Woven 100% wool fabric is the base of all of Nan’s flowers. She buys light-colored mid-weight skirts, slacks and blazers from thrift shops. She tosses the entire garment into a washing machine with hot water and a small amount of liquid detergent. The cleaning and felting process continues as the clothes agitate and spin. The pieces are then put in the drier until they are thoroughly dry and hot, shrinking dramatically. This method helps to avoid the vast amount of fluff which might clog drains and vents.
It is rare that Nan uses worsted clothing such as dress suits or knits such as sweaters, since they are either too thin or too bulky for her purposes.
ProChem dyes are well suited for wool. Purchase only the three primary colors plus black, and a formula book, to create a myriad of colors. It is easy to dye at your stovetop, oven or microwave, but since powdered dyes can be toxic, carefully follow manufacturer’s directions. Keep dyes away from pets and children. Learn more from books and websites and enjoy your results.
A complete discussion on Nan’s processes for prepping and dyeing wool can be found in her book, Making Flowers from Wool.
Following in Martha’s Footsteps
No, not Martha Stewart. Martha Washington! Did you know that she hooked rugs? Back in the 18th century, it was common to re-use old clothing for various purposes. Leftover scraps were used to make “proddy” flowers, either as part of a rug, or cut away from the canvas backing. Each end of strips about 1/2″ wide and 2″ long were “prodded” or pushed from the back of the canvas to the front, giving a shaggy look to the front. Today, Nan would call these flowers “pullies” since she uses a needle-nosed pliers to pull the ends of the strips from the back to the front. The typical sunflower she makes has a hooked center, with the petals trimmed to a lifelike look.
This historical flower started Nan on her journey of flower-making, and she enjoys trying to make a different flower every day.
Made in the U.S.A.
Thrift shop clothing is manufactured around the world, but Fancy Wool Flowers is located in Southwestern Pennsylvania. All of Nan’s products are made by herself, but she does rely on family and friends for administrative, production and delivery detail. She is grateful for the support of her community, especially that offered by An Artful Affair, Laurel Mountain Rug Hookers, and The Westmoreland Museum of American Art.