Feel the Felt: Values Through Learned Technique

Part of a piece made by Bat Mitzvah program participants at Netivot HaTorahWe are happy to have a guest post by artist Melanie Siegel. I met Melanie many years ago via The Pomegranate Guild of Judaic Textiles, Toronto.  This post is about her program, Feel the Felt as part of Mitzvot Unplugged.

Feel the Felt

Feel the Felt is a program designed to teach students new techniques and instill in them values of chesed and informal learning. The program was designed by award winning textile and mixed media artist, Melanie Siegel.

Learning Opportunities

students making felt beads with Melanie SiegelHand Felt-making is a process wherein raw fleece is layered, matted and condensed, to create fabric. The felted pieces can be used in many ways. The process is fairly forgiving so ideal for multiple ages and abilities. During Feel the Felt, students learn felting techniques as well as techniques such as embroidery and sewing. They learn about historic processes and then apply their learning in individual and collaborative pieces.

Through the creation of these works, the students learn many different values. The actual making of the pieces provides opportunities to learn how to collaborate with one another. However, the pieces that they create instills values such as  volunteerism, tzedakah/charity and giving to the community (chesed). Many of the Feel the Felt projects are for use in the community. A number of the projects are installed in school or other communities settings.

Detail Netivot HaTorah Shulchan/Synagogue Table coverFor instance, students in the Netivot Hatorah Bat Mitzvah program have created a number of projects over the years. A shulchan/table cover created by the Netivot students is installed in the Beth Abraham Jacob Synagogue at the Terrace of Baycrest’s assisted living residence. The shulchan cover is used for regular tefillot in the synagogue by residents. This additionally provides an inter-generational element to the textile project. Another inter-generational project created by students at Netivot and members of the art program at the terraces at Baycrest, is permanently installed at Baycrest. It lives in the elements in the garden.

100 Felted Bobbles Installation at Baycrest Garden:

Melanie Siegel piece with Netivot students and Baycrest residents 100 felt bobbles garden installationAnother Feel the Felt inter-generational project was created by students and seniors in Richmond Hill and funded by the Mayors endowment fund. It is a tapestry which hangs in the Richmond Green Library.

Richmond Green Library Installation, inter-generational project tapestry designed by Melanie SiegelThe tapestry, installed in the library and hanging above the artist.

Preparing for a Feel the Felt WorkshopCurrent offerings of Feel the Felt Include:

• Creating small or large scale liturgical works, such as a shulchan cover
• Quilted felt collages on topics that students are studying
• Medieval banners
• Assorted workshops on felting and embroidery
• Day workshops or semester courses

Siegel works with a school and teachers to create a program that meets the needs of the teachers as well as the students. The possibilities for tie ins and topics are endless.


Students have the opportunity to learn new skills, actively contribute to their communities and create works that they and their school can be proud of.

About Melanie Siegel

Melanie Siegel is a textile and mixed media artist whose works include two dimensional and mixed media sculpture and hangings as well as jewelry. Her educational background includes studies at York University in Fine Arts, the Ontario College of Art in Textile and Design, textile program at the Instituto Allende, San Allende and residency in the craft studios at the Harbourfront Centre. Siegel has received a variety of awards include the Sauza of Tequila Mexico Arts Award – Fibre, given to only five artists across Canada, the inaugural Toronto Jewish Arts Council Cultural Grant, BENE award/Best in Show- Ritual Objects in the Ministry and Liturgy Visual Arts award for her felted and embroidered Torah cover and breast plate and the Ontario Arts Council AIE artist teaching grant. You can learn more about her and her work on her website: Melanie Siegel

Joseph (Joseph's Coat) by Melanie Siegel Image Courtesy M. SiegelJoseph (Joseph’s Coat) by Melanie Siegel

Melanie Siegel Torah Mantle, metalic threads. Melanie Siegel Torah Mantle, metalic threads. Funded by the first UJA art grant. This won numerous prizes and has been published in numerous magazines.

Melanie Siegel Book Cover Exhibited in the Milwaukee Museum of ArtMelanie Siegel Book Cover Exhibited in the Milwaukee Museum of Art

We love sharing programs that make use of the arts to teach values. For other examples see Using Papercuts to Teach Values, Kol HaOt- Illuminating Jewish Life through Art, and the A View from the American Guild of Judaic Art’s Mentor Program.

Images Courtesy Melanie Siegel

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