Monday, October 8, 2012

New Booklet "Creative Ideas for the Baby Lock Embellisher"

A lot has happened since I last posted.  I have been waiting until things are more definite but I am ready to tell you all the good news now. 

I had a wonderful time at Babylock Tech in St. Louis in August and met a lot of wonderful creative people. I was invited to set up a display booth of my work and present new ideas for the Babylock Embellisher machine to the other dealers and visitors to the event. It resulted in my being invited by the Tacony company (makers of the Baby Lock Embellisher) to become a National  Educator for them and travel to teach the Embellisher and other classes in various locations around the country. It is all still in the works yet but if you have wanted to have machine needle felting classes in your area, you just have to ask your local Babylock dealer to invite me for an event and they can contact Tacony headquarters and arrange something for you. I will keep you posted on this as it is brand new and not yet advertised to all the dealers.  I met and talked with many dealers at Babylock Tech and they were interested in Embellisher classes in 2013. Stay tuned.

The following booklet was published for the event and I am able to offer it for sale now on my website.  It is a 20 page idea book with photo references to my latest work, my first book (The Art of Machine Needle Felting) new project ideas for the Embellisher machine and a free pattern enclosed.   To order go to and click on the Online Store page.  You can use Paypal or any credit card to order.

The pattern includes directions and templates for the Falling Leaves Placemats. 

Also, for those of you who live in the southeast Pennsylvania area, I am having a quilt show of my work at Pottstown Sewing in Pottstown, PA for the month of October.  That is when the quilters are on the move with their quilt shop hops and stash building before the cold winter sets in.  If you would like to see a selection of Art Quilts and some needle felted quilts up close, visit Pottstown Sewing at
142 Shoemaker Road, Pottstown, PA. 

Monument Valley Mesa

Tropical Tidepool

For hours and directions, call 610) 326-5055. You might see me there being trained in all things Babylock by the dealers Ron and Barb Spaulding, preparing for my travels next year. I am learning how to use all the machines in the Baby Lock line and it is very interesting and fun. I hope to
be able to meet up with some of you felting enthusiasts at some point in the future.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Babylock Tech St. Louis

I will be leaving for a conference in St. Louis this weekend called Babylock Tech.  It is a trade show where dealers and businesses in the sewing world converge to sell their wares to each other, learn what is new in the market and take classes.  I will be set up in an area where I will be demonstating the Babylock Embellisher machine to anyone who passes by and wants to try it out or just watch. I will be doing this day and night so it will be intensive but a wonderful opportunity to show dealers how to use this machine and all that it can do.  I will be offering a free pattern for dealers to use in their shop classrooms to introduce customers to the Embellisher machine.  Here is a preview of the project and I will post the directions as soon as I have permission to do so after the event.

Autumn Leaf Placemats
 On an entirely different note, I just got back from North Carolina where I was able to hold my second grandchild this year, Collin Elias Hall.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Flower Power Placemats

Last call for those interested in the book, "The ART of Machine Needle Felting" on sale at 25% off until Tuesday July 31 at 9 PM.  Get yours while they last.

Flower Power Placemats

I teach quilting classes in a quilt shop called, "Ladyfingers Sewing Studio" in Oley, PA.  The address is:  6375 Oley Turnpike Road Oley, PA 19547
(610) 689-0068

Ladyfingers Sewing Studio

The owner, Gail Kessler, also works at Andover Fabrics in New York City designing quilting fabric for the rest of the world and carrying it in her store.

Gail Kessler

 Because of that, her shop is always stocked with the lastest collections by Andover and other companies.

Tons of Fabric in Collections

 It is a trip out in the country but definitely worth it.  The staff are friendly and very helpful.

I also live near Lancaster County, PA, which is the quilt fabric shoppers' paradise.  However, many of those shops have lots of fabrics that may or may not work together in a quilt.  Ladyfingers fabrics come in unique collections so if you make the trip you can find all you need for an entire quilt project. 

I fell in love with a particular fabric and used it to create a couple of projects just for fun and easy classes for Beginning Sewers.  The first is a class project designed for the Kids Can Quilt series also using the Accuquilt Go! fabric cutting system. 

