Is it Really Unfeltable?
A while back I had purchased a bunch of scarves from thrift shops and some sample fabrics from the fabric store. All passed the “breath test” but some did not felt when I did samples. I wrote about it here:
Since we have been going thru our UFOs for the last quarter challenge, I came across these samples again and decided to try something different and use my Simplicity Needle Felting machine which sits idle because I’ve never got a handle on how to use it.
So I took the three felted samples I thought would felt and didn’t and ran them through the needle felting machine with all 12 needles. As you can see on the gold piece moving the machine back and forth created a shirring pattern. But that particular piece the the fabric is so stiff it made for a very spiky texture on both the front and back.
Here are the backs:
The flower scarf was the one I thought sure would wet felt. After the needle felting, it was a little stiff, but not as bad as the gold. The green sparkly piece was also a little stiff but only on the top.
Since they were already wet felted. I tried another sample on prefelt of each of them. I also tried using hand felting, the needles just bounced off the fabrics. So, back to the machine. Then I wet felted it.
It was still very coarse on the gold organza, but the other two were fine. I still wasn’t satisfied because it seemed like 12 needles was overkill. So, I took out six of them and tried again on another prefelt then wet felting it afterward.
Here are some closeups:
I guess the bottom line is that if you really want to felt something, there are ways to do it. However, the “hand” of the fabric may be more important for the final project than just being able to felt it. I suppose I could have used a coarser fiber, but for nuno I think softer (merino) is better. After all you don’t really want to shave nuno felt.
I’ve found that sampling is definitely worth the time especially with the unknown. What has your experience been? Have you used a needle felting machine? What is your experience?
Just a note: Rosiepink, Lyn and Annie are having a give away of three copies of their revised pdf “Creating Felt Art.” Their information is always organized and they give wonderful examples, photos and step by step instructions. You can enter to win and get more information here:
20 thoughts on “Is it Really Unfeltable?”
I don’t know much about needle felting machines. Do the needles have barbs like the single needles for needle felting? If so, don’t they catch on the fibers of the fabric and pull them?
Hi Jill. The needles are very thin and sharp and have grooves instead of barbs. The force of the machine pushes the top fabric down into the felt and some to the other side. You can see some of the back fibers come through if you can enlarge the fourth picture. I thought after wet felting some of the holes would disappear, but most didn’t. It may just be the type of fabrics I used.
Thanks for the info Marilyn. Every now and then I may have a piece of fabric in my project that I think is silk but turns out not to be and felts a little but not totally. I have then tried to needle felt some wool fibers through the fabric to get it to adhere but always have the problem of the barbs snagging and pulling the fabric. I’ve gotten smart and don’t risk using mystery fabrics anymore!
It’s usually best to stick with the fibers you know, but then sometimes you’re just tempted with a pretty design or texture. 🙂 Some of us just like to experiment. 🙂 That’s why I believe in samples!!!
The gathered or ruching effects of your felted fabric samples are quite lovely! I have never used a needle-felting machine, but I was wondering if you have used it for other projects where the needle holes are not visible after felting?
Thanks Cathy! I really haven’t used it that much. I have made prefelt with it with just wool. The holes are obvious until it’s wet felted. But it’s nothing like the needled prefelt we buy commercially. I know a lot of people use the machines regularly. I just prefer playing with soapy water. :-).
I can see using the machine with denser fabrics like a broadcloth to perhaps make a picture collage or something. I’ve also seen garments that have been embellished with a wool design on a collar or around a neckline. I just haven’t tried it yet.
I really like the lines of texture you created, I see scope to develop that and make a design feature of it. Have you tried thin layers of wool roving instead of prefelt? Using a finer layer of wool might help maintain a more flexible hand in the final fabric…
Another good idea Teri. That list just keeps getting longer. 🙂
Thanks Teri! I haven’t tried thin layers of roving with the fabric, only to make prefelt. I’ll have to try that, but the fibers tend to move around on the plate. Perhaps a sandwich with fabric on both sides would work better.
Or, work with the wool on top of the fabric, if you don’t like the fluffy effect you can turn it over and punch the wool back through.
Interesting experiments. I had a needle felting machine and I sold it. I just dint use it much. I like playing with water better too. I can see it being very useful if you do a lot of embellishing of cloth. I did my jean jacket by hand years ago. It was a lot of work.
I’m with you Ann. The machine sounded good at the time. 🙂
I thought I’d give it a try. I’ve had the machine for two years before using it. I really don’t like the hand on the samples especially the gold sample. The others aren’t too bad. A friend had recommended the machine so I got one. But I really like getting my hands wet, too! I may try a few other things if I’m not enamored I may sell it also.
I used it to make 3D flowers out of small squares by just needle felting the middles. There was enough pull in to make them fluff up. they where pretty but not that impressive. You don’t really here about the machines much or maybe I just don’t look in the right places.
You got some really nice effects and textures, Marilyn 🙂 I can see how a combinations of fabrics, machine felting with different amounts of needles and wet felting could create very impressive artwork.
Thanks Zed! It’s another area to explore.
I have a needle felting machine too but don’t end up using it much. I have done quite a lot of experimenting with it and it can give some interesting effects.
You got some interesting effects. It’s just a matter of whether we have enough time to try out all these things and give them the time they deserve.
Thanks Ruth! I had seen your work in your book. I’m sure I’ll continue to try different things when I have time or if I ever run out of wet felting ideas, but it’s not my favorite tool. 🙂
The samples are really pretty Marilyn and I agree that sampling is a great way to discover new ideas.
It’s always surprising how some materials ‘work’ and some don’t. We buy a lot of unknown fabrics from charity shops so it’s often a lottery.
(We had a needle felting machine a few years back – didn’t use it after the initial thrill so we sold it – then recently Annie decided she’d like to try one again so she’s bought another!)
Thanks Lyn! You’re right, it’s a lottery when you buy unknowns from thrift shops. Well Annie will have to show us what she makes with the new machine. I’m not selling mine just yet, but I hate to see it idle, like my Pfaff sewing machine. 🙁 I guess we just can’t do everything.