By Starrla Cray
WINSTED, MN Soft, colorful, and calming, fiber art is the newest trend in the Winsted art community.
“It’s a very forgiving medium, so it’s good for beginners,” said fiber artist Amanda Doster, who recently began teaching classes at the Winsted Arts Center.
The medium is also versatile, and Doster has made everything from felt “paintings” to three-dimensional masks.
She primarily works with wool sheep fibers, but also incorporates fiber from alpacas, goats, and plants.
Material can be purchased raw (straight off the animal), or ready to use. Raw fiber needs to be washed and combed. If desired, it can also be dyed.
“Dyeing is really fun,” Doster said, explaining that various techniques can be used.
One method involves mixing dye packets with water and an acid, such as vinegar. The color is then set into the fiber with heat.
“During the summer, I like to do ice dyeing,” Doster said. “It gives it a tie-dye effect.”
Just like it sounds, ice dyeing incorporates layers of ice cubes to mix with fiber and dyes in multiple hues.
For anyone who hasn’t experienced fiber art, Doster encourages them to give it a try they might be surprised.
She was introduced to the medium through her younger sister, who had decided to make felted angel tree toppers as Christmas presents three years ago.
At first, Doster thought, “that looks boring.”
But then, her sister urged her to try it for herself.
It didn’t take long before Doster was thinking, “Actually, this is kind of fun.”
Pretty soon, Doster was hooked, and had created several one-of-a-kind works of art.
She posted her first project on an online forum, and immediately got positive feedback.
“People were asking if I could make videos with instructions, and they asked if I taught classes,” Doster recalled.
As her skills advanced, Doster began teaching out of her home in between Winsted and New Germany.
“We got such a good response from everybody,” Doster said, adding that this year, she is also teaching at the Winsted Arts Center.
Her first Winsted class in mid-April focused on needle felting the process of poking wool with a barbed tool until it is felted into the desired shape and each participant took home a little handmade owl.
The second session, which took place Saturday, delved into wet felting. Doster explained that wet felting works the same way a wool sweater shrinks in the wash; fibers are interlocked using water, soap, and agitation.
Doster’s next class in Winsted will be Saturday, June 6 from 9 to 11 a.m. The topic is weaving, and each participant will take home a small rug woven with un-spun wool and locks. Doster’s work will also be on display that day.
In the future, Doster plans to teach one class each month at the Winsted Arts Center.
So far, all sessions have been suitable for complete beginners. This fall, Doster will add some intermediate to advanced courses, such as sculpting faces and wire framework felting.
Classes are limited to 12 students; if more are interested, a second session will be added. To sign up, go to the Winsted Arts Council website. Doster can also be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.