Create a Series of Original Art Quilts with Needle Felting

20 Jul 2010

needle felted art quiltYou'd think after 10 years and 45 issues of Quilting Arts Magazine, we would have written about every kind of process, technique, design, or supply that exists. But that's the beauty of contemporary art quilting: someone is always putting a new twist on an old technique, combining materials and processes in a way no one ever thought of before, or coming up with a new product that changes the game.

I think one of the products that has been a game-changer is the needle felting machine, also called an embellisher. Hand needle felting has been around for centuries, but the needle felting machine has allowed fiber artists to work on a larger scale, faster, and to mix fibers to create brand-new effects.

By machine needle felting a wide variety of fibers together in various combinations, you essentially create a one-of-a-kind piece of cloth each time you work. It's a whole lot of fun, as I can attest, and a great way to use up those little bits of fiber delights that are too good to throw away.

needle felted art quilt orangeHowever, because each piece is unique, it can be challenging to create needle-felted work in a series. You have to find a common motif, color, or other unifying factor to make all the pieces work together.

In the June/July issue of Quilting Arts, Jane LaFazio takes up this challenge. She combines hand-dyed sheers, wool and silk roving, and a variety of fibers (from failed knitting projects to bits of ribbon and thread) in a range of color ways, then adds hand embroidered motifs. The result is her "Rainbow Series," which she's especially enthralled with "because every inch of each one is original and made completely by me."

The hand-dyed sheers are a central element in the "Rainbow Series." Here are her simple directions for coloring them.

Easy Hand-dyed Sheers
By Jane LaFazio 

needle felted art quilt imageI've been enamored with silk gauze for a long time, and have dyed it with tea or coffee and rust, but I only recently thought to dye it with color. I use Adirondack Color Wash, which comes in spray bottles. These acid-free, non-toxic, water-based dyes are perfect for use on paper and fabric but are also very staining, so be sure to wear gloves. Here's the process I use for dyeing sheer fabrics.

1. Begin by covering the surface of a foam core board (or any flat, moveable surface) with freezer paper in order to protect it and so you can carry the wet dyed fabrics to another place to dry.

2. Wet the fabric with water and then spray it with the dyes. With gloved hands, squish the fabric to distribute the dye-but not evenly. I like to use an array of colors for each color set since I want the fabric to be variegated.

3. Let the fabric dry completely and iron it to heat set the color. 

I recommend working in analogous colors when dyeing your sheers. Analogous colors are colors that are next to each other on the color wheel, like yellow and red, green and blue, and blue and purple.

I don't know what subtle twists in technique or major innovations in machinery are awaiting art quilters more than I year from now. But I can give you a sneak peek of you the exciting features we'll be bringing you in Quilting Arts over the next few issues: 

  • Using painted papers in quilts, by Peggy Brown
  • Weaving a cloth base, the quilt as canvas, by Jude Hill
  • Finding your unique design, variations on a single motif, by Terry White
  • Shredded paper as a surface design & mixed-media tool, by Leslie Jenison
  • An oatmeal resist technique from Lisa Kerpoe
  • An excerpt from Cas Holmes' amazing new book, The Found Object in Textile Art

I hope you'll enjoy these and the many other creative surprises we have planned in the coming issues. And if you have an idea for an article you'd like to see in Quilting Arts, leave a comment below and let us know!


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