Want to create a mixed-media landscape? In this tutorial from our March/April 2014 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors, artist Colleen Ansbaugh shows you how to combine stitching, fibers, and embellishments to create colorful textured landscapes! These tiny landscapes are only about 3″ x 4″ each, so they’re perfect for experimenting and trying out new techniques.
Felted & Stitched Landscapes by Colleen Ansbaugh
The beautiful colors and shapes on the horizon are a constant source of inspiration for me. Capturing that image by merging fibers, stitching, and embellishments is an exciting art form. I start with an earthy palette that helps me build the landscape contours. I then loosely place the basic shapes of the landscape to define the composition. Embroidery stitches are used to create foliage and to enhance the details. Beads and embellishments add a bit of sparkle. Try stretching yourself by inventing your own design stitches!
- Scissors, fabric
- Craft felt (I used a 3″ x 4″ piece.)
- Fabric, wool (I used a 3″ x 4″ piece for the background.)
- Felting brush bed or Styrofoam® block
- Wool scraps
- Wool roving, various complementary colors
- Felting needles
- Small scraps: fabric, ribbon, or yarn
- Thread, #5 crewel or embroidery floss
- Needle with large eye for hand stitching
- Embellishments: beads and/or charms
1. Sketch a simple landscape on paper as a reference for general shapes and placement. No need for excessive detail at this stage. (FIGURE 1) Determine your basic color palette, and select coordinating materials.
NOTE: When creating small-scale works, you want to draw the viewer in for a closer look. Create strong contrast, light to dark, for a more visually alluring piece.
2. Cut 1 piece of craft felt and 1 piece of wool fabric to size. The craft felt will act as a stabilizer and will not be visible in the finished piece. Place the wool on top of the craft felt, and then put the fabric/wool sandwich wool-side up on the felting brush bed (or foam block).
3. Cut the wool scraps into shapes to form the basic landscape contours. Place a small amount of wool roving over the surface of the scraps, and felt the roving in place with the felting needles. (FIGURE 2) Employ an up-and-down motion perpendicular to the felting bed.
NOTE: Begin felting with small amounts of wool roving. The roving acts to secure the scraps to the background fabric. If the roving is applied too thick, it will hide all of the fabric. Alternatively, if not enough roving is used the scraps will not adhere to the background.
4. For further definition of the landscape, apply bits of ribbon, scraps of silk or other cloth, or bits of yarn, securing them with hand stitches or by applying a small amount of roving over the top and then felting it in place. Have fun auditioning fibers with different colors and textures. Combining smooth surfaces with rough can add visual interest. Avoid tightly woven fabrics, as they can be difficult to felt.
NOTE: As you needle felt, keep in mind that the job of the barbed felting needles is to push the fibers from the front to the back. Consider flipping the piece over and felting from the back to the front for a different look. Sometimes the back becomes just as interesting as the front.
5. As the composition develops, review the shapes. Step back from your work and squint your eyes. Deepen shadows or lighten highlights as necessary. If you want to alter the color, simply place a different color roving or a felt or fabric scrap on top of what is already in place and felt it in place. Dimension can add visual interest.
NOTE: Trying to remove fibers that are already felted in place could pull out adjoining areas. If you decide you don’t like something, it is easier to add something on top of it than to take something away.
6. When you are satisfied with the basic composition, stitch some details with crewel or embroidery thread. (FIGURE 3) Be sure to secure the thread with a knot. Use a thimble to assist in pushing the needle through the piece, if needed.
NOTE: The use of thin threads, typically used for sewing garments and tiny embellishments, should be avoided for this project. Over time, thin diameter threads and small embellishments, which may be visible when first applied, can sink into the thickness of the wool, disappearing from sight. Hence, to avoid disappointment, use thicker threads, and larger beads and charms.
7. Add beads or other embellishments for further interest. (FIGURE 4) Consider using a variety of sizes, for example: long, skinny beads combined with fat, round ones. Beads can take a piece from good to glorious.
8. Stitch around the outside perimeter by hand or machine. A zigzag or buttonhole stitch can easily capture all of the layers. Another option is to capture lengths of yarn while stitching around the edge. The yarn can further “frame” the pictured landscape. (FIGURE 5)
TIP: Audition a variety of accent thread colors before deciding on the final color for the perimeter. I find it amazing how the perimeter thread color can affect the overall look of the piece.
Fabrics to try
- A wool suit jacket or sweater
- Transparent craft ribbon
- A chiffon scarf
- Bridal veil netting
- Craft felt
Colleen Ansbaugh, fiber artist and resident of Wisconsin, began sewing as a child. Nature is a continual source of inspiration for her color palette in creating hand-dyed fibers and cloth, and for her landscape designs. Colleen enhances her artwork with felting, beading, and lots of stitching. Visit her website at colleenansbaugh.com.
Want more fabric art ideas? Click here for a great tutorial on making a fabric collage book!