Tea for Tuesday – Needle Felting

After finishing my stacked teacup collage a couple of weeks ago, I couldn't help wondering what the design might look like done in fabric or fibers instead of paper. I considered making a fabric collage, but then decided on machine needle felting.

Needle felt tecup with embroidery.

With machine needle felting, I thought I could use fibers and felting to achieve a similar muted effect as the collaged papers and gesso wash.

Finding the fibers was no problem: I have a vast stash of fancy yarns, felting wool, silk fibers, craft felt, all of which are perfect for machine needle felting. What I don't have is a needle-felting machine, but that was solved when Quilting Arts Editor Vivika Hansen DeNegre generously lent me hers. So, voila, I had all the needle felting supplies I needed.

I learned how to needle felt a few years ago when we got a couple of machines in here at the office to practice with. It's easy: just lay down the fibers on a soft base such as a piece of craft felt or pre-felt, step on the pedal, and move the fibers under the needles as they punch up and down. The more you punch in one place, the more fibers mix.

(Note: Don't stay in one place too long, though, or you could create a hole.)

More of a mug than a needle-felted teacup.

Starting with a piece of craft felt as my base, I put down several overlapping hanks of silk roving horizontally and needle-felted them in place. Then I cut some pieces of fancy yarns and twirled them into spirals before needle felting over them.

In the space of maybe 20 minutes, I had covered the 8" x 11" piece of craft felt in fibers. Note: Because the needle felting scrunches up the fibers as it felts, your felting projects will shrink as you go.

Now, how to achieve the effect of the black, teacup-shaped window around the felted base as I did in the collage? I thought I had a good solution: I cut a teacup shape out of sheer black fabric and needle felted it over the fibers.

Uh-oh. The felting machine chewed up the sheer fabric pretty well, obscuring the outline of the teacup. What I had was an oddly shaped mug. I would have done better by hand or machine stitching the black fabric onto the felted area.

I tried to salvage the cup by cutting it out, but it still looks pretty wonky. I decided that instead I would cut out a teacup shape from the remaining needle-felted fabric and appliqué it onto black felt. I cut out a more modern shape for my teacup and added some hand embroidery before mounting it. I'm much happier with the result from my second effort.

What do you think? What's another way I could achieve the black-stencil/cutout look with the needle-felted fibers? How would you have done it? Leave a comment below!

And don't forget to follow along (and maybe win a prize) on #PinTeaTuesday!


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