Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Needle Felted Fun

Needle-felting is one of the nifty relatively-new fiber art forms that is getting attention lately. In my Mixing Media workshop, needle-felting is just one of the techniques that we experiment with. It involves persistent poking of fibers through your chosen surface with a felting needle. It can be great for expending nervous energy or frustration! The felting needle has little barbs along it that capture the fibers and pull them through your background fabric or felt. The needles don't have the most comfortable handle since they were originally designed for use in a machine and not for handwork.

For the type of needle-felting that I usually do, you need:
  • Felting needles (preferably more than one because they can break),
  • A background such as a piece of fabric and some quilt batting or a piece of felt
  • Some fibers such as wool or silk
  • A piece of foam, house insulation, or special needle-felt mat to put behind your work and protect your table
  • A chopstick or wooden skewer can also be very useful to hold your fibers in place especially if you like to do detailed work. It is best to keep your fingers out of the way of the needle as much as possible. The needles are VERY sharp and they hurt! Believe me. I know!

The following picture is a small piece that I created with some of the materials from a Stef Francis Experimental Pack . I used the EP2 pack called Unusual Cottons & More on our Friends Fabric Art shop website. The pack has some hand-dyed scrim also known as cheesecloth which distresses beautifully when it is needle-felted.

an Experimental Pack (EP2) - Unusual Cottons & More These packs come with silk throwsters waste fibers which needle-felt beautifully. If you look back at my little needle-felted piece, the lovely swirly fibers are the silk throwsters waste fibers. Bamboo fibers pictured below are also great fun to needle-felt because they are so soft.
Yet another type of fun fibers to play with are Angelina fibers. They are a great addition to a piece that needs a bit of glitter! The best part is that you can use the metal and jewel-toned Angelina fibers that won't work for Angelina heat-fusing projects.

In addition to hand needle-felting the Embellisher is a fancy new machine like a sewing machine which you may have read about. It will do your needle-felting for you with the press of a pedal instead of using more of your own "man-power." Embellish & Enrich is a new Jan Beaney & Jeanne Littlejohn book that introduces you to the basics and potential of using an Embellisher in your artwork.
It is even possible to needle-felt into silk. Here is a piece I created with some needle-felting into a silk painting. Most of the darker lines in this piece are needle-felting. I did fuse the fibers on the backside with some "Wonder-Under" to give the fibers some stability to keep them from being easily pulled out. You wouldn't want to use a silk or other synthetic material that is slippery without a backing material such as felt or quilt batting. If you needle-felt into something that is too smooth and slippery your fibers won't want to stick to it. Aside from that, play away and have a Fiber-Filled Happy New Year!

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