Recently, I got asked by my good friend and fellow fibre artist Nicole if I wanted to do a collaboration with her. I jumped on the idea immediately because I knew whatever she had in mind had to be amazing.
Nicole wanted me to make some felted flowers that she could incorporate in her spinning - after telling me what colour scheme and how many she wanted, I was left to my own devices. Once she receives them, she'll create some glorious chunky art yarn and add my flowers.
Now, I'll be honest - wet felting isn't what I'm used to. My felting is usually done with a needle so having to Think Flat (as in, not in 3D) really posed a challenge. In these cases YouTube videos are your best friends, even when it's Russian ladies explaining stuff in their native language whilst you try to guess what they are saying.
I didn't follow the real anatomy of any particular flower, but some looked more like the real deal than others - the left one above does resemble a rose.
This lily might have been the only I made with a specific goal in mind; I saw some in a neighbour's front yard and wanted to see if I could recreate them. I don't think I did too bad.
A tutorial... sort of.
Ok, so I promised in the title there'd be some form of explanation on how to create flowers, and here it comes. I hope I manage to convey it, and apologies in advance if I make a mess of it. The reason I'm not calling this a bona fide step-by-step set of instructions is because I forgot to photograph a couple of steps, so I hope this still works.
This is for a flower with two layers of petals stuck together in the middle.
Decide what your colour scheme is going to be and what materials you're going to use. I like to sort my fibres out in bowls so each thing has its place and I don't confuse one project with the other when I'm doing multiples. If you're going to repeat your flowers you might want to weigh the fibre in advance to make them more or less the same.
For this project I am using:
Add to this list all the stuff you'll need but isn't part of the final object:
Lay your fibre thinly on your felting surface, starting from the centre out in a circular shape. Add as much as you need: less fibre for a delicate, airy look, and more for a sturdier shape that stays in place. Take into account what will be the bottom layer and the top layer of your flower. I went for blue for both, since I'd be adding silk to the the top layer which would make it different from the bottom.
Most people use bubble wrap as a felting surface but I found something more durable that I like, it's a drawer liner from IKEA. I'm not sure what it's called but every store of theirs has it. It's got little bubbles on the surface just like bubble wrap, but these don't pop. This plastic isn't as flexible but it's more important to me that I get to reuse it.
The photos below don't show it, but after I finished adding all the fibres to the bottom layer of the flower (photo on the left, below), I added a resist and proceeded to add my second layer of fibres over it (photo on the right, below).
A resist is nothing more than a surface you add between layers to keep the fibres from felting together. Mine was a doughnut-shaped piece of bubble wrap (round with a hole in the middle); the hole makes sure both layers of wool will felt together in the middle but not the outer bits, which will be the petals above and below.
You'll be able to see a picture of the resist later below.
Now comes the top-most layer of your flower. If you have a special item you wish to felt with the wool, now is the time to add it. I used my own hand dyed silk hanky. You can see how thin and fragile it looks (and if your hands are dry, they'll snag on the silk!) Silk hankies come in stacked layers so all you have to do is separate one and add to what you're making for a dramatic effect.
Since the flower is round, you'll want to lay the hanky so it's more or less the same shape, and try to keep it smaller than the wool beneath it.
Now wet the fibres carefully by drizzling some warm soapy water on top with your hands. Tap the middle carefully, where the hole in the resist is, to ensure both layers start to rub together.
Now turn the project around. The silk is now facing down and the bottom layer of the flower is facing you.
Wrap the wool sticking out from the edges of top layer (now on the bottom) over the layer now facing you. Use the shape of the resist inside to help guide you. You don't have to do this if you like the petals to look rougher but I wanted mine smooth.
Turn the work again so the silk hanky is again facing you. Make sure its edges haven't moved to the bottom layer that you just tucked in; if they have, gently give them back to the upper layer. You want to do this so you're not cutting into the silk later on.
Add a little more soap to the fibres and start felting by gently rubbing them together: first from the centre out, then in a gentle circular motion. You can use your fingers; I had an extra piece of resist I didn't need for this project so I used it to rub the soap in and speed the felting after rubbing with my fingers in the beginning. Make sure you rub the centre really well, you want those top and bottom layers to stick together.
Keep rubbing the fibres on both layers by turning your work around often during the felting process. The wool will start to shrink and become more compact after a while.
At this point you might want to wrap the project around some bubble wrap and roll this tube multiple times in various directions. This will firm up the felt. Keep in mind the fibres will shrink in the direction you're rubbing, so you'll need to unroll the bubble wrap, turn the project, wrap it again and roll in a different direction to keep it round.
The following pictures show you the same type of resist I have inside the flower, which I'm using here as a felting surface.
Once your fibres feel felted enough, it's time to rinse them - alternate with hot and cold water for some extra firmness. When all the soap is gone it's time to remove the resist from the inside of the flower - use some sharp scissors and carefully cut around, making sure you leave all of the silk hanky on the top layer.
Once you've cut all around, pull the resist out gently from the top.
You should now have two layers of felted fibres stuck together in the middle.
Once the resist is out, you can gently pull on the fibres at the edge, to create a little wavy effect.
Now you need to shape your flower the way you want it to look. I scrunched mine in the middle and pulled the outer edges a little more until I was happy with the end result. I also pulled the middle down a little.
You can also decide to create individual petals by cutting the layers with your scissors. Make sure you don't cut the top and bottom in the same spots for a more realistic look. Round each petal up at the top with your scissors slightly so the petals don't look too square.
Place your flower on a glass cup and leave it to dry.
Once it's dry you can add other embellishments such as beads, or a felt ball in the centre. I chose to add some bright mohair locks that I needle felted into place.
I hope you've found this tutorial helpful. If you make a flower like this, or have any tips on how to improve on my technique, let me know in the comments below! Thanks for reading.