Here's my latest needle felting commission. Her name is Mathilda, or Mattie for short. She lives with a very nice lady here in England. Her son contacted me to create a sculpture for his mother's birthday and I was only too happy to oblige.
Mattie is mostly black, which poses special challenges. It's harder to photograph a black animal (so it's harder to get the right pictures to work with, especially because I'm not the photographer and have to rely on someone else's skills). It's also harder to give a wool sculpture a nice sense of volume when the main colour is black, since it tends to absorb light really well and make it look very flat.
To add yet another level of difficulty, Mathilda had recently got a haircut, but her human wanted me to make her with more fur, so I had to use my imagination. This has the potential for disaster, because what I imagine isn't necessarily what she looks like pre-haircut in real life, and I can end up coming up with a completely different dog. No pressure there.
Instead of using sheep's wool, I resorted to a shinier fibre with good curl: mohair. It's great for this because it dyes well (this mohair was originally white) while retaining lustre. The dye I used resulted in a black with purplish undertones that I think works well to create volume. You can just about see some of it on the photo above on her face and on the shoulder to our right-hand side.
Like with any animal, the face is going to be the focal point of attention and every detail is very important. We humans are drawn to eyes, it's an evolutionary trait, so everything that's near the eyes needs to be very detailed and as close to the model as possible.
I used high quality glass eyes and made her a clay nose that I then painted black and sealed with a shiny glaze. The hair on each side of Mathilda's nose and on her chin are different colours. I used brown Merino wool for the brown and some Blue Faced Leicester in natural oatmeal for the chin.
I've been making sculptures for a while but I always feel slightly nervous to take scissors to the fibre to cut it to size. I have to keep reminding myself that if my hairdressing skills fail I can always take that wool off and do it again. I might anthropomorphise my makes a little too much.
(On a side note, I don't seem to have the same concerns whilst cutting my own current mohawk hairstyle...)
Once I've taken my time with the making, I let my work "rest" away from me for at least a few hours, or more if I can (at least a whole day is ideal). When I'll look at it again with fresh eyes, it's easier to spot things that need adjusting.
Once I'm happy I take the best photos I can (have I already mentioned how hard it is to photograph black animals or their minis?) and send them for approval. Luckily, it seems my imagining of Mattie's longer fur was good. Out comes the sigh of relief...
In a rare treat, I'm getting to spend some extra time with this girl, since her new owner is away for a few days. Because of this, I've discovered a new trait of mine, which I'm sure won't be a surprise to a lot of you: I need to keep myself from looking for things to improve and change. When is a sculpture finished? Apparently, only after it's left my hands. I've so far resisted the impulse, mainly because I wouldn't be comfortable changing something without taking new photos and awaiting for feedback, which would delay things and be completely unnecessary - my clients have already given me the thumbs up, so stop overcomplicating things (repeat this 100 times until it sinks in.)
Mathilda means something like Strength in Battle in Germanic Gothic. A fierce name for such a cute and cuddly girl!
If you'd like a mini of your own, contact me and I'll be happy to discuss your needs. I also have a handy Frequently Asked Questions section that answers most queries, but feel free to message me if you'd like.
Enjoy your weekend!
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 been a while since I last wrote! Sorry about that.
I'd like to share Tilley with you today. She was a Bichon Frise much loved by her human, and when she passed away I got asked to make a mini of her. Memorial sculptures are very emotional for me, as I know there's the added pressure of having to not only create a mini dog that resembles the original one, it can also be a very physical reminder of their absence.
Tilley had passed away fairly recently, so I was extra careful with details. I had at first created her without any curls (having the wool felted in a way as to resemble the fluff typical of this breed) but after talking to my customer, it was clear she wanted curls - so I got my mohair locks and went to town. This was probably three extra hours worth of work for me, but well worth it.
I also added some shading with pastels under her eyes and on the corners of her mouth, like the original Tilley had. I then made her a collar, but unfortunately I don't have any decent pictures of that. I basically created one using a felt sheet, added some more wool for sturdiness (it was a fairly thin piece of felt) and finally added some tiny bits of angelina fibre to mimic sparkly studs.
I hope her human was happy with her mini Tilley and that it serves as a loving reminder of the real one.
What are your thoughts on memorial items? Let me know in the comments section.
Last Saturday I did a guest blog post for The Felting and Fiber Studio: a tutorial on felting soap. It's simple enough for any beginner to try, and makes a great present for a loved one (can anyone say Christmas Stocking Filler?)
Click here to read my Felted Soap Tutorial.
Today's blog post connects to the one linked above. I'm going to explain why felted soaps are amazing, and then I'll move on to troubleshooting and hints. I hope you find the information useful!
Why felted soaps?
Why indeed? I mean, this isn't something you see on shelves everyday, and if you mention felted soaps to someone, chances are, you'll get a quizzical look in return. This brings me to my first great reason:
A couple of tricks to make your soap felting easier
Have I convinced you to try felting some soaps for yourself or as presents? If so, here's a handy document you can print to go along with them:
If, on the other hand, you like the concept but don't want the trouble of making your own, I do sell some rather lovely bars in my shop. Buy my Grapefruit, Lemon & Calendula felted soaps here (I have others!)
