Profile: Susan Hilton

Tutor Profile Susan Hilton

Q.Tell me about your background. How did you arrive at felting?

At the age of 6 my grandmother taught me to crochet and my mother to knit. My enjoyment of working with textiles expanded to dressmaking beginning with constructing garments for my dolls and culminating with making my own wedding dress.

During my teenage years I learnt to spin my own yarn from raw fleece. Experimenting with both natural and commercial dyes have given me a rich palette of colours to work with.

After acquiring sheep the number of fleeces began to grow in my stash. It was my mother in law who saw a program on Better Homes and Gardens that suggested I take up felting to use up my stockpile. After beginning to felt I was hooked.

Q. How would you describe your signature style to someone who has not seen your work? What are your favourite pieces?

Over the years I have been a bit of a butterfly, flitting here and there as I have experimented with many felting techniques learnt at workshops or featured in magazines or books.

At present I am focusing my work to incorporate the use of my home grown fleeces and other wild fibres such as alpaca, soy, hemp and silk.

I enjoy the tactile and grass roots aspects of using raw fibres as opposed to those which have been processed. The techniques learnt in Vilte’s workshop have allowed me to create light and drapeable pieces with sculptural accents.

Q. What does a typical day in your studio look like?

My day begins at the grass roots level by feeding out hay or escorting some of my older sheep (15years+) to the neighbour’s grassy paddocks.

Some days are spent washing, dyeing and carding fleeces.

I am fortunate to have “The Woolery” a building which after some reorganisation and fitting out with restored family furniture is totally dedicated for pursuing my crafts.

When starting a new project I surround myself with the fibre and fabrics looking at colours or textures which complement each other. My approach is experimental. Sometimes I feel I should be more methodical and plan on paper what I am about to create.

Q. Where do you go for your inspiration? List 3 or more books, websites, blogs that inspire you.

A lot of my inspiration is sourced when travelling. I am very comfortable working with black, grey and white as I spend a great deal of time trekking and skiing where the wind, sun, snow and mountain streams are constantly creating interesting formations in the landscape.

I seek out textile exhibitions, installations and whilst trekking often come across locals engaged in traditional crafts.

“ver Filz Und zuge Nacht” is an amazing German textile publication featuring interesting articles on feltmakers around the world and listing upcoming textile events.

I also subscribe to “Creative Fibre” a New Zealand magazine which spans a broader textile base.

“Colourworks” by Deb Metz is a great book for using colour.

“Filzen ist fur mich” by Ellen Baker which I now believe has been released in English is an inspirational collection of works by Dutch felt makers.

“500 Felt Objects” features works by felt makers the world over including our own Brigitte Haldeman.

“On gentle threads” by Judit Pocs is an entertaining and informative DVD which heightens the senses and stimulates exploration with colour.

Websites of fashion designers I find inspirational are Elie Saab and The Alexander McQueen label as the new season parades are full of pageantry displaying the most unique creations in lavish venues.

Q. Are there other felters or creative people that you admire?

It would be too longwinded to name all the amazing felt makers I have met at the VFI. We are very fortunate to be surrounded by so many talented people who are willing to share their knowledge and skills through workshops and demonstrations.

I had the privilege of visiting Sheila Smith at her home in Yorkshire a few years ago before the launch of her first book. The organisation of her felting samples illustrating the techniques she had mastered was very inspiring.

Two felt makers who create lovely fashion garments which I admire are Diana Nagona and Vilte Kazlauskaite.

Q. Do you have any other creative interests?

Other textile pursuits include sewing, spinning and knitting my own yarns.

Many hours of my day are spent in my garden which consists of plants struck from family and friends gardens. I enjoy propagating from cuttings and seed. My garden is also a source of material for natural dyeing projects.

Q. Have you had a mentor?

Win Carter was my mentor, a long time member of the VFI who shared her ideas, inspirations and techniques with all who asked.

I still strive to layout fine, even layers remembering Win’s advice.

Q. Where do you buy your supplies?

I source my raw fibre from the sheep’s back so to speak. My flock is made up of sheep breeds which have different qualities in their fleeces.

The English Leicesters (Lewis and Leicester) have curly locks with lustre.

Max the merino has a very fine fleece which can be used in less textured works or as the “glue” to adhere coarser fibre.

Belle and Beauty my Border Leicesters are more suitable for spinning yarn or using in hats or vessels due to their stronger fibre type.

The Finns, Frederick, Fresia and Fergus have long, fine, crimped fleeces which can be incorporated into lightweight textured projects or used in long tail spinning.

The Handweavers and Spinners Guild is a good source of unusual fibres such as soy, silk, hemp, alpaca and hand spun yarns.

Q. What business skills have you acquired to run your business? What would you still like to learn?

Felting is one of my passions not a business for me. However it is a great feeling when pieces I have produced are sold at a gallery where I exhibit.

I would love to organise the marketing of my fleeces as I am very proud of the product produced at “Fresia’s Farm”.

I would also like to learn more about design and planning my work.

Q. Any advice or words of encouragement for VFI members who do it as a hobby or a business?


The highlight of my felting years was watching an outfit I created being paraded on the catwalk of the 2012 Australian Sheep and Wool Show.

Search through your stash regularly to use fibres in their optimum condition.


The Victorian Feltmakers Inc

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