Quilt-Go Pillow

Here is the best description of what this equipment does for the fabric and quilt market:

"AccuQuilt offers quilters, fabric crafters and retailers a premiere line of fabric cutters, dies, quilting patterns and other quilt and fabric cutting solutions that help quilters quickly and accurately cut shapes for quilting and fabric crafts. AccuQuilt also offers quilters a wide variety of rich educational resources to enhance their quilting experiences. "

Here is a picture of the machine itself and the dye I used to create this pillow:

Accuquilt Go! fabric cutting system

Rose of Sharon Dye
All you have to do is place 1 layer or many layers of fabric on the sponge-covered metal cutting dye, run it through the rolling machine and out comes perfect cut-outs saving hours of cutting time.

I could see how this could easily be adapted to needle felting.  So I created a project to show how easy that would be.  These are called Flower Power Placemats and they are created with the Flower fabric and the above Quilt-Go! Rose of Sharon dye.

Flower Power Placemats
All I did was to create the placemats first with two fabrics, the main flowers and an interesting blue coordinate to use as a background for the felted flowers.  It looks like this fabric and the Quilt-Go dye were made for each other.

After pieceing together the placmats, I quilted them, washed them and blocked them by pinning them on my design wall in front of a strong fan.

Then I created the felted flowers.  I did that with the following directions:

1.      Set up your work area with your Embellisher, colored tulle (fine nylon netting often used for bridal wear), 12” x 12” squares of regular larger-hole netting, foam rubber pad (or old pillow), Clover hand felting tool.

2.      Start with a 24 inch square of tulle, folded in half to create double thickness, and place it on the foam rubber pad.  Begin laying a thin layer of roving on top, keeping away from the edges of the tulle. 

3.      Begin lightly felting the roving in place with the hand felting tool to stabilize the roving until you get it under the felting needles of the machine.  Think of this as the pinning stage if you were sewing. You can add two or three colors of roving at this point.

4.      Place a piece of regular larger-hole netting on top of the roving to hold everything in place while you are felting.  The netting keeps the roving in place and can be lifted and repositioned without being needle felted into the surface.

5.      Remove the piece from the foam pad, place it on the bed of the felting machine, cover with the larger-hole netting and begin needle felting this first layer of roving all over to get it stabilized.  Start in the center and work out to the edges.  The top layer of netting will not felt but may shred after repeated use and can be replaced.

Machine Needle Felting Roving into flat felt

1.      Lift off the top netting and check for thin spots or holes.  Lay down more roving, if needed, place the netting on top of the raw roving and needle felt the surface again until it is stabilized.

2.      Now turn the piece to the back side and felt the surface until the tulle disappears from both the front and the back sides. Felting from both sides creates a softer smoother felt with more subtle color progressions.

3.      When your felted piece is one thin piece of fabric, you are ready to use it in a project. Cut the flat felt into a 5" x 10" strips and feed it through the Accuquilt-Go Rose of Sharon Dye cutter. 

5.   Mix and match the flower parts with different sizes and shapes of centers and leaves.  Sew in place on the placemats using a free-motion foot.  I found that the layers were so thick I needed to just free-motion quilt the assembled flowers in a circular pattern.  You could also just hand sew a button in the center of each flower to attach it to the placemat.

Felted Flowers
 Stay tuned for more interesting projects in the near future.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Nuno Scarves on the Felting Machine

My book, The Art of Machine Needle Felting is still for sale on my website for 25% off the original price until the end of July. 

I know I have not been posting as much as I would like but I have not dropped off the face of the earth.  What did happen was, I was asked by the Babylock company, the people who make the 12 needle Embellisher machine, to create some new work and an advertising flyer for them to publish.  I made that deadline on the weekend and now have my life back.  I do have lots of new things to share with you all about cool new projects with your needle felting machines.  Following is one of the scarves I will make into a class I will be teaching locally.  Here is a picture of it:

I have taken several traditional felting classes whenever I could in my area so I could learn how it is done and then translate that into machine needle felting.  Think of hand quilting and then think of machine quilting - two paths to the same result but very different looks and timelines. 

