Image: Four friends. From The Wind in the Willows Felt Friends. Courtesy of David & Charles.
Cynthia Treen is a fibre artist, familiar to most from her work with Martha Stewart, her appearances on MSLTV, her YouTube channel @threadfollower, her DIY kits, or her first book, Last Minute Fabric Gifts (Abrams, 2006). Now she brings us another book, The Wind in the Willows Felt Friends (David and Charles, 2022).
Image: Badger and Mole. From The Wind in the Willows Felt Friends. Courtesy of David & Charles.
As a child, Treen was constantly redecorating her doll’s house, and the creativity that binds her work and play is again evident in this joyful and joyous book. As usual, Treen’s intention is to share., but perhaps there is another motivation at play, too.
Image: Badgers. From The Wind in the Willows Felt Friends. Courtesy of David & Charles.
Treen confesses, “I have always wanted to rehabilitate wild animals. I once raised a baby catbird (Maxwell, I called him) who had lost his parents and siblings in a storm. He was so small and cold and had only pin feathers; I wasn’t sure if he would survive, but I raised him until he was ready to fly. Fearing I didn’t have proper mother bird skills, I brought him to a wildlife rehabilitator for finishing school. If I were not sewing and teaching, I would want to spend my time helping animals.”
Image: Ratty and Mole. From The Wind in the Willows Felt Friends. Courtesy of David & Charles.
Instead, Treen’s book is designed to help us recreate five of these familiar childhood characters, in hand-stitched wool felt, around interior wire armatures. Treen’s techniques and instructions are, as ever, designed to encompass the absolute beginner as much as respecting those with more advanced skills. Treen acknowledges that wool felt is not often regarded as a material for high craft. As a younger maker, she says, “I wanted to push myself and make slow, glamorous complicated things, so for many years, I did. I made wedding dresses, hand-embroidered and appliquéd quilts, and special commissions that took years to complete. In doing so, I satisfied my ego and learned that that process was not as rewarding as sharing what I knew…Now, felt’s extraordinary qualities challenge me daily, in ways I could never have imagined. What I once thought its fault became its virtue.”
Image: Tiny trousers. From The Wind in the Willows Felt Friends. Courtesy of David & Charles.
As Treen contemplated producing a second book, she looked to children’s literature for inspiration. Re-reading The Wind in the Willows, Treen reconnected to “Grahame’s poetry of the changing seasons and his musings of life on the river.” She began by designing a badger, then a mole, then “imagined a book of felt friends with my own story snippets tying it all together. I loved the friendship of Mole, Ratty, and Badger.”
Image: At home with Mole. From The Wind in the Willows Felt Friends. Courtesy of David & Charles.
She hopes, as people make the animals from her book, they will reread the story “with a lightness of heart, an appreciation for its beauty, humour, and friendships, and forgive any last-century ideas contained within. I hereby grant our felt animals freedom to be domesticated, or wild and woolly, to be the gender of their choice, with whatever pronoun they prefer,” she laughs.
We are grateful to cool crafting for the Cynthia Treen quotes.