How I make my textile pictures
Here is a short video showing the stages of making 'Autumn Reflections'
Each of my felt & stitch pictures is unique, being individually hand crafted using traditional felting techniques. Luxury natural fibres are used, including merino wool and silks, as well as angelina fibres, bamboo tops and mulberry silk noil.
Laying Out Stage
The initial process involves the laying out of the fibres. A background base layer of white wool fibre is laid down first and then coloured wool fibres added thinly and slowly onto this to create the image, much as I used to lay down oil paint when doing a traditional painting. I mix colours using a process known as carding, basically combing the fibres between a pair of carders, rather like hair brushing! To add further texture and shine, I add in wool nepps, mulberry silk noil, Angelina fibres.
Laying out stage
Once I am happy with the composition of my picture, I move on to felting it. This process matts the fibres together to form a dense and stable fabric. I will first carefully cover the wool picture with a net to hold the fibres in place while I am felting it. I then add hot water and olive oil soap and carefully and slowly work at flattening the picture. Once flattened I will continue rubbing the picture with soap and water to felt the fibres together. I will then switch to using a ribbed rolling pin, which further felts and flattens the picture. I carefully remove the netting and tweak any parts of the picture that have gone astray. Next I will roll up the picture in the bamboo mat, being careful not to get any wrinkles in it. I then roll the picture gently back and forth for several minutes. I will repeat this process another 6 times, each time unrolling the mat and rotating the picture 90°, to ensure even shrinkage.
Wet felting process
Needle Felting Stage
Once the picture is dry I will use needle felting to add definition and finer detail. Felting needles have barbs which catch on the fibres to help them bind together, so need to be used with care to prevent accidently stabbing yourself!
To stabilise the picture before stitching I add an iron on backing to the felted picture. To add definition and detail to my picture I will use free machine embroidery. Working with my machine feed dogs lowered and presser foot removed allows the felt to move around freely around underneath the needle, rather like drawing with a sewing machine! Different effects can be achieved with using various types of threads.
Hand stitching is the final part of the process, used to add further details or to strengthen highlights and shadows to add more depth to the picture.
Once I am happy with the picture I will add a simple cotton backing to the reverse of the picture to neaten and tidy the back.
I will then photograph the picture, download it to my computer where I colour balance and resize it, making the image ready to be used on any of my fabric items.
Finally it is then ready for framing, which I also do by hand in my studio.