Sunday, November 28, 2010

Cape Cod House Finished

Here is the finished version of the wool painting called, "Cape Cod House."  I used upholstery fabric for the borders because it seems to look very textural and more appropriate to the texture of the painting.  I am giving this one as a gift and will try it again, only larger.  I have some more ideas for using nepps and burrs in the foliage, but I have to dye them first and the scale of the piece needs to be large enough to accomodate them. 

These are the nepps and burrs, which are large and small crumbs of wool that are hand-dyed and mixed in with wool roving when felting trees and bushes in place.  They have to be used sparingly but really add depth, texture and dimension to the finished piece.  I purchase these in bulk and then dye them myself. 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Wet Felting Wool Paintings

Today is the day that I wet felt some wool paintings.  You may be wondering why wet felting is necessary after machine needle felting but there are several reasons why it needs to be finished this way.  First of all, some of the surface fibers can still be pulled off or form unsightly pills which will ruin the look of the piece over time.   Secondly, wet felting creates a tight web of felted surface fibers so that the piece looks crisp, clean and integrated into a smooth design.  Sometimes, after wet felting the design may appear blurry or a bit distorted from the process.  At this point I can hand felt some fibers to replace some small details and reiterate some lines or edges but I hardly ever have to do that.  If I ever did need to hand felt a lot (which meant I didn't machine needle felt well enough the first time) I would wet felt it again to set the most recent fibers into the web of the surface fibers so they won't pull off over time. 

Here are the directions:

1.     Soak a bar of olive oil soap in a basin of warm water until it begins to melt and feels slippery between your fingers.  You can also use conditioning shampoo for this.

2.     Place a piece of bubble wrap under and over your felted project, with the bubbles facing the project.

3.     Lift back the top layer of bubble wrap, exposing the dry project.

4.     Fill a turkey baster with the soapy water and gently spread soapy water all over the piece until it is thoroughly soaked.  You want to see soap lather when you rub the surface with your fingers.

5.     Turn the project over and thoroughly soak the back side as well with the warm, soapy water.

6.     Place the bubble wrap back over the top of your project and begin rubbing the surface with your fingers in one direction (up and down). 

7.     Begin rolling the piece back and forth 100 times.

8.      Unwrap the project and roll it up widthwise.  Continue rolling in this direction 100 times.

9.     Repeat the above, rolling the project lengthwise, then widthwise for 200 more times each.

10.     Check the surface of the felted piece to see if you can pull any fibers off the surface or if any of the yarns or nepps are moving or flaking off.  If they are, keep rolling.  If they are not, you are finished and can rinse out the piece and hang it to dry.  I use a fan to dry it quickly.
11.  Press gently with a steam iron and trim to the desired size for your project.  You can sew borders on and make it into a wall quilt or mount on an artists frame and display it on the wall that way.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Cape Cod House

I finally finished another machine needle felted painting.  This time I tried a house and garden scene on Cape Cod.  I followed an oil painting tutorial about underpainting  colors by Lois Griffel and I think it translated well to using wool.
You can see the photo I was following, the pastel painting I did first and then the final wool painting.  I still need to wet felt it and fill in some holes and crisp it up a bit but it's finally where I can show it.  I don't know if I will put it into a quilt with borders or wrap it on an artists frame like the Bottle Study.  Many of the ideas I've had about creating this wool painting medium have worked out the way I thought they would.  I used many different types of fibers from my stash and they truly do create the look I was after when I tried them. For example, the house has an underpainting of yellow wool, then an overlay of a multicolor wool roving.  The front of the house in shadow has a blue underpainting with a darker multicolor roving spread very thin on top.  I use merino wool for its long, thin fibers, and the shorter Waldorf wool I dyed myself as the "working wool" as underpainting, filling holes and wherever I needed fluffy non-linear color.  The star of the show I think is the Peace Fleece.  It creates the foliage instantly and easily and brings everything to life.  I wouldn't be without it and I have many colors in my stash, just for this purpose.  To see more about Peace Fleece, go to and click on the retail catalog.  Click on Felting, Spinning, roving, then click on Felting and Wool Crafts and scroll down to the batting. 

                                                        Cape Cod House Wool Painting

                                                      Cape Cod House Pastel Painting
                                                            Cape Cod House Photo

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Learning to Paint with Wool

I have been working through a set of DVDs by Lois Griffel, who is the director of the Cape Cod School of Art. Her work is based on the work of her predecessors, Charles Hawthorne and Henry Hensche, who built upon and enlarged the color principles made famous by Monet.  These lessons are done in oil painting but I chose to use pastel because I am not a painter, as such.  By learning how to paint with pastel, following her lessons, I hope to be able to translate photos into Impressionistic pieces using wool and the Babylock Embellisher machine.  I wrote a book on using the Embellisher this year and am now building upon it.  See sidebar for details or go to my website at  To see the instructional DVDs by Lois Griffel, go to her website at

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Color and Light - a Study with Glass Bottles

I have been working creating color and light using glass bottles as models to recreate a still life with needle felted wool.  I first did a pastel drawing of the still life scene, which made it much easier to translate into wool.  Following are the finished results - the photo, the pastel drawing and the wool painting.  My next experiment is with light infusing a landscape instead of just copying a landscape picture.

Original Photo

Pastel Drawing

Wool Painting