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Local Inventors Do 'Build a Better Mousetrap!'

Find out about a revolutionary invention from a local small business.

Revolutionary. How often is that term used on a day to day basis? We could say it about many things we have come to take for granted in our daily lives that came from our home state. The Bundt pan is an invention that hails from Minnesota, so do Post-It notes, Rollerblades and Nerf balls. Toastmaster, the pop-up toaster was invented locally by Stillwater mechanic Charles Strite in 1919!

Well step aside Mr. Strite and meet Robbin and Harry Firth. The Firths may just take their place beside other noteworthy Minnesota inventions with a tool which could revolutionize the workflow of an international community of textile artists.  The craft undergoing this modern day evolution is wet felting.

What is wet felting? Well first, felt is a non-woven cloth that is produced by matting, condensing and pressing woollen fibres. Felt is made by a process called wet felting where the natural wool fibres, stimulated by friction and lubricated by moisture (usually soapy water), move at a 90 degree angle towards the friction source and then away again, in effect making little "tacking" stitches. Though the process of felting is done all over the globe, in the Western world, felt is widely used as a medium for expression in textile art as well as design, where it has significance as an ecological textile. Though it’s exact origins are unclear, the craft has likely been around for thousands of years.

What you may not know is the process is very tedious and labor intensive, not to mention hard on the body. A quick look at YouTube for tutorials on how it’s traditionally done will testify to that. That’s where the Firth’s come in! Robbin is passionate about fiber art and has taught classes in many locations including Darn Knit Anyway. Her HeartFelt Silks business has been open 4 years and serves customers locally and internationally. Robbin’s husband Harry has had a lifelong interest in woodworking and when the two of them put their heads together, they came up with a product they could sell online to textile enthusiasts across the globe. Their trademarked Palm Washboard is an incredible tool which has been earning rave reviews internationally and in professional magazines.  Her clients have commented on how easy it is to use, and how much time and physical labor it saves them!

Their video is the fastest rising (viewership) Tour Main Street project we've had.  In the first few days their video was live on YouTube, they’d had viewers from Australia, Iceland, Chile, Estonia and Italy to name just a few. Felting truly is a worldwide industry! We are proud of our local businesses for so many reasons, including the awesome creative energy they bring to our community. Find out more about Robbin and Harry Firth at heartfeltsilks.com and like them on Facebook to see how big this really gets!

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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