I created some scarves with my Babylock Embellisher and am very pleased with the results.  I wanted to create scarves that were thin and drapey, rather than thick and felty. I also wanted them to be wearable and sturdy for regular people to use and not be afraid the wool was going to pull off or matt.  I also wanted more control over the outcome or look of the piece.  With hand felting, it can distort and shrink in unpredictable ways and I just knew we didn't have to live with that.  I hoped the Embellisher would be able to do that and sure enough, all the scarves turned out better than I had hoped on this machine.  Here are some pictures of them, modelled by some good friends.

  I used wool roving, sheep curls, yarn, ribbon and a silk base for each one.  I will be experimenting with other fabric bases but this is what I have done so far.  I really enjoyed creating them and will talk more about them when I find out from the company what I can and cannot publish on this blog.
However, I will be teaching the Nuno with Needlefelting class in the fall so I will talk about it now.
Here it is:

I started with a dusky blue crepey silk blend and cut it a little larger than I wanted the scarf to be.  I took several needles out of the Embellisher head so they would not distress the fabric surface too much and ruin it. 

I chose 4 colors of roving I wanted in the scarf and blended them together into one rope with my Fancy Kitty Carding Machine (whhhooooo-yeahhh!!!)  I wanted the colors to be blending without being lost entirely to one another

I pulled off thin wisps of wool with all the colors visible, laid them down and felted them in place.  There was some distressing of the silk but not as much as I thought.  The scarf didn't shrink as much as a regular hand-felted scarf shrinks either, which is great because you can judge how large your project needs to be in the end and it won't shrink too much and disappoint you.

I staggered the position of the wisps so there would be silk fabric showing in between that would keep the surface interesting, sheer and drapey.   You can see what I mean here. 

I then had to solve the problems of raw edges.  With a hand-rolled silk scarf I would treat the edges differently, or not treat them at all, but I needed to do something to keep the edges from ravelling too much.  The Embellisher quickly and easily felted them without chewing them up, tearing them or shrinking them.  I laid down wisps of wool along the edges in straight lines and the Embellisher felted the raw edges away.
Next was the "fringe."  Most scarves have fringes and I wanted one for this too.  I opened my big bin of hand dyed curls and picked out some colors that would match the roving on the scarf.  I didn't have enough for an enire fringe so I just put fringe in the corners.  It was easy as pie.  I just laid them on the bed of the machine and felted away.  I added a layer of roving on the ends of the curls on both sides of the scarf and felted some more to hold them in place and here is the result:

Next I will make more colorways of this scarf and then develop the other styles in other colorways as well.  By the way, polyester works just as well as silk with this method and there are a lot of beautiful silky prints around that could be used creatively in scarf making.  I probably won't get any sleep thinking about the possibilities..........

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

“The Art of Machine Needle Felting” book and CD are now on sale for 25% off

If you are new to machine needle felting or want some project ideas, this book was written for you.  Finally, here is a handbook for any needle felting machine owner that needs to learn how to create, maintain, and use their machines to their best advantage. Learn about fibers, fabrics, yarns, tools, replacement parts, not to mention patterns and directions for your own art work.

Some of the highlights of the book are:

·        How to use the Embellisher to create different kinds of artwork

·        Fabric substrates that are available and how each produces different effects

·        Needle sizes available as well as where to get them and when to use them; how to polish your needles to extend the life of them

·        Illustrated directions for changing needles, changing needle heads, using your machine

·        In depth description of tools, where to get them and how to use them

·        In depth presentation of fibers, such as wool, silk, angora, Angelina, bamboo, nylon, etc., their properties, where to get them and when to use
them in your work

·        In depth practice with creating samples to learn all that can be done with this machine before beginning the actual projects

·        Incorporating yarn through the yarn port and guides- how and when to use it

·        Illustrated directions for preparing or mixing fibers with hand carding combs

·        Projects included for beginners as well as seasoned needle felting artists

·        How to prepare and enlarge patterns for Needle Felted Impressionistic wool paintings

·        Finishing techniques for quilters

·        Illustrated wet felting tutorial for smoothing the surface of the finished pieces

·        Four pages devoted to trouble shooting and problem solving

·        Listings of businesses locally and online that stock the tools and supplies listed in this book

·        150 pages of full color print on glossy heavy stock paper

·        Includes a CD with copy-ready patterns and photos for better close-up views for the reader

For a sneak peek into some of the pages of the book and for a link to a video, go to and click on the online store page.  You can view a video by Nancy Zieman and see more information on the book including ordering details. 
Falling Leaves

Skies Over Lancaster

Monet's Garden

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Dyeing Wool for Flowering Trees

This time of year in Pennsylvania is an inspiring time of trees and flowers bursting with color.  Each season has its own beauty but spring in my neighborhood is a plethora of flowering trees.

