Sunday, February 10, 2013

Needle Felting Tutorial

Needle Felting is not a period craft. It makes me sad to say, because I really like making my clothes with natural fibers, hand sewn finishes,and rectangular construction methods. So why after going through all the trouble to do it right am I showing you all my dirty little secret. . . I cheat. Well I have to confess that I do it because it is a way for me to embellish wool that gives me beautiful results without the pain that embroidery causes me. Don't get me wrong I love hand sewing, but doing it for long periods of time hurts.
So for those of you that would like some tips on how to decorate using this tecnique here you go.

Supplies you will need:
Needle Holder
Foam Pad
I have all my tools assembled and I am ready to start.

This is the needle out of its holder. The needles are wicked sharp, and have multiple barbs to snag the roving. Use good safety practices, don't stab yourself, don't leave it where the kids can get into it, etc. 

On to marking your pattern. Wool is notorious for being hard to mark. The fibers like to poke out all over the place, and the piece I am working with is left over from making a pair of hose, and is heavily fulled. The first step of marking is laying out the design.
Here is the design laid out on the banner.

I initially used a water soluble marking pen, using the tip of the pen to pierce through the paper, but the marks were not dark enough for me.
I decided to switch to my awl to make more pronounced hole, I also moved the fabric over the foam pad so the awl pierced the paper easier. Follow the outline of, and make the holes 1/4" to 3/8" apart.

I went back to the marking pen and tried to make the marks darker, but . . . 
Still not dark enough

Here I have used a graphite pencil with a soft lead to darken the mark. In this situation, I am using black roving and the mark will be felted over, so I am not worried about the graphite not being removed.
 At this point I had a nicely perforated pattern,
 I grabbed the my chalk pouncer and viola!
 Now I have the entire design clearly marked, but chalk lines fade really fast on wool, so I went back to the graphite pencil and outlined each shape.

Trust me it is a lot darker in person, I took ten pictures, and still couldn't make this look good.

Here is a very quick video of needle felting in action

On the right side of the fabric it looks completely covered, but if you turn it over,

It looks a little bare. For most applications this is fine, I would toss it in the wash and let the fibers lock into place. However this is going to be an unlined banner, and I decided to felt from the back of the fabric to make the piece reversable.

Felting from the back to the front gives a furry texture to the front. You can see on the claws I have felted the loose threads back down. So while it wasn't intended we liked the fuzzy-ness, and kept it.

Here is the backside of the banner. 

No matter how I tried, I just couldn't get a good picture of the fuzzy paw.

Almost done!

So there you have it the felting took about 3 hours. I was only able to work on the loops of the banner for about 1 1/2 hours before I had to stop and give my hand a break, so it took about a week to finish all the hand sewing. The recipient is very happy, and I cannot wait to see it in use at March Coronet.

Here are a few other projects I have done using needle felting the options are endless, and I hope you have fun!
Heraldic Display

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