Made in Vermont: The Felted Gnome Knows

Published: Jul. 31, 2023 at 6:19 PM EDT
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ESSEX JUNCTION, Vt. (WCAX) - Susi Ryan has a lot of fun with felt.

“I make magical creatures and fantastic hats, wall-hangings and such from soup to nuts,” she explained.

The Essex Junction fiber artist owns “The Felted Gnome Knows.” While her creations reach far beyond little felt gnomes, that is how she got her start. In fact, it was a DIY Christmas gift for family members that unraveled a whole new passion.

“So we made these round little gnomes and I was like, ‘Wow, I could probably do this,’” she said.

She started with a simple kit from a yarn store, but now it’s much more customized. Using local wool sourced from farmers in the area, Ryan now skirts, washes, dyes and cards her felt to make it exactly what she wants it to be.

“It’s like a snowball, you first get really interested in other people’s wool that are local, and you purchase that. And the next thing you know, you start meeting farmers and shepherds and shepherdesses,” Ryan explained.

Her first creations were little whimsical figurines, all made by hand with a technique called needle felting.

“And so you first start with a skeleton and then you build upon that and with needle felting, it’s poking with a special type of needle. So it’s actually a really long process, I mean, it can take several weeks for me to make a little person who is this detailed,” she said.

Citing labor intensity, Ryan has moved into making things that take less time and that she enjoys more. Those things include scarves, wall-hangings and mystical hats-- all of which are made through a different technique, called wet felting.

Hats are her biggest sellers and are a fan favorite among the community that prefers a little magic in their everyday lives.

“There are groups of witches and wizards out there who are looking for authentic hats,” Ryan explained.

Her Instagram page is chock-full of headwear she’s made by hand. Some are custom orders, some are just whatever Ryan felt like making. But, all of them are extraordinary.

“I really think that people need a little magic in their lives, you know? I mean it’s not a really kind world at this point and I think we need some fairytales and I think we need some fun,” Ryan said.

And this fun is Made in Vermont.