Photos as reference and inspiration Part 2

Part 2

(part 1 )



Thinking back to my earlier post on photos as reference and inspiration I was looking at the lilacs from my back yard and seeing inspiration for nuno felted scarves.  Using the flower petals for the ends (perhaps inverted with a block of the nondescript background for the middle. Moy MacKay’s technique with scissors may work with the petals or maybe bits and strands of silk. It would be a fun piece to try.


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This is one of my Alum flowers in the front yard. Its starburst multi peddled flower reminds me of graphic design from the mid-century modern period (think of the sputnic patterns ~1950’s). Again it would be an interesting end to a scarf.


33,  44

Here I have started to crop flip and play with the image a bit more. Sometimes a fragment of a photo will be more interesting visually than showing the whole object. It is also much cheaper to play with a design with cropping copying flipping distorting photos on the computer then using all that wool and silk until you have a couple ideas you really like.



I think I would still elongate the sections in between the flowers. My brain then distracts me with what about adding the other 1/3 or the flower and making the edge round with little spiky bits like the flower itself. Oh you easily distracted brain you are going to get me into more trouble!


What If I add a frill to one edge? Or maybe 2 layers of frill but different lengths?


What would happen if I switched and made the longer frill patterned and the shorter one background colours?


These are all symmetrical options. What might an asymmetrical option look like? How would it drape?



I’m sure you get the idea try out the myriad of ideas that flit through the brain on paper or using the computer. A part of a previous idea may create an explosion of new ideas in a totally different direction or for a totally different completed idea.


What am I actually doing with the photos?

I have an old version of “Publisher” by Microsoft. Newer versions of publisher are available by subscription to Microsoft but this old version is working until I am forced to by a new computer and have to get into the 21st c with windows 10.


I am importing the photo to a blank work page and then make copies. I take some of the copies and flip them, invert them, crop them, stretch them. Then I start putting them back together.  I can take a pre-made shape and infill the image like this



Then add a second rectangle for the body of the scarf. There is a colour select tool that is helpful to select colours from within the photo.  Sometime the colour you think you see is not the colour you see when its isolated. (This is also helpful looking at landscapes or portrait.)



I have been enjoying “Photo pad” which is a free photo editing software for manipulating images too. It doesn’t have the ability to combine photos as publisher dose but there is always a printer, scissors and scotch tape!


Even importing images into word allows some photo manipulations;  Increase or decrease resolution, change colour. And there are a number of Artistic effects available.


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12 Original photo, 13 “Photocopy”, 14 “Cut out”, 15 “Paint strokes”

There are a lot of other options including one that graphs the picture. An earlier version had an outline effect that looked like a colouring book this edition seems to have lost that.


If you are not already using photography to help inspire your felting I hope you will now consider it.  If you have some of these programs give them a try and explore what other features you can put to use.  If you have other programs that contain a photo editing option check them out too. You may have another tool in your design tool bag that you had not noticed were there.  Have Fun and Happy Felting!



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Ruth has asked me once again to contribute to this wonderful blog. Thank you for the opportunity! Tesi Vaara

I started making traditional quilts in 1986. I was first attracted to Amish quilts because of their simplicity. Back in those days the fabric choices were pretty limited and the Amish’s use of solid colors interested me.

My sister led me down the path towards making art quilts. She had taken a class from Katie Pasquini Masopust and really enjoyed it. Katie held her Alegre Retreats in Sante Fe, New Mexico (they are now held in Gateway, Colorado and we started attending that together. Wow! My art quilt journey began…

In the Fall of 2008, my sister and I began taking a Design Essentials course with Lorraine Torrence This course was the first time I was able to learn about design elements and principals in depth! I realized for the first time that I could design my own quilts versus following someone’s pattern or technique. It was very freeing and also a bit frightening! I was intrigued with a book about tiles called the Tile Quilt Revival and one day the idea popped into my head that I could take a photograph and use a different version of their technique to create my own idea.

I wanted to do a series of quilts about my life journey. I decided I would make the first one, Memory Lane, based off the first 20 years of my life. I printed photos of my family and friends onto cotton fabric, drew out my design based off a photo taken while visiting the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in Palm Desert, California. All the fabric was fused to Wonder Under, then cut out. I used some corduroy fabric taken from a rag rug woven by my grandmother for the fence rails. It took me over a year to figure out how to quilt it because each tile had to be quilted down. I had lots of fear that I would wreck it!

Memory Lane 2011 30″ x 22″

The second quilt in the series. Ebey Slough, covers most of my married life up until my divorce in 2009. I live in the Pacific Northwest, north of Seattle, in the small town of Stanwood. It is an area surrounded by waterways. I drove by this view on my way to work for almost 30 years. It never failed to amaze me. It was ever changing due to the tide and the weather. My ex-husband was an avid boater and fisherman so I got to spend a lot of time on the water in our little boat. It was one of the things I missed after my marriage ended, along with the Dungeness Crab he used to gather! Not many photos in this one. Too painful to include them and I wanted to remember the good times.