It inspired me to want to create them with wool.  I have found in my work with felted wool landscapes that the lovely merino wools that are commercially available in many colors just don't work well for trees and foliage.  They are too smooth, too thin and too stringy for the texture needed.  What does work well is chunky, short-staple fibers that some would overlook as being too coarse.  But these make the best trees.  I have been on the lookout for this type of wool for dyeing but it is rare.  I did, however, document one dye session with what I had in stock and recorded it below.

The first necessary ingredient for dyeing wool is to collect several shower scrubbies made out of tubes of  netting.

Shower Scrubbies
Cut the string that keeps the scrubbies in a ball so that you end up with long tubes of netting.  These will be used to separate and presoak the wool in preparation for dyeing.

Wool Ready for Presoak
I use a scale to measure out 1 ounce bundles of wool and insert them into the tubes of netting and tie a knot in the netting to keep them separated.  One ounce of wool is a good amount to start with because you can dye a lot of different colors and yet not go through a lot of wool doing it.  If you document how you got each color, you can dye a lot of one color in the future if you find that you need to do that.  So far, one ounce works best for me to have enough but not too much of a wide variety of colors.  Over the past couple of years I have been dyeing varieties of fibers in varieties of colors, each method a little bit different.  You can't buy this range of fibers in this range of  colors anywhere at any price even if you do marry a millionaire to try to do it :)

Wool is Weighed and Bound
I fill the washing machine with warmish water and one capful of Synthropol liquid detergent to presoak before dyeing.  The Synthropol is a special soap that strips fibers of any grease or finishes and opens up the scales of the wool to accept dye more readily.  You can purchase this online on any site that sells dyeing supplies.  Skipping this step will result in dyeing less saturated colors.  I use my washing machine for presoaking and spinning out wet wool - never for washing or agitating.  If you use your washing machine for washing wool you will end up with a felted mess.

Wool Bundles Presoaking in Synthropol
While the wool is presoaking, I prepare my dyepots  - one for each color I plan to dye that day. I start my color planning with the fabric color swatches I have collected over the years.

Fabric Swatches

 I also pick out the dye color recipe cards I have created over time so that I know what colors I will end up with.  On this day, I decided to dye medium to light versions of each color so that I could create light and shadow colors in future wool trees. 

Color Swatches, Dye Recipes and Dyepots Ready
On the left side of the photo you can see some of the bottles of acid dyes I keep mixed with water for each dye session.  The dyes need to be mixed from powder added to boiling water so I keep about 1/2 to 1 cup of each color available so I don't have to mix powder dyes from scratch each time.  I can get better mediums and lights when using premixed dye concentrates and the colors are much more predicatable.  These keep at room temperature in my unfinished basement for months - maybe forever.

Next I place the dye colors I need in each dyepot and then add the presoaked wool that has most of the water removed during the spin cycle of my washing machine.  I have to open the mesh tubes to get the bundles out and hang the netting to dry for the next session.  These also keep for years.

Dyeing Wool
I swish the wool around the dyepot with the large plastic spoons until every inch is soaking in the color.  Then I dump the entire contents of the dyepot into freezer ziploc bags.  The wool is "stewing in its own juice" by staying in the freezer bags and its dyebath while it "cooks."

I place the ziploc bags in a large canning pot with galvanized garbage can lids upturned that act as shelves in the canner and keep the bags off of the bottom of the metal canning rack where they would melt if they touched the hot metal.  If you need to purchase just the garbage can lids without the garbage can, you'll need to go to a Mennonite store to get them- only they will understand. 

I have the canner simmering on a low boil and leave it for one hour while I clean up and prepare for the next dye session or experiment with new colors and make up color recipe cards for them.

When the water in each dyebath ziploc bag looks clear, the wool has absorbed all of the colors and is "cooked" enough.  I remove the plastic bags from the canner and let them cool on my cooling rack.  My cooling rack is made out of a gridded ceiling tile resting on a table.  The clothespins keep the bags from falling over and leaking water everywhere.  by the way, the freezer bags can be reused over and over again before they leak.  The regular ziploc bags are not strong enough to dye with.

