How to Needle-Felt on Fleece While Making a Cozy Hatcomments (1) November 22nd, 2008
Needle felting is one of those techniques that you can get pretty good at in a short amount of time, making it a perfect addition to your arsenal during this year's gift-making extravaganza! I was first introduced to it when needle-felting machines came onto the market a couple of years ago. They look just like a small sewing machine except there wasn't a bobbin and instead of a single needle, there are five! The needles are special—they have barbs along the sides to help mesh fibers together. I was a little apprehensive to try it at first, but once I sat down and started "doodling" with some roving on a piece of fleece, I was "hooked"! The nice thing is you don't need this fancy machine to do this technique (unlike all the embroidery stuff I've been doing!). If you don't have a needle-felting machine, visit Erica's, one of my favorite online stores. You can get all sorts of hand needle-felting stuff—everything from the tool to do it to books filled with inspiration! It takes a little longer to do by hand, but the trade-off is that you have more control over the felting.
If you are going to work on this project with a hand-felting-needle tool, use one with a comfortable handle, like this one. I'm going to use my handy dandy Smart 350 punching machine. I've taken all the pictures right on my machine. You can follow along with the hand tool by working on a foam pad specifically made to be used with these felting tools. If there isn't a shop near you that carries wool roving, you can get that at Erica's, too! You can download the bucket hat pattern in two parts, here and here.
Here's what you'll need:
- Either a needle-felting machine or hand-felting tools
- 1/2 yard of fleece
- Wool roving in colors that go with your fleece
- A pattern for a fleece hat (you can download my bucket hat pattern)
- Sewing machine or serger to construct the hat
Here is a picture of the barbed needles from my felting machine. The nice thing about both the felting machine and the hand-held tool is that you can take out some of the needles if you are working on small-scale detail or delicate fabrics.
Cut out the pieces for the hat—you can use my bucket pattern or one of your own. If you want to make your hat longer than the one I made, lengthen the pattern piece before you cut it out. The bucket hat that I wear in the woods is the one with the red flower on it. If you want to make it snug, you can take in the back seam or make a few small, evenly spaced darts along the lower edge to make it cup in against your head.
Lay out the pieces so you can see the space you have to work with. I decided to felt the top piece with some bright pink flowers and dots. Then I'm going to felt a larger flower in the center front and add a narrow border around the lower edge.
Let's start with a simple shape, like a circle. Roving is wool fiber that is dyed and sold in larger-than-you-can-work-with pieces. Pick a small amount of roving out of the larger hank.
Start felting it to the fleece by tacking it down around the edges. As you work, notice how the roving melds with the fleece. Practice making a nice small circular shape.
Here's my first circle. Once you get good at making a circle, you can experiment with other shapes...and before you know it, you'll be felting more complex designs!
If your circle is a little lopsided, gently rough up the edges and push the extra roving to the center. Punch over the circle again to smooth it out. The more you felt over an area the more the wool roving will be pushed into the fleece.
After you've perfected the circle, try to make some petals around a circle to form a daisy. Petals can be more circles, ovals, or even teardrop shapes. As you felt along, you will develop a style.
As you're working, if you decide you don't like it...pull it out! The roving is meshed to the fleece, but it's not locked in yet. Gently pick at the area that you want to remove and try again.
After you have made your daisies, you can add more roving to the centers to make them stand out.
Finally, I added a thin border of blue roving to the lower edge of the hat.
When you are happy with the overall design, turn the fleece over to the wrong side and punch over the roving from behind. The barbs on the needles will lock the wool fibers into the fleece. This makes the felted wool design very durable. I've even thrown my felted projects in the wash...if it gets a little fuzzy, you can just felt a little more to smooth out any escapee roving.
When you're finished, all you have left to do is construct your hat...
Pin the top to the top edge of the side piece, right sides facing each other. Serge or sew the top on and you're done!