Kathleen tells me for what could well be the 100th time that she used to like colouring-in books. Next, she points to a colourful piece of handmade felt with her name on. “Well I don’t know who made that” she tells me. “Somebody must have made that and put my name on it,” she laughs. In fact Kathleen has just spent about 45 minutes carefully making this artwork with me. Jennifer is also nonplussed. She doesn’t remember making the felt either, but decides to keep the one with her name on as a souvenir. This has proven to be just one of the many challenges I’ve met on this 6-week project working with residents of an Islington care home, many of whom have severe dementia or have suffered strokes.
It’s not the first time I’ve run feltmaking sessions with the elderly, but this time the levels of need are very high. As well as memory loss, many of the residents have limited dexterity and the support staff I was promised must be on their tea break. Luckily, I’ve taken some advice from fellow felters and decide to try felting the wool in a ziplock bag. It must be a very strange experience for my elderly friends, place the wool into a bag and, once I’ve poured in some warm soapy water, for them to rub it till it felts together. A very strange experience indeed, but for some, hopefully, a pleasant one at least for a fleeting moment.