Recap: April 2023 Sunday Session – Cracked Mud & Geode Techniques with Hélène Dooley

Sunday Session

WHERE: CIE Hall/Inchicore Sports and Social Club

It was the turn of another talented Feltmakers Ireland member Hélène Dooley, to lead April’s hands-on Sunday session. Hélène is a member of the IFA’s (International Feltmaker’s Association) team of online tutors. You can find her online on Instagram as FeltZen.

Again, we were all looking forward to another practical hands-on session, FI having had the good luck to secure a venue with plenty of table space, access to hot water, etc., to accommodate our needs.

The theme of this month’s session was Surface Decoration or surface design, and the two techniques that Hélène chose to demonstrate to us were ones that she had learnt from two wonderful feltmakers, Lyda Rump of Holland and Marjolien Dalinga of Bloomfelt, who came to run a workshop on the invitation of FI some years ago.

Hélène had very kindly created packs for everyone and handed out at least 25 of them, so we had a full house of eager feltmakers, both beginners and some more seasoned makers. Hélène also made lots of lovely samples and finished projects of the techniques, which she shared with us.

We started off with a show and tell by Hélène, who explained what was in store for us.

An AMAZING owl created by Hélène.
The Cracked Mud Technique

The first technique was one called Cracked Mud.

The joy of creating in a group means there are many different suggestions from everyone on what materials to use: in this case, there were ideas on the narrow resists to place between the layers of wool.
Hélène provided a plastic bag for everyone to cut up, but other suggestions to use were low tack masking tape or narrow pieces of ribbon. The main principle is that the resists should be long enough to protrude beyond the main body of the piece so that you can pull them out easily afterwards.

Personally, I really enjoyed this Cracked Mud technique, having tried it before with disappointing results. The difference was that I had used homemade prefelts in my previous attempts, and the results were very furry and uneven when I cut around them. In contrast, Hélène had used commercial prefelts in her packs, and the result was a much more pleasing, graphic result with a clean look and strong shapes against a strongly contrasting background.

Cracked Mud Samples were created during the Sunday Session. Photos courtesy of Hélène.
The Geode Technique
Hélène showed us finished pieces using The Geode Technique

Technique no 2 is called The Geode Technique. I have also seen this referred to as The Felt Carving technique. This technique was taught to FI participants by Marjolien Dalinga of Bloomfelt. This method involves creating ridges (or pleats) in the thick felt surface (made of six layers or so of homemade prefelts) and stitching a line of tacking at the base of the ridge to help the layers to fuse together when felting. Then comes the ‘carving’; using sharp scissors, you make cuts into the top of the ridge, revealing the different coloured stripes to create the Geode effect.

The important thing is to use a strong thread at the base of the ridge (fold) so that it can easily be removed afterwards. Suggestions for the thread went from commercial spools of nylon thread to fish gut or dental floss.

The very enterprising Elizabeth, sitting next to me, gave me some plastic baling twine, which she had brought from her home on the farm in Westmeath, as that was what she had at hand. It’s also a very good alternative as it’s possible to unravel this twine and use a single strand of it for sewing…ingenious!!


It was great to take a walk around the room, looking at everyone’s work at the end and seeing all the different approaches. There is always so much to learn from looking at everyone’s individual creations.

Needless to say, we were kept constantly fed throughout with amazing homemade goodies and hot tea and coffee by membership secretary Fiona and her catering team.

Many thanks to Hélène for her wonderful organisation and facilitation of the session and to Fiona and the committee for the lovely warm hospitality that we all received.

For the Sunday Session attendees, Hélène had very kindly created a PDF of both techniques, with great photos to illustrate them.

By Clodagh Mac Donagh