Learning to print on (wet) felt

Learning to print on (wet) felt

I’m learning to print onto felt so I thought I’d show you some work in progress.  I’m following Lindsey Tyson’s course ‘Transfer Printing onto Felt and other Fabrics’ so I’m focusing here on what I’ve made rather than how. Lindsey’s been printing on felt for some years and has developed her own techniques. She’s now moving away from felt-making and printing to focus on painting so has produced a comprehensive course to share her expertise. I first saw her work a few years ago and have been really intrigued ever since to know how she produces such lovely images on felt.

I do quite a lot of sales and exhibitions in my local area. I’ve long thought I’d like to develop some smaller decorative items I can make relatively quickly and so sell at a lower price than some of my other work (because it’s more time-consuming).  I thought printing might provide an opportunity to do this.

I hummed and hawed for some time before signing up as it involves quite a big investment – not only in the course itself but also in equipment, software, space (for the equipment) and time.  I’ve just had a milestone birthday and as my mother wanted to give me a milestone gift, I decided that this was it.  I do love learning new skills and developing ideas so I was pretty sure I’d love the course.  Thank you Mum!

My first venture was to source some free online images (this is covered in the course) and, along with a little oyster shell sketch I drew, prepare them for printing and print some samples onto scraps of felt.

Small test pieces

I was pretty pleased with the results. However, some of the prints had a rather plastic feel and very visible edge.

Lindsey was very helpful with her suggestions on how to improve – including highlighting that I’d overlooked one of the steps when using the paper I’d chosen, doh! That is now largely resolved though I’m still wrestling with myself about whether I should buy a new printer as I have an inkjet and apparently laser prints work better.

I made a little tea light holder cover using some commercial prefelt. I’ve never used bought prefelt before (I’ve always made my own) and although it produced a very lovely fine felt, I also managed to create a line in the cover where the sheet of prefelt joined that I wasn’t happy with.

I now know (from the course) that there’s a way round this but I’ve decided for the time being to stick with making my own felt from scratch rather than introducing new variables.

The course covers, in a lot of detail, how to design and manipulate images. It includes tutorials on using free software as well as paid-for software like Photoshop. I decided to buy Photoshop Elements ( a basic form of Photoshop with a one-off purchase rather than a monthly subscription). I have to admit I have not taken to it like a duck to water! Some of that is doubtless me (remember that milestone birthday!) but I’ve seen lots of reviews that agree that it’s not very intuitive and so not particularly easy to learn to use. Fate intervened with (as far as I know) my first dose of Covid-19 during which I confined myself entirely to staying at home for 5 days (as per our current guidance) and until I tested negative. After the first couple of days I started to feel better so decided this was my time to make Photoshop Elements work for me.  In spite of sometimes getting very frustrated, I actually quite enjoyed the learning and have to be impressed with the things I can now do with it (however slowly) let alone all the things it can do that I can’t yet.  There are some really good free YouTube tutorials too, which helped, and I have certainly put in the hours. Many, many hours.

Back to the felt-making.  I made two more little tea light covers – one from 2 fine layers and one from 4 fine layers of 21 micron natural (undyed) merino. I wanted to see how they’d look with a lit tealight inside. Surprisingly they were both OK.

By then I’d thought of using my own felted bird images which I expertly (!) extracted from their backgrounds. I like the redshank and curlew as they both have feet.  Often my felt pictures have birds (like the avocet) whose feet are in water or behind pebbles – both because that’s how I saw the wild birds they’re based on and because I find felting bird feet quite hard!

I then tried out 18.5 mic undyed merino and decided this was what I’d use as it has a lovely smooth surface, light colour and a fine translucent appearance. Perfect both for printing and for tea lights.

I started to dig into my vast collection of charity-shop-bought silk scarves and added silk strips to the lower part of the designs. This was partly because lit tea lights’ metal cases cast a shadow at the base of the cover (see the lit one above), partly because it adds to the decoration and partly because it can ‘ground’ the images – i.e. give those birds’ feet something to walk on.  Oh, it also eases my conscience about quite how many second-hand silk scarves I own.

Redshank with recycled grey silk scarf strip

And so here are some more of the results.  I’ve printed a design on the front and the back (apart from the one with a flock of birds – that goes all the way round). They also look nice as plant holders, ‘thought they’re not quite the right proportions for most plant pots so I have to add some small pebbles to the bottom of the glass container if I want to show them as plant holders.

