Twist Workshop – 2D needle felting portraits

Twist Workshop – 2D needle felting portraits

A few weeks ago, there was a question about the Fox picture in the bog banner. With the re-cropping, you can just see the eye and a bit of the upper face. I was sure I had blogged about the workshop I started to create this in but neither Ann nor I could find the post. I promised I would re-post it after the Hedgehog of Love posts were up.

Twist Workshop – 2D needle felting portraits

Sunday, August 19, 2018 from 09:30 to 16:30 Teacher: Megan Cleland
Level: Beginner to advanced Language: English

Getting to twist the first time:

In August there is a fibre festival just over an hour away from Ottawa in Quebec.   I went for the first time a few years ago carefully printing out the instructions from Google maps (I didn’t own a GPS).  I jumped in the car and headed east across the border and down highway 50.  Now I know you likely had not noticed I am SEVERELY and utterly dyslexic.  I am even dyslexic in French (much to my grade 7 English teachers horror.  “What do you mean you can’t have 3 vowels and 3 consonants together?  The French teacher said it was fine.”!  So that was the end of my French classes. Too bad I really liked French there had been no reading or writing up to that point!)  Anyways to get back to Twist, I headed out with the instructions to turn north at the town that made me think of pineapples (Papineauville).  Yes, that should have made me think of grapefruit (pamplemousse) but I really am dyslexic bilingually so I slaughter both English and the bits of French I still remember. 

As I mentioned it’s just over an hour away from Ottawa and I was diligently checking each off-ramp sign I approached to see if any of the letters looked similar to what I was looking for.  That year there was a lot of road work and a lot of dead skunks.  It was past an hour by the time I reached Meribell airport (that’s really getting a bit close to Montreal!) so I turned back.  There had been no suggestion in the instructions you had to pass the airport.  On my way back I passed Montebello, which I remember passing the first time. Then I reached a sign that had been missing driving east; Papineauville and Saint-André-Avellin.  Turning north I found the town and the festival only I was really late!  I found out the sign was down due to the construction.  DRAT!!!

This year Getting to the workshop location:

I cannot spell but I am not a dumb as I look.  I asked Google Maps again to find the location of the workshop I would be attending;  ” Staffroom ADSPN”.   It told me this place would be 2 blocks away from the recreation center Twist was being held in.  so I did a street view and discovered no, it’s across the street from the back of Twist! You won’t fool me twice!!! I checked when I attended the 3d sculptural workshop, yes, it’s across the street.

Our Teacher was Megan Cleland who has a background in Fine Art (Painting).  She lived on a sheep farm for 10 years in Australia then moved back to Canada bringing her fibre with her. (I don’t think she brought her sheep).

She had requested we email her which of her sheep pictures we would like to do or if we had felted before we could select our image. So I did some digging through the internet and found a few photos I thought might work. 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


I narrowed the selection down to these shots.

I decided on the fox with the seal as runner up. I got an email back that she could only see half my fox could I send it again. So I sent the fox, the black and white and the colour separation. Ah, there is only half a fox.

Arriving at the workshop there were a lot of animals chosen but I had the only close-up. Ok, it is going to take me longer than the class to do this.

Our teacher is approaching needle felted felt portraiture was more like a watercolour painting; using layers of blended hues to produce the final colour.  

She handed out our photos with the out lined colour separation in grayscale like the third picture I had done.  We also received the prefelt for the picture backing, a bag of fibre in colours that would be appropriate for the picture that we could blend from, a foam pad (dollar store for kneeling to garden on), half a pool noodle as a needle rest and 2 felting needles.  She asked us to bring a pair of sharp scissors and a tablet or phone with our image on it.   I also brought candy and a bottle of Mountain Dew –for the caffeine.

I was very excited about how we would be transferring the image to the background.  Could it be the use of a Lucy? (A projector used in Illustration and Commercial art applications)  Are we going to grid and scale the pictures up? Would we be using a light table?  – I knew that commercial and fine art background would come in handy!  Yes, it was the last one just less hi-tech; we used the window.  She suggested a couple of types of pens used by quilters.  We used a blue ink that was to disappear with heat I think.  Quite a bit of it rubbed off on the side of my hand so I may try a different type next time.

