Gettin' Made: On the Fly

Did you know Etsy's not just for shoppers looking for finished handmade items? It's also a mecca of supplies--beads, notions, fabrics... you name it, there's sure to be an Etsy seller that's got it!

This "Sushi" color assortment from Janet Wieczorek of Felt on the Fly also reminds me of the impending Halloween holiday!
This "Sushi" color assortment from Janet Wieczorek of Felt on the Fly also reminds me of the impending Halloween holiday!

Today we'll meet Janet Wieczorek of Etsy shop Felt on the Fly and learn about her extensive selection of wool felt, as well as the projects she makes with it.

OC Weekly: So tell us about yourself!

Janet Wieczorek: I was born in Michigan and have lived here all of my life.  I love the lakes and woods and dirt roads and the change of seasons. I especially love a crispy Michigan fall. I'm glad I live in a state with an abundance of sports and classic cars.

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My life outside of crafting changes seasonally, as one might expect. Basically, I have a job that requires my attention 24/7. I am always on call, and I kind of like it that way. I am a communications analyst, intelligence advisor, chaos coordinator, event planner, animal trainer, race car driver, humorist, money manager, volunteer, imagination advocate, laundry wrangler, finder of lost things, fairy enabler, spinner of tales,  keeper of secrets, inventor, stitcher and dreamer. About many things, I know just enough to be dangerous. I'm easily amused by lots of things.

OCW: Why felt? Tell us what it is about this material that is so appealing to work with.

JW:  Years ago, I met some women from Europe and became curious about the handwork they were doing with wool felt. I'd seen acrylic craft felt of course, but it never appealed to me. I loved the texture of the wool felt and the way it held stitches. I began to research the fiber and learned about its history. Wool fiber is extremely versatile in addition to being completely natural, renewable, waterproof, flame resistant and insulating from heat, cold and wind. The fiber is fabulous for artists since it can be manipulated in so many ways. 

I've been exploring wool fiber for about ten years now. I've played with wet felting, needle felting, weaving, knitting and recycling/upcycling  wool fabric. Wool felt appeals to me over every other form of wool fiber because I also like to design patterns for portable projects and I like to encourage the art of handwork.

"The Blues" 5 piece felt selection from Janet Wieczorek of Felt on the Fly
"The Blues" 5 piece felt selection from Janet Wieczorek of Felt on the Fly

OCW: Tell us a little about the solid colored felts available in your Etsy shop.

JW: In addition to finished hand-stitched items in my Etsy shop, I started selling pieces of 100% wool felt because after searching the USA exhaustively, I was hard-pressed to find an abundance of what I consider high quality felt fabric. It was important to me to consider the method used in processing the fiber into fabric.  I buy wool felt from all over the world, and there are many different varieties. I am a self-proclaimed "wool snob" and I wanted to bring the best of what I found, and what I use myself, to my Etsy shop so that others who appreciate quality materials can have an easily-accessible source. It was never my intention to turn my home into a felt warehouse, so I'm just offering limited quantities right now. Sometimes I dream about how cool it would be to have a real live brick and mortar shop selling nothing but all the different types of felt I've found from places far and wide. I can picture it now, the colors, textures...what a great geography and history lesson it could be...

OCW: How do you decide what colors to carry in your shop?

JW:  I love color. I think there are only two colors in the entire world that I dislike. I actually FEEL color.  It can excite me, bore me, make my heart pound or my mouth water.  I chose to offer my wool felt in color combinations in my shop because I thought it would be more fun that way. The combinations evoke a feeling, or a mood...they tell a story or represent a season, a place or an occasion.  I'm influenced by what I see in nature, by the past, by totally random things and by my own prerogative.

OCW: What are some of your favorite things to make with felt?

JW: One day I found a proverb in a fortune cookie that said "wherever you go, whenever you can, leave a gift". That little sentiment, combined with my love of handwork, was the inspiration for a series of patterns that I created to make small, gift-able items. I want to encourage the art of stitching by hand and appeal to those who might otherwise be intimidated by a large project, so my patterns are created with the thought in mind that the project should be portable, easy to stitch, yet open to a person's creative instincts and easily personalized.

I love to stitch small pouches, envelopes, cute little toys and whimsical things that just pop into my head . In fact, that's where the name "Felt On The Fly" comes from. "On the fly" means something that is created when needed; something that wasn't planned out ahead of time, or something that starts out one way, but changes direction in the process. That's how I design!

"Ghoul Friends" Dottie Bag by Janet Wieczorek of Felt on the Fly
"Ghoul Friends" Dottie Bag by Janet Wieczorek of Felt on the Fly

OCW: Your dottie bags are awesome, will you teach me how to make one?

JW: Thanks! I love the Dottie Bags. They are basically quite simple, and the real beauty of a Dottie Bag is that they can be used for so many things. They make the most adorable little "thinking of you" gift, without a lot of expense or time invested. A Dottie Bag can be stitched up in about an hour and is suitable for a beginner, yet satisfying enough for an experienced stitcher. However a person likes to embellish--beads, buttons, embroidery, store-bought doo-dads--they can make each Dottie Bag their own and each one is unique. The Dottie Bag kits offered in my Etsy shop include a pre-cut hand-dyed wool-blend piece of felt, embroidery floss, ribbon, a needle and directions, all packaged up in a cute little pillow-type box tied with a ribbon. In fact, the kits make perfect gifts just the way they are, even if you choose not to stitch one up yourself!

This great Christmas pincushion by Janet Wieczorek of Felt on the Fly was made using a vintage ceramic piece and has a great nostalgic feel to it!
This great Christmas pincushion by Janet Wieczorek of Felt on the Fly was made using a vintage ceramic piece and has a great nostalgic feel to it!

OCW: What kinds of other non-felt crafts do you do?

JW: I've done so many crafts over the years, it's hard to remember them all! I think I've learned so much from each individual craft I attempted, and it's interesting to realize how many techniques from each craft cross over into the next.  I did a lot of scrapbooking for several years and the skills learned there have really helped a lot in designing patterns and embellishing my felt projects. 

Most recently I've been exploring photography and I've found that I am passionate about the details of whatever I'm photographing, as opposed to always taking a shot of the big subject. I was seriously addicted this past summer to photographing the interesting parts of classic cars... you know, the stylized details that we don't see on new cars anymore.  And I was really excited when I was contacted recently by a tour guide company who told me that one of my recent vacation pictures was on their short list to be included in their next tour guide edition.


Thanks so much for sharing your felty wares, Janet!

You can learn more about Felt on the Fly by visiting Janet's website, Etsy shop and blog. You can also pay her a visit on Flickr and 1000Markets.

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