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Fuzzy Felt is a simple fabric toy intended for very young children. It was created in 1950 by Lois Allan of the United Kingdom. The toys consist of a flocked backing board onto which a number of felt shapes are placed to create different pictures. Felt pieces can be simple silhouettes or more detailed printed shapes. For a farmyard scene, for example, auxiliary pieces would typically be cows, sheep, chickens, horses, cats, dogs, a farmer, and a tractor. Other scenes might include hospital, pets, vehicles. Fuzzy felt is for children over the age of three years, as the pieces may present a choking hazard.
Fuzzy-Felt was created by Lois Allan during the second world war. Allan, who contributed to the war effort by “manufacturing felt gaskets for sealing tank components”, was inspired to create the toy after observing how much enjoyment children had taking the discarded and misshaped pieces of felt and sticking them to the backs of table mats.
Since its creation in the 1950s, more than 25 million Fuzzy Felt sets have been sold internationally and although Fuzzy Felt reached its peak in popularity sometime in the mid-1970s, it remains an iconic child toy enjoyed still by the children who play with it and the parents who nostalgically purchase it.
Many reasons have been attributed to Fuzzy Felt’s popularity. Though seemingly simple, the various available themed sets allow for hours of creativity. Though the sets started out strictly as a collection of various coloured shapes, countless themes Fuzzy Felt sets became available through the years. “Ballet, Farmyard, Circus, Hospital, and much later on Thomas the Tank Engine, Noddy, and My Little Pony were released to inspire[ a child’s] picture-making” abilities.
Fuzzy Felt was also a favoured toy in Sunday schools because of its “Bible Stories set, complete with camels and three kings.”
The quiet toy was, and still is, fairly cheap, can be played almost anywhere leaving little mess, save a few stray pieces of shaped felt behind, making it a popular choice among parents.
In Popular Culture
In 2008, fashion designer Stella McCartney used a “ 7-meter high, 14-meter wide” Fuzzy Felt backdrop, created by artists Jake and Dinos Chapman, as a visual accent for the debut of her 2008 spring/summer collection in Paris. The backdrop was made up of “rainbow-coloured rabbits, giraffes and a particularly anxious ladybird”, all reminiscent of the 1970s child’s toy.
In Jeanette Winterson's novel Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, the protagonist Jeanette uses Fuzzy Felt to depict Bible scenes, one of which is a rewrite of Daniel in the lions' den. She depicts Daniel as getting eaten by the lions, and when confronted by the pastor tries to disguise this by saying that she 'wanted to do Jonah and the whale, but they don't do whales in Fuzzy Felt'. The pastor then tells Jeanette that they should do the Astonishment at Dawn scene, and Jeanette remarks to herself that this is 'hopeless... Susan Green was sick on the tableau of the three Wise Men at Christmas, and you only get three kings to box'.
Fuzzy-Felt Folk is a collection of “rare, delightful folk oddities for strange adults and maybe their children too…The front cover imagery of the album is from the original 1968 Fuzzy-Felt Fantasy set.”
Fuzzy Felt is currently sold by Toy Brokers Limited of Huntingdon. There is a UK registered Trade Mark (number 2461883) for "Fuzzy Felt", registered to a non-trading UK company (number 03227732) "Fuzzy-Felt Ltd".
- Flannelgraph - for use as a storytelling method