Mark Watermeyer is a South African who has, among other things, been an overland tour guide and a Production Manager for the film industry in Cape Town, before moving into the countryside to pursue a career based on his values of sustainability and independence.

Iona Blair is from the UK, where she learned the basics of felt making. She has a BA degree in Social anthropology and a Masters in Environmental Management. She moved to South Africa in 2010, and partnered with Mark soon afterwards.

Heart Felt started on an Education based Permaculture farm in the Western Cape, producing woolly beanies and slippers for course participants who appreciated hand-crafted garments made from natural materials. We pursued our interest in fiber art and craft, teaching ourselves how to spin wool and felt more elaborate pieces, learning from books and the internet. Over time we have refined our methods and techniques, developing our small business. We are looking to branch into a bigger commercial venture, whilst maintaining the unique character of our products. Demand for Heart Felt products has grown and it is now time to begin training and upskilling some more people to join us in the studio!

 

History of Felt:

Felt is a non-woven textile that is produced by layering, matting, condensing and pressing fibers together. Felt can be made of natural fibres such as wool or fur, sometimes mixed with vegetable or synthetic fibers such as acrylic, polyesters or nylons. There are many different types of felts for industrial, technical, designer and craft applications.

Felt may be the oldest fabric known to man, and there are many references to felt in ancient writings. Since felt is not woven and does not require a loom for its production, ancient people produced many of their garments from felt. Some of the earliest felt remains were found in the frozen tombs of nomadic horsemen in the Siberian Tlai mountains and date to around 700 B.C. These tribes made clothing, saddles, and tents from felt because it was strong and resistant to wet and snowy weather. Legend has it that during the Middle Ages, St. Clement, who was to become the fourth bishop of Rome, was a wandering monk who happened upon the process of making felt by accident. It is said he stuffed his sandals with tow (short flax or linen fibers) in order to make them more comfortable. St. Clement discovered that the combination of moisture from perspiration and ground dampness coupled with pressure from his feet matted these tow fibers together and produced a cloth. After becoming bishop he set up groups of workers to develop felting operations. St. Clement became the patron saint for hat-makers, who extensively utilize felt to this day.

Iona Mark spinning

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Mark giving a spinning demonstration
at the market in Hogsback

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Iona wearing a viking hat
from jacobs and merino wool