needle Felted Animals, written by Steffi Stern and Sophie Buckley. It is an enchanting book which not only inspires the reader to create, but helps them do so in an easy, comprehendible and unpatronising way. All that is needed is a felting needle, some felting wool, a felting mat and an alert pair of eyes so one stabs the wool and not the finger. This is sculpture in its least messy form. No plaster, clay or resin – just pure, richly-coloured, soft glorious wool. It is probably the best way of getting out emotion and is the perfect therapy for a stressful day or indeed if you need a little space to unwind. The reward is a physical one – a stunning wild, domestic or imaginary creature right before you. Published by Stroud-based publisher Hawthorn Press, Making Needle Felted Animals, a 128-page, illustrated paperback manual is written in a personal way so that each animal has its own story to tell. “Martin Large from Hawthorn Pressapproached us two years ago and asked us if we would write the book. It took us 18 months to write and to work out which animals to include. Each animal has its own reason for appearing in the book and is accompanied by a short story or quote. We were delighted when Jayne Emerson, who featured on Kirstie Allsopp’s Handmade Britain, agreed to write the foreword,” explains mother of four, Steffi who owns popular shop Mother Goose, in Nailsworth, a regular haunt for those who enjoy making and creating. Sophie, who I first met when I had the privilege of interviewing her a few years ago, when she was a new graduate with her stunning collection of coral-inspiredcrochet masterpieces, runs many workshops at Steffi’s shop. Steffi and Sophie will now be offering needle felting workshops and have set up a new business, called The Makerss (double s for their names) off the back of the book and will be selling special kits for people to make specific creatures from their book. These include a tortoise, fox, butterfly, Wind in The Willows characters, and even the lessattractive garden creatures such as the slug! A special book launch takes place at Mother Goose on Saturday, July 11, from 11am-3am where Steffi and Sophie will be offering demonstrations on needle felting and giving people a chance to meet theanimals featuring in the book. “We will also be giving those who come along the chance to needle felt a small creature or flower to add to our wool garden which we are hoping to be an ongoing community project,” says Steffi. “It feels special to see it all come together and to be able to hold the book. The photographs and the illustrations have brought it to life and have done the felt making animals complete justice to make it a really magical book,” she adds. I am privileged to be their guinea pig (and no he is not in the book) and manage to work my way through the whole blue tit making process, from weighing out the wool, to moulding and poking the wool thousands of times with my needle, adding colour whilst constantly referring back to my excellent guidebook to make sure he looks right. I am fed delicious cake from Nom Nom Cupcakery, also based in Nailsworth’s Market Street, but my blue tit looks as if he has eaten it as I make him a little too chubby. Further stabbing is needed to slim him down but alas he remains larger than this petite bird deserves. Perhaps that is why the magpie is Nothing fuzzy about felting Tracy Spiers de-stresses with a felting needle and inspirational book – Tracy Spiers – Nothing fuzzy about felting
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