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.
It's hard to believe it's almost Summer here in London. This year is going too fast for me, and I confess I haven't quite gotten around to believing Spring is already here, let alone that it's almost the end of May.
There's signs aplenty of Spring all around me, even if the temperature isn't one of them - the flowers, more sunny days, longer daylight hours. England really does wear her best during this time of year. Allow me to show you some of her outfits.
Very pretty, right? Having come from a part of the globe where it's mostly sunny and dry, I didn't usually get to see this type of lush landscape (think cacti and the occasional weedy flower, and grass if we were lucky). I know some will think me mad, but I'd rather have more wet and gloomy days if it means I'll get to see these pops of colour sprouting from the ground. London has me spoilt for parks and gardens.
Now, let me confess: the flowers aren't my number one favourite thing about London's parks. The thing that makes my heart sing with joy is its cheeky furry and feathery inhabitants! If you bring tasty morsels for them to eat, the squirrels and birds will gladly allow you the honour of taking the food directly from your hands and eat near you. I call this my Disney Princess moments...
Since an image is worth a thousand words, let me show you what I'm talking about, using myself and some friends as protagonists in Hyde Park.
In case you're wondering, these birds (parrots?) aren't native to England. It's speculated that their ancestors were probably captive pets who managed to free themselves of their cages, and set shop in these parks. I'm not sure how they survived - and thrived! - the harsh Winters, but that they did, and their progeny is definite proof of this.
I didn't take any pictures of passers-by looking at us like we were wildlife seducers, but believe me, there were plenty of those. My friend Helena always brings extra bird and squirrel feed, and she often asks those looking if they'd like to have a go - the brave ones receive some food, instructions and off they go! The joy on their faces when an animal trusts them is lovely to behold. Now I also bring extra food and offer others; since you've probably noticed I don't exactly look like a regular citizen, I love how they sometimes look a little confused by my black clothes and generous behaviour. Goths don't bite, promise!
Lastly, squirrels. I love them, their little paws, their soft tails and how the most courageous ones realise they can just stand on me and eat the best food safely at their leisure.
If you ever decide to have your own Disney Princess moments, just bring along some sunflower seeds for the birds and some nuts for the squirrels, some patience and I guarantee you a goofy smile when watching these cute guys nom nom nom away. You can do this even in Winter, as they no longer hibernate - they're so chubby they haven't the need.
Happy Spring, everyone!
So here's the reason I was quiet for so long. I moved house! In my life I reckon I've moved at least ten times, and that's including two trans-continental and one transatlantic moves. I feel tired just thinking about it...
Moving can be daunting, especially if you have a lot of stuff, which we did. We weren't planning on changing addresses anytime soon, and had lived in the same flat for five years (a rarity in the London rental scene) but when we had the opportunity to move to a house with enough room for me and my partner to each have our own studios, we couldn't pass it off.
Preparing for the move took me three weeks, packing included. If I thought this would be the hardest part, I was sorely mistaken - turns out, unpacking is much more challenging and takes even more time! Deciding where everything goes ahead of time for the movers' sake, then changing my mind when all the boxes are already in a particular location, plus having to think about where the furniture, which fitted so well in the previous place, can go in the new rooms... argh. We ended up having to sell and give away some furniture and having to buy a few new things from IKEA - when the food counter lady remembers you from a few days before, you know you've been spending too much time at the store.
All the hassle was definitely worth it, though. The cat loved having the extra space; she was also delighted to return to her former territory, since she used to live in this very same house before we adopted her. We have dedicated work rooms now, and can actually use the living room as a food and relaxation space, plus for the first time we get to enjoy the weird feeling of having to shout to get the other's attention because we're in different floors. Ah, extra space.
But enough of me writing, allow me to show you my new HQ. I didn't really bother cleaning it up too much for the pictures, so you're getting a bit of the "messy artist's room" effect. Here it is, clockwise:
And that's pretty much it! I can't really explain how wonderful it feels to have a dedicated space for work. I'm still needing to use the kitchen for my dyeing, but to be able to have my fibre and equipment in a special room is just too great a feeling for words.
Now, confession time: could I use more space? YES. I have stuff under the work table that I can't fit elsewhere, and I would have a lot more fibre to work with if I had where to place it. But now that I moved, I keep wondering how I managed to live in such a small flat and share it with my painter other half, and keep ourselves from murdering each other.
Bonus footage: Marshmallow the cat doesn't usually care for fibre, but when the sun shines on the table she makes an exception...
Now off I go to sit in that former dining room chair, and work on a new dog commission. In the meantime, leave me a comment! Let me know what your work/craft room/corner looks like, how you make it work and whether you'd like a different space.