Needle felting: by hand and by machine

I’m back to my regularly scheduled programming this week, returning to my day job, or what I like to refer to as “my new daily grind” (it’s definitely caffeinated). The night time blend still involves art du jour as possible, and tonight I have more stuff to share from my Art and Soul Retreat.

Turns out there are soooo many ways to felt beautiful things!! I talked earlier about my first wet-felted scarf and needle-felted penguin (see: felting).  I decided to felt some more penguins and I took a few pictures along the way.

Hand Needle Felting

Penguin #2 started like this...just a black roll of roving.
Penguin #2 started like this…just a black coil of wool roving and that little purple-handled needle (of doom, if you’re not paying attention).

 

Magically (after much hand-punching) that black roll of roving turns into penguin base - ready for his mask and tummy cover.
Magically (after so very much hand-punching) that black coil of wool roving turns into a penguin base – ready for his mask and tummy cover (you can see First Penguin modeling spookily in the distance – he doesn’t move around much – good model).

 

TA-DA!  "Felted Penguins in Ice Plant"
TA-DA!
“Felted Penguins in Ice Plant”

They’re cute little buggers and I want to make more!

Machine Needle Felting

So this is where the learning got real. We used Bernina machines with felting foot attachments, and the activity looked something like this.

Now. The person in that video is a ninja expert and is sewing at the speed of light…in circles. These happen to be the two behaviors that lead me to break approximately five needles (I lost count, and there was a hand-held felting punch in the mix as well. Oh so much learning. I was warned…) So that video isn’t so much “me doing machine needle felting” as “don’t try this at home.”

But I tried it at the retreat, because the teachers encouraged it, and they were the pictures of patience as they changed my needles (and removed the needle pieces from my work…with pliers…they didn’t even snicker!). Here’s the lessons I learned about machine needle felting:

  • Start out with some big pieces on your base felt, to get the feel of the felting needles (small pieces can be hard to felt into your design at first – edges are hard to deal with)
  • Start out at a very slow speed
  • Don’t use materials that are too thick (needles break – start thin)
  • Edges are tricky – don’t let the felting needles push the material down into the stitching hole (I finally figured out a few ways to deal with this; trial and error can be “fun!”)

My First Experimental Pieces

One of the great things about this Art and Soul Retreat was the ability to experiment with lots of different media. In this machine needle felting class they had all these sewing machines set up with the needle felting attachments, and once the teacher shared the basic technique we were free to use the machines and her stash (as well as some sharing students’ stashes!) to experiment.

Many of the teacher’s designs involved covering the top of the base design completely with a white silk scarf and needle-felting it so that you could barely see the base material underneath. But I preferred to try that on only part of my design (I’m still working on the concept of “collage” and possibly covering up an original layer :). You’ll see the white silk scarf running vertically in the top right corner of the design – pulled apart with my fingers as I felted so that more of the fabrics behind could show through.

There’s some orange-dyed cheesecloth in here as well – that’s really fun to felt with! And more silk pieces running horizontally as I tried tacking other pieces in (the pink across the top is one of my favorites).

I'm working on layers here. The base felt was white, covered by pieces of cotton and velvet, then felted with strips of silk, then embellished with beads.
I’m working on layers here. The base felt was white, covered by pieces of cotton and velvet (bottom left corner in purple – my fave piece! I love how dimpled the velvet got with the felting), then felted on top with strips of silk, then embellished with beads.

After Lunch…

I tried something completely different.

I started out with a blue piece of felt. (This is the end result turned upside down – you’ll see why in a second. Just remember…blue piece of felt…)

This is after felting - you can see where the yellow and white fabrics began to fuse with the felt and come through to the other side.
This is after felting – you can see where the yellow and white fabrics began to fuse with the felt and come through to the other side. This was actually a pleasant surprise I discovered after working for about 3 hours on the other side…

 

So many layers...base cotton material, strips of yellow and white (silk and cotton), layer of chiffon scarf over the whole thing, then ribbons of white silk felted on top
So many layers…base cotton material, strips of yellow and white (silk and cotton), layer of chiffon scarf over the whole thing, then ribbons of white silk felted on top. I spent extra felting time on the yellow strips and maroon circles, to bring them to the front.

I really was just messing around with the felting machine at this point – trying to attach different layers while maintaining a “sun-ray” design in the felting. I only felt-stitched along the sun ray lines (instead of up and down, side to side or the dreaded round-and-round) – which created that really fun back view in the end.

I like the frothy edges of these pieces, though I could just as easily cut these pieces up, zigzag stitch the edges and use them for smaller pieces.

After doing needle-felting by hand, I can definitely say that a sewing machine attachment is interesting to me. I can’t really create 3-dimensional shapes so easily with the machine (e.g. cute penguins), but I can create some very interesting background material in short order using scraps and hand-dyed fabrics.

I am considering that sewing machine attachment…

Have y’all done any felting you’d like to share? I’m new to this and very interested in what others are doing in this space.

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Wet (Nuno) Felting

Today I spent too much time (and money) at my local fabric store buying supplies to make more tote bags (to make sure I know how to make them on my own – I like to repeat newly learned skills early on in hopes of keeping them long-term).

Sidenote: I think these tote bags might make good fund-raising items for a craft fair I participate in, so I also spent some time this evening sourcing cheaper supplies in bulk (I got the price of supplies down from $24/bag to $12/bag!). I thought it was surprising that the webbing (straps) and fusible lining (doesn’t show, but adds stability) were the most expensive at my local store. Much cheaper to buy online and in bulk, then I’ll probably choose my material and thread based on the webbing colors I can purchase online.

ANYWAYS…lighting didn’t work out for pics of those works in progress…so I’m going to show you my Nuno felted scarf from my recent art retreat.

From the web:
Nuno felting is a fabric felting technique developed by Polly Stirling, a fiber artist from New South Wales, Australia, around 1992. The name is derived from the Japanese word “nuno” meaning cloth. The technique bonds loose fibre, usually wool, into a sheer fabric such as silk gauze, creating a lightweight felt.

The beginning: 1st layer wool roving, then thin material, more wool roving. Bubble wrap and warm soapy water...and lots of agitation...
The beginning: 1st layer wool roving, then thin cotton material, then more wool roving. Bubble wrap and warm soapy water…and lots of agitation…

 

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time to work in the felt on the other end

 

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the material and wool before they got “felted into one”

 

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Happy artist wearing her wares!

 

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Another angle

 

In the Light at Home

It’s a frothy thing…

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I took a “stab” at needle felting!

It’s a goofy title, but very apropos if you’ve done any needle felting. I went to a meet-up and used a felting kit to create this little bit of cuteness:

Phillip the Felted Phenguin (BA, Alliteration; MSA, Onomatopoeia)
Phillip the Felted Phenguin (BA, Alliteration; MFA, Onomatopoeia; yearbook quote: “I’m a conflicted soul.”)

So this took about 2.5 hours, and he’s more “woolly-looking” and less “puffy-looking” than I might have liked for a finished felted product. But that takes a lot o’ stabbing y’all. I only poked my finger (about) 5 times in the making of this bit of cuteness. And I’m not sure his feet are attached well enough to stand much articulation. But that’s not what felted creatures are for, is it (what are they for again…? Oh cuteness, right!) So he needs a scarf that I’ll be crocheting for him at another time between projects. I was supposed to felt it, but it was such a skinny piece of wool I (tried but) couldn’t imagine felting it in the end – crocheting seemed like the best approach.