Thursday, August 9, 2007

Needlefelting the cover of the Teabag Book

Hello, everyone!

Well since I was asked about the process of needlefelting the cover, here goes... since I'm finished with the cover, and have since mailed it off to the new owner of the book, we will have to use the pictures in our imaginations rather than using pictures to guide through... (sorry!)

First, be sure that you have the proper needles and padding. I have heard that people break these needles frequently, but, I've yet to break one (knock on wood!) and I don't know if that's because I use the right needles and padding or if it's because of some other unknown reason (perhaps the needlefelting fairy has taken a shine to me and my tea?) but, either way, here is where I got my padding and where I got my first needles which are the ones that I still use:

They also have a small selection of wool fibers and such, but to be honest, I purchase my wool fibers elsewhere, I usually browse etsy for wool merchants, two of my good friends sell wool fibers on occasion: Gail & Crystal. If they don't happen to have any wool fibers to sell, or if I'm looking for a particular color or whatever, I'll just browse etsy and find some really remarkably beautiful colors and color blends!

OK... so, the colors I used for this particular project (see the tea bag cover in the blog entries below) are a very rich red with some yellows, and if you look very closely within the fibers, you might also see some oranges in there as well. I had found this gorgeous blend of merino wool with a variegated pattern of red/orange/yellow... I really love this blend because the hues of each color are so varied and very beautiful.

Anyways... I started out by laying out tufts of wool fibers (on my needle felting padding) going in one direction, and then after I've laid a good foundation of tufts in one direction, I start laying tufts in another direction, and I continue to "crosshatch" the fibers on top of each other until I have a stack of fibers on my padding that is about 2 or 3 inches thick. At this point, it just looks like a big pile of fluffy!

I then take my favorite felting needle (size 36 or 38 -- I can't remember now!) and I begin stabbing at the pile of fluffy randomly... the idea here is to compact the tufts of fluffy wool into a fabric, so you want to just stab and stab and stab... it does take a little while, but, I find the stabbing process to be extremely theraputic. :)

Once you begin to see a certain amount of compacting to the piece, and you can lift it off of the padding without disturbing the fibers, you should lift the piece and turn it over. It usually takes a good 10 minutes before you can get to this point. As soon as you have something that resembles something that's a bit more like fabric than the original fluffy pile, that's when you should start trying to carefully lift it up and turn it over.

Turning it over is an important part of the process as it will help keep the felting pad from becoming "part" of your fabric. (Um... care to guess how I know that?) Without going in to too much embarrassing detail, one side of my felting padding now has a large chunk that's been torn out of it.

Keep up the stabbing process, I basically stab for about 3 - 5 minutes on one side of the wool, and then lift it (carefully... carefully!) and turn it over, and stab the other side. Occasionally, I'll add additional tufts of wool randomly to places that appear to be thinner than the others, to acheive a fairly consistent and the desired thickness throughout the piece.

The more you stab at it, the more dense the fabric will become... and the less "loose" the wool fibers become. Since it's my desire to make a fabric rather than a wool fiber piece, I stab a lot to acheive this. Something that you'll notice is that your needle 'pecks' will appear throughout your piece as you continue to stab. These can easily be 'erased' by rubbing your fingertips on the surface of the wool fabric. It doesn't remove them completely, but it makes them a lot less obvious. I mean, you are needlefelting... so you aren't always going to remove the proof that it was needlefelted from the piece! When you paint, you can't always eliminate the brushstrokes, nor would you want to! It's part of what makes your piece ART!

Once I got to my desired density, I started to use the wool to add embellishment... adding wisps of yellow to make the spiral pattern. I start with a wisp, and using a finer gauge needle (40) I carefully wrap one end of the wisp loosely around the tip of the needle, just a loop or two, I don't wrap the whole wisp around the needle, just enough to get it started. Then I use the needle to "paint" the swirl onto the wool. This is a lot harder to describe the process... I just do it. LOL

Anyways... that's basically how the cover was done. Here's the picture of the cover again... in case you don't feel like scrolling down to find it:

Oh, one more thing I should add... I'm not nearly so talented as to be able to needle felt something from scratch to be an exact size, so, once you do get your fabric felted, you CAN cut it... since it's become a fabric, it can be cut just like fabric... it's still a bit more 'fluffy' than your typical fabric usually is, but, what I'm trying to say is that your fabric won't fall apart and the fibers won't start falling off if you cut it. You may want to edge your fabric somehow, as I did with this cover, using a whipstitch all the way around it. (First, I used UHU fabric glue around the edge to help prevent any bits trying to fall off, not that they would, but, I wanted to add that little extra insurance, plus the glue helped to provide a 'lip' around the fabric which was useful when I did the whipstitching) Of course, you don't have to do that, if you prefer the natural look to it.
That's it! (at least, I think so!)

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