Ebey Slough 2012 37″ x 31″

I have almost always had a dog in my life so of course they had to have a place in the Journey’s series! Four Legged Friends was an exercise in using black and white fabrics and a design of my own. Each paw print has photos of the dogs in my life. This quilt was accepted into an exhibit in Brazil in 2016 and spent a year there. You can see these and other quilts I have exhibited on the Contemporary ArtQuilt Association website.

Four Legged Friends 2013 42 1/2″ x 34 1/2″
Detail of Maggy, my yellow Lab

For more information on my journey, I have three interviews on the Create Whimsey blog. The third one also has Ruth’s interview from our Gail Harker adventure!

Thanks again for letting me share a bit of my journey with you! I hope your journey is as blessed as mine is! Keep on creating! I love seeing all of your projects and processes.

Tesi Vaara

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Third Quarter Challenge – Part 2

I showed you my ideas, concepts and sketches for my cityscape last week. Now on to the felting.

First I needed to make some prefelt for the buildings. I had a mixed brown batt already in my stash so I decided to use that as the buildings in my inspiration photos were variegated brown.

Once I got the brown wool to prefelt stage, I let it dry and then used my sketch to make pattern shapes for the buildings. I used tracing paper to trace the shapes and then cut them out of the prefelt. This is when my perspective began to go wonky.

I found a piece of hand dyed silk in my stash that looked like night sky. I put that over a piece of commercial white prefelt and then laid down the black base, trees and prefelt building shapes. I thought they were well positioned for the perspective I needed but with felting they must have shifted slightly.

Here it is after felting. The buildings are getting wonkier. There is a reason that I don’t usually felt man made designs. I have difficulty keeping the perspective correct and as I progressed in this process, they just seemed to get more and more off as I went. But I had hopes that with the addition of windows and doors, this would improve.

I did fold the extra silk fabric to the back and hand stitch it in place. This gives the edge a more finished look.

I eyeballed where the windows and doors should go and tried to get the perspective correct with them. But that didn’t really work out so well. In hindsight, it might have worked better to stitch my lines for the wooden siding first and then added the windows and doors afterward.

Next week, I will show you the machine stitching and the finishing technique I used to get a starry sky. If you have created a cityscape, please go over to the forum and post it here. 

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Work in Progress.

Last year I joined a group of creative ladies who meet once a month at Waltham Windmill. As well as working on our own projects we have a number of set “challenges” requiring us to work to a certain theme. This week I began one those challenges which is to produces three A4 size pieces of work using just three colours. Each piece is to have one predominant colour, plus a small amount of the other two. The format can be landscape or portrait but all three will be displayed together. The design, techniques and materials are entirely up to the individual.

My first thought was that I wanted my 3 pieces to be joined together and initially I was thinking along the lines of a leaf motif, using the veins to span the gaps between the work. The first design was for a very simple “spear” shaped leaf.

The second idea was to simplify it even more and loose the outline of the leaf. The background would possibly be heavyweight interfacing or Lutradur and the veins would be free motion stitched, spanning the gaps by stitching onto dissolvable fabric.

In the meantime I happened to take my dog for a walk in the woods at Hubbard’s Hills in Louth when I had a lightbulb moment! There were some wonderful exposed tree roots at the top of the hill and I suddenly saw these as being the joining element of my 3 x A4’s. The design now was for a “forest floor”.

I realised that I would need a sturdy backing so I’ve wet felted these using Bergschaf fibres and they will be individually mounted onto stiff card… least that’s the plan so far! There will be little background showing on pieces two and three but far more on piece one so I included some thick cords under that sheet of felt to indicate buried roots.

The tree roots above ground have an aluminium wire as their core, wrapped with wadding and strips of medium weight Lutradur before being painted grey.

I’ve started making the weeds using free motion stitch on dissolvable fabric but I will look at alternative materials, possibly Lutradur, to introduce different textures, create more bulk and not least to speed up the weed making process!

The fallen leaves at the base of the roots will be FM stitched on Lutradur. Once they’ve been cut out using a soldering iron and heat distressed to make them curl they will be painted in varying shades of gold.

I’ve managed to get a couple of other group members to send me images of their work in progress…..

Jacky approached the challenge by choosing blue, green and gold as her colours and using the “stack and whack” method to cut them up. After selecting her fabrics they were cut up quite randomly and then machined together in strips. The three sets were then layed on top of each other and sliced through again. The yellow and green shapes in the resulting strips made her think of plant pots and this led to her theme of “neglected pots and plants”. In this piece Jacky has added an appliqué cactus and free motion stitched the neglected straggly plants on the left. This one isn’t far off being finished but Ive been told the other two are still piles of fabric on the workroom table!

Carole has chosen to use a combination of plain and patterned fabrics in her chosen colour scheme of red, blue and yellow. Each of her A4’s feature a different piecing technique i.e. strips, curves and crazy patchwork. Again this is a work in progress but already you can see how individual members are putting their own mark on their work and how different everyone’s finished work is going to be. I will post images of the completed challenges next time.

