Ozarks Life: Elizabeth Exley expresses herself with needle felting

Exley is a Best of Missouri Hands recipient by the Missouri Artisan’s Association.
Published: Aug. 13, 2021 at 8:19 AM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - There’s a crafter in Crane whose house is full of creations of wool.

“I love it all, I just love it,” Elizabeth Exley said, “I love every bit of it.”

For the past decade, Elizabeth has been needle felting. Pushing and pulling a barbed needle into wool to create art. With origins dating back to 6200 BC it’s one of the oldest textile arts and one of the most uncommon today.

“The fibers of wool kind of pulled together like Velcro,” Exley said. “And so if you agitate them or heat them, or even soap and water can do it, they pull together tighter and tighter and tighter.”

The manipulation helps bond and mold 2D or 3D art. Elizabeth started needle felting after seeing a set a wool dolls and wanting to do something creative with her young daughter.

“I bought some of the supplies,” Exley said, “and I thought, ‘I think I can do that.’ And I’d always been sort of crafty. And so I started on it and I just loved it.”

And others love her work as well. About a year ago, Elizabeth had so many creations she wanted to open a small business to sell her work. To give her some credibility she applied for, and was accepted as, a Best of Missouri Hands recipient by the Missouri Artisan’s Association. It’s a highly sought after title with just over 400 members.

“I think drawing has its challenges to make something look really good at first,” Exley said. “And I think that that’s one of the benefits of this is that if you don’t feel like you’re creative, you can take it and you can end up with a 3D thing that looks sort of like it and people really enjoy that.”

And that’s what Elizabeth tells her sheepish students in her wool, needle felting online course.

“And so like these ladies in my class,” Exley said, “who felt like they weren’t creative, it’s really nice to say. ‘no, you know, you have this ability to there’s something you didn’t even know you had.”

For Elizabeth, she uses her gift to spread her love for religion with creations related to the Psalms. She also has a Mended Hearts line of dolls to help families honor or remember loved ones.

“For me, it’s very relaxing,” Exley said. “I’m sure that for some people, it wouldn’t be but for me, it’s incredibly relaxing. And I think that it’s a good way.”

Elizabeth has her Gingham Trundle store on Etsy, Instagram, and Facebook. Just click on which store you want to visit in the previous sentence and we’ll take you there.

For questions about her online class, you can email Elizabeth at elizabethexley@gmail.com

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