Felted Iris Flowers Part 1
This week, I am back to working on felted flowers between Library work. I have the last bit of data I needed for my year-end report (so I had better take a moment to fill that in and send it off to the guild executive). Now that is done I can get back to Felting.
A few weeks ago, I watched a workshop given by Tjarda van der Dussen. She made rose petals that were wonderfully thin. Next, she used a tiny craft iron to flatten them further. Then finally, she assembled them, adding leaves to the stems, into a life-like Rose.
I made a prototype of iris petals (https://feltingandfiberstudio.com/2022/04/14/inspired-to-felt-an-iris-prototype/) but did not yet have a tiny iron to try that part of her instructions. The prototype iris proved that the pattern I had found online made a reasonably accurate bearded iris. I gave it a ZZ top beard, not a respectable Gotee but I was having fun and it was a prototype.
1 Prototype iris testing the pattern
I am very fond of irises, I think they may be my favourite flowers. (if only they flowered longer!) I have had different colours, but most are of the large bearded variety. The frilly peach one in the backyard, came with us from the townhouse we rented before I bot this little house. (My house is a semidetached bungalow, so I guess technically it is only half a house.) The location was good, and the yard was about twice as big as a townhouse with more room for plants, so I bought it. The house came with a dieing red maple tree, which I could put my hands around. The first spring I added a garden to the front yard with the unhappy tree. Unfortunately when I watered the front garden the mostly dead red maple grew and over the next few years became a heavy shade-producing tree, thus all the sun-loving plants I had planted were not impressed. My back yard will likely have the same fate since there is now a rapidly growing red maple in the yard behind me, which will eventually shade a lot of my yard too. (Don’t tell my plants!!)
So let’s look at a few Iris from my garden over the years. I hope they will inspire you too.
2 Bronz and White iris
The bronze Iris is quite hardy but is not as flashy as some of the blues, or as delicate as the frill-edged peach. The white is also quite delicate in looks and does not flower every year.
3-4 Frill-edged Peach Iris
The frill-edge Peach is particularly showy but has been known to face plant since the flower is large and the stem is long. I have to remember to tie it up before it falls over this year.
5 I have two of the smaller varieties of iris, this smaller variety, and an early dwarf spring clump that is an even darker blue dark.
I have had several iris in the front yard that have slowly died back and disappeared as both my tree and the neighbour’s Linden tree continued to grow and make shade. Some have been quite spectacular and I am sorry they did not last.
6 Fancy Iris
My backyard iris have fared better but were threatened with shade from an over-enthusiastic grapevine last year. (There will be a discussion of boundaries involving sheers shortly with said vine.)
7 backyard iris
I have even grown some, through the summer, in pots to good effect.
8 Iris in pots
On to the next (felt) iris.
I tried World of Wool core wool with the bit of kemp on the first petal. Laying out the general shape then adding a bit of the mixed blue merino braid I had used before for edging colour.
9 laying out the fibre
10 adding the blue edging
I used the T-36 to tack it in the general area, leaving some hanging off the edge of the petal to add to the underside when I flipped the petal. I switched to the fake clover tool to imbed the blue fibre into the white. I realized I had forgotten to add the wire to pose the petal so added it now then back to poking. I flipped frequently and found that if I worked a bit deeper I would transfer some of the blues to the other side giving a better mottle.
I worked one side and then the other side until the petal was the correct shape but not as thin as I wanted.
11 switching to the fake clover tool
I left the first petal at this point and started a second, this time using a small batt I had purchased from Wabi Sabi in Ottawa. It was a Rambouillet/ Merino mix batt, that had a nice crimp but was not quite as lustrous as the core wool.
12 Batt of Merino- Rambouillet
I did the same layout of fibre poking at a low angle along the edge of the pattern piece to get the shape required.
13 when I had the fibre holding together (not good felt but it was not falling apart) I added the wire.
14 adding wire through the center
After making more petals I may role the tip end as well as make a long role back just so it won’t poke up into the flower petal. Again, I added the blue to the edge and wrapped it over the edge of the petal, taking down the fibres with the 36T and then using the fake clover tool with the 40t’s.
15 adding the blue edging
Comparing the two petals, I decided to continue with the small batt of Rambouillet /merino.
16 comparing the two types of wool in the petals
17 I suspect that this type of foam mat may be demoted back to a garden kneeling pad.
A couple of days earlier Ann had spotted another wool felting mat on Amazon. It was white and similar in size to the grey one I purchased and reviewed recently. This one was described as; “KEO ST. Needle Felting Pad – 100% New Zealand Wool Mat for Precision Felting. Natural Cream Color, 10” x 8” x 1” – Complete with 2 Handmade Leather Finger Guards”. (that was a mouthful lets just call it the white wool mat.
I also ordered a “14″x14″ Wool Pressing Mat for Quilting” so I would be ready to use the “Clover Mini Iron II-The Adapter Set” which I had ordered when it went on sale earlier. (It’s back up to an exorbitant price again.)
18 the new white felting pad (it came with more finger cots!)
