Last week I watched an online workshop with Tjarda van der Dussen. She was showing how to Needle felt a realistic Rose and Butterfly which had blue patterns on one side of the wing and brown on the opposite side. Originally, what I found fascinating was her ability to work very thinly with a lot of surface detail (particularly with the butterfly).
As I watched her workshop, I was impressed with her ability to do surface work (shallow insertion of the needle only affecting the top layer of her piece.) She achieved this partly through the angle of the needle and partly by very good depth control. She said she preferred spiral (twisted) and star needles for her work. She used them in a wooden single needle holder. I am not sure if she has tried Crown needles, which as you know, have only one barb per side but all are located very close to the tip of the needle (making it ideal for surface detail felting). I think she said she was using 38 and 40 gauge needles. She also had one of the 7 needle fake clover tools (the blue rather than the original clover green) which she used mostly with a shallow insertion.
For her working surfaces, she usually started with the clover brush tool, used covered with cotton fabric. She was lifting frequently whatever she was working on, so it would not stick to the cloth. She would, at times switch over to working on a wool mat that she had made herself. (I do want to figure out how she made that!)
She used a pattern or template for the petals that reminded me of the paper flower patterns I have seen on Pinterest occasionally. I should go take a browse and see if I can see a pattern for an iris. (I miss my iris now that my front garden is all shade). Tjarda would compare the petals she was making to the template, first getting the general shape, then adding the indentations indicated for each petal shape.
She used leather finger cots (protectors) as she held the petal and template to work on the edge with the needle. If you don’t have finger cots you can make them out of scraps of leather or you could try to “accidentally” cut the fingers off a strong leather glove. If you go for the latter plan, it may be best to find one stray glove and hope the other doesn’t reappear later. Also, test the leather with a felting needle to make sure the leather is thick enough to protect you while supple enough to use to hold your project.
Her last tool that intrigued me was a “mini Iron” for sewing and crafting. After a bit of searching and price checking, I found one online. This iron requests a heat mat which I have not yet tracked down. There are similar-looking tools for taking the wrinkles out of leather and another that fixes dents in car bumpers, both are reportedly much hotter and a lot more expensive. The ones I saw described for quilting while looking identical to the Craft version were more expensive. If you find one at a garage sale you may want to get it if it’s a good price. Hopefully, it’s one of the ones that has a temperature adjustment and rest for the hot end.
She used the little iron to flatten the petals and also add a bit of shape to them. The most important aspect seemed to be the flattening and increasing the adhesion of the felt. Unfortunately without a heat mat, I didn’t want to try out this part of her workshop. I will try it as soon as I can find the elusive mat.
Now on to trying to create a flower, not a rose but let’s see if I can find a paper flower pattern for an iris. So off to Google image to see what I can find. Success! I found a page from what looks like an old book on flower making. There were also pages out of another book, in Russian, that look interesting but it took me a while to find an iris.
I found a more modern-looking page from a book that had templates for Iris petals. I tried to track the image back to find out what the English book was called and if I could still get a copy. I think it might be “Handmade Flowers from Paper and Fabric” but I can’t find a view of the inside to check. I will have to watch for a second-hand copy. Maybe Ann will spot a copy at Value Village?
3) cover of the book I think the pattern may have come from
4) Iris pattern
OK, I have found a general pattern shape to do a test run on.
Iris test run.
I printed off the pattern and cut out the pieces, then transferred them to card stock. I used the pattern to layout fibre for the petal.
5) original pattern pieces and transferred to card-stock
My first petal was “A”, (it’s the petal that has the beard on a bearded iris). I lay down thin wisps of variegated blue from the remnants of a braid of merino. (yes I do have a bit of Merino wool)
6) Pattern “A” fibre laid out
I did not have a clover brush tool like the one that Tjarda had used, instead, I tried the Red higher density kneeling pad. After removing the template from under the wool, I was focusing on thin like the ice dragon’s wings…..nope that’s too thin.
7) adding more wool to thin spots in the petal
I added more fibre and used the fake clover tool very lightly to fill in the thinnest spot. I found that the fibre tended to spread a bit and I had to check the template regularly and readjust the edges.
8) shaping the edges with the felting needle (if you are careful you can hold the pattern and petal in your fingers and very carefully needle felt the edge)
Each petal does not have to be identical but it should be quite close to the same size and shape.
I carefully lifted the wool off the foam regularly turning the petal.
9) Gently lift the wool off the work surface and turn it frequently
I followed the instructions and made all the required petals. (Ax3, Bx3, Cx5 I am going to make the leaves later)
10) all the petals are now created.
The next step was to insert the wire into the petal. I made sure that the wire was hidden in the fibres and not visible on either side as much as I could. I added a bit more fibre to make sure the wire would stay hidden. I did this for each of the 3 “A” and “B” petals.
11) slide the wire into the petal and hide with a bit more wool if needed
At this point, I realized I didn’t have a high heat ironing mat. So decided to fall off the instructions and skip the anatomical correctness for the lower petals and instead had a bit of extra fun. (this is just the prototype to see if the pattern pieces work or if the size needs adjusting.)
12) the cool Mini Iron II, with extra bits! (but not a heat pad)
I had been looking at my photo reference for a Bearded Iris, Instead of a small beard (practically a goatee as it were), I went for the full ZZ Top facial hair on my iris. If you are going to have a beard, you might as well see how long a beard you can grow. I had a bit of Bernadette’s combing waste for the beard.
After adding the excessive Beard-age to the lower “A” petals, it was time to start the assembly. I paired an A with a B and twisted the wires together. This gave me three pairs of petals, which I positioned and twisted together in one stem.
13) The ZZ Top of Bearded Irises!
14) the bare twisted stem
Next, we need to have that green base just at the top of the stem with the twisted wire I did not have trouble adding green fibre to cover the wire, building it up under the iris.
15) the stem gets wool at the base of the flower and down the stem
I will still need to make leaves for the flower but let’s move on to the bud so we can get it to about the same spot as the flower is at this point.
To make the bud I made a round-bottomed cone with a floral wire embedded in it. I then added the remaining petals, one after another, adding them around the cone core.
16) the bud
I had no trouble building up the green base to the bud but wrapping the stem was not as easy. I followed Tjarda’s lead and tried clear fabric glue on the wire before adding the wool. This worked but was a bit messy on the fingers. It did allow for a very thin layer of wool to be added so I may try it on other tiny-er projects.
17) Tacky-fabric-glue, make sure it drys clear
Now it was time to make leaves. The pattern instructions suggest 4 long leaves and 2 short for around the bud. I had a nice (feels like Corriedale) green in the bag I had found the blue roving in. I think this was the bag I put together to make wet felted iris flowers at a felt in at Carsonby Hall a few years ago (no wonder I seem to have almost all the colours I wanted in it!)
18) first of the 4 long leaves to make.
This is long Iris leaf #1 done with the wire inserted. I will need to make at least 3 more but not today.
It has been dark and overcast all day today. Looking out the office window, I keep seeing little occasional white bits floating past. Not enough to rebuild the snowbanks, but too much when I have just planted the first pot of snow peas! I also have the front yard grass raked and the topdressing with grass seed has been applied!! This is not the time for even a few flakes of snow!!! What happened to plans for spring and getting the side yard felting studio ready to work in?
Oh well, at least I am well on my way to having a nice blue Iris to look at even if our plans for spring change suddenly back to winter.
19) the full-bearded Iris
20) iris and bud with the first leaf.
Next time I will try out the T40 Crown needles and press the wool. I am still pleased by the thinness of the petals on the prototype especially since they are not ironed.
Have fun and keep felting and I hope someone is enjoying spring.