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Gabby Dexter – Needle felt artist and teacher

Ella Austin

Our 3D needle felting courses are so popular with customers! Places often sell out almost immediately with regulars returning to make more items, and new students keen to give the technique a try. Our teacher, Gabby Dexter has the perfect combination of skills to make these workshops such a delight! She is both incredibly knowledgeable in her subject, and is a warm, friendly person. This means workshop participants thoroughly enjoy both the process and the end results of their time, producing beautiful 3D artworks.

We’ve invited Gabby to tell us more about herself and what she does.

My name is Gabs, I am a needle felt artist and tutor, and the owner of Flippity Felts needle felting online store. As well as selling my own sculptures I also review different wools on my website to help people make the right decision when it comes to choosing their materials.

I started felting about 6 or 7 years ago - the time scale fluctuates depending on how strong my memory is! I’ve always been craft orientated, and was browsing a parenting forum when my son was a baby that had a section where people could share their crafts. Someone had posted asking if their first attempt at felting was any good and it was brilliant. I thought to myself - if they can do that on their first try, so can I!

I couldn’t.

My second attempt wasn’t much better either.

But I had already fallen in love with the craft, so I tried to figure out what to do using some YouTube videos and, crucially, went to a craft show where I met a lady who sold supplies and who pointed out I was using the wrong materials. It got a lot easier from there!

I love that with felting you can do anything you put your mind to. If you can dream it you can make it, and half of the fun is trying to figure out how. I love using soft textures, such as alpaca, and have a bit of a thing for pastel colours and cute, whimsical characters. 

There’s a lot to be said for the stress-relieving properties of stabbing something with a needle repeatedly. I have fibromyalgia and it generally doesn’t trouble me when felting, although I have to take regular breaks and use needle holding tools to reduce the strain on my hands. A top tip when felting is to rest your wrist against the edge of the mat and use your wrist - a lot of people tend to use their whole arm, which can put a lot of undue stress on the shoulder.

Unless I have a commission to fulfill I tend to make whatever inspires me at the time, which could be literally anything. Then I might sketch a rough idea (a very very rough idea) or, if based on a real animal, research the physical shape - muscle placement, proportions etc, and maybe (but not always) make a wire skeleton. I always start with the head, and make the shape of the body using core wool. A lot of time goes into making the core shape, before putting the top colours on to bring it to life.

Needle felting is without a doubt my true passion, but I definitely take full advantage of the fact that it has encouraged me to experiment with all sorts of other crafts to make props and costumes for my sculptures. I’ve taught myself to knit and sew because of this, but also crochet and sculpt with clay. The January and February post-Christmas lull is always a good opportunity to try out new things while my shop is a little quieter, so I’m working on making more realistic animals than I do usually. My aim is to get really good at making horses (if I could only master their hooves!)

I have taught monthly workshops at Wool on the Exe for about 3 1/2 years. I make all of my classes suitable for beginners, but I also try to include something a little advanced in each class as well, as I know from experience how difficult it is to learn such things from the internet alone.

I love Wool on the Exe! It’s such a wonderful community and I feel so at home when I’m there. We always have so much fun in our classes and I love my regulars, as well as seeing new people slowly gain confidence as the class progresses. When people say they want to carry on felting after completing a class I get so happy, and I’m genuinely proud of each and every one of my students!

Gabby’s workshops are currently booked up but we recommend following our facebook page and subscribing to our email newsletter if you would like be first to know when the next workshops will be!

We sell a selection of Gabby's felted art works in our shop

You can read more about Gabby and her art on her website.



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