Painting with wool

Painting with wool

For today’s blog post, I am sharing with you a workshop I went to, where Dani Ives was teaching how to paint with wool. If you haven’t heard of Dani’s work, I highly recommend you check out her website.

Portrait of Luna, copyright Dani Ives (taken with permission from the author)

Before we get started, what exactly is “painting with wool?” It is a 2D needle felting process whereby you pick a theme, copy the design onto flat wool sheets or another type of fabric, and then proceed to “paint” it with different colour wools using felting needles.
This term was coined by Dani Ives when she realised she was essentially using wool the same way painters use paint to represent an object.

My “classmates” before we started

I was asked to bring an image to reproduce. My main goal with this workshop was to learn how to do 2D pet portraits, so I decided to be ambitious and chose a photo of my cat Marshmallow.

Marshmallow png
I’m being ambitious but not overly so – her eyes are closed

After transferring the image onto the felt fabric with an ordinary pen, it was time to pick the appropriate colours to use. I confess this is the part I have the most trouble with, because you have to think of the colour not only “as is” but also have a little sense of how it will look after it’s been blended with the others around it.


We then proceeded to apply the wool onto the surface and needle felting it in place. You need to keep the reference photo at hand and look at it often, as it’s very easy to get carried away and start using artistic licence – you don’t want to do that when you’re going for a faithful reproduction!

There’s more hours put into this than I want to admit

This is a slow, laborious process. Obviously you will get quicker as you become better but I sure took long to reach the above phase.


This is my current progress. It’s slowly coming together. I can’t wait to see this finished.

Finally, I had to share my fangirl moment, a picture of me with Dani Ives herself!


Have you ever done any 2D needle felting? Let me know how it went for you in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

24 thoughts on “Painting with wool

  1. I am about the teach my first 2d workshop. A portrait of a Highland Coo. I am Feltology and live in the Scottish Borders. I am doing my best to spread the needle felting love. Linda x

  2. Looks like a wonderful class Leonor. Getting the details and colors correct definitely takes practice. I have done a couple of wool paintings. Using a black and white underpainting helped me get the values correct.

    1. It was! I was very happy to learn from such a master. Explain the underpainting please, I’d love to know more!

    2. The underpainting is made with white, black and grey wool. You essentially do the basic shapes that are darkest with black and midtones with grey. Leave the highlights or lightest areas white. Then when you cover with your blended colors, the dark areas are already dark because of the black underpainting. It is actually a painting technique if you look it up.

    3. Ok, weird question: does the black underneath “muddy” the colours in any way? I ask because I live with a painter who is adamantly against plain black (he makes his own blending certain colours to get a “cool black” or a “warm black”) 🙂

    4. I didn’t think that it muddied the colors when I did it. But you could use any dark color as an underpainting. It wouldn’t have to be black. So if the outer layer was blue, you could use navy or midnight blue.

  3. A wonderful class Leonor. Great job on Marshmallow, I’m sure she’ll be pleased with the results. 😉 I wish I were closer. Was the background a piece of prefelt? It’s hard to tell. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks! It was indeed a great class. So far Marshmallow seems unimpressed but I forge on 😀
      Dani is from the US and she does workshops all over the country, maybe it would be useful for you to subscribe to her mailing list?
      Is it prefelt? This 3D needle felter knows not, haha! It’s like fabric, and it’s made of felted wool. I was given the choice to use this or a piece of linen and went for this because it would be easier and I’m a beginner… 🙂

    1. Thanks for the suggestion, Ann! My local library is tiny but I’ll see if they have a request program from other libraries 🙂

  4. What a wonderful process Leonor. Superb photo of Marshmallow to follow, I am sure she will give you the paws up once you have finished it.

  5. Lovely photo of you and Dani! The fibre version of Marshmallow is coming along well – please do show us the finished piece on the forum. It looks like a fun class and you’ve come away with a new skill to have fun with.

    1. Thanks! I’m so keen to finish Marshmallow. I’ll make a note to share her in the forum once I’m done, great idea 😀

  6. Your picture is looking great Leonor! I’ve done a little needle Felting to add detail onto a wet Felted picture but never tried it from scratch like this. Looking forward to seeing it finished.

  7. Its interesting looking at your art of Marshmallow you seem to be doing all the shading in blocks. The technique I use (self taught) is to put the basic colours down first then shading on the top. I also loved Ruthlanes comments about the underpainting. I must try that. Fab isnt it how we all do different things 🙂

    1. I am doing it all in blocks, yes 😀 it’s a sort of paint by numbers, if you will. It really is interesting how we all come up with different techniques for the same end result!

  8. That’s a gorgeous photo to use 🙂 What fabric are you needling onto, and how did you transfer the picture? I’ve done mostly abstract 2d flat felting, and the other time I did it was of that ‘Blue Dog’, so mostly bold shapes/sections. I can’t wait to see the finished pic 🙂

    1. Thanks! It’s one of my absolute favourites of Marshmallow’s 🙂 The fabric is what I’d call felt, is it what people refer to as pre-felt? It’s just like a wool fabric. As for how I transferred it, that unfortunately is a secret (Dani asked us not to share because it’s one of her special techniques), sorry!

We'd love to hear your thoughts!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.