Lastly, if you like playing with fibre and are looking for a nice and friendly community where you can share your makes, ask questions, and chat, I suggest you join The Felting and Fiber Studio Forum. See you there!
This August, I decided to change a few things in my business: a new website, a new blog space, new business strategies... This meant no needle felting, because I just wouldn't have the time. I had therefore left my fibre schedule completely open so I could focus on the admin side of Felt Buddies & Yarns.
Naturally, the gods decided to mess with my plans. I got contacted by a prospective customer, asking me if I could make him a mini of his lurcher dog Lizzie. It was going to be a present for his wife, and needed to be completed before September...
I could have said no. It was the sensible thing to do, considering all the stuff I had planned; but to be honest, after returning from my holiday, I missed spending time making a dog! And Lizzie was just gorgeous - I couldn't resist. I threw caution to the wind and got working.
This girl posed some very particular challenges - she's white with very discreet spots overall, she's got a pink underside and darker spots on her belly and legs. Her base colour meant I would have to be super careful adding the details without blemishing the lightness, plus I'd need to find the perfect shades to mimic the rest of her original colours.
After creating her basic shape, I concentrated on details. Lurchers and whippets have great muscle definition and I tried my best to show it off on her legs and chest area. The images bellow don't really show all the volumes very well, but I think I got them quite well, especially the back legs.
Mini Lizzie's underside was created by mixing different shades of soft pastels and adding the pigment to the body with brushes of different shapes and sizes.
Next, I concentrated on her expression. Lurchers always manage to look so soulful and I had to capture that.
I don't have a photo of her after I added the lighter colour, so you'll just have to trust me she looked great. She's since been sent to her home here in the UK and I got a lovely email saying she'd arrived safely and would make a lovely present when time came. Music to my ears!
If you'd like to have your dog made into a Felt Buddies mini, feel free to contact me - to be honest, I'd really rather be creating than doing very glamorous (not!) admin work!
Ah, the life of an artist - all the partying, the drinking, the socialising... Yes, it's life on the fast lane over here!
Well, not really. Apart from an occasional outing, I pretty much prefer to stay indoors and enjoy a night of knitting or spinning, or a good book. With tea. Mostly by myself (or my other half.) What can I say, I have the tattoos, the piercings and the colourful haircut but I could probably be classified as false advertising...
However, I'm not a total hermit! I do go Out There and occasionally Do Stuff. Let me share some with you.
Saw this fun sign on the door to Poppy's, probably one of the best Fish and Chips I've ever been to in London. This one is in Camden Town and I do recommend you use the loo and take a camera with you (an odd suggestion I know, but it's one of those things where you'll just have to trust me.)
Next, it's Shakespeare at The Globe. I went with friends to watch A Midsummer Night's Dream a couple of weeks ago, and what a treat it was. I could only photograph before the play began, so I can't show you the full splendour of this Bollywoodesque production, but I can definitely say it was brilliant - I'd advise you to buy a seated ticket though (and rent a cushion!) as spending three hours on your feet might not be the funnest thing ever.
Also, have some snacks handy. When we were done by 10.30pm most of the nearby restaurants were closing, so no food was available nearby. Madness I know, but that's good ol' England for you...
I also went to a stand-up show, by Bill Burr, but completely forgot to take pictures. You'll just have to take my word for it. Also hard to find food after the show. Thank you kind Turkish people who decide to open restaurants in London!
Since I'm going on about food, here's an interesting menu I found in a Portuguese restaurant a while ago. Apparently foreigners aren't allowed to partake in Sangria, only in some dangerous and medieval bloodletting...
Seriously though, I just found this (rather literal) mistranslation the best thing ever.
Next, a bit of a silly thing. My friend Nicole of Frost Yarns sent me a care package all the way from California to cheer me up (I had the Brexit Blues). She loves making fun of my hands, saying they're tiny possum ones, so she knit me the cutest possum scarf/stole and a hat to go with it. To say I was overwhelmed by her generosity is an understatement, but a good gauge is that I'm now counting the days until cold weather returns so I can wear these babies outdoors!
Nicole also got her friend (and incredibly talented tattoo artist) Alex to make me a drawing where I'm wearing the artefacts in question... and I have possum hands. You can find Alexandra Novotna's work in her Instagram account.
I've been creating something for Nicole to say thank you, but it's been a long process - I'm working on something a bit different from usual, and the planning (and potential failure) that goes with it is a little maddening at times, but I'm committed to see this through. Here's a sneak peek:
It's going to look quite different from its current state once I'm done, and hopefully equally creepy. Keep your eyes peeled!
So here's some of the things I did in the past few weeks. I hope you were at least mildly entertained. I know I was - I just need to remember life isn't just knitting and stuff (boohoo)...