Felted Finery – Floral Fluff (part one)

This project includes several embellishing techniques that are fun to play with. You will need a background fabric, two colors of organza, green perle cotton, beads, and yarn.

First, apply a fusible stabilizer to the back of your fabric. I used Decor Bond. Draw seven circles on the stabilizer in a pattern similar to the above graphic. You can place the motif in the center as I did mine or change the setting to one that you like better.

Take one of your organza colors and cut out some large circle shapes. Make sure they are quite a bit larger than your drawn circles since the felting process will pull the organza towards the needles. Working from the back side of your fabric, place an organza circle on top of a drawn circle and slowly needle punch the organza in a circular motion . Hold the edges of the organza as you work so that it doesn’t bunch up. Repeat this process for each circle.

When you’re finished, you should have seven fuzzy circles on the front of your fabric.

To make the stem, cut four long pieces of green perle cotton (or any other fiber you like) and tie them in the center with some thread.

Now double them over so that you have eight strands. Attach a cording foot or open toe foot to your sewing machine and thread the needle with an embroidery thread. Set your machine on a zig zag stitch at about 5.0 mm stitch width.

Position your strands of perle cotton under the foot, holding the tied thread in one hand behind the needle. Zig zag stitch the entire length of cording. You may like to stitch the cord several times, using several shades of green thread.

When you are happy with the look of your cord, place it in the center of your fuzzy circles. You may like to tack it down with a light touch of fabric glue. Next, couch it with a matching thread, attaching beads as you sew.

In part two, I’ll show you how to make the fluffy little flowers.

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N. Rene West
Time Treasured

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Fabrications – Gilded Gardens (part five)

Our colorful garden is almost finished, but a few remaining embellishments are in order. This is one of those projects that says to us, “The more, the merrier.”

With the heavy thread work behind us, we now turn to filling some of our flowers with felted or couched yarns, adding some yarn to a few of our leaves and to our background, and capping it all off with beads or French knots.

Take a look at your work and decide which flowers you would like to embellish with yarns. For visual interest, select several different colors and audition them until you find just the right ones for your project. I used spun roving, chenille/eyelash mixes, and brushed yarns.

Beginning with any flower other than the center, needle felt as much or as little yarn as you like within its center area. On the flowers that I completely filled, I began by tacking down the end of my yarn in the center and then slowly working in a spiral motion until the yarn reached the edges. You don’t need many stabs of the needles to do this. The goal is to secure your yarns but not to completely felt them with the background.

Felted Flower

Spiral Felted Flower

On other flowers, needle felt smaller amount of yarn and leave some of your flower background showing. On still others, mix your yarns so that the flower is multicolored.

Before working the center flower, needle felt some spun roving (or other fiber) in a radiating design out from the edges. If your center flower has leaves, needle felt or couch a special decorative fiber down the center vein. I used wrapped silk cords.

Wrapped Silk Cords

Wrapped Silk Cords

Then fill your flower with various yarns. With a contrasting color, needle felt a colorful center.

Center Flower

Center Flower Motif

Now take some green furry yarn and felt or couch it along the edges of your leaves just as you did with the heavy thread in part four, working past the leaf tip and meandering here and there.

Couched Yarn

Look at your work and see whether there are areas that need to be filled. For the look of tiny flower buds, I took small pieces of roving, twisted them into a tight little ball, and needle felted them in place. I also meandered spun roving and needle felted it in place.

For the final embellishment, do some bead work down the center vein of a leaf or two, at the center of some of your flowers, and any place else you would like some bling. As an alternative or an additional embellishment, work some French knots in the center of flowers.

Bead Work

Bead Work

Congratulations! Your garden is now complete. I hope you loved doing this project as much as I did.

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N. Rene West
Time Treasured

Fabrications – Gilded Gardens (part two)

Gilded Gardens 2

In part one, we completed the background for our flower garden. We are now ready to fill our garden with some flowers and leaves.

Any fabrics that have a hand dyed or hand painted look will work well here. Also, commercial prints of large flowers would be usable. The print I used for most of my flowers had a tie-dyed floral design that allowed me to take advantage of the circular centers. I do recommend using several different colors for the sake of visual interest. Since many of these will be covered with other embellishments by the time you are finished, your fabric choices aren’t that critical.

