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