Felted Finery – Angel Petals (part two)

Angel Petals is a three-layered flower consisting of a felted wool center sandwiched between two layers of Angelina. To create the Angelina layers, pull some fibers from a mix of Angelina “Hot Fix” colors, and place them on a piece of parchment paper or a Teflon pressing sheet. I used Raspberry Sparkle, Cotton Candy, Sugar Plum, and Violette Crystalina. Pull enough fiber to create two flower layers. Better results are usually obtained when colors are mixed well.

Angelina “Hot Fix” Fiber Mix

Place a piece of parchment paper on top of your mixture and press at a “silk” setting for about 3-4 seconds. Let cool and then check to see if all the fibers bonded. You should have a nice piece of flat iridescent fabric.

Angelina Fabric

For the next step, make a new four-petal flower template a little smaller than the template used in step one. Place the template on the Angelina fabric and cut out two flowers. If your piece of Angelina isn’t large enough for two flowers, simply repeat the previous step for the second flower. (Remember to save your scraps for future projects.)

Cut Angelina Petal Layer

Attach the Angelina layers to the top and bottom of your flower center with a tiny dab of fabric glue placed strategically at the outer area of the flower centers. Offset their position so that the petals fall between the felted flower petals. Just a slight touch of glue will do the job since the edges of the cut Angelina will naturally want to adhere to the felted wool. Also, you will be felting the center of the flower, so keep the glue clear of this area.

Sandwiched Flower Layers

Next, cut a small circle of craft felt for the flower backing.

Craft Felt Backing

Attach it to the back of your flower using the method above. Just a touch of glue will do the job since this piece will be secured by the felted center.

For the fluffy center, cut six short strands of yarn in a contrasting color. I used a yellow boucle. Any yarn that can be pulled apart should work well.

Position two strands in the center of your flower front, forming an “X” shape. Lightly felt them in place with you needle punch machine, keeping the flower stationary and only felting the very center.

Felting Yarn Strands

Now take two more strands of yarn and wrap them with a coordinating color of Angelina. A few twists should do the job.

Angelina Wrapped Yarn Strands

Place them in an offset position on top of the previous felted strands of yarn and needle punch them in place. Use the last two strands of yarn to fill inany open areas.

Check the back of your flower to make sure the yarn has felted through to the back. Using your fingers, pull the yarn strands apart until they fluff up and fill the center. You can cut the strands to any length you desire.

Felted Through to the Back

To complete your flower, sew a brooch pin on the back, using a strong polyester thread. I like to place a little glue on the pin before sewing so that it stays in place.

You now have a beautiful little flower to give as a gift or to embellish your summer wardrobe.

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N. Rene West
Time Treasured

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Felted Finery – Sea Change

Full fathom five thy father lies:
Of his bones are coral made:
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.

The Tempest, Shakespeare

Sea Change

I have no idea why, but I’ve had polka dots on the brain for a few weeks now. I even combed through fabric stores looking for dots that didn’t overlap and were spaced in such a way that I could free motion quilt between them. Well, I never found any. Then, while working on another quilt and rummaging through piles of prospective fabrics from my own stash, low and behold I found just what I was looking for.

For this fiber play, you will need any print that has shapes into which you can felt organza. Owing to the rounded configuration of needles on felting machines, simple shapes without sharp points work best. Of course, on some machines and attachments you can remove needles. You will also need polyester organza that matches or compliments your fabric. I used the additional embellishment of glass beads for the little dots in the star fish.

Fabric and Organza

Cut your fabric to any size you like and back it with a heavy stabilizer or interfacing such as Decor Bond. Next, lay your fabric wrong side up over a light box (or hold it up to a window) and mark the outlines of all shapes you want to felt. Remember that the color you use to mark your shapes could migrate to the front of your project, so choose a matching color or use chalk.

Cut your organza several inches wider than your shapes or hoop your fabric and organza together. Machine needle felting compacts fibers and your organza will shrink rapidly under the needles. Beginning in the center, slowly tack down the organza while securing it with your fingers (if it’s not hooped). Then lightly needle felt the shape. For this project I used the Bernina Needle Punch Attachment, and it didn’t take more than a few seconds to do each circle.

Felted Organza

As you finish your shapes, cut away excess organza with a pair of appliqué scissors or small craft scissors.

Cut Away Excess Organza

I did one more felting around the circumference of the circles after each trim.

Felting Circumference

When all of your shapes are complete, sandwich your top with batting and backing and then free motion quilt between the felted shapes.

Quilting

Felted Circle

I needed an edge trim for my felted piece, so I gave it some thought and decided to cut circles out of organza with a heat tool. I use this method when I embroider on organza, so I assumed it would work just as well on simple shapes.

First, do this in a well ventilated area. Place a Teflon pressing sheet or heat resistant liner on a secure surface (I use a Silpat purchased from a cooking store). Pick out some metal or wood shapes as your patterns. Lay one shape on top of the organza and trace around it with your heat tool. The organza should melt immediately, leaving a non-fraying edge to your shapes.

Heat Tool

There are many decorative things you can do with these organza cutouts. I cut circles in two sizes, layered them, and then attached them to the edge of my project with beads.

I hope you will look through your fabric stash and use this technique to transform a plain print into something eye-catching and unique. Have fun!

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N. Rene West
Time Treasured

Tool Trove (4) – Bernina Needle Punch Accessory Set (also called Decorative Punch Tool)

Bernina Needle Punch Attachment

I debated whether to make this purchase for about a year, but finally decided that it would be good to have a backup for the Babylock Embellisher. Also, since I write so many machine needle felting tutorials, I thought it would be helpful to know how well they work when using different equipment.

Bernina packs the accessory set with a helpful CD that walks you through the steps necessary to set up the attachment (along with some basic tutorials). There are quite a few steps involved, but all of them are easy to perform. For example, you must remove the bobbin, bobbin case, and shuttle hook from the lower part of your machine. Then you remove the presser foot, needle, needle holder thumb screw, and stitch plate. I would suggest that you have a special container handy in which you can place these items. If your studio or sewing area looks anything like mine, you’ll understand the wisdom in this.

Next, you insert the special stitch plate with the large hole, mount the needle punch needle holder with its large screw, attach the Needle Punch presser foot, and drop the feed dogs. The bobbin case door remains open while using this attachment.

Bernina Parts

Bernina Needle Punch Attachment Parts

Much of what I say from this point on will be framed as comparisons and contrasts with the Babylock Embellisher. As I began experimenting with the Bernina Decorative Punch Tool, I immediately noticed some differences.

The Bernina Needle Punch reminds me more of hand needle punching for several reasons. First, the five needles enter the fabric directly and go through an open hole. There is no resistance in the downward or upward motion so the fabric has more force on it in both directions, much like hand felting. The Babylock Embellisher has seven needles, seven small holes in its needle plate, and seven small holes in its cloth presser (which can be adjusted up and down). The individual holes of the needle plate and cloth presser provide resistance, keeping your fabric in a more stationary position.

Babylock Needle Plate and Cloth Presser

Babylock Embellisher Needle Plate and Cloth Presser

If you do free motion quilting, you’ve probably encountered the difference a straight stitch needle plate makes on your stitches since the fabric isn’t forced down into the larger hole of the zig zag needle plate. Although stitches are not the issue here, I found some fabrics ( such as organza) a little more difficult to work with using the Bernina attachment. Hooping proved to be an adequate solution.

Of course, I tend to use fabrics that aren’t traditionally thought of as felting prospects. Bernina clearly states in the “application” section of its instruction sheet that its Needle Punch attachment is designed for wool fibers, wool yarn, felt, and boiled wool (the CD also mentions denim). The attachment does a beautiful job on all of these fibers.

In regard to the resistance/nonresistance issue, there is another consideration. The small individual holes in the Babylock needle plate give little room for error. If you twist your fabric or your needle gets bent, you’re more likely to experience needle breakage with the Babylock. As I stated previously in my review of the Embellisher, felting needles are expensive.

Second, owing to its large, open presser foot, the Bernina Needle Punch provides clear visibility of the needle action just as you would have with hand needle felting. The Embellisher’s cloth presser is opaque, so you don’t see the needles enter the fabric. I really enjoyed watching the interaction of needles with fiber. Do exercise caution on the open right side of the Bernina presser foot. It’s possible for your fingers to get dangerously close to the needles.

As you can see from the graphic below, there is a big difference in the size of the needle holders. Additionally, there is a larger separation between the Babylock’s seven needles than the Bernina’s five needles. The Babylock has an individual screw for each needle. The Bernina has one screw that tightens or loosens all of its needles. The Bernina needle holder is simple to install; the Babylock takes a little more adjusting in the line up of needles with the needle plate holes.

Needle Holders

Babylock Needle Holder (left) – Bernina Needle Holder (right)

I like both of the needle placements for different reasons. The Babylock’s larger size means your work goes faster. The Bernina’s smaller size makes couching and detail work a simple task. I change the number of needles I use on the Babylock frequently, something I won’t have to do as often with the Bernina. As an added benefit, the Bernina and Babylock needles are interchangeable although not identical (the Babylock needles are a little thinner).

Since the Bernina is also a sewing machine, lint buildup is a concern. I would recommend using the vacuum attachment made for computers after every felting session. If you practice good bobbin case hygiene, this shouldn’t be a problem. On the plus side, the features of the Bernina sewing machine such as needle up/down position and speed control are also available while felting. I really like having the needle holder stop in the up position so that I don’t accidentally bend my needles.

For day to day use, having a stand alone machine facilitates in a projects flow since you don’t have to stop and reconfigure your machine. The downside of a stand alone machine is the price. Needle felting attachments cost much less than a dedicated felting machine. Also, in some circumstances having one machine that does it all can be a great convenience. Classes, group projects, travel, and space immediately come to mind. The decision really comes down to personal preference and what works best for each individual.

After about five minutes of using the Bernina attachment, I noticed that I was no longer thinking of the differences between the two machines but rather enjoying the felting itself. I’m thankful that Bernina offers this optional attachment to its customers (on CB hook models) so that more people can enjoy this wonderful craft.

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N. Rene West
Time Treasured