First, back your fabrics with a fusible or with a stabilizer. Which one you choose will determine how you apply them to the backing. Next, cut out some free form leaf shapes in various sizes. The number is up to you.

Cut Leaves

Next, cut out some free form flowers in all different sizes. You may like to vary the shapes.

Cut Flowers

Now, place the leaves and flowers on your background, and arrange them in whatever way they appear pleasing to you. If you used a fusible, now is the time to press the shapes to your background. If your shapes were stabilized, you can apply them with basting glue, spray adhesive, or whatever way you normally apply your appliqués.

Basting Glue

The next step involves felting wool roving onto the main leaf shapes. You can skip this step if you like. I wanted some additional texture on my four center leaves. This step can be accomplished by machine needle felting or by hand felting. (Hand felting tools are available at most craft stores.) Simply take a small amount of green roving and place it on top of your leaf shape. Needle punch around the shape until the roving appears secure.

Felting the Leaves

The basic structure of your flower garden is now complete. Take a second look at it from a distance to make sure you are happy with the placements. If you think more leaves or flowers are needed, this is the time to add them.

Placement Completed

We now move on to the next stage and it is here that the fun begins. Set up your sewing machine for free motion embroidery, making sure the feed dogs are in the down position. There will be two main layers of thread work. For the first layer, I used 35 weight cotton thread. You can use any embroidery or quilting thread you like. Do use several different colors that compliment each other.

Begin with any flower or leaf and stitch around its edges.

Stitch Down Shapes

Continue doing this until every flower and leaf have been stitched down.

Stitchdown Complete

Next, choose one shape at time and think about how you would like to embellish it with stitches. Begin by stitching around its edges a second and third time and then veering out with the needle and stitching some spirals, scrolls, or circles.

Spirals, Scrolls, Circles

Thread Work 1

You may also like to do some echo quilting around the shape.

Threadwork 2

Be as creative as you like. And remember, even little stitches do not apply here. No flower, vine, or leaf is identical to another, so your stitches don’t have to be either. In fact, uneven stitches in this piece only serve to enhance its beauty. Life is good, isn’t it?

In part three, we will move on to the second layer of thread work, using perle cottons and various techniques for applying them to the surface of our work. It will be fun, I promise!

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N. Rene West
Time Treasured

Fabrications – Gilded Gardens

Gilded Gardens

Spring has arrived in the Blue Ridge Mountains and spotted the landscape with majestic purple crocuses, golden yellow daffodils, and soft white cherry blossoms. All of this beauty followed me into the studio, so out came the threads, fibers, yarns, and colorful fabrics.

This multi-layered project is not for the faint of heart. However, if you hang in there, you will be rewarded with a beautiful piece of art that is worthy of your signature and a frame. Mine is actually destined to be a pillow, but you could use the following techniques for a quilt, a handbag, or any number of other items.

Additionally, you could break the project down into smaller parts and use a few flowers and leaves rather than the large number that I’ve included. I also found that each stage of work looked complete in and of itself, so you could stop at any point you desired.

For this fiber play, you will need some flannel and several background fabrics that are hand dyed, hand painted, or have the same look as these do. You will also need embroidery weight threads, perle cottons, roving, yarns, and embroidery floss (silk or cotton).

Perle Cottons

Perle Cottons

Yarns

Assorted Yarns

I used silk cords and beads as well, but these are optional. You may have some other wonderful fibers on hand that you would like to use in this project.

Silk Cords

Silk Cords

The first stage of construction involves building your background. After deciding on the size you would like your finished project to be, cut a piece of flannel a little larger than your measurements. Then begin cutting pieces of fabric to fill the space. You can back your fabrics with a fusible or with a heavy stabilizer. If you choose a fusible backing, iron your pieces onto the flannel. If you choose a stabilizer, attach your pieces by using a little basting glue or a spray adhesive such as 505.

Fabric Placement

Most everything about this project is free form. Relax and enjoy each stage, setting precision aside for another day. If there are small gaps here and there, don’t worry about it. These will be covered with a flower, a leaf, or some other decoration.

When all of your background fabrics are in place, you might like to add one more layer of interfacing/stabilizer to the back. I used a light weight stabilizer that I applied to the flannel with a basting spray. The purpose of the flannel and stabilizers is to provide stability for all the stitching that will cover the surface. Also, if you decide to hand or machine felt some of your pieces (a later stage of this project), both of these backings give the fibers something with which to mesh.

