Felted Finery – Old is New (part one)

Seventeenth-century “fiber artist” used their creative imaginations, wool yarn, and linen to produce wildly popular crewel work designs. Colonial woman carried on the tradition in the eighteenth century. Crewel work continues to have a following today and even shows up in its high tech form via computer digitized embroidery.

I’ve always been drawn to the design elements: the fanciful leaves, flowers, and fauna. The hand thread painting with its beautiful shading gives us much to emulate in our own work.

Although original crewel work used a twisted 2-ply wool yarn, I decided to needle punch some wool roving shapes and see where they led me. I also choose to needle punch on air rather than using a stabilizer. Usually, I have a definite design plan in mind before I begin a project, but that was not the case with Old is New.

First, I pulled a little wool roving and formed it into a lightweight ball by repeatedly pulling the fibers and then compacting them.

Next, I needle punched the ball with the Babylock Embellisher, beginning in the center and then manipulating the fibers into a desired shape. I found a bamboo stick to be quite helpful in the shaping stage.

Here I am forming some yellow petals.

Here is one of the leaves being shaped and felted.

Here is the bird’s head area being formed.

This is the beginning of the bird’s wing, starting in the center and then working outward.

As the pieces slowly accumulated, I positioned them around an imaginary circle until I was happy with the basic design setting.

In part two, I’ll continue sharing how the project evolved.


N. Rene West
Time Treasured


  1. Kay Susan said,

    May 23, 2007 at 1:39 am

    I love this idea! What a great modern response to traditional crewel work.

  2. fembellish said,

    May 26, 2007 at 7:12 am

    Thanks, Kay. I really enjoyed this project, especially discovering how easy it is to felt “on air” with the Embellisher.

  3. Janet said,

    July 4, 2009 at 6:37 am

    Yesterday, a friend and I went to a sewing store that we had never been to before as I do computerized embrodery and wanted to see the latest in machines. Well, we discovered the baby lock embellisher and each got to try out the machine. I had never seen or heard of these machines before and am now dreaming of getting a machine. Of course, now I am on a quest for learning about the art of felting and embellishing and the different machines that are available.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: