SALT LAKE CITY — The way Taylor Nielsen sees it, home is where you park it.
Nielsen always liked the idea of living remotely. The far-fetched dream became reality this summer when her husband, Dave Nielsen, changed jobs, relocating the couple and their 2-year-old daughter from Salt Lake City to Cedar City.
Rather than buying a home or renting an apartment, the Nielsens invested in an RV — a 1978 Dodge Chinook, to be exact — where they would live for part of their summer in Dixie National Forest.
“I had my friend come out and take nice photos of us in the RV because I want to remember this,” Nielsen said. “We love it so much. Waking up in the morning and opening the door to the mountains was amazing.”
This summer, the RV doubled as an art studio for Nielsen, a lifelong crafter who recently teamed up with her mother, Tara Haacke, to start Felt n’ Folk, an online shop for unique, folk-themed arts and crafts. This weekend, the mother-daughter duo will showcase their creations at the 10th annual Craft Lake City DIY Festival.
“I went to Craft Lake City last summer, and I thought, ‘This is so much fun and so up my alley,’” Nielsen said. “I was like, ‘I’m gonna challenge myself. I’m gonna do the fair. I really want to do that,’ and my mom said, ‘I’m gonna help you.’”
Felt n’ Folk brings out the best creative skills in both mom and daughter. Haacke is an experienced seamstress — she started sewing items for state and county fairs when she was 8 years old — and sews dolls, skirts and clothing for the online store. Nielsen contributes with needle felting, a hobby she recently started and quickly has become “obsessed” with.
At Craft Lake City, Nielsen and Haacke will display and sell wall hangings, dolls, bags, dresses, skirts, pillows, journals and needle-felting kits to help visitors get started with their own unique creations.
Although Nielsen has made gifts and projects with craft felt for a while, she started needle felting in January — a process that uses needles to condense wool fibers and could be described as painting with wool. While the hobby is gaining popularity, Nielsen’s creations have a unique flair.
“A lot of people do 3D felting, or they make it really realistic,” Nielsen said. “The way I’m doing it is more folk looking and it’s a little bit more playful, which is more my style.”
Apart from her folk, cartoon-like designs, Nielsen recently added a new level of innovation to her pieces: She colors her wool with natural dyes made from plants she finds near her family’s RV camp.
The time-intensive process includes preparing the wool, boiling natural materials like beets or onion skins, and letting the wool soak in the dye for several hours — or even days.
“I feel like it takes all my favorite things,” said Nielsen, who’s always loved the outdoors. “I hike around and learn about flowers, then I come home and I get to make things. I just love it. Living outside, I really get to do that a lot, every day.”
Living in the woods has been great for finding materials for natural dyes, but living in a relatively small RV with her 2-year-old, Tara, has made it difficult to find time to craft. Nielsen used to rely on Tara’s naptime to work on her projects, but in such a small home, needle felting would be too loud.
Nielsen’s solution? Craft with Tara. She’s found ways to incorporate her daughter into her projects or to help her daughter create her own art.
“Every time I sit down to felt, she’s either drawing or she says, ‘I help you, Mommy,’” Nielsen said. “She takes the wool out, she tears it up and she puts it on. I give her broken needles so they’re not sharp. She’ll poke it like she’s felting. It’s the cutest, sweetest thing in the whole wide world.”
‘It’s just in our family’
Living in the woods is coming to an end, as the Nielsen family is in the process of moving into a Cedar City townhome. But Nielsen still plans to involve Tara with her projects because that's just the family way. She learned to craft from her mother, who learned to craft from her mother and grandmothers.
Haacke remembers when her three kids were young and they crafted with her sewing scraps. It’s a mirror image of Nielsen’s daughter, who creates using her mother’s old needles and wool scraps.
“It was just something that would bring us together, that we could spend time doing,” Haacke said about crafting. “It would just bring us together and kind of unite us to have fun and be silly. It wasn’t a priority like it needed to be done. It was just something to enrich our lives.”
To this day, art unifies the family. Nielsen has talked to her mom every day since they launched Felt n’ Folk. And while it would be nice to break even at the festival, Nielsen said she’s most excited to spend the day with her mom, who lives in Washington.
“We’re a good team,” she said. “It’s been really fun, and I hope to do more craft fairs with her. I think we will, actually.”3 comments on this story
A few days after Craft Lake City, Nielsen will head to a family reunion, where she'll teach her family the art of needle felting. Every time the family gets together, it’s not a question: There’s going to be a craft.
“Everyone is so excited. My great-grandma emailed me, ‘What should I bring? Do you need me to give you money for some wool?’ She’s so excited and so sweet,” Nielsen said. “We like making things. It’s just in our family.”
If you go …
What: Craft Lake City DIY Festival
When: Friday, Aug. 10, 5-10 p.m.; Saturday, Aug. 11, noon-10 p.m.; Sunday, Aug. 12, noon-7 p.m.
Where: Gallivan Center, 239 S. Main, Salt Lake City
How much: $5-$25