In part two, we will fill the background with flowers and leaves and begin the next stage: thread work.

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N. Rene West
Time Treasured

Quilting – Celtic Moon (part two)

Felted Quilt

The next stage of Celtic Moon involved felting the land piece. After backing it with stabilizer, I followed the lines of the print and felted wool roving here and there, using three different shades of green. I then positioned the piece on the background and prepared my sewing machine for free motion quilting.

Felting Shapes

There are several items that I find helpful for machine quilting. Of course, good quality quilting needles are important. I also attach a straight stitch plate to my machine, which results in nice stitches on the back of the quilt. Sometimes I use quilting gloves (usually in the winter) and other times I prefer the banker’s tips sold in office supply stores. A newer item that I really like is the free motion slider, a Teflon sheet that allows the quilt to move freely under the needle.

Quilting Supplies

I chose a 35 wt. variegated cotton thread and quilted the land piece, following the general shapes on the print. Next, I picked out another variegated thread for the water and quilted it quite densely. The marble design made the quilting quite easy since it already resembled the flow of water. When the quilting was complete, I stitched around the Celtic garnet stitch design, which gave it the look of trapunto.

The final stage of the quilt made me a little nervous. I had thought of several ways I could put a moon on the surface, but finally decided to use chiffon and a heat gun since it allowed for the background to show through and also rendered the look of the moon’s craters.

Since chiffon shifts easily, I pinned my pattern on top of it and then cut around it, leaving plenty of fabric around the edges. I then sewed around the moon pattern.

Moon Pattern

Next, I repeated the method had I used for the Celtic design, only this time I made my circles much larger. When I completed the garnet stitches, I trimmed off the excess fabric.

Large Garnet Stitches
I took the quilt outside and used a heat gun to melt the holes in the chiffon. As soon as the holes would begin forming, I would move the heat gun to the next area. This is a technique that takes practice and demands careful attention. You can easily burn your fabric if you’re not careful. If you try this method, do a test sample first so that you know how close to position your heat gun to your fabric.

To complete the moon, I painted outlines with Lumiere metallic bronze around the burned out holes.

Lumiere Metallic Paint

This certainly isn’t the most colorful quilt I’ve every made, but the techniques used to construct it made it a very interesting project. I hope you will try some of the methods and incorporate them into your projects.
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N. Rene West
Time Treasured

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

Felted Finery – Angelina’s Secret Cousin (part two)

Dragonflies

My little shadow dweller started out to be an actual shadow of the blue dragonfly. The dark background fabric didn’t allow for the effect I desired, so he took on a new life as a lurker.

The method I used to create him is a little different from the colorful dragonfly in part one. For this fiber play, you will need a black stabilizer, a cut piece of your background fabric, and some black polyester organza.

Hoop the black stabilizer and place your background fabric on top. This time keep the most pronounced side of the fabric face up.

Using your Babylock Embellisher or needle punch machine/attachment, slowly tack down the fabric to the stabilizer. Next, needle punch the entire surface of the fabric. A light felting will be sufficient.

Place the black organza on top of the felted fabric and secure its outer edges with your fingers. Beginning in the center, tack the organza down using a cross motion and then an “X” motion. The organza will have a tendency to fold and bunch up. Keep it as taut as possible as you work across the surface.

Felted Organza

When the organza has been evenly felted, remove the design from the hoop and cut away the excess stabilizer. Unlike the first dragonfly that we made, this one will have the organza side of the piece as his front.

Sandwich the piece between parchment paper or a nonstick ironing sheet. With your iron set at “cotton,” press for about 6-8 seconds. Some stabilizers will begin to melt during this process, so do this in a well ventilated area.

After your felted piece cools, cut out your design shape. I simply put my previously made dragonfly on top of the felted piece and cut around it.

Shadow Dragonfly

Your dark dragonfly should have a hint of the background fabric showing through. This gives the appearance of translucence to his body. These shapes can be easily attached to another surface by stitching through your base fabric and catching part of their under bodies with the needle. There is no need to bring the needle and thread to the surface of the design (unless you want to, of course).

I hope you enjoy this technique and find creative ways to use and expand it in your own work.

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I received a question yesterday from one of my wonderful readers in Austria that I would like to spend a few minutes answering.