She works starting with the Eyes and nose then adding in the darkest areas, then working out from there.  I had a commercial art teacher who painted watercolours.  His preferred method was to paint the whole painting then soak it in the bathtub to remove most of the pigment leaving only a stain behind. He would repeat this over and over but in the end, his painting had a Luminosity that was amazing.  But it was a very slow way to work. I usually approach felt more like a cross between Oils (work from the background to foreground) and Acrylics (application of carefully blended paint). Although, I did tend to use my acrylics paints with more of a watercolour wash technique. Back to the dyslexic confusion I mentioned before.  I know how I would approach this so let’s see what her methodology creates.

Just after lunch.  I have the eye basically blocked in but it needs more work same with the nose.  I have started on the dark areas

By the end of the workshop, I am not close to finishing and am feeling very slow but had a blast and am pleased with what I have done so far.  This is definitely slower than my usual technique, but let us wait and see the final result.

I got a chance last weekend to do a bit more between photography and a bit of shopping at the Almonte fibre fest.

Here is how far I have gotten at show and tell for the OVWSG guild show and tell (I had a lot of show and tell including 2 new to me, flax wheels, one Mini Electric spinning wheel, a tensioned lazy Kate and skein winder, both by Alvin Ramer, the 2 baskets I made at the blacksmithing conference and the Fox from the twist workshop, still in progress. It was a busy summer!)

The workshop with Megan Cleland was a lot of fun and I gained new information and experience. The garden kneeling pad from Dollarama is a great idea and did not absorb fibre like the foam pads do (even with the plastic cover still intact). She will be using rigid foam insulation for her next extremely large life size portrait. The half a pool noodle needle rest was a cool idea and the consideration of using fibre colour similar to layers of watercolour is quite intriguing.

She will be coming back to the Ottawa area and will be teaching in other locations both later this year and into the next. If you see her workshop you may want to take it.  Check out her Facebook page for what she has been creating!  I hope you get a chance to take a workshop with her too.

Update: Thursday  in Kanata 9am-7pm

I had the opportunity to continue working on the fox during the Kanata Games Club board game convention last weekend. While Glenn played 18xx train games, which are extremely long and full of math, I got to have fun and felt.

I found that checking with the camera helped me to see where I needed to adjust the fox’s colour.  It was also interesting to check out the back of the very thin felt we had been given to work on.

Friday I spent working on the guild library so I was back to felting on Saturday 11am to 9pm; this time downstairs by a window.  Then later I moved upstairs (someone brought garlic dinner so I evacuated).

Back Sunday to Kanata for the last day of the Boardgame (and Felting) convention.  Today the church was booked so we were at the community centre behind the church.

I got to the point around lunch when I was finally happy with the general look of the fox and decided to try single muskox guard hair as whiskers.  I was suspicious they would be too thin and need to be augmented by gluing a few together to give them more visual weight. 

 I like the concept but I think using the glue to beef up the size of the whiskers should work.  So by 3-ish I started another picture; this time sheep! But that’s for another day!

PS: Update on the foam kneeling pad from Dollarama. It worked very well for the fox but by the time I started to work on the next piece I was noticing bits of wool sticking and the foam is degrading in the areas most poked. So it works very well for a short time (30+hours?). But if you are really layering lots of thin wisps of fibre it will die. But at only a couple bucks it’s affordable and there is the second side to still use!!

I hope you have enjoyed the reminiscence about the fox and how it came to be. The banner at the top of the blog is a combination of Spinning, weaving, many kinds of felting as well as equipment for all these activities created or belonging to Ann or i. We stuffed it all into our cars and dragged it down to the guild studio to do a photoshoot for the blog heading. it was quite the assemblage of felting, spinning, weaving, basketry (to hold the fibre) and fibre prep tools all adding up to a pile of fibre fun. But that is another story if you would like to hear it sometime.

