Thursday, September 27, 2012

Learning to Needle Felt a Simple Shape: Part Two

Once I had my needle felting supplies, I was ready to experiment.  Remember, I have no idea about how needle felting works, I am just figuring out how to use wool roving, my felting needles and the foam block to create a brown button for the center of my flower.   If you have done needle felting, feel free to add tips to the Comments section below or email me at chillyhollow athot maildot com and I'll post for you.

IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP:  Needles for needle felting are both sharp and covered with barbs from the tip up about an inch along the shaft.  DO NOT use them on a table without the foam block and don't try needle felting when you are likely to be distracted.  It is really going to hurt if you poke your fingers with this needle!  Do everything possible to keep that from happening!!

Since I was making two flower centers, I pulled two pieces of brown wool roving from the roving batt, making sure they were both about the size of a quarter.  I had watched several YouTube videos of how to needle felt shapes, so I knew to fold my roving into the rough shape I wanted, and that's what I did.  I laid one of the pieces on my foam block and started poking it with one of the needles, trying to push it into a denser and smaller disk.  I'd heard that it was better to push the needle through the roving at a 90 degree angle to lessen the pressure on the needle so it wouldn't break as easily so I started out poking my wool roving in an up and down fashion.  I was sure glad I bought the needles with plastic covers on the end after a bit as they were easier to hold when you are needling for a long time.

After two-three minutes of poking the wool with my barbed needle, the disc was a little denser and smaller.  I started folding the edge of my disc under and poking along the edge, trying to make a rounded edge and a thicker disk that way.  Occasionally I would roll he disk with my fingers, trying to shape it better.  Fold, poke for a minute, turn the disk a bit, fold under the edge again, poke for a minute, turn, repeat.  After about 25 minutes of this, I had a rounded shape that was almost a quarter inch larger than the size of my paper pattern.  It was thicker and denser than the wool roving I'd started with since the needle action pushed and matted it together.  I put my felting disk and needles aside and took out my piece of felt, cutting a rectangle a bit smaller than the foam block that came with the needle felting kit.

Holding the disk while pushing into the felt with the needle

I put the felt on top of the block and my wool roving disk on top of the felt.  Then I continued to poke the wool roving as before except now I was trying to bond the disk to the black felt.  I couldn't turn under the edge any more but I could poke it from the side with my needle, trying to push it into the middle. Of course this slant is harder on the needle so I was careful and didn't push it so far into the foam block underneath the felt and the roving.  In the photo above you see the wool button I am making and the needle slant I was starting to use, plus the paper pattern that is my size reference.

It took me another 30 minutes to push and shove and poke the brown roving into a button that was the right size to be the flower center.  In other words, one flower center took an hour. This is a very basic shape so you can see a more complex shape like a squirrel or cat or dog will take a while.

Felting block, felt, needle angles and the beaded orange flower where the center goes
The next morning I did the second flower center exactly the same way. It took half an hour to create the basic shape and another half hour to bond that shape to the felt and finish making it smaller by poking the edges at an angle, just like flower center #1.  Now I had two centers bonded to felt.  I cut them out and plan to sew them to the center of my flowers. I think some shapes can probably be done right onto NP canvas, especially if you put felt UNDER the canvas but I haven't tried that yet.  More experimentation is needed before I try that.  Also. I wanted to be certain my poking wouldn't disturb any finished areas on my Belleza canvas.    As you can see above, the felted flower center is going in the middle of a LOT of beads.  Once I finish beading flower #2 I'll show you a photo.

I think using the thick felt as a base is not necessary.  The thinner felt I can get at the fabric store will probably work ok, even though it isn't 100% wool.  Anyone else have an opinion on this?

I think also some folks needle felt right onto NP canvas but I'm not sure about that.  Has anyone else tried this?

I discovered that even though my two needles appear to be the same size and are unmarked, one works better at creating the basic shape using the up and down action and the other works better at an angle to prod the basic shape into a smaller and denser button.  I ended up switching needles when I switched needle angles.

It looks like more complex shapes are built by adding rolls of different colors and shapes as you see in this video of a stand alone owl.  But that is a topic to explore later on another canvas.

Hope this helps you figure out needle felting so you can try it yourself.  Be careful with the needles!

Written by Jane/Chilly Hollow
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