The question concerned batiks and more specifically the batiks I’ve been using in my latest tutorials. Fabric designers usually present their new lines seasonally. Batiks are a little different because many of them are imported. However, designs change rapidly and once a season or two passes it can be difficult finding a particular fabric from an earlier collection. We’ve even had people write us at Dawntreader Designs because they saw a fabric used in one of our products that they desperately wanted and couldn’t find in fabric stores or online.

The fabric I use in my tutorials comes from a large inventory that has been collected over time from many different sources. I often go on buying trips to other cities to find new and interesting fabrics, fibers, and notions for the business studio. That’s my day job, so to speak. With that said, let me add that little of what I procure is exclusive to business owners or some select group. I shop just as other people shop, only I probably purchase larger quantities at any given time.

I’m sorry to say that the dragonfly batik and the green leaf batik were purchased several years ago from parts unknown, and I haven’t seen them in stores for a long, long time. I believe the leaf design could be achieved with hand dyed or hand painted fabric. Similarly, the dragonfly could be hand painted as well. Also, another batik with a busy design could be used for the dragonfly and then cut out in the desired shape.

I try to write my tutorials in such a way that the technique transcends the specific colors or fabrics that I use. It can be frustrating when a tutorial or magazine article offers a long list of esoteric supplies that are not readily available to the general reader. This isn’t always possible to avoid, but I do try to suggest alternatives for those who can’t find a specific item that I incorporated into the work.

Thanks for the question. I’m just sorry I can’t point you to a source for the batiks. Keep your eyes open, though, because beautiful new batiks come to market regularly and you may just find something you like even better.

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N. Rene West
Time Treasured

Felted Finery – Angelina’s Secret Cousin (part one)

Dragonfly

There’s definitely a family resemblance, although Angelina is the more flamboyant of the two. And when things heat up, Angelina experiences meltdown way before her cousin. Of course, Angelina by nature is “strung out” whereas her cousin flows with the warp and weft of things. Both like to put on a show and grab attention. For Angelina, it all happens so naturally. For her cousin, it takes a little more work (but it’s worth it).

This enjoyable fiber play requires simply supplies: a light weight stabilizer, some batik motifs, and (did you guess it?) – organza! To begin, hoop your stabilizer and place a cutout motif on top. If your motif has one side that is more pronounced, place that side face down. You could also use a hand painted motif. The important thing is that the fabric is double sided.

Cutouts

Using your Babylock Embellisher or needle punch machine/attachment, tack down the motif and then give it a more thorough felting.

Tack Down

Your motif should be covered with tiny needle holes. It’s easy to over felt some areas, so occasionally check the back side to make sure you are getting even results. At this point, some of the stabilizer should still be visible but the colors of the motif should also be coming through.

Next, cut a piece of polyester organza a little larger (about 1-2 inches) than the motif. When you needle punch organza, it tends to bunch up. I like to hold it in place with my fingers as I tack it down, slowly moving in a cross pattern followed by an “X” pattern.

Do a very thorough felting across the surface of your design. Pay special attention to the edges of the motif, making sure they are felted well since this will be your cutting line. Check the back to see if the organza fibers have felted through evenly. They won’t solidly cover the motif, but they should have an even appearance across the surface. Continue felting any sparse areas.

Thorough Felting of Organza

Peach organza on orange motif

When your motif is completely felted, remove it from the hoop and cut it out with a sharp pair of craft scissors. Next, sandwich it between two layers of parchment paper or a pressing sheet and iron at a “cotton” setting for about 6-7 seconds. Let the motif cool before touching it.

Cutout Dragonfly

Yellow organza on blue motif

You should have a beautiful non-fraying motif that can be used on quilts, pillows, hats, handbags, or whatever items you desire. Additionally, you have two sides from which to choose, both offering unique textures and some sparkle. These motifs can be used as stand-alones or embellished further with beads.

Bead Embellishment

Angelina is often mixed with other fibers (without being melted). The reverse side of these motifs bears a close resemblance to that technique. One thing is certain: the results are always one-of-a-kind and spectacular.

In part two, I will share with you how I made the shadow-dwelling dragonfly.

Shadow Dragonfly

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N. Rene West
Time Treasured

Fembellish Footnotes – March 12, 2007

Felted Flower

(News, notes, and fiber art related information that might be of interest to you.)

