Palm washboards are tools for people making felt using the wet felting technique. They are the original brainchild of Robbin and Harry Firth of Heartfelt Silks , Stillwater Minnesota.
The journey to creating the palm washboard began when Robbin learned to knit and then to spin. Everything she knitted she felted and then she came across nuno felting and was intrigued. With nuno felting there was a lot of rolling and as Robbin worked full time she asked Harry to make her a tool to speed up the process and so began two years of collaboration to perfect the tool which worked best. Fortunately for Robbin, Harry is a master wood artisan who has worked with wood craft for over 25 years. In addition to making furniture and other various wood objects (hat blocks, yarn bowls, shawl pins), he also does chainsaw milling and art. He has been lathe-turning for over 10 years. Each Palm Washboard felting tool is entirely handmade by Harry , in a sustainable way, using wood from native Minnesota fallen trees, including maple, black walnut, black cherry, red and white oak and the wood is milled at their own home.
The tools greatly simplify the wet felting and nuno felting processes. Ergonomically designed, they can eliminate the need for strenuous hand-rolling. Designed and handcrafted one-at-a-time, the patented Palm Washboard felting tools are used daily by many feltmaking professional artists and felting enthusiasts around the world. They’re so good in fact that people have tried to copy the designs.
Now I know I’m biased because we sell the tools but the quality is so high and we’ve had many a comment from non felt makers that they’d be happy just to display them! Of course I own one of each type (I’m not the only one!!) and can honestly say that I love them and use them each time I get out the fibres and soap. They are easy to hold and use and I love that they keep my hands out of the water that little bit more as I’ve sadly developed a sensitivity to soap. I’ve had mine for a few years now and the finish is showing signs of use but as they’re all made from native american hardwoods they’re unaffected by their regular dousings.
Aren’t these special edition palm washboards just gorgeous? They’re made from a combination of black cherry, black walnut and maple woods and we have two in stock now so don’t resist, we won’t have them for long. You’ve no idea how hard it’s been not to keep them for myself. If you’re in the US you can buy the tools direct. Here in the UK we’ve already done the hard work for you and dealt with customs and paid the import duties.
Robbin still enjoys working with raw fibers, carding and blending, spinning, and knitting, but wet felting and dyeing (including eco-dyeing) are her main passions. Her felt art is featured in the 2016 “Worldwide Colors of Felt” book, and her wearable and wall art was the subject of a solo exhibition at The Textile Center in Minnesota in 2016.The HeartFelt Silks retail and teaching studio is currently located at the Seasons on St. Croix Gallery in Hudson, WI. It carries a range of Robbin’s hand-dyed and hand-felted garments and accessories as well as wall and sculptural art, not to mention, some of Harry’s art works.
Daughter Kirsten Firth is often used by Robbin as her model. Moving on, Harry and Robbin look forward to many new creations helping to assist their felt making friends.