Herons

Some of them are free images I’ve found on the internet; some are from my own large felted pictures and one (the honesty seed pods) is from photos I’ve taken of the seed pods and worked on in Photoshop Elements to create a composite picture.

And here are the first 6 I put in the gallery shop at Creek Creative in Faversham (it’s a gallery, café, shop and studios where I rent my studio), just over a week ago. Inside each there are comprehensive warnings about lit tea lights, some felt care instructions and the name of the image.

First shop display at Creek Creative

The redshank on the left sold within a few days – I don’t know about the others yet.

I’ve also made some cards – initially to use up all the little test prints….

Square cards made using test samples

…..and then some I made specifically to become cards

Long cards

And finally a couple of bigger purpose-made plant pots with metal pots inside, using 21 mic merino in green and white.

Next steps? I’m looking forward to a couple of in-person sales / exhibitions I have coming up so I can gauge people’s reactions. I will keep building a stock of tealight holders, plant pots and cards and developing new images so I have plenty of both stock and variety.  I will keep extending my knowledge and skills in both printing on felt and using Photoshop.  And I will definitely keep working through Lindsey’s excellent course and drawing on her extensive and generous one-to-one and group support to help me on my way.

Here’s a link to a promotional video for Lindsey’s course, in case you want to check it out.

34 thoughts on “Learning to print on (wet) felt

  1. I would so like to have done that course but just cant justify the expense and I suspect if she gets a lot of interest, the market will be flooded with similar examples! YOu know how it is – someone does nuno, so it’s all the rage, someone does frilly scarves so they are all over the place….!
    I shall struggle on with my own experiments! Your results are lovely.

  2. Thank you, Nancy. I know what you mean about ‘fashion’ in felt as we learn from each other’s’ skills and ideas. I don’t know if this will become a fashion, perhaps not because of the specialist equipment. It will be interesting to see.

  3. WOW and WOW Lindsay, what fantastic results. I really love all the covers you’ve made.
    As far as printers are concerned, you may find it cheaper to go to a local copy shop, or camera shop and get them to do some prints for you. Most of these places use laser printers rather than inkjets. If you’ve any friends in local businesses you may find that you can get them to do laser prints for you even more cheaply. At least you could try a few sample laser prints before spending even more money on a new printer (not that I know how much a laser printer is these days).
    Do you take commissions?
    Ann

    1. Many thanks, Ann – lovely comments. I’ve asked a local copy shop just that but they declined. I think it’s because I need them to print on specific paper that I would supply. Maybe they worry about it gumming up their works. Or maybe they just couldn’t be bothered! I suppose I shouldn’t be put off by one refusal and try one or two more.

      As for commissions – it would depend on whether I thought they were within my abilities at the moment. I’d like to move onto some small pictures with a printed element but it’s obviously more of a loss if you mess up a picture with a poor print than messing up a tea light holder.

    1. Thanks, nanacathy2. Great to get your feedback and I’m sure the other Lindsey will appreciate your comments on the course.

  4. Amazing…..beautiful ……never heard of printing on felt before…but then on Instagram saw Dogwooddyer, makes it look simple printing from flowers on hemp socks so presumably could do on felt too…I will follow it up one day…..all for keeping things natural and simple.

  5. I had never heard of printing on felt before…this work is beautiful, but then just now on Instagram saw Dogwooddyer…..printing flowers onto hemp socks, made it look simple…presumably would work on felt too…I will have a go one day, like to keep things simple and natural if possible….odd, two printing things in one day….

    1. Thank, Ruth. I’ll go and check out Instagram now. Glad you like the work 😊

  6. Your felt is so beautiful Lindsay! There isn’t one item that doesn’t have the ‘oooh’ factor and they must surely all sell quickly.

    Kudos to you for getting to grips with the computer software that helps this process.

    Perhaps you’re going to need a bigger beach hut in which to sell all this lovely felt?

    1. Many thanks for your lovely comments. Yes, the software has been a bit of a struggle although I could have stuck with the free software which, although very basic, did work. I think it will have broader use too, including helping me print the regular cards I make of my photos and felt pictures more easily.

      Fortunately, the things I’ve made so far are quite small so I won’t need to expand my beach hut empire quite yet!

    1. Thanks Kathryn. Retail for the large tea light holders (approx size 26-28 cm circumference, 10-12cm high) is £28. I say retail as this is the ticket price – the gallery shop take a percentage. I haven’t priced the smaller tea light holders (the first ones I made without silk strips) yet or the plant pots but I’d guess retail about £22 and £38 respectively.

