y pictures are a celebration of the sublime to the ridiculous - the beauty of the natural world and the mundane familiarity of manmade life. I am inspired by all things, great and small, and, being a keen photographer, I enjoy nothing better than a day out with my camera. I wont't be admiring the view though, oh no, I'll be admiring something subtle and obscure, an object nobody else has noticed- a feather, a pebble, a broken bracelet.
then take what I have recorded (a landscape, animal, tree or flower) and, from a series of layered photographs, compose my very own story. Lots of copying and pasting in Photoshop!
Composite designs from sketchbook - click to enlarge
CARDING YOUR WOOLLY COLOUR PALETTE
I use merino wool, it has incredibly fine fibres making it an excellent wool for felting. Most felting suppliers sell their wool in the form of rovings, these are long "ropes" of wool from which handfuls of fibres can easily be extracted.
To create textural effects, coarser wools and curly locks (Wensleydale, Shetland, Black Welsh Mountain and Dorset Horn) are invaluable. Add silk threads, fancy knitting yarns and scraps of fabric for surface quality.
As a painter mixes his/her paints, so a felter will card his/her wool. If you're feeling strong (or using a carding machine!) and card two or three colours together really, really well then a totally different colour can be created. Lightweight carding produces a graduated effect - the overall effect is a different shade but you can still streaks of the original colours.
(Merino wool rovings)
(My wool carders)
"Ideas are easy. It's the execution of ideas that really separates the sheep from the goats"
PREPARING THE WORK SPACE
When placing your fibres always allow for shrinkage!
Felt pictures consist of four layers: LAYER 1 is the back (which may or may not be seen); LAYER 2 is the hidden in-between layer; LAYER 3 is "the canvas", and LAYER 4 is the picture. Layers 1-3 are laid at 90 degrees to each other. I find it easier to work in rows with each row and handful of wool overlapping. Use the "canvas" layer (3) to block in background shapes, work out perspective and angles. Layer 4, the picture, requires more patience (fibres can be laid in any direction to achieve the desired effect). Spend as much or as little time on this as you please. If you're a 'Wet Felter' by nature (a patient person who lays their fibres REALLY carefully) then you can finish your picture in one sitting. If, like me, you're a 'Dry Felter' who prefers a gentle, gradual approach to felting (feels more in control with a needle) then you won't need to wet felt for long, just enough to create your canvas and outline a picture....you also get to sit down more!
Before any of the exciting stuff, the first thing you must do is prepare your work space. This should include a nice, big table onto which a towel and a sheet of bubble wrap (bubble side facing down) are laid. Make sure that all the wool you need is carded and ready to go - I recommend bulk buying lots of natural merino wool for layers 1 and 2.
LAYING YOUR CANVAS
Cover your picture with a piece of net, add a squirt of washing -up
liquid, flick on some warm water (careful not to disturb those fibres)
and continue flicking until all 4 layers are wet - use a sponge to soak up
excess water. Don't reach for the rolling pin too early and undo all that
hard work with over zealous rolling- you are felting a picture not a
handbag - stroke your work lovingly first, that should help set the fibres.
'Dry Felters', don't overfelt your picture now or it will feel like concrete
poking those needles through...and they'll more than likely snap!
The felting needle is your paintbrush. Without water,
soap and suds you have far more control over the
placement of fibres. Use it to define edges, re-position
ibres, and of course, to "draw/paint" those details - shadows, figures, clouds, wispy leaves, etc. "Painting with fibre" is a much more forgiving process than painting with oils, because a) wool in the wrong place is easy to pull out, and b) corrections can be made immediately - there's no waiting around for paint to dry!
WET FELTING: Netting, Wetting, Soaping and Rolling
NEEDLE FELTING: Painting with Fibre
On The Rocks, Swanage
WET FELTING (Not Again?!!)
Wet felting a second time may seem crazy - and you don't have to by any means - if you're a confident needle felter or, have a needle felting machine, consider your piece finished. Pictures framed behind glass don't need wet felting again either. If you are felting a wall hanging or an un-glazed picture however, wet felting might be advisable (it doesn't need to be felted rock solid - a bit of fluffiness creates texture!) Wet felting a second time will provide added stability and a stronger, smoother surface for stitch embellishment.
Use the "Wool" setting and cover your picture with a teatowel or some greaseproof paper. Ironing without protection will melt silk threads and fuzz up your iron - you'll end up with a sticky, hairy iron and a strong smell of burning!
Lots of sewing - get a free machine sewing foot (which allows you to draw with thread), add some beads, any other effects you want. Think about surface quality of the subjects you are depicting - people, rocks, plastic furniture, a sheep - are they glossy or matt? Do they sparkle?
Original images © 2017, Jess Sims