It turns out that making a wool felted egg is a delicate operation.
Nine children sat on the floor in a studio in Northeast Minneapolis around white-enameled metal basins full of soapy water. Teacher Joyce Olson-Kapell cradled a wood egg wrapped in tufts of colorful sheep's wool in the palm of her hand. She was showing the children how to turn the wool into a snug, felt casing around the egg - dip the eggs into the water and rub them.
"We have to be very, very gentle with our eggs when we first start," she told her rapt audience as she dipped and patted her soggy egg. "I like to think of this as being like giving a little delicate baby a bath. We don't want to be too rough."
I had signed up for this parent-child class with my 6-year-old daughter, looking for something fun to do in preparation for Easter that would take us beyond dyeing hard-boiled eggs.
Making felt out of wet wool is an ancient technique that recently has grown in popularity among crafters. And, it turns out that wet felting is also a great activity for children. It's easy, quick and there is something magical about how wet wool shrinks and binds to itself. It has even gone mainstream. FamilyFun Magazine's current issue includes a feature story on it.
WOOL MEETS WATER
A former Waldorf handcraft teacher, Olson-Kapell used to teach felting and other classes in the back room of Wonderment on Grand Avenue. After she and her partners closed the toyshop last year, she started Pied Piper
And a pied piper she is. Most of us in the class had never felted wool, but she pulled us into the fun.
First, we wrapped the eggs in roving, long, fluffy bundles of sheep's wool that had been carded so all the strands were going in the same direction. Then, we pulled off a section and wrapped it as tightly as we could around our eggs, making sure sections overlapped in
With a bit of help, my daughter covered her wood egg with tufts of fuchsia, lime green and yellow. I went for a more-muted look, using white and pink.
Then, we dipped the eggs in water and started rubbing. The friction forced microscopic scales on the fibers to hook onto each other. We could feel it happen under our fingers. First the wool matted, then after five to six minutes of vigorous rubbing, it started to contract onto the wood egg, just like a woolly shrink-wrap.
"I think the motion of it is calming," said Minneapolis mom Kelly Huxman as we rolled slippery, sudsy eggs in our hands.
"It feels really good," my daughter agreed.
Chunks of Ivory soap floated in the basins, and we worked up a
"Do you want some whipped cream?" my daughter asked, holding out a foamy hand to the girl next to her, prompting the two to erupt into giggles.
When the felt finally was snug against the eggs, we rinsed the soap away and patted the eggs dry with cotton towels.
Once felted, the eggs are very durable, we were told.
"I did some last year with my older daughter, and we just got them out again," said Huxman, who came this year with her daughter Beatrix. "They're on the coffee table, and the girls love to just pick them up and play with them."
My daughter made a second egg in orange and black. She called it her Halloween egg. It ended up looking like Charlie Brown's orange shirt with the black zigzag. Other eggs looked like they had been painted with swirls of watercolor.
"I like that it doesn't have to be perfect," said mom Katie Gearty.
One girl, Isabel Nelson, 7, made three small robin's eggs in pale blue. After Olson-Kapell created a nest for her out of brown wool, the other children clamored for nests, too. While Olson-Kapell made them, the children played in the lobby or took turns swinging from a rope swing suspended from the ceiling beams.
We moms were left to finish the eggs, but we didn't mind.
"It's fun to work with natural materials and feel creative in a simple way with your kids," said Minneapolis mom Mia Nelson, who has brought Isabel and her younger sister, Amelia, 4, to other Pied Piper classes. "I like
Olson-Kapell hopes to show other people how to be creative at home, too. She is launching a line of craft kits based on the projects she teaches. They will be available for purchase in April through her husband's toy business, the Original Tree Swing at theoriginaltreeswing.com, which makes and sells wood tree swings and other handcrafted toys. Olson-Kapell is starting with 10 kits, which include instructions and supplies to make things like fairies with acorn-cap hats to a wood slingshot.
She may create a felted egg kit down the road. Would it be a good activity to do at home?
"Absolutely," she said. "The true place for crafts is in the home. And learning a skill you can do together creates so many opportunities for connections with your children."
Maja Beckstrom can be reached at 651-228-5295.
What: Making felted eggs at Pied Piper Crafts
Where: 681 17th Ave. N.E., Suite 109, Minneapolis
Information: 612-414-7547 or www.piedpipercrafts.com
When: Woodworking and fiber classes offered most weekends
Cost: $20 to $50 per person, depending on class
Target audience: Parents and children who want to be creative together
Crowd pleaser: Seeing wool transform into felt
HOW TO MAKE FELTED EGGS
Instructions for making felted eggs are easy to find online.
FamilyFun gives instructions for felting eggs in its April issue and at dailymotion.com/video/xpjprn_how-to-make-felted-eggs_creation. The instructions call for starting with plastic eggs, which are cheaper than wood eggs and easier to find. But I like the heft of the wood eggs and the fact that they will biodegrade. The instructions also call for putting the eggs in the washing machine to felt, which is fine for mass production, but then you and your child will miss the tactile experience of rubbing wool with your fingers and watching it transform under your fingers.
Many blogs, including artfulparent.typepad.com (search "felting eggs") and resurrectionfern.typepad.com/resurrection_fern/2008/02/wet-felting-egg.html, also offer instructions.
You can find wood eggs at Michaels Stores for 79 cents. Buy wool roving at yarn and craft shops, including Crafty Planet in Northeast Minneapolis, 3 Kittens Needle Arts in Mendota Heights, Darn It Anyway in Stillwater, Knit'n From the Heart in Woodbury and Borealis and Yarnery in St. Paul. Each egg requires 1/8to 1/4 ounce of wool, depending on how thick you layer it. Prices range from $3 per ounce to $15.25 for a two-ounce pack of eight colors at The Yarnery.
Maja Beckstrom can be reached at 651-228-5295.