1. Bernina is celebrating their 75th anniversary. To commemorate the occasion, they have set up a special anniversary web site.

2. March 17th is National Quilt Day.

3. The March/April 2007 issue of Fons and Porter’s Love of Quilting magazine contains an informative article on the production of batik fabrics. “Behind the Batiks” by Bruce Magidson takes you on tour through an Indonesian batik factory, revealing the centuries-old practice of dyeing and waxing with complex designs.

4. If you do a Google search on “Carriff,” you will find several links to forum discussions on the 0.5 stabilizer that I use for my felting projects. It is my understanding that the Carriff Soil Separator (0.5 weight) sold at Lowe’s and Home Depot is essentially the same product. If you’re interested in trying this product, you might check these stores to see if they have it in stock.

5. The Eagle-Tribune (MA) has an article on the popularity of wool felting: Wool Whimsy Felting: A hot hobby for any age. Newspaper article links change quickly, so if you’re interested in reading it you might do so sooner rather than later.

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N. Rene West
Time Treasured

Quilting – In the Eye of the Beholder (part two)

Hummingbird Embroidery

The more I work with the Babylock Embellisher the more excited I become regarding the potential that these types of machines hold for fiber artists, quilters, and artisans. Every thread, yarn, fiber, and fabric becomes the basis for experimentation, producing unique results that cannot be produced by other means. But I digress. . .

In part one I promised to share with you a technique that I call “shadow felting,” since the resulting fabric takes on a suede-like appearance and renders a muted form of the original base fabric. Also, when used as a 3D object on a quilt or other project, it casts a shadow.

For the best results with this process, you will need a batik, a hand dyed, or a hand painted base fabric that has individual motifs you can use for appliqué. Using a one-sided commercial fabric doesn’t work well owing to the pale underside that obscures the original design when needle felted.

Additionally, you will need a very light stabilizer. I experimented with several and found two that worked quite well: Carriff .50 weight and Gerber EZ-liner disposable diaper liners. Here are the reasons why these work for this particular project:

1. They are both very lightweight.

2. The Carriff stabilizer will remain in the project, adding strength and a good foundation with which the fibers can mesh. Its non-woven wispy appearance also mutes the surface ever so slightly.

3. The Gerber EZ-liner provides a foundation for the felting process but afterwards is melted with an iron or heat gun, so it disappears. (If you cannot locate this product, call 1-800-4-GERBER for product availability in your area.)

If neither of these products are available to you, try a very light weight used dryer sheet (some are too dense) or a water soluble mesh stabilizer such as Vilene. I haven’t experimented with the wash-aways because they involve the extra step of removal, but they should work.

Begin by hooping your stabilizer and placing a cut motif on top. If one side of the design motif is more pronounced, place that side face down. Starting in the center, tack the motif to the stabilizer and needle felt the entire motif. It only requires a light felting.

Hooped Stabilizer and Motif

Next, place a small amount of roving on the surface of the motif. Again, start in the center and needle felt roving over the entire design motif. Use a roving that matches the color of your motif. You may also like to mix in other colors that blend well. For example, I added a darker shade of green on one of my leaves.

Roving Over Motif

Make sure you felt the edges of the motif adequately.

Felted Motif

Check the back side (which will be the front side when you’re finished) to see if more felting is required. The goal is a motif with a suede-like appearance. Make sure enough roving has meshed through to produce this look.

Suede Look Leaf

When your motif is completely felted, remove it from the hoop and cut away the surrounding stabilizer. Set your iron on the “cotton” setting. Sandwich your motif between nonstick pressing sheets (or parchment paper) and iron on both sides. Let the pressing sheet cool and then take a peak. The Carriff motif should be ready to cut. The EZ-liner may take a few more seconds to melt.

As an alternative, you can melt the EZ-liner with a heat gun set to its lowest heat setting. Do this outdoors if possible, but always in a well ventilated area. Do not place the gun too close to the motif and keep it moving across the surface until you see the liner begin to melt.

Regardless of which method you use, a quick pressing flattens the motif (to about the thickness of craft felt) and helps to set the fibers. Now you are ready to cut your motif with a sharp pair of craft scissors.

Felted Leaves

I placed my leaf motifs here and there on the surface of my quilt. I chose to appliqué two of the leaves, simply doing a few rounds of straight stitches. When the sewing machine needle punctures the edge of the “shadow felt,” a slight bit of fraying takes place.