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Photos as Reference and Inspiration: Part 1

Photos as Reference and Inspiration: Part 1

Photography and felting go together well. Whether you are doing a landscape, a portrait or adding flowers to a nuno felted scarf photo reference will help inspire you. You need not be a slave to what you see in the picture, you are the maker of your own world when you create. Change the colours, remove or add background, change your perspective, erase that offensive shrub. It’s your picture so you decide. When you use photos they can help you with proportions, give you a guide to colours, and inspire you to try something new.


Lets look at a few of aspect of photos we can use to inspire us to felt.

Composition (the layout of the picture):

When I look at images sometimes it’s the composition that attracts my attention. Many of the flower shots I take are about the shapes or repetitions within the composition.







Sometimes it the colours and effects of light within an image that are drawing me to take a photo.   This could be due to a contrast between light and dark colours or the way the light is playing across a surface.


The changing of the cast shadow changes the feeling you get form the flower. I find the middle most appealing but the last most dramatic.


The glow with in the poppy has an almost iridescent aspect.


Back lighting on a flower can change dramatically what colour you see too.  (My Black Hollyhocks are a spectacular purple if the light is behind them, but from the front they look black. this is there off year, so if I’m lucky they may be back next year. I hope I haven’t just lost them over winter.)

It Moved and caught my attention (Animals/ Birds)

Most of my animal shots I try for artistic compositions and usually get photo journalism, “Squirrel was here and he did this”.  Sometimes I can get a better composition from a shot by using a high resolution shot and cropping afterwards.

Combining shots often is effective put bird “A” with tree “B” and add Flowers from shot “C”. Just remember to make sure you light sources are consistent in the final layout. (There is only one sun unless your finished picture will be shown at and science fiction convention.)


Inspiration for colour ways


Sometimes photos from nature are a good source of colour combinations you might not have considered.


Depth of field

Having a foreground, a mid-ground and background will give more depth to a landscape.  Even a flower is more interesting if you have a shorter focal depth to enhance the interest in the flower and not be distracted by what is in the background.

The backgrounds in the lilacs is a good example. Some time looking at the blurred out sections of backgrounds will give you ideas for a neutral background to put a flower in front of. (so don’t trash all you blurry shots some may be inspirational for backgrounds or inspire new colour combinations for dyeing  or spinning) blurred backgrounds can be quite active or agitated to vary calm.

These Japanese miniature lilacs are from my back garden beside the patio. This is their first flowering in early summer. They will make two more attempts at flowers but not with as much enthusiasm.

In part 2 of this blog, lets chat about using photos as design elements by manipulating them.

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Where does the time go?

Another week has gone by and I have not a lot to show for it.  I have done a few things. On Monday  at the guild social I carded some roving that was to felty to spin easily.  Now I have a nice stack of mostly green batts.  I am not sure why I bought these colours. It looks very blue but it is more green then it seems in the picture. And now I am not sure where I put the bag of batts.

On Thursday I dyed some silk scarf blanks they are about 12 inches by 8 feet. I will use them or sell them. I used low water immersion dying that is described her on Paula Burch’s site.

I like the way they turned out. One is very pale and I may over dye it.

This week we sent out the ecards for all the vendors at my guilds annual sale and exhibition. Jan did these and did an amazing Job. I need to show them off. These are the ones she did for me.

What have you done this week? Will you be doing any shows this fall?

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Third Quarter Challenge – Part 1

When Lyn and Annie announced the Third Quarter Challenge, I definitely felt challenged. The challenge is to create a Cityscape. I tend toward natural inspirations instead of man made inspiration.

It’s not that I don’t have photos of cities, I do. We have been to New York City three times and I do have photos of the city. But the skyline just doesn’t excite me much, especially attempting it in felt.

I then thought about doing something with graffiti. That might be interesting but again, I wasn’t very inspired.

I even considered using a photo like this with rusty bits and natural stone that was taken in NYC but this really doesn’t say cityscape.

Then I started thinking about how I could relate a cityscape to Montana and my surroundings. Perhaps I could do a cityscape of Whitefish, where my store is located? But that seemed too touristy and overdone to me. Then I thought about old west and what constituted a city in the old west. Perhaps I could use a ghost town as an inspiration. I know I’m stretching it a bit but…

Since I have visited Garnet, Montana, a ghost town, I decided to use it for inspiration. You can read about it’s history here.  You can also see some photos of the buildings on that site as well.

I googled Garnet Ghost Town for images and found quite a few of the buildings. But the ones that intrigued me were the night sky photos. And this was my favorite. I ended up printing out several night sky photos as well as some of the daylight photos that showed the main buildings better.

Using the inspiration photos, I drew a sketch of where the buildings would be placed. I also needed the approximate scale of the buildings so I could create prefelt building shapes. The plan was to make the buildings in prefelt. All of the details would be added later with machine stitching. So I had my basic design for my “cityscape”. Not really much of a city but it would have to do! Next week I will show you the felting portion of the “cityscape”.

Have you tried one of our challenges? We’d love to see what you create. Show us over on the forum or if you’d like to write a guest post, just let me know.



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