The first of two posts today on felt. In the penultimate session of our five-week course, last night we did needle-felting. This is so different from wet felting that it could really be considered an entirely separate craft, but the principle is the same – forcing the wool fibres to lock together to form a firm fabric – only the method is different. I love how you can bring the two together to great effect.
We began with the teacher giving us a demonstration, and showing some pieces she had made, including some small 3-D animals (which she said we wouldn’t be doing at this session) – much as I admire the skill in making these, and can see their attraction, I have no desire to make them, and would prefer to use needle felting for embellishing previously made wet-felted pieces, or for making stand-alone embellishments for other purposes. She described how you can use all your little bits, off-cuts and other stuff you might be tempted to throw away – nothing need be wasted!
She also showed us some images on the computer, of various people’s work, all of which was very impressive.
Some time ago I was given a needle-felting kit, so I brought this along. Included in the kit was a tool known as a Clover tool, consisting of a holder and several fine felting needles with a retractable guard to protect one’s fingers; the teacher said this was fine for covering a wider area, but not so good for more accurate work. The teacher had some individual needles for sale on her table and I bought one – it is a lot more substantial than my tool, and I was able to achieve good detail with it. I shall be ordering more of these from the Internet.
I decided to try my hand at improving my first piece, which came out looking vaguely like a field of poppies. I added more wool where necessary to tidy up the design, and added some shading to the brown centres of the flowers. In this photo, you can see the needle sticking up. The needles are extremely sharp, and have barbs along their length to catch and snag the wool fibres and felt them together. You work on a thick piece of foam, and stab down vertically. It makes a satisfying sound! You do have to concentrate, though, or you end up stabbing yourself… Ouch! I felt that! (Sorry…)
I also added more orange wool where necessary. You can see that my poppies now have more definition, and the shading of the centres makes them look less flat.
I was just starting to add some red accents to the flowers, to separate the petals and add some detail (see the above photo), when the class came to an end, so I still have quite a bit of work to do on this piece. I am intending to add some stems and leaves in darker green, and to make some separate leaves which will then be needle-felted onto the piece, and I will also cover up one or two places along the edges where there is some white showing.
Here is the round-up at the end of the class. In the first one, the teacher is discussing one particular piece.
As you can see, there is a variety of work on the table – some people created a small picture, while others created small stand-alone items, and a couple of us resurrected our early pieces to add embellishments and definition.
These are the small pieces, together with a couple of little pictures.
This landscape picture from the second session is being embellished with daffodils. She is going to add more flowers, getting smaller into the distance. The flowers are wonderfully tactile, and give great focus to the picture.
I loved this small piece with its spiral design. You can see that it is quite thick and substantial. The teacher said you could make a set of buttons like this!
Finally, the little gingerbread man that the teacher made during the evening, and which began as her initial demonstration. He is even wearing a little scarf, and he has very bright eyes. This piece, and several other small pieces, were made using a cookie cutter as a template – you lay the wool fibres over the top, and stab through with the needle, working up to the edges of the inside of the cutter until you have sufficient felt to work without the aid of a template.
What a lot of variety in our work tonight!
I was extremely impressed with how easy needle-felting turned out to be, and how quick; it also uses remarkably little wool! Also, how much less work it was to do (as I also discovered with wet felting). I had been a bit concerned that I might not be able to manage it, and was very pleasantly surprised. I love how painterly needle-felting is; you can take the smallest wisp of wool and build up shading very gradually, or make a well-defined edge. You can be as precise as you like! – quite unlike wet felting which by its very nature is vague because things tend to move around. If you make a mistake, you simply cover it up with more wool. You can use needle-felting to add definition and emphasis to a wet-felted piece, or you can start a piece using needle felting, to attach the different elements together to prevent them moving, and then wet-felt it, which will make it shrink and become firmer. So much potential and variety, and so many ideas spring to mind!