Wet felting is a really tactile and accessible form of handwork for children. The children started with two pieces of wool roving, which is a piece of wool that has been combed and twisted a bit. These were layered in alternating directions around a plastic Easter egg (the first piece wrapped around the egg vertically, the second wrapped horizontally). After each piece was wrapped, the wool was moistened (or dunked!) with warm soapy water, and then gently (or vigorously!) massaged until the wool firmed up around the egg. The heat and friction of the rubbing causes the wool roving to felt, creating a cover for the object inside.
After the kids were done, the teachers took the eggs home and tossed them in the clothes dryer, where heat and friction causes the wool to tighten and felt even more. The felted egg covers can then be cut away from the egg, and in our case, were finished with blanket stitching around the opening.
The felted eggs were sweet enough, I thought. But I was dumbstruck to discover that each of these eggs was to house a little peep of its own. A parent volunteer extraordinaire, hand-stitched over 40 little chicks to go home with our children’s felted eggs. I watched her make one, working nimbly with tiny pieces of wool felt, as a baby bird emerged from her fingers.
My son came home with his egg and chick, and played with it, along with a nest he made during an outdoor trip two days after the felting project. It was a bit out of character, as he doesn’t usually play with little figures or dolls. Something seemed to have engaged him in the making of these projects, or maybe it was just the beauty of them. I’m not sure, but everything soon found its way to our nature table, the safest place for our treasures.
That should be the end of that, but I keep thinking about these little birds, and the woman who made them.
When I was younger, I had a fairly specific idea of what was “noble” work, which tended to revolve around “serious” issues. As I get older, I find these notions falling away from me. I still recognize the import of the big things; I still know how vital and painfully difficult it is to work on these matters.
But I’m also beginning to recognize other things that matter too, like how vital it is to give freely of ourselves whatever it is that we have to offer, and how difficult that can be too. I think about how the maker of these little birds, who routinely makes huge contributions to the school, said that they “only” take her about 10 minutes to make (it would take me at least half and hour). Multiplied by more than 40 students, though, equals over 400 minutes. And I know she spent two hours cutting out the pieces first, to say nothing of sourcing the pattern and materials. She did this for all the kids, even though she doesn’t know many of them and they not care for her work. Projects like these distract her from her store, where she sells her handicrafts for money. ”But I don’t really care,” she said.
It’s clear what she does care about, and I’m moved by her expression of it. It’s not the crafting; it’s the giving. Anyone who doesn’t think one person can change the world ought first to consider these little chicks and their maker. Forty young worlds (and an older one) were changed for the better last week alone.