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As a craft, needle felting is wonderfully compact . . . and it can still eat your life.

Shop Open: 2014 Shop Closed: 2014
Work in Progress: 2014Packed Up: 2014
All it really needs is some unspun wool, a barbed needle about 3.5 inches long, and a piece of foam thick enough to keep the needle from hitting the work table. My main work station has grown a bit over the past four years and a bit, and I can no longer pick it up in one hand. However, it still fits on the dining room table, and I can move it all off the table in one trip (though it takes two hands).

Shop Open: 2010 Shop Closed: 2010
Work in Progress: 2010Packed Up: 2010

For more on the construction process, take a look at Making Murphy (2010), Building the Lindsay Raccoon (2011), Birth of a Dragon (2012), New Ivory-billed Woodpecker (2013), and Jerboa Taking Shape (2015) for step-by-step series of pictures that take you from armature to portrait Ė and show off developing skills. Corrective Surgery (2016) lets you see some of what can be done when things go wrong.

But it doesnít need to be nearly that big. Below and to the left is my portable felting bench — a 12"x7"x5" shoe tote, fitted out with all the essential tools and a monthís supply of wool (or more). The pic shows the kit in action on the San Joaquin — the train between Oakland Jack London Square and Bakersfield (en route farther south) — in late November 2010, with the Ground Squirrel (another shoulder-riding pet) in the early stages of construction. It’s much more efficient now that I’ve figured out how to work without unpacking the cushion; just open up, lift out the two big packs of neutral-color wool, and fold down the sides! The little black box on a string is a digital keychain: the ultimate baby-picture carrier, with a slide show of the Salamander’s creatures for people who stop to chat.

Felting as the miles roll by....

On the other hand, wool calls to wool. Iíve bought a couple of pounds myself — a pound being a lot of wool, two cubic feet or more if not squished down — but far more has come trotting up and presented itself to me. In the back room, I now have three large tubs of the glorious stuff!

Perhaps I'll have to take up
wool dyeing after all.
The biggest of the tubs — a 25-gallon cube — is almost full of uncombed Romney fleeces that I collected from the ground where the sheep had been sheared, then washed for myself. Thatís the last batch, another 2-gallon ziplock bagís worth, drying in the foreground; it was later forced into the tub with the rest.