Saturday, January 26, 2013

A rose by any other name ...

Today I finished another project I've been working on, helping a friend who is creating some theatrical costumes. She's divided the project up into bits and solicited help from a large group of friends and colleagues, so I've only a rough idea how the bit I've done will fit into the final costumes. My mission was to needle-felt a pair of twining roses onto a linen panel which (theoretically) will become part of an apron over a long folk-art style skirt.

This is the first time I've actually tried to accomplish something with needle-felting and it turned out to be easier than I thought. I think needle felting is one of those activities where you learn the basics in minutes: Step 1: stab felting needle into wool rovings. Step 2: don't stab yourself*. Step 3 to infinity: repeat steps 1 and 2 till the wool is felted into a shape you like. Learning how to manipulate the rovings and where and what angle to do your stabbing is where the mastery comes in. (* Really - don't stab yourself! Those felting needles are *wickedly* sharp. I have proof, but didn't think that would be a picture worth sharing).

For this project I was pleasantly surprised to find that wool yarn can be basted onto a linen background with only a few minimal stabs, essentially drawing on the fabric with yarn. I mixed the yarn colours together for some variety. Once the lines were drawn, a little persistent stabbing has them felted down in practically no time at all. Well, okay, a little time, but not nearly as long as you'd think.

I made a happy discovery while attaching the felted leaves. I was stabbing along the leaf center line and - hey presto! - the edges folded up in a very leaflike way, which gave me a clue about how to make roses. My instincts told me to "build" a rose from the outside to the center using separate circular petals to get a more realistic look, and it worked out well I think. I had an "uh-oh what next" moment as I neared the center, then realized that by pinching one quarter of the innermost and smallest felted circle I could create a bud with the rest of the circle forming a petal around it.

There are 2 roses on the apron front, both about 6 inches across (remember: they need to be seen clearly as roses by the audience). But even at such a large size they're not very heavy since wool rovings are quite light and airy, even after felting. I also had a hand in one of the other costumes so I'm looking forward to how all the costumes come together and seeing the finished production.  

I had no idea how easy it was to "draw" with wool on fabric ... now that I know how *not* to stab myself, I've got all sorts of wooly sketchiness ideas going through my mind. Cool. Or is that ... warm?


George Wright said...

excellent job on the roses, both photograph and actual handwork!

now you are ready to make something for yourself!


Anonymous said...

The roses are great! I just picked up needle felting supplies this weekend to try my hand at it. I'm motivated by the need to repair a wool coat but am looking forward to playing too.