Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Three Dimensional Texture - Needle Felting

I'm always a bit behind the latest trends.  Needle felting is no exception.  I remember when the needle felting machines became popular a few years ago.  My friend has one and she let me play around on it.  It was fun, but I always felt so out of control - it moved so fast! I never tried anything substantial with it and none of my small play pieces amounted to anything.

Let me start with a quick description for those who haven't tried needle felting. It's a way to add texture to a fabric or bond two fibers together using special barbed needles. It is typically used as an alternative method of felting wool without water, although I use it a bit differently. Essentially you place roving, yarn or fabric on top of another piece of fabric, press through both layers with the tool and the barbs in the needles cause the fibers to intermingle.  I haven't tried it on wool, although my understanding is that the nature of the wool fibers creates a strong bond between the two fibers.  On cottons and silks the fibers can be pulled apart.

Last year I decided to try again, this time with a hand felting tool. The one I have uses five needles.You also need a felting mat or something to place behind the bottom layer to cushion the needles. I have used thick upholstery foam and foam kitchen mats (double layer).
I only have two two samples of my work, so I've also included the work of Leila Reynolds, a local artist who does a lot of work that incorporates felting.

Flow, detail
I used the felting tool to add texture to the blue strip of silk.  Repeated punching of the silk with the tool created holes and small runs, which resulted in a nice pucker-y effect.
Flow, 40" x 36"

The Edge, detail

On this piece, I was trying to re-create the fibrous look of a palm tree where the palm frond fell off. Several colors of cotton roving were felted to the silk background fabric.

The Edge, 40" x 16"

Needle felting on rusted silk, by Leila Reynolds

Needle felting on silk shawl, by Leila Reynolds

Needle felted hat, by Leila Reynolds

Needle felted hat by Leila Reynolds

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