Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Felting and Embroidery

Back in early January I decided to make surface design a focus for this year. I issued myself a challenge to explore a new technique every month, and dove head-long into felting and hand embroidery. I dug out the felting/embellishing machine I bought a couple of years back and re-familiarized myself with it. I augmented my meager fleece supply to the point that I now have way too much of the stuff. I also unearthed embroidery threads from years and years ago, when I did lots of needlepoint. Technically, neither felting or embroidery is new to me. But I never fully explored needlefelting when I purchased the machine, and it's been a looooong time since I did any embroidery. So it was definitely worth revisiting the two in combination.

I love making things with the felting machine so much, I've continued with it throughout February. Which puts me behind in my challenge, but, hey - it's been too much fun to leave behind just yet.

The main reason I love this craft/art is because it lets me play with color and fiber. Here is some of the fleece I've accumulated:

Warm tones, reminding me that spring will indeed come some day:

Cool reds and purples - my favorites:

Blues and greens - an ocean of color:

And neutrals, including some very cool curly locks:

Here is my drawer full of embroidery threads:

If you're not familiar with a felting machine, it looks quite like a thread-less sewing machine. No bobbin, no thread. Just a shaft that goes up and down. And on the bottom of the shaft, a head that holds 12 barbed needles. These needles push the fibers through the base fabric, felting the two together. The base can be any number of clothing or home dec fabrications. It can also be the interfacing-like Solvy product that dissolves in water. For most of the work I've been doing, I've used prefelt, a very lightly felted wool fabric similar to needlepunch (that stuff we used to make shoulder pads with, back in the dark ages).

Here's a photo of the needle head. I don't have all 12 needles in it here.

If you click on the photo, you may be able to see the barbs on the sides of the needles. (I removed the plastic protective shield for the photo. It should never be removed during use, as it protects fingers and whatever else from being pierced.) 

So what have I been doing with all of these supplies? I started by simply playing with the fleece, felting it onto a woolen fabric. After breaking a few needles, I got the knack of it. It requires a steady, heavy foot on the pedal, and smooth, regular movement of the fabric using both hands. I do use a hand-held felting tool sometimes, for detail work or to "baste" a piece of roving or yarn in place. And that's all there is to it.

I have little to show for all of my explorations thus far, because I didn't like certain pieces for one reason or another. I haven't taken photos of the rejects, for fear they'd show up on Pinterest or somewhere. But here are two projects I'm pleased with:

Coasters! I used a fleece batting that was several colors blended together, which is why the background is so rich. Then I felted the leaf shapes on, and added the hand stitching. It's really rewarding to see an item come alive with the stitching. It adds texture, more color and a focal point.

Second, a big, bold cuff bracelet:

The whimsical spirals on this band make me smile! The large spiral is stitched over a thick strand of hand dyed yarn. It gives great texture and is a focal point for the piece. The smaller spirals are stitched with a variety of threads and types of stitches. Two magnetic snaps close the bracelet, and it's lined with silk dupioni. It's a good 3+ inches wide. That would be too large for many women, but it's great on my long arms. It's really comfortable to wear, despite its size. Its softness and flexibility boost the comfort factor.

Today I started a felted wall hanging, but you'll have to wait for my next post to see it. I'm pondering what to explore as my technique for March. There are so many things I want to try, it's going to be a fun year!

Oh, and clothing? I made a couple of ponte jackets in late December. I'll get them photographed one of these days. I have no need for clothing right now, so new clothes can wait a month or two. In the meantime, I'll be felting, embroidering, and longing for spring!

Our deck on February 15th. Way. Too. Much. Snow.


  1. Beautiful colours, glad you are enjoying your 'new' crafts.

  2. Can't wait to see the finished wall hanging (after we got a peek at it yesterday, I have to say it's lovely already!) And I'm with you on this snow stuff - I hope we get just enough to break the record for most snow in a year, then it can stop and let Spring come. We set the clocks forward next Sunday - that should mean something!

  3. Ooh, fun pieces! I really love the added embroidery. I've only ever done the sculptural kind of needle felting with a single tool in the hand or wet felting for flat pieces. I'm not really very good at either technique. Too bad we don't live closer so I could let you loose in my spinning fibre stash. Crazy!

  4. I love your 'warm up' pieces. Color sure has an affect on our moods hey. Too funny I just dug out my felting machine and wool stash and issued myself a similar challenge for March. I will probably embellish a collar or cuff for a jacket. Looking forward to see what else you make.

  5. Love the cuff and coasters! I too have a felting machine that never gets used and a huge stash of wool roving and alpaca of these days....when the brides stop coming to my door.

  6. These are so lovely, Dixie. The colors are wonderful and I especially like those coasters. I love embroidery and have been doing more myself, so I am very impressed with your cuff. I cannot wait to see the other piece. What fun!