  7. Fantastic, Lindsay! I see many reiterations of this theme for you in the future. Turning them to plant pot covers is darling!

    1. Thank you Leonor. Yes, I think there’s lots of potential to work with in the future &Im looking forward to seeing where it takes me in the future.

  8. The lights and pots are great. I love your birds. I was very interested in the workshop but couldn’t justify buying the equipment. Using samples for cards is a great. Do the square ones have a piece of fabric behind them? or are they embossed? It’s very effective.

  9. Thanks very much, Ann. It was a bit of an ‘aha’ moment when I thought about using my felt bird images. I wasn’t sure if it would look odd putting a photo of felt onto felt but instead it seems to fit right in. The rectangles behind the felt on the square cards are a semi translucent fabric with sort of fine chenille stripes woven in. I’ve had it for years and as I use such small pieces it will probably see me out!

  10. Hi, Ann! Beautiful work!!! Is it possible to buy just the stickers? I’m also afraid of not getting the right role here in Brazil. The printer is not a problem, but paper can be difficult.
    I understand that first the onstiker is produced and then we apply it in wetfelting. Am I right?

  11. Hi Patricia. Lindsay here. Assume this was meant for me as it’s my work. If I understand you correctly, you’re right that you print the image then apply it to felt but you need a heat press (like you use for applying designs to t-shirts) to apply it. The image wouldn’t transfer with an iron, for example. Does that answer your question?

  12. Lindsay, these are great. I hope they sell quickly and give you a lower price option for customers. I use Photoshop elements and I learn new things but I think I have forgotten more than I use. Sigh, technology is fun.

  13. Thanks Ruth. I guess you can be proud you learned so much you have room to forget some stuff!

  14. These are amazing Lindsay, you have a real eye for design, pairing perfect combinations of image with silk scarf. I am sure they will sell well but I imagine only other feltmakers will appreciated how technically challenging they are to create.

    1. Thanks Teri, very kind. I do enjoy rummaging through all the lovely silk scarves to find the one I think will work best. I suspect it’s true that most people who haven’t tried an art or craft rarely appreciate the work that goes into it or the degree of expertise. It’s one of the things I enjoy about chatting to people at exhibitions – or at least the ones whose eyes don’t glaze over!

    2. I think that that is exactly why it is so difficult to get a reasonable price for artwork, especially textile artwork. People still have the “home made? must be cheap” mentality. They just don’t realise what time and effort goes into these works. I’m afraid to say that, although I do realise this, I quite often think, “well I could do that for myself” when most of the time I can’t and don’t, so the seller misses out on a sale and I miss out on owning something special. Mind you, it’s usually when I couldn’t justify spending out on it. (Sigh!)
      Ann

  15. Lindsay your work is outstanding. Everything is professionally done, and belongs in a gallery for sure. I particularly enjoy the sweet butterfly holder, shown above the plant holders. What a wonderful gift your received from your Mum!

    Capi

  16. Aw, thanks Capi for your lovely comments. Yes, it is a generous and much appreciated gift. I will have to make something for her to say thank you.

  17. They are truly lovely Lindsay! I know Lindsey Tyson personally and have seen her work many times so was tempted to take part in the course but then decided against it. But your pieces made in this technique are great! The fact that you use your own images adds so much individuality and uniqueness! Congratulations!

    1. Thanks very much, Galina – how nice to hear from you! Yes, Lindsey’s work is lovely. I was really happy when it dawned on me to use images from my own felt pictures as I hope it helps make sure my pieces are original. I will probably still use online images too so that I have enough variety but I can see me trying to work in as much of my own images as possible.

  18. This is beautiful work Lindsay! The images are so crisp, I couldnt have imagined getting such sharp detail on felt. The fact that you can use your ownwork to print from makes them totally unique and the use if silk to ground the image is perfect! I’m sure these will prove to be a hit with your customers.

  19. Lindsay….WOW….just brilliant.
    I’m so pleased you finally found a way to create additional items at the lower price point. And the designs totally fit in with all your other creations…. very ‘you’.

    I’ve seen & handled Lindsey Tyson’s work several times, and whilst you are using her technique, your pieces are unique & using your own Felted bird images is inspired.

    You’ve done amazingly well to master not only the technique but also the new equipment & the digital photo technology too….what will you undertake for you next milestone b’day 🤪. You’ve certainly made the most of your mum’s wonderful gift.
    X

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