19 let’s try it out
So let’s try this one out. It is much firmer felt than the gray wool with kemp felting mat. It is still softer to work into than the firm red foam. It does not leave little bits of red foam in the felt. Unlike the softer grey wool with kemp mat, it had no aroma. Both seem to be made in layers that are commercially needle felted together. The needle end-feel on the white is firmer than the grey but still less than the red kneeling foam. I did find I had some fibre transfer but I was trying to move the blue colour from one side of the petal to the other. The fibre transfer to the mat would have been less if I had not wanted to work so deeply. (a reverse needle would have been able to pull fibre from one side to the other too.)
I have recently seen the use of a thinner piece of firm felt placed over a mat to protect the mat from getting fibre transfer. Sort of like putting a mattress topper on top of a mattress to make it more comfortable and longer waring. (not the type of mattress that has a built-in top since you cant flip them only rotate them they tend not to last as long as the un-pillow-toped mattresses. Sorry got distracted. Back to felt!) I may try to track down a light and a dark piece of firmer felt about a ¼ inch thick to try as a cover for my felt pads. I could see it extending the life of the mat, whether or not it works to keep fibre colour transfer from your work.
As long as you are lifting frequently and flipping the petal I found both the white (stiffer end feel) and the Grey (softer end feel) wool pads comfortable to work on. They would be comfortable to work a picture on (again lifting frequently) or to use as a working surface for a sculpture.
I worked on the larger lower petals and then worked on the smaller upper petals.
20-21 using the needle at a low angle and moving the tinning fibre towards the center of the petal
My focus was to work as thin as I could while still creating a firm felt. I found that working around the edge with the multi-tool tended to spread the shape while it thinned the felt. I would alternate multi-tool to flatten then switch to a single needle working more horizontally towards the center to counter the spread. The pattern piece was helpful to check the size and get it back into the correct shape.
The other technical detail to consider is about the wire within the petal. I have quite a bit of experience felting with armatures. Very occasionally working needles through the wool and around wire I will brake one. It is usually when I start to try to work too quickly or I am distracted (trying to watch YouTube rather than listen to an audiobook). Working with such thin felt defiantly requires more care and less speed. In the center of the petals where the wire is located, I found I had problems with the fake clover multi-tool and broken needles. I eventually shifted to focusing the multi-tool to thin the edges and the single needles to work near the wire and reshape the petals. This improved the longevity of my needles.
I worked the petals in stages. First holding together enough to insert the wire, then to the point it was the correct size and shape but not firm enough, then finally going back over each petal until it was the firmness I wanted and about the correct shape.
22 comparing thinness
The petal on the right is the basic petal shape which has been worked long enough to hold its shape. For the petal on the left, I have continued to work with both the multi-tool and the single needle to the point of being quite a firm felt. If the felt was this dense but thicker (more of it) the light gauge of wire I am using would not be strong enough to hold a shape against the strength of the wool. I tried floral wire gauge 20 and an undesignated floral wire that I think maybe 24gauge. I continued working with the other petals until all seemed to be as thin as I could get them.
Next week we will look at the new equipment that has arrived so i can continue working on these petals.
9 thoughts on “Felted Iris Flowers Part 1”
Our garden irises are in bud so they will be out soon – they are beautiful flowers.
Your new mat looks good!
It must be frustrating to hit the wire with the felting needle and it must slow you down when you’re working in that area of the petal.
Hope your new iron is a success and that you share your experience of it in your next post – it has a lot of attachments!
I too am a lover of irises! It’s irises and old fashioned roses that are at the top of my list of flowers. I’m really impressed with your prototype and am looking forward to your next installment!
Your (real) irises are beautiful Jan, particularly the peachy ones; and those are set off so well by the bright blue flowers in the background. I’ve not seen those before, what are they?
I’m looking forward to your next instalment and to seeing the bunch when finished – I know they’ll be as good as the garden variety.
I have blue Irises in my garden Jan and I love them. They flower in June and for a number of years I missed this because we were away on holidays. This year will be different.. I may have yellow ones too – I will just have to wait and see what hits (I think the yellow is a drop in as I have no memory planting it!).
Your petals are looking beautiful and your step by step instructions are super. Looking forward to Part 2.
Lovely iris! One of my favorite too! You’re making progress on the felt ones and I look forward to seeing them.
You’re irises are beautiful. I like the flowers but not the rhizomes. They are so hard to weed around. I have some Japanese irises. I don’t know if they are really irises or just look like them. Yours are coming along nicely
Great insight into your process… I hadn’t thought of felting irises, but love the idea! Was wondering though why you wouldn’t wet felt to get them thinner after getting the basic shape needled?
Fascinating to see how you make these petals.
We all seem to love Irises. I have lots of blue, white and a bronzey type colour, all the bearded variety. I also have a patch of the tall slender variety – often seen in flower bouquets – that I love, but, my goodness, those ones are so difficult to dig up and divide. I have serious iris envy for some of yours, especially the really dark blue/black, the white almost speckled with blue, and the white with a tinge of blue/purple around the edge of the petals. They are all so beautiful.
Looking forward to your completed needle felted irises, your prototype is so good.