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needle felting

Ewes and Coos Felted will be at the Winter Holiday Market.

This January, the Reboli Center for Art and History is showcasing the whimsical, captivating creations of Shamma Murphy, a needle felting expert from Stony Brook. The Center is displaying a variety of her work, focusing on fanciful sheep and cows – “ewes and coos” (Scottish Highland cows that have long fur that hangs over their face), as well as other adorable creatures.

Shamma Murphy’s needle felted animals and flowers.

An experienced civil engineer, Murphy now works at a local horse farm promoting organic farming and gardening. A native of Port Washington, the artisan has lived in Stony Brook for more than 10 years. It is where she is raising her two teenagers and loves the sense of community that Stony Brook offers.

Murphy has always enjoyed making things and cross stitching and crocheting were her favorite winter hobbies until she discovered needle felting. Her passion for this craft has developed over the past two years. Murphy is fascinated by the process of needle felting.

“Poke a barbed needle into unspun wool as this ‘knits’ the fibers together compressing the wool into whatever shape you choose to sculpt. It is a dry process much like crocheting and knitting, using coarse wool in most cases. Wet felting, on the other hand, is ‘knitting’ the fibers together by agitating the wool with soapy water, and usually using a finer fiber like merino wool,” she said.

The supplies for this craft are wool and felting needles, which Murphy orders from England. She does get raw wool from a farm in Huntington that she processes herself.

According to Murphy, “I use wool that has been processed into a prespun form, one would use this to spin into yarn. Most of the time I use coarse wool with a high micron (fiber diameter) count.  These types of wool needle felt quite nicely and you don’t see many needle marks at the end.  For the finer coat of an animal, I will use a very fine merino wool, it is quite delicate, and due to its low micron count, it is rather difficult to needle felt well. The wool locks (wool that is delicately washed without any agitation, this enables the wool to keep its form) are from two different farms, one in New Jersey and the other in upstate New York, all are hand dyed by the shepherdess. Goat mohair locks and a tiny bit of alpaca is also locally sourced.”

Murphy is honored to be selected as artisan of the month. She noted that she never thought of herself as an artisan, but just enjoys crafting and creating cute things.  She met Lois Reboli, founder and president of The Reboli Center, at the Center, and when Lois saw her beautiful and delightful pieces, she invited Murphy to be an artisan of the month.

The community will have a chance to meet Murphy at the Reboli Center’s Third Friday of the Month series on Jan. 20 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Murphy will be the featured guest speaker at this free event and will  discuss needle felting, sourcing sustainable materials, different types of fibers and provide a demonstration of her craft. A Q&A will follow. The Center will also sell kits for guests to purchase to make a felted heart – just in time for Valentine’s Day.  

The Reboli Center is located at 64 Main Street in Stony Brook, and is open Tuesdays to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, call 631-751-7707 or visit www.rebolicenter.org.