Needle felting. I’d never heard of it. I’d got along some five-plus decades without knowing a thing about it. My daughter received a needle felting kit as a Christmas gift and, being the kind of person I am, I had to research the history of felt. I always knew felt was different from other fabrics, but I couldn’t say precisely how. I came to learn it is perhaps the oldest textile in the world, known by the Sumerians. Felting is a process for making non-woven cloth. The natural fibers of some wools are scaled, like human hair is, and when compressed and worked with moisture (wet felting), becomes cloth. Finding out how things work is one of the great joys of life. It also made me think again of how anyone could possibly be arrogant.
The longer I’m alive the more I’m learning what I don’t know. Granted, felt has appeared in my life at numerous junctures—how many crafts do kids make of felt? And I have a felt hat—but I had never thought much about it. My wife likes to read about pioneer women who had to make pretty much everything by hand. We call such people “rusticated” these days, but they know far more than most urbanites, simply by dint of having to do things for themselves. Modern conveniences are great, but I often wonder how many of us might survive if we had to make it on our own. Just the last couple of weeks we worried about losing power with the storms that blew through. What do you do when the thermostat no longer works in winter? Something as simple as that vexed me for days (I had to work rather than worry, so it couldn’t properly use my brain power).
I’ve known many people impressed with their own knowledge. I can’t imagine how actually learning new things doesn’t make someone humble. The universe is a vast and mostly uncharted space. Down here on our somewhat small planet we have so much yet to learn. I’ve studied the beginnings of agriculture, metallurgy, writing, and religion. There’s still so much I don’t know. I wouldn’t do well on Jeopardy—I second-guess myself too much. Staying curious about the world is a good way, it seems, to keep humble. I entered into this holiday season thinking I knew a fair bit about various crafting options. As a family we cover the creative spectrum fairly well. Then a small, soft thing such as felt made me realize just how little I really understand. Any invitation to learn is one that should be accepted.