19 thoughts on “Twist Workshop – 2D needle felting portraits

  1. What an utterly incredible ‘painting’. Actually I like the idea of half a face – it makes it look very ‘up close’. Anyway, I am sure adding the second side gave you the impact you were aiming for. It’s a lovely piece of work and thank you for all the progress pictures and notes

    1. Thanks! i have been enjoying the more water colour technique on my sculptors too but it is not fast. the fox is still only half a fox but you can see his other half if you look at the back of the pre-felt base! the colour has seeped through enough to show him in reverse!

      if you have an image that you like but its not quite as strong as you want try cropping it. take two “L” shapes of card stock or matboard, you can cover and adjust the view you have of your image and crop down very tightly sometimes creating an extremely strong composition.

      it was a fun way to think of colour, in layers of tiny wisps, so a good a mount of hand blending but also some optical blending and through the layers of colour. slow but very effective! if your spot Megan teaching near you definitely consider a class!

    1. Thanks! I hope it didnt sound too familiar! i am sure i rote that in 2018 in the late fall, a couple months after i had taken the workshop. Ann looked back through the blogs too and didnt find it.

      it was a Very slow method of working but it really had impressive results. (i have to finish those poor sheep i started after the fox) if we don’t go back in to lock-down this spring we are planing to go see muskox to Qiviot production. there will be the heavy extra long gard hairs to aquier for the Foxes whiskers rather than gluing together the finer undercoat gard hairs. otherwise i mite have to find some horse tail or main that would do.

  2. Your fox is beautiful, and the technique you learned from Megan Cleland looks interesting.
    I rather fancy having a go at your picture of the sheep looking over it’s shoulder. Would you mind, or is that the one you’ve picked to do next?

    1. Thanks Ann!

      the images i was looking at were all form the internet, so not my shots. they are fair game for using as educational aids but not for selling unless you are transforming them so the image is more inspirational than representational. you may be able to find the original photographer but i tend to find ones with no accreditation when i go looking for it. its unfortunate since some of the shots i have seen are stunning and i would love to see what else the photographer has captured.

      the fox photo i have seen used by someone else in a felt portrate but in black and white. i wounder if i can find that again. it was interesting to see anther interpretation of the same was on the Belfast Mini Mills Ltd face book page. Found it!! (

      i would love to see how you get on with the over the shoulder sheep! Have Fun!!!

  3. This is a fantastic piece of work and I particularly like the composition, using just half the face creates a lot of impact. There are some very inspiring photos in your collection of images.

    1. Thanks Karen! i cant take credit for that particular cropping, i found it while browsing through a google image such which led to a Pintrist page that i could not track back from to find the original place it was posted. i did try at the time. with composition sometimes less is so much more! i do love tight detail shots! I can get lost for most of a day when im on resurch mode l love google image surches! its vary distracting but i usually find what i was looking for.

  4. Fantastic fox, Jan! What a realistic portrait. The composition is also stunning. This makes me want to go back to 2D felting!

    1. Thanks Leonor! it is a slow technique but it is vary effective. 2D is lots of fun and is a nice brake from having to do all the side of a sculpture!

  5. Incredible work Jan! So realistic. I’m totally in awe. I really love the idea of using the camera for colour check too.

    1. Thanks Helene!

      the camera is good at getting your eye to see what its looking at. the brain tends to tell you that you know what something looks like so wants to draw that instead of what you are actually looking at. Using the camera is a bit like the trick with looking at a drawing in a mirror to check your have the proportions you think you have. the tablets and phones are good if you have the image your working on loaded up so you can zoom in and look at spots in fine detail. (when you have the camera with you not only can you check your colour / composition but will also photo-document your work more often!!)

      another thing i do sometimes is get the photo into the computer and start playing with colour saturation and contrast. taking them way up so i can see the some of the unexpected underlying colours. i can print out the wildly colour exaggerated photo to refer to if i get stuck.

      Have fun Felting!!!

  6. Great post Jan! I took a look at all 80 of your posts and it doesn’t look like you ever posted about the fox. So it’s good to hear the story and understand how it was created. I do like the cropped version too as it is an unusual way to view the fox’s face.

  7. Absolutely LOVE it! What a great way to do animal portraits. So realistic. Love your humor too!

  8. Jan as usual your picture is stunning. You’ve really captured the image & brought the fox fully to life, more so than the original photo, as it has the added element of actual texture.
    The cropped image just enhances the closeness of the subject, almost as if he is just behind the door.

We'd love to hear your thoughts!

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