Crafting in Co. Clare

We delve into indie dyeing and vegan felting with our columnist Jennifer Lienhard of Woolfinch Studios

I’ve been busy over the last couple of months designing our very own new solid colour range for 21mic Merino wool called Finch & Sparrow. I got the idea for the range from a customer who asked me if I could source a particular green for her – a mint colour. We have a wide range of colours, around 50, but I couldn’t find the mint colour anywhere. So I dyed it for her, slightly darker than expected, but nice nonetheless.

The request made me realise that we are actually missing a good number of beautiful ‘in-between’ shades. I decided to try to dye more shades of one colour, less aggressive colours and softer grading between them.

So I started to experiment, one colour at a time. Hand dyeing can be a challenge particularly when you try to repeat a colour. In fact, it is almost impossible to dye an exact match unless you have your dyeing recipe down to the smallest detail. Everything has to be recorded, down to 0.1grams of dye, salts and vinegar. This is what we did and still you won’t find two different dye lots exactly the same.

Researching the perfect vegan needle felting kit

One of our other recent projects is the creation of a worthwhile vegan needle felting kit. I love plant fibres and thanks to today’s machines and engineering there’s hardly a plant left that we can’t turn into something that can be spin and knit with. Who would have thought we could ever make a garment out of banana and seaweed?

I often get emails from people who live a vegan lifestyle, but love the idea of needle felting and are wondering if some plant fibres are better than others. I’ve always suggested they get some sample pieces of the different fibres and try them out to see which one works best, because I wasn’t sure either.

There is a real belief that bamboo is the vegan answer to needle felting. Bamboo or plastic fibre really, but bamboo is one of the few plant fibres you can get a relatively wide colour range in. This was playing on my mind though and eventually I managed to free up enough time to test the various different vegan-friendly plant fibres – and wasn’t I surprised at the outcome?

We have 11 plant fibres in our range. I decided to take 5g of each fibre and work it into a ball. I noted down time and end results and here is what I discovered:

Do not buy a bamboo needle felting kit!

ABOUT JENNIFER

Jennifer Lienhard is the owner of Woolfinch Studio, which provides all the materials you need to get started with needle felting, including beginners’ needle felting kits in two sizes. The shop also provides a starter pack of mixed merino colours in different sizes to experiment with wet felting, as well as tester bags, which include a selection of  plant fibres and interesting  animal fibres. Jennifer has also just launched a new solid colour range for 21mic Merino wool called Finch & Sparrow.