Life Felting

Life Felting

A year ago, I signed up for a life drawing class, not really sure what to expect but I knew I needed to expand my portfolio if I wanted to study art and design / textile design further.


I surprised myself with how much I enjoyed it, Tuesday evenings soon became the highlight of my week. Like everyone else, I was working with charcoal and pastels but a turning point came when I met a lady at an untutored life drawing session who was making collages of the model with acrylic “felt”. I cringe to call it felt, the fuzzy plastic she was cutting up bears very little resemblance to the woolly gorgeousness that we all know and love 🙂

The following week I turned up with a sheet of commercial needle-punch prefelt as a base and large  bag of wool tops and fabrics for felting. Sarah was my first muse and I am still working on her, she is being treated to a lot of hand-stitching that is taking weeks to complete, this was her after felting and adding some stitch around her eyes:


And as she looks today, still lots more stitching planned, she is giving my hands something to do while sat in front of the TV in the evening:


Chantelle and Omar were the models at the next session, this time I used some low-immersion dyed prefelts as the base and Chantelle was collaged from screen-printed prefelts I made during Ruth’s online class.

Chantelle is still at the prefelt stage and she needs a lot of work,


but Omar’s hands are progressing nicely,


I think the background could be more interesting, what do you see  when you look at the dyed background?


This is a line drawing on a printed photo that could be one option…


And finally, I tried a new technique with Terry, mixing rust dyed fabric with Kap Merino. Kap merino is a very short fibre wool that is lovely to “paint” with but unfortunately it isn’t that easy to source, I bought mine from Woolknoll in Germany.

Kap merino with cm measure

Terry is still at the very soft prefelt stage but I am happy with today’s progress and I hope to take the sander to him later this week. This is what he looked like first thing this morning…


And after another 5 hours work on him today… I can still see areas that need fixing, it is funny how you see things looking at a photograph that you don’t see when looking at the felt 🙂


Are you interested in finding a life-drawing group near you? Most further education colleges with an art department offer evening classes, these are usually quite structured and they are great way to get a grounding in traditional methods of drawing the human figure but they might not be so keen on you turning up with a large bag of wool instead of charcoal 🙂 Alternatively, most towns have informal life drawing groups, where someone organises for a model to sit each week or month and you pay per session or series of sessions. I found Meet Up to be a great source for finding these groups (and other art and craft groups). They are typically untutored so they are much more amenable to weirdos like me turning up with armfuls of fluff and a bottle of soapy water! 🙂  Do check how long each pose will last before turning up with your wool though, I would find it tough to work with anything less than hour. Be prepared for lots of questions about what you are doing, I think most of the Guildford group are genuinely fascinated by what I am doing and the models say they enjoy watching me work too (they normally just have the back of easels to look at).

If you are curious to see these pieces when they are finished,  I will be posting about them here in the coming weeks.

And finally, a shameless plug 🙂 Registration for the very popular concertina hat class, the one with the cute snail hat tutorial, will open tomorrow please follow this link for more information and fill out the contact form at the bottom of the page if you would like to join us. Alternatively, you might like to admire the wonderful creations from previous students here.


14 thoughts on “Life Felting

  1. Wow, I am absolutely floored by the beautiful interpretations of your nudes. I am inspired to do this myself. Thank you!

    1. Thank you Vicky. If I have inspired just one person to try something new I am one very happy lady. To “hear” you say that, you have made my day 🙂

  2. Wonderful work, all so beautiful. I like them all. I think I like Chantelle the best. You used the dyed felt to great effect. I thought of stormy sky when I saw the back ground with Omar’s hands . I like what you drew out and the stormy sky is still there. Good Luck with your class I know it always gets high praise.

  3. Thank you Ann, it’s funny, I am finding Chantelle is turning out to be a Marmite piece (you either love it or hate it), I love the bold swirls but I am a little bit biased 🙂
    I can’t wait for the hat class to start, there’s always such a wide variety of styles and interpretations, I wonder what gorgeous creations will be made by the group?

  4. What a fabulous idea Teri! Your wool “sketches” are gorgeous. I’ve done drawing classes when back when, good practice, but what you’re doing takes skill and a keen eye. I look forward to seeing the finished pieces. I do like the photo sketch on the hand and arm.

    1. Thank you Marilyn, its fun to be able to combine 2 of my favourite things, now if I could weave chocolate and wine into the mix I would really be onto a winner! 🙂

  5. Love, love, love these Teri! I do like the screened prefelt too. It gives it much more movement and texture. Your use of colors is wonderful and I bet you are really causing a stir at your life group since yours are so different than the usual that they see. Thanks for a wonderful post and I hope you’ll share more with us as they progress.

    In regards to Omar’s hands, I like the background, just feel it needs some cropping. I think with the line drawing in the back, it draws away from the hands. I guess if the outline wasn’t as dark, perhaps I would like it better.

    1. Thanks Ruth, yes the other “lifers” are totally fascinated by the process, most struggle with the concept that its just soapy water and not glue in my bottle 🙂

      That’s an interesting take on Omar’s hands, looking at them again, I still they need some sort of context, black just happened to be the first pen I found but I expect I will use reds and browns when I come to stitch it.

  6. I’m completely gobsmacked.

    Partly because I’m not quite sure how you do it – are you using prefelts or tops (or both) and wet felting “on the spot” as you go along (and stitching afterwards)? Or needlefelting first and then wet felting and stitching?

    And partly because however you do it it must take considerably longer than sketching with charcoal or whatever, so you must be extremely fast.

    However you do it, the results are extraordinary!

  7. Thank you Kim, they are a mix of techniques, Sarah was mostly nuno with tops for the background and some hand dyed prefelts for her hair. Chantelle and Omar were made entirely from predyed / printed prefelts. While Terry was nuno, Kap merino and some hand-carded tops for the background. I have been needle-felting details onto Terry this week but to date I always run out of time to start doing that during the session with the model. I usually have to be satisfied with wetting out the wool and carefully rolling it to take it home, I would love to have the time to start felting before we have to leave but as yet that hasn’t happened.

    It does take a lot longer than sketching with charcoal! 🙂 I wouldn’t even consider trying this on a pose of less than an hour, 2 hours is ideal. And as you can imagine, most models aren’t keen on you taking photos to work from later.

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