Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Make your presents felt!

Hurrah for Kirstie Allsopp! During my prolonged convalescence I've become quite a TV addict, and naturally find myself gravitating towards programmes that offer some creative inspiration. Last year I became almost obsessed with Kirstie Allsopp's "Homemade Christmas", which is teeming with a variety of brilliant crafting ideas. On a couple of the programmes she tried her hand at needle-felting.

I had mixed feelings about the pieces she was making (loved one, loathed the other), but I was really excited by the technique. I got myself a 5-needle felting tool and large needle-felting mat, and started to play.

I started with some off-cuts of fabric from the jacket I'd made (see "The Jacket" post from February), and some wool roving that I'd bought and it worked really well. I soon started experimenting with other elements, though. This little brooch is made from an old sweatshirt that was cut into pieces, with scraps of decorative knitting wool felted onto the corners. After making up the flower shape, I hand-stitched seed beads into the centre and added a clasp on the back.

In theory, as the tool works by meshing the fibres together, this technique should work on any material. I've discovered that some things work better than others. It's a great disappointment to me that ordinary cotton shirting fabric doesn't mesh well by hand-felting (as I've got loads of it!). It does work if "laminated" in place with something more fibrous, but it's not very secure.

I then discovered that needle felted material can be cut! It makes perfect sense if you think about it - the fibres have been meshed, so they are not going to fray. It just hadn't occurred to me. So I started randomly felting wool onto fabric, and then cutting it into shapes. This leaf brooch is, again, novelty wool felted onto sweatshirt fabric. You can get some really pretty effects on the reverse, as well. The fibres that are pushed through give a very soft version of what's on the front. It also has a tendency to be quite fluffy, so I found that it is worth backing the pieces before attaching the brooch findings. It was only after I had made this one up that I thought it might look better with some leaf-vein features embroidered onto it. Oh well, next time!

With all this playing, I began to think about using the medium to make something with more structure. I wanted to move into 3 dimensions! The results were items like these Christmas tree decorations. I took simple shapes and stitched three together, adding a loop and tassel to create small hanging ornaments. They are simple to make, but have quite a striking result.

I've used the technique to make a wedding present for a friend of mine, and I'll write more about that on a later post. For now, I'm continuing to play and discovering new ways to mesh fibres. I'm experimenting to create fabric from felted knitting wool, and in the process building quite good muscles on my right arm from punching the felting tool up and down into the mat!


The flower brooch and Christmas tree decorations are for sale in my Etsy shop.

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