5 questions with the creator of WoolyWire

on Thursday, April 10, 2014

Wirework Spring 2014.


WoolyWire earring.

Have you seen Wirework Spring 2014? It's a special publication from the same people who bring you Bead&Button, Bead Style, and Art Jewelry. On p. 12 -- in our "In the Loop" products page -- we featured WoolyWire, which is 24-gauge copper wire covered in felted wool. We just had to get the scoop on this concept, so I chatted with its creator, Nellie Thomas.

1. How did you come up with the brilliant idea of putting felted fiber around wire?

“Well, it was both myself and my mom, Karen Totten (owner of Starry Road Studio). I learned the technique of spinning fiber onto wire -- it is not a new idea, just one that was only used in the fiber-arts world for various weaving and other fiber projects. In this form, [the fiber wire] was usually rather bulky and thick because it was intended for large-scale fiber work. When my mom saw [the fiber wire], it hit her that it would be great for jewelry. The trick was to get it small (less bulky) and supple enough for more detailed work like jewelry design. I also needed to create more color changes in a given length, again, thinking about using it at the much smaller scale of jewelry design.”

2. What is the process like to make WoolyWire?

“First you start with raw fiber -- I hand dye all my own fiber. I pull together a palette of wool, silk, cotton, bamboo -- it all depends on what I think is needed. I also add in angelina and other accent fibers. I then make what is called an 'art batt,' that is, a sort of blanket of all these ingredients that will eventually get spun. I 'paint' layers and layers of fiber until I am satisfied with the batt. Then I am ready to spin. I take 22- or 24-gauge copper wire and spin the fiber onto it. Once this is done, I felt it to make sure the fiber stays put on the wire. Then I cut and package. As you can see, there are many steps involved!”

3. I saw this video on using Fray Check to finish the ends of WoolyWire -- any other tricks or tips we should know about?

“Really the only thing I can say is to follow your imagination and play! Use it the way you might use wire for wrapping, or make your own hoops and links or even bails. I like wrapping tube beads with it to make fiber beads. We started a WoolyWire Pinterest board for designers to pin all their ideas, but really there are so many ways to use it, so you shouldn’t feel limited.”

4. It looks like quite a few designers are already working with WoolyWire. Have you seen anything that made you say, “I’d never have thought to do THAT with it!”?  

“Oh, my gosh -- I keep seeing new ideas. I have to say, I honestly never thought to do tornado-like spirals that float in the air around a central chain or cord. Genea Crivello-Knable was the first person to come up with that idea, but I’ve seen others use it -- it is so cool! I also never thought about making bails and wire-wrapping individual beads with it, but I have seen this done by various designers and I love it. Genea covers this idea in the video you saw.  Another idea I thought was cool was to make a frame element, like a spiraling scroll, out of a heavier wire and then completely wrap it in WoolyWire. But even when it is used in small accents, it is really sweet. Just a nice touch of fiber yumminess.”

Want to get your hands on some WoolyWire of your very own? You can purchase it directly from Nellie via her Etsy shop, WoolyWire Etc.

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