I have another article in Threads magazine! Woo Hoo! This article is about Needle Felting: applying wool roving and/or wool batts to a wool fabric with a special barbed needle.
Here is a photo of the jacket I made to showcase Needle Felting, on the index page of Threads, issue #212. (I forgot to take photos of the jacket when it was completed!) The white wool is from Gorgeous Fabrics /gorgeousfabrics.com. The jacket pattern is from Fit for Art Patterns https://fitforartpatterns.com/. The wool roving and batts are from Big Sky Fibers Arts https://store.bigskyfiberarts.com/.
Needle Felting is a wonderful technique that was supposed to have a chapter in Creating Couture Embellishment. The chapter was cut because I exceeded the 400 page maximum and Needle Felting was deemed “too crafty.” In retrospect, I think my samples were not elegant enough to adequately represent needle felting. Thank you Threads! for letting me make new a Needle Felting sample to accompany this article. I think “crafty” does not apply to this jacket!
The editors at Threads are wonderful editors; they took my over-long article and cut it down to fit into six pages with out losing the basic information needed to explain the technique. Being a good editor requires being able to see the big picture and being able to trim away all the extra bits & bob to get to the heart of the story. This is not something I can do. I get so excited about all the bits & bobs that I try every variation to see what how they all work. In the end, I know what works well and what doesn’t work but I’ve got twice the material that’s needed. I guess that’s why I’m a writer, not an Editor, with a capitol E. Good thing I’m associated with great Editors.
So now- to get back on topic- Needle Felting… I’ve assumed that you have access to Threads magazine and/or know something about Needle Felting, so I am not going though the basics of Needle Felting. Instead I will explain some of my designing process.
Pictured above is the basic shell of the Tabula Rasa jacket from Fit for Art patterns, partially sewn together and draped on my dress form. I placed Blue Painter’s Tape on the jacket to mark the waistline and the same horizontal line on the sleeves. Having a horizontal guideline across all parts of the jacket facilitated the designing of the needle felting.
If this design were for me I would have kept the jacket on the dress form for most of the designing phase. However, Threads uses models that wear size 8-10 and I wear a size 12-14. I was afraid that keeping the jacket on my dress form for too long would stretch out the wool along the neckline and sleeve heads; those areas were susceptible to stretching as the cut edges have varying grain lines. Additionally, in my studio, photographing in-progress garments is easier on a flat surface than on the dress form.
This photo shows the jacket laid flat. Threads cropped out the background for the article; you get to see the unedited version of this photo. The side panels were sewn to the front panels and are at “the bottom” of the photo. Eventually the side panels will be sewn to the back panels. The sleeves extend out to the sides, with the underarm seams un-sewn.
Knowing the article was going to be in the Fall issue of Threads I ordered wool roving and batts in autumnal colors: maroon, dark red, medium red, pumpkin orange, yellow gold.
Initially, I was thinking of an ombre pattern, going from dark around the neck to lightest at the hem. That iteration was so far from what I imagined that I didn’t even take any pictures.
Then I played with blocks of wool batt. This was not what I had imagined either.
I tried adding some twisted roving between the batt squares. The twisted roving didn’t help.
Back to the drawing board… I remembered this photo of Water Lilies from Pinterest.
That led me to a William Morris coloring book (ISBN 978-1-62686-882-3), which led to me to a Victorian wallpaper book (ISBN 978-0-486-46135-9) and this design.
I simplified the design to create this stencil. The stencil separates into 2 parts: a negative stencil, where the design elements are empty spaces and a positive stencil, where the design elements are solid forms.
The stencil cut into 2 parts: negative and positive pieces.
I placed the positive stencil pieces on the jacket. Once I was pleased with the design I took a photo of the jacket so I knew where everything went.
I had to try some techniques and color combinations on a wool scrap before I started.
Starting: the stencil crosses the horizontal guideline.
A completed flower, with a glimpse of the blue tape on the right.
This photograph shows the jacket nearly all felted. Of course, as I worked on the needle felting, the design changed. The vines on the lower left front of the jacket were shortened (on the bottom right in the photo.) A vine was added to the right side panel and more flower buds were added to the back.
I added fusible interfacing to the whole jacket. Initially, I intended to add fusible interfacing only to the main parts of the jacket, but the interfacing changed the color of the wool just slightly so I added the fusible interfacing to the whole jacket. The fusible interfacing added support for the jacket and locked the felted wool to the jacket a little bit more. Then I sewed the jacket together. The entire jacket was lined for comfort; I find wool very itchy.
I didn’t put the jacket on my dress form when it was completed because I was afraid of stretching it, so I only looked at the jacket from the front and then from the back. In retrospect, I wished I had felted more on the back. The back has a lovely light, curvilinear vine pattern, much like a Western shirt. The front has the same curvilinear vine but accented with the heavy Victorian flowers. A few more vines trailing down the back, with a Victorian flower or two would balance the jacket’s design better. Oh, the things we see after some time away from a project!
Aren’t they amazing?