Wooling Cooling on Rack
I squeeze out the dyebath water in my laundry sink and place each bundle of wool loosely in my washing machine filled with warmish water.  I slosh the wool a bit just to rinse it with clean water.  Then I put the washing machine on the spin cycle and spin out the water so that the wool seems almost dry.  DO NOT AGITATE.  Do not leave the room while you are using the washing machine or you may forget and the washing machine will continue it's cycle and do what washing machines do best and you will return to a mud colored mixture of blended matting that looks like dryer lint (don't ask.)

Last of all is the drying phase.  The colored bundles of wool are placed on a drying rack overnight in front of a fan.  They are actually ready to use in 2 or 3 hours of drying provided they are elevated and drying underneath as well as on top.

Wool Drying on Rack
I created the drying rack using a gridded plastic ceiling tile laid on top of plastic dyepot bins so the air from the fan can circulate.

Below are the finished wool bundles with the original fabric swatch colors tucked inside that I was trying to dye.  Most of them turned out as planned.  If I have any dye surprises I document how I got that on a new dye recipe card so I can reproduce it in the future. 

Finished Wool

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Monet's Greens

This past couple of weeks I have been spending a lot of time holding my newborn grandson while his mother shops, sleeps, eats, or just gets dressed.  Some days, all I could do to comfort him was to sit outside in the garden swing and talk to him.  My son is away in military training for awhile so his wife and baby are staying with us and her family while he is away.

Simon Josiah Hall
Simon Josiah Hall

I have not been able to do much color theory but the following is what I did get done this past week.

 One of my favourite colors is green.  I have more green fabric in my stash than any other color and the largest Walmart plastic bin full of green wool that I have collected or dyed.  Believe it or not, sometimes I don't have the greens I need when I'm working on a painting.  The merino and other smooth wools are not the best choice for creating textured foliage and shrubbery in a landscape.  Below are pictures of the foliage made from the type of wool that is best for foliage.  I get it from Peace Fleece in lovely blended colors but I have seen it elsewhere called just plain "fleece."  I have a lot of it in different colors but, again, I seem to be short on greens.  So I decided to dye some from a bag of white fleece I got from a woolen store going out of business a few years ago.

Autumn Tree

Morning Mist

I have been looking for more of it to purchase for dyeing and I wonder if any of you can help me find it?  Below is a picture of it.  It is very rare, I think because it looks like a by-product of the wool industry and is considered poor qualtiy for spinning or knitting.  It looks like a mixture of short wools with chunky nepps and fluffyness that would not stay together for spinning.  It is probably discarded.  I would like to find some in bulk to purchase at a reasonable price.  Here is a picture of what it looks like before it is dyed.

Chunky Short-Fiber Fleece

Close-up of Chunky Fleece
If anyone knows what this is and where to get it, I would greatly appreciate it.  I am running low and want to dye some more soon.

I did some research on Monet paintings and what kind of greens he used for his lovely landscapes. 

These are just two of many paintings I studied but I assembled some fabric swatches of the green colors I was seeing in his paintings, as best as I could make out on my computer screen.  I have a collection of  6 inch swatches I have taken from my fabric stash that I use to color-match when I am dyeing wool in the basement. 

Swatch Color Collection
I pulled out all the greens I thought were in the paintings and created a color spread to reproduce using the chunky white wool to dye with acid dyes.

Monet's Greens2

Monet's Greens1

Monet's Greens3
Monet's Greens4
Here is a photo of some of  the finished greens dyed the colors of the fabric swatches tucked inside them. 

Dyed Fleece in Monet Colors
To see more of my wool dyeing process, visit my earlier blog from May 21, 2011 entitled,"Dyeing Roving for Felting." 

I also was able to dye more alpaca fibers from my neighbor in cloud colors both muddy and bright.

Alpaca Clouds
I will be dyeing yarn for hand sewing grasses and stalks as well as nepps for foliage in the near future.  Tomorrow, I will by dyeing more chunky fleece in the spring flowering tree colors I am seeing all over my neighborhood.
Flowering Tree