Appliqued Leaf

Appliqued Leaf 2

However, on the leaves that I applied as 3D objects (with stitching on the interior of the leaves), there was no fraying.

3D Leaf 1

Notice the difference in appearance between the thread painted leaves and the appliquéd/3D leaves. They all share color and shape similarities, yet they each have unique properties that add visual interest to the whole piece.

3D Leaf 2

I hope you enjoy playing with this technique and discovering new possibilities for your work. Relax and have fun!

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N. Rene West
Time Treasured

Felted Finery – Sheer Serendipity (part two)

Pink Felted Flower

Being relatively new on the scene, machine needle felting holds many secrets yet to be revealed. By experimenting with various fabrics and fabric combinations, one can discover some very exciting things.

In part one, I ended with the light green on dark green organza fabric. The first time I mixed the two colors and saw the resulting texture on the back side, I knew I had discovered a technique that could be used in art quilts and more particularly in landscape quilts. The appearance of this new fabric resembles the mossy looking growth on old tree trunks or rocks.

Felted Green Organza

When ironed, it flattens out a little and makes a great fabric for leaves. It can be stitched, appliquéd, or used for 3D objects. Owing to its inherent sparkle, I believe it would also make wonderful insect wings, animal fur, and other such items. Such a promising fabric deserves a name, don’t you think? Maybe I’ll call it “Noah” cloth since the first thing I made with it was an olive leaf.

Felted Organza Leaf

On the piece where I used the Carriff .50 stabilizer (used dryer sheets really do have a similar appearance to this product), I decided to go a step further and see how the Noah cloth handled fabric paint. Using a small amount of pernod Setacolor paint (transparent) mixed with water, I dabbed areas where the stabilizer peaked through. After it dried, I ironed the piece again (to set the color) and noticed that the paint had removed the sparkle from organza, providing me with more options to play with in the future.

As we saw in part one, the nature of polyester organza changes under the needle. In its original form, it is very sheer, unruly, and frays easily. After being needle punched to a light stabilizer, it loses some of its transparency, behaves beautifully, and becomes a non-fraying fabric.

Additionally, organza can be used as a base fabric for other felting projects, which it what we will turn to now for the fluffy pink flower. First, hoop a piece of organza whatever color you would like your flower to be.

Hooped Organza

Place a small amount of wool roving on top the hooped organza. I like to pull it apart and fluff it out so that there are no heavy areas. Beginning in the middle, slowly tack down the roving.

Organza and Roving

After the roving is secured, give it a more thorough felting, making sure you have covered the entire surface.

Thorough Felting

Remove the felted piece from the hoop and cut five flower petals. I cut one and then used it as my pattern for the remaining four petals. (Although we are going to take these little petals to new dimensions, you could use them at this stage for many other projects.)

Cut Five Petals

Returning to your Embellisher or needle punch machine (you could also use a hand needle punch), take one petal at a time and very lightly felt a small amount of roving across the surface. Do this very slowly and only allow the needles to punch the fabric a few times in each spot. The goal here is to have a fluffy dimensional petal. Also, it helps to roll your roving into the shape of the petal before putting it under the needles.

Extra Roving

You will now have five petals with a fluffy loft to them, ready to become a flower.

Five Fluffy Petals

For the center core, I used a small round piece of felted organza left over from the project in part one. You could just as easily use a piece of craft felt. To aide in the flower’s symmetry, dab a tiny amount of fabric glue on the back side of the inner points and positioned them evenly around the yellow circle.

Tack Down Petals

Next, turn the flower over to the back and needle punch around the yellow circle, securing each of the five petals.

Felting the Petals Together

You may like your little flower just as it is at this stage, or you may like to embellish it further; the choice is yours to make. However, if you used a piece of felted organza for your center, observe the effects on the front of the flower. Notice that the organza fibers felted through to the front of your flower and graced it with their sparkle.

Organza Sparkle

To complete the flower as pictured in part one, take a small amount of yellow roving, form it into a little ball, and needle punch it in the center front of the flower.

As a finishing touch, sew some seed beds around the circumference of the center. You now have a lovely little flower that will add beauty wherever you plant it.

There were a few other serendipitous surprises as I worked with various fabrics. I’ll be sharing these with you in the near future so stay tuned.

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N. Rene West
Time Treasured

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