ArtFelts History
snow jacket

Eleanor Stanwood has felt making in her blood.    It is likely that her ancient ancestors made felt in Mongolia and over hundreds of years their nomadic tribe migrated Westward eventually settling in Wobova Poland.    Her grandfather emigrated from Poland to the US.      Fast forward to the 1970's...     Eleanor found her ancient calling while living in Vermont.  She learned how to shear sheep from a wonderful old Vermonter named Bob Burroughs from Wells River.     She raised her first flock of sheep in Waterbury Center, Vermont.    In 1978 she moved to Sonoma County California where she became director of livestock at the Farallones Institute in the town of Occidental. 



While sheering sheep on small farms around the north coast of California Eleanor noticed a lot farmers didn't know what to do with their wool.   She considered this to be a waste of a valuable renewable resource and started to do something about it.   Working with the USDA Wool Research Laboratory in Berkeley California, she started processing wool from small farms.    The  raw wool was transformed into beautiful batting that she used for wool comforters.

In 1981 Eleanor settled back east on the Island of Martha's Vineyard off the coast of Massachusetts.  Eleanor and her husband David worked with felt makers from Belgium who owned some of the few textile mills in New England who still processed wool in their carding machines.  Together they came up with a formula for making just the kind of lightly felted 100% wool batting that Eleanor had envisioned.  This thin durable and springy batting was marketed under the Company name of "Heartfelt" and quickly became renowned as one of the finest fillers for high quality hand made quilts.   With this new product Eleanor also realized her dream of making the world a better place by supporting sheep, open land, and the use of wool in comforters. 


Her comforters were made with beautifully hand stenciled duvet covers and a wool batting inserts.  The stencil design depicting a wandering grapevine was created by her sister Jeanne.  One of these "Vineyard Comforts" ended up in the Clinton White House with a personal and heartfelt thank you from Hilary Clinton who encouraged Eleanor to pursue her dream of keeping land open with sheep and promoting the use of a truly sustainable alternative to oil based textiles for the production of products that are valuable to our human culture.  The biggest problem she ran into with wool comforters is that people who sleep under them don't want to get out of bed in the morning!

Eleanor's true passion shifted from comforters to the production of felted pieces.  The 100% pure wool batting she made for quilt makers could be wet felted to make a light, strong, and drapable felt fabric.   She also developed a technique where colored wool overlays are "punched" into colored batting with a "sample" needle punching machine.  This is a miniature version of the production machines that produce her 90" batting.   These strips of wool were then wet felted to produce striking embossed effects.


An interesting and world changing side note stems from Felt making parties at the Stanwoods with friends and visitors during the quiet and mild Vineyard winters of the 80's.  Her husband David was noted for his multicolored felt balls which he often split like geodes and worked into matching light weight earring discs or ornaments.   His technique was to use a barbed felting needle in one hand while working various colored wools into desired shapes with the other hand, then wet felting with heat and pressure to lock and harden the felt shapes.  During one of these visits he introduced the technique to a friend from Northern California named Ayala Talpai.   Ayala was sparked by the creative potential of hand needle felting and went on to publish her book called "The Felting Needle - from Factory to Fantasy"  that spawned a whole new multi-million dollar craft industry based on Needle Felting methods.  Eleanor and David's pivotal contribution to the industry is described in the 2019 NY Times T-Magazine article about needle felting "Realism"  CLICK HERE

Eleanor became an expert dyer and developed her own technique for variegated coloring of her light and drapable felt fabric.   She continues to make her own wraps, shawls, hats, scarves and just about anything the imagination can conjure up.  That is the magic of wool felt.


Eleanor's most recent collaboration with a German Woolen mill has yielded an innovative new product line of bracelets and earrings.   These beautiful, sturdy, and light weight accessories are  unique in the world of fashion.


Read the feature article in Martha's Vineyard Arts and Ideas Magazine
June 2014.    Just click on the image below.

Arts and Ideas Magazine

Eleanor Stanwood


50 Lamberts Cove Rd
Vineyard Haven, MA  02568
  PHONE 508 693 5433