Friday, May 29, 2009

Needle Felting: Almost, but not Quite As Detailed as a Painting

It's all in the Details, or lack thereof...

I tried to (calmly) explain this to my husband when he said the dog had rectangular patches on either side of his mouth. I replied that if they wanted to see every detail, they might have commissioned me to paint a painting instead of whipping up the dog in needle felt on boiled wool.

(Okay, that probably wasn't very nice... I am really sorry Greg. The truth is that your opinions are the ones I appreciate above all others.... Sheesh, he NEVER reads my blog, so this apology is just vanishing into thin air.) Poof!

Luckily, one can only get so detailed before one
might actually drive themself crazy.... Well, the truth of the matter is that the client loved, loved, loved the finished wall hanging, and so did I. Pity I finished it up a bit last minute, for I had so little time to live with it and really enjoy it. Pity too, that I only took a few photos, and discovered after the pick up, that my photos pretty much suck...blurry and bad :o( Well, the close ups are okay, but the one that counts is generally pretty dang bad. Teach me to wait until the proverbial last minute...

So, this is where I want to talk a little bit about
the detailed needle felting process. So many people ask me how I accomplish this. Two things seem to take place in my brain when I needle felt. First, there's the fact that I have always been a pretty decent painter. This isn't something I planned, it's just something I was born with. I have the ability to look at something, really study it, and break up the details into plains of value and color. Along with being a painter, I'm also pretty good at making the color I want to achieve. Lots and lots of mixing color in oil painting class honed this skill. Then, there's the added pleasure and pure joy of working with wool. I love the process of felting the wool, and deciding what the wool is to "do", how to repurpose it into a new item of clothing, a purse, or a pillow, wall hanging, etc. The colors of the wool guide me too. I really am just the vehicle in this process. It somehow all comes together without too much effort on my part. 

The important part of the needle felting is the details of laying the roving (wool fiber before it's spun into yarn) onto the boiled wool and needling it where you want it to go. The needles really do most of the work for you. Felting needles are barbed, very sharp... beware of stabbing yourself, it really hurts! I use three types of needle felting needles. A single needle for detail work, a 4 needle holder for larger area work, and a big needle holder (6-8 needles) for large areas I want to set up quickly, or to finish up the design and set up any stray fibers.

"Painting with wool" is how I refer to my needle feltings, and I feel that this is really what I do. Sometimes I take the roving and pull several colors together to get the desired shade, pulling over and over (like carding) until all the colors are nicely mixed into a new hue. Sometimes I lay down a base color, and layer thin fluffs of a lighter or darker color over to change the value of the color, similar to what you'd do in oil or acrylic painting. Then, when I feel like I'm pretty done with it, I either ask my family how it looks, or sometimes, I receive those 'get-without-asking' comments (like Greg's). I try not to be defensive, after all, I did ask. I think it's always important to have the feedback, that is, if I can take it.

So there you have it. All about flat needle felting. Probably more than you really wanted to know. Now go try for yourself. It's actually quite fun, plus, you can really work out your tensions with all that stabbing.  :o)


tracy said...

Ive done felting from crochet/knitting but Ive never done needle felting. And I think needle felting gives you beautiful results! You get to do shading and things you cant do in what Ive done. beautiful work!


Marcia DeCoster said...

Wow Val, so much information and congratulations on the purse entry in the magazine! That is great news and so well deserved. Beautiful beautiful work you do, painting with wool and needles.

Marcia DeCoster said...

Great news on your publication Val, it is going to be so beautiful and so well deserved. Can't wait to see it!