What is Fabric Art Felting, you might ask? Since I have several Fabric Art Felting Classes planned this year at the farm, I thought an explanation might be helpful.
Basically it is what it sounds like, needle felting on a piece of fabric. The project is created on a flat surface and is two dimensional.
It’s a bit like “painting”, but with fiber rather than paint and a needle rather than a brush, to create a finished piece that’s a work of art! The felted fabric art painting in the picture below was done by a student in one of my classes. As can be seen, her felted piece was done inside of an embroidery hoop. More about that later.
What is Needle Felting?
Needle Felting, sometimes referred to as dry felting, is the process of poking with a barbed needle to tangle fibers together and transform them into a solid fabric, or sometimes a three dimensional creation. It’s a very versatile craft with many different applications, simple to learn, easy to get started, and it’s good stress relief!
Types of Fabric for Felting
At one time I bought several boxes of discontinued upholstery fabric samples, and I have found that these are a nice weight for needle felting. Fabric with some weight to it and a somewhat open weave is best. Wool felt is very easy to needle felt a design. Cotton, velvet, burlap, linen, denim, and many other fabrics work too. Test the fabric by poking and see how easily your felting needle glides through the fabric. If the fabric is too dense, that could cause the needle to bend or break. For more information of types of fabric for felting, see Fabrics You Can Felt Onto.
Felting in an Embroidery Hoop
I sometimes will put the fabric in a wooden embroidery hoop, felting the design within the hoop, and when finished the wooden hoop serves as a frame for my felted piece. You will want to lay one embroidery hoop on the fabric making sure there is plenty of fabric on all sides to hold the fabric, then secure the fabric by putting second hoop in place. Once the felting is complete, trim the excess fabric, and glue to the edge of the wooden hoop on the inside. Add a ribbon for hanging or just hang from the wooden frame.
A Hoop Art Felting Kit is now available with a pattern for the design pictured below. You can also create your own design if you wish, using the roving included in the kit.
You can create a design as you go, just letting it evolve, or use a pattern. Pinterest is a good place to get your creative juices flowing. Often rug hooking and rug punching designs with very simple shapes lend themselves to be needle felted, and can be adapted for Fabric Art Felting. Of course you’ll want to make it your own. Coloring book pages work well too.
Transfer the Design
The Spring design above is one that I drew, then traced with tracing paper, and transferred it to the fabric I had chosen. See Methods for Tracing a Design Onto Fabric. In this case the design was felted directly on a flat piece of fabric, and not in an embroidery hoop. I chose the roving colors I wanted to use, completed the needle felted design, added a fabric border, then chose a complimentary fabric for the back of what I made into a pillow. Some sewing skills are involved in order to Make a Pillow.
Foam Work Surface
You will want to be sure you have a Foam Work Surface underneath your piece of fabric to protect the work surface, your fingers, and to reduce the risk of breaking your Felting Needle. When using an embroidery hoop, it works best to trace the design onto the fabric before putting the fabric in the hoop. If the design you’re using is larger than the piece of foam, place the foam under the design area where you will be working, complete felting that section, they gently peel the fabric away from the foam and reposition it to felt the next section.
Prepare the Roving
Choose the roving colors you’d like to use for your fabric art felting. Our Sampler Roving Mixes in Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Christmas colors work nicely for projects like this and each gives you three ounces of different roving colors from which to choose.
Fiber felts easier if the fibers crisscross each other instead of lying neatly side by side. Unwind a ball of roving and pull a small amount of fiber from the end of the strip. Fluff the fiber pulling it sideways, tearing it in smaller lengths, rolling it around in your hands, and making a little wad of fiber.
“Paint” Fiber Onto Design
You can start anywhere in the design. Lay the prepared fiber around the edge of the shapes of your design and start poking the felting needle through the fiber and into the fabric. If you want to hide the lines on your fabric, lay the fiber just slightly over the line to hide it. In some cases you might want the line to show—your choice. It’s better to start with a small amount of fiber and add more, rather than starting with too much that requires lots of felting to reduce the size.
The pictures below are a 4-H group that came out to do fiber projects to fulfill their alpaca project requirement. They got very creative!
Keep your fingers out of the way, it hurts when you poke yourself. Punch straight up and down repeatedly with a steady motion, rather than at an angle which can cause a needle to bend or break. Just a few pokes will anchor the fiber.
Proceed by laying and attaching the colors onto your design, even if fiber looks thin. This allows you to get the design in place. You then can go back and add fiber as necessary, and do more needle felting. The more you poke, the firmer the surface will become. Some areas you may want to be thicker and stand out more than others. This is accomplished by adding more layers and building with the fiber.
When Have I Felted Enough?
Look for a pattern of little holes made by the felting needle. When the surface looks a little pock-marked and there are very few loose fibers still sticking out above the surface, you’re done. Too much felting can be harmful to the backing fabric and forces more fiber than necessary to the back side of your piece where it won’t be seen. Bottom line, keep felting until you are satisfied with your design.
When your fabric art felting design has been felted to your satisfaction, gently pull it off the foam pad. See how the needle has pushed fiber through the fabric? The fiber and fabric have been grafted together! If you sew, or have a friend that could help you, your Felted Fabric Art could be made into a wall hanging or pillow, or could be framed. If I plan to leave the felted piece in the wooden embroidery hoop, I finish the back by tracing the hoop on a paper grocery bag, cutting it out, and gluing it onto the back of the hoop. It makes a nice finish, though the back is not likely to be seen.
Your design may have lots of little holes in it it and some wild little fibers sticking out. A good steam pressing will work wonders to minimize those little holes. Steaming will tame the frizzies, and further bond the fiber layers together. Heat your iron to the wool setting. Spritz the back of the piece with water and iron it flat. Move the iron back and forth to help mesh and lock the fibers into place. Turn your work over, spritz again, and this time use your iron to Press only. Your project will be flattened after this treatment but the fiber will quickly bounce back and the needle holes will almost entirely disappear. If you don’t want to flatten your design, don’t press but instead use bursts of steam to minimize the needle holes. If you still have stray fibers, just snip them off.
By all means, feel free to “color outside the lines” of the design and make your work your own. Enjoy your felted work of art!
Felting Kits and More Info
I invite you to take a look at Felted Creations by Julie Petty, some of my own handiwork! For more blog posts on Needle Felting, click here! For other Needle Felting Kits, click here. For Felting Supplies, click here. This really is a fun craft, not hard to do, an outlet for your creative juices, and very therapeutic! For more posts on Felting, click here.
Live near Mansfield, Ohio? Perhaps you’d be interested in other Needle Felting Classes. It really is quite enjoyable to be part of a group of people exercising their creativity!
You can register for the Fabric Art Felting Class at Alpaca Meadows here.
Need some help with how to make a pillow or drawing a design? Craftsy has lots of online classes! Perhaps you want to Learn to Draw? You might want to check out Sew Luxury Fabrics: Pillows or some of the other Sewing Classes. Embellishing the fabric art felted piece you’ve created with beads or Hand Embroidery adds to the uniqueness too.
I do a small amount of affiliate marketing, and there are several links in this post that lead to products that we don’t sell at Alpaca Meadows, but we do receive a small percentage of the sale should you purchase those items. Every little bit helps pay the bills, so thank you in advance!