Every other month, a group of novice crafters, savvy artists, teachers, lab technicians, moms, publishers and the like meet at the Burnham Memorial Library to transform colorful strands of wool into artfully styled pieces.
Themes vary depending on the season; October brings pumpkins and ghouls to the table, while in February, you can find students felting candy hearts and Valentines, perhaps to send to loved ones.
Penny Cunningham, Burnham’s adult programming and outreach coordinator, teaches the needle felting class and has done the craft herself for 10 years. Cunningham has worked with the library for five years but also has a degree in textiles from art school.
She said anyone is welcome to participate, whether you are an experienced needle felter or someone who has not crafted since kindergarten. She said the learning curve for the activity is quite small; new students pick it up quickly.
As someone who considers herself a pretty crafty person (or purchases materials, starts projects, never has time to finish them), I decided to join the group of needle felters this week to put my skills to the test.
This month’s theme had us creating succulent terrariums inspired by trendy plant arrangements from hot, dry southwestern climates. We passed around up-cycled baby food jars to fill with small rocks found outside, as well as sand and moss-colored wool fibers to imitate soil.
Then came the needle felting, a seemingly daunting task to us novices in the room turned simple per Cunningham’s instruction. She showed us how to roll the wool into different shapes then jab at it repeatedly (and with caution) with a needle to interlock the fibers and form a shape.
My fingers sustained several pokes, although, thankfully, no blood was drawn. We added smaller details like spines and flowers in bright colors and even learned how to mix colors to create unique shades.
When we completed our succulents and cacti, we placed them into our terrariums and admired each other’s work. Everyone proudly carried their creations out to display at home or give to friends. We agreed the activity was easier than anticipated, and some even decided to go home that night and purchase materials online to continue a newfound passion.
The class is enjoyable for anyone no matter their skill level, if not for the end results of a Pinterest-worthy photograph, then for the lively conversation around the table with classmates.
Most classes at the library are free of charge, thanks to the Friends of Burnham Library. Anyone is welcome to participate and can register online or by calling the library at 264-5660.
Photos by Amanda Brooks, Colchester Sun.