Playing with Color Mixing in a Bark Sample

Playing with Color Mixing in a Bark Sample

I’m still playing around with Ponderosa pine bark samples. This time I wanted to play with colors and add some nuno felted silk to the top layer. I wanted to see how neutralized the colors would become with fiber migration in the felt. You can see my first bark sample here.

So I started with blue green and red orange, complementary colors on the opposite sides of the color wheel. When you mix these type of colors with paint, you will get a neutralized color leaning towards brown or black. So what would happen with felt with the fiber migration? I didn’t have a true blue green so I used a layer of darker green leaning towards blue and then added turquoise on top of that. Then the red orange on top since the Ponderosa pine bark leans toward more red orange. I used a herringbone style layout.

Then at the last minute, I decided I wanted to add more texture and decided to use the left over pieces of pre felt from my poppy vase I showed you last week. It wasn’t even really felted at all, just laid out and wet down. I put it underneath the layers of laid out wool as you can see in the photo on the right. I should have used harder felt as you will see later.

I then wet it all down. You can see the back in the middle photo. On the right, I added some cut pieces of hand dyed 5mm silk that Paula gave me. (Thanks Paula!) These were cut in the shapes of the bark after it falls off the tree and I just randomly applied them. There are two layers of silk in some places.

Here is the piece after felting. We have been having a discussion over on the forum about rubbing vs rolling and I was thinking about everyone’s replies when I was felting this piece. It seems everyone has different ways of felting. Check out the discussion here. We’d love to have your input too! If you want to know how this piece was felted, I use a ribbed mat underneath and mainly rub, apply pressure and gently vibrate with my hands.

And here’s the piece after fulling. I fulled this piece very hard as I wanted a lot of fiber migration and mixing of colors. I did that by rolling the felt against itself on the ribbed mat, throwing, and scrunching between my hands. I will definitely have to play with mixing colors more this way because I love the end result. I think I will try making some batts with these colors and then felting them to see the difference in color mixing. I didn’t like the end result of the use of prefelt to add more depth to the piece. The prefelt just squashed out and felted into a sort of small hill. The already hardened felt in my first bark sample was much more defined as you would expect.

I am planning on adding some free motion machine stitching to get more definition in the depth. I may also add more fabric applique but haven’t decided yet. What do you think it needs?


12 thoughts on “Playing with Color Mixing in a Bark Sample

  1. Hi Ruth,
    I like the colors here and the texture of the silk. I think free motion stitching would make it more bark like. I tried a bark technique from Lizzie Houghton’s book, Creative Felting which was quite interesting. I think I blogged about it. You get interesting textures when adding more wool on top of the silk and a resist was involved. I don’t think you get as good color blending from migration than if you either hand blended, carded, etc. You still have a very nice color there and it is definitely more muted. It’s good to experiment with the wool to see what it can do. I have been doing my own experiments recently. It’s like being a scientist, but with wool! 🙂 Oh, I like to use a sander before I do any rolling. If you have issues with your hands like I do sometimes, its a big help.

    1. Thank you! The suggestion of trying some layering with resists is a good one. I have it on my ‘list’ of ideas to try. I will do some color blending with carding too. Experiments are always good to see what works best for your plan. I used a sander a lot in the past but I don’t like the vibration or the noise.

  2. This looks like fun to do – I must add the idea to my list!
    Do you needlefelt Ruth? If so you could try needling into the “ditch” between the nuno pieces to deepen the crevices.
    As to methods of felt making, I tend to do most of them, although I haven’t yet got to grips with rubbing with bare hands or rubbing the felt against itself. I do tend to do the most fulling by rolling the felt inside a piece of cotton fabric. I was amazed at how much quicker it is, and how a lot less physical effort is needed, to finish off. Mind you, when I get tired I still resort to my washing machine’s 15 min cycle at 30 degrees. Quite often if I’m making something substantial from wool like bergschaff or even lots of merino layers, I will full it in the machine on cold rinse, along with a hard rubber ball. That really gets things done. Sometimes I use 4 or 5 golf balls instead of the ball if the piece is not quite so substantial (and I can stand the noise!)

    1. Thanks Ann, the color mixing was fun, you should definitely try it. I have not tried using the washing machine for fulling and the thought of the noise with the golf balls would probably drive me nuts 😂

      I occasionally do some needle felting and that’s a good idea to add some definition. I’m not a real fan of using needles much as it bothers my shoulder but I might give it a try.

  3. Interesting experiment with great result! Yes, a bit of stitching would be good to give definition – would love to see it.

    If you decide you don’t want to keep the sample, cut it through and use chopped up bits in a new piece of felt – you should have some good colour layers there.
    That’s how I made ‘The Fingerpost’ (

  4. Thanks Lyn, I will add some stitching, I am sure. I had forgotten about ‘The Fingerpost’ piece. That is an excellent idea for texture. I’m going to keep this sample but I have plenty of scrap felt that I can cut up and use in that manner. I will add the idea to my ‘list’. I better start writing down this list or I will be sure to forget something.

  5. I like it but it doesn’t have much 3D going on. lots of machine stitching so get the bark to rise up will help I think. layers of harder felt underneath in the shape you want I think will get you more of what you want. I always find that the side next to the table gets more defined. I do rubbing between the raised parts for a while then flip it and rub on the wrong side.

    1. Thanks Ann, the 3D is definitely missing but that’s okay. It was mainly a color experiment. I just needed to use fully felted pieces underneath like I did on the last sample.

  6. For a colour sample it shows subtle slightly varied migration. It would be interesting as a ‘sister’ sample to try the same colours but carded/blended first, as a direct comparison.

    Re texture, yep the hard felt bits were needed as in your previous piece.

    To make it more 3D – depends on how much effort you feel able to invest in this sample….Using pieces of hard felt lay them in position underneath, from the top lightly needle felt the outline of these pieces (without hurting your shoulder) To give a sculpted top but flat bottom, then onto the back add iron-on interfacing to secure everything, finally….away you go with normal machine stitching.

    1. Thanks Antje, that’s what I liked about this sample was the subtle changes in color. I do plan on making a “sister” sample with carded wool to see the difference.

      Good idea on adding the hard felt underneath with fusible interfacing as backing. I probably won’t change this one but I might try a sample made that way instead of felting. It’s also a good idea for a white on white sample.

  7. Interesting experiment. I was surprised at the use of such bright colors. But then I’m not familiar with ponderosa pine.

    1. Thanks, the use of bright colors was a way of abstracting bark. Ponderosa pine leans towards orange but is definitely brown to gray.

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