Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Craftmehappy Joyful Wreath #3 - Easy Layered Needle Felted Flowers

Last month I shared how to knit these cute little curlicues to decorate my Joyful knitted wreath.

My goal is to try to post one repeating wreath decoration a month, with a final reveal in December.  Some of the wreath motifs will be new to my blog, while others will be an updated version of a popular craft tutorial.  

Although I now seem to write more about spinning than anything else these days, one of my most popular blog posts dates back to 2014, when I shared how to make these easy needle felted flowers.

It’s regularly in my top 3 most visited posts and it gets pinned to Pinterest on an almost daily basis.  Their small size and cheery colours make them the perfect addition to my Craftmehappy Joyful Wreath.

Alternatively, they look cute on a headband, hair clip, or brooch, or they could be strung onto a garland to decorate a child’s bedroom.

I’ll be layering them this time and showing how they can be shaped to be slightly more realistic.

When I combed the merino fibre to spin the rainbow yarn for my curlicues, I was left with quite a bit of short waste fibres that are perfect for needle felting.  The flowers can, of course, be made from any coloured wool fibres that are suitable for needle felting.

Materials used to make 3 Dimensional Needle Felted Flowers

This blog post contains Amazon affiliate links to similar products that I purchased myself to make the Needle Felted Flowers.  If you click through and purchase, I will receive a small percentage of the purchase price at no extra cost to you.

  • Wool tops, roving, sliver, or carded wool fibre.  In the UK, World of Wool or Wingham Wool both stock a wide range of wool colours suitable for needle felting.
  • Felting needles.  A lot of needle felters use heavier gauge felting needles to begin with, and then gradually reduce the width of the needles so that the holes become less prominent as the piece is finished.  For these flowers, I used a single size 38g regular triangular needle for quickly bonding the fibres together, and then a finer, size 42g needle for gentler felting.  I frequently hold 3 finer needles together for speed.
  • Thick foam or felting brush to felt on.  I bought both my felting mat and needles from Heidi Feathers in the UK
  • Carders or wool combs are optional, but they do help with blending colours and seperating the fibres before you begin felting.
  • Flower cutter shapes.  I use these sugar flower cutters as they're sturdy and there's a ridge of plastic to hold onto and protect your fingers. They come in a set of 3 and I used the medium and small cutters for this project.

If you prefer, I've also made a video to accompany this blog post showing how I made these needle felted flowers.

Firstly, stuff your medium-sized sugar flower cutter shape with wool.  I like to fold the fibres into the tips of the petals, allowing the wool ends to pass through the flower centre.  I'm not going for realism and I find a thicker flower is easier to handle and felt than a more delicate one.

Stab the fibres all over with the 38 gauge needle.  This first pass gives you an idea of how thick the petals are going to be.  If it seems a little thin in places, you can add more fibre.

Next, I like to hold 3 x 42 gauge needles together. Stab it repeatedly all over until the fibres start to flatten down.  The fibres will be slightly attached to the felting mat, so to prevent them from becoming too stuck, I lift the flower and cutter off and turn the flower over.

Here's how the flower looks after being stabbed all over.  It's lightly bonded together but it's very fragile at this stage and could easily come apart.

Keep on stabbing at the flower with 3 fine needle felting needles, lifting it off the foam, and turning it over until your flower is nice and firm and it looks like it's holding together well.  I usually find it takes four or five attempts to get to this stage.  The more you stab at it, the less defined the surface fibres become and the more solid it feels.

Here's an animated gif of my needling technique.  I find it's safer and easier to do lots of quick, shallow stabs rather than thrusting the needle in at a distance with force.  With each turn, you will notice the petals becoming thinner and firmer and they may shrink in size too.

When the flower feels nice and solid, I like to neaten the edges.  I do this by lifting stray edge fibres with the side of the felting needle and stabbing them into the petal.  This also helps to strengthen the petal edges.

Here you can see that the outside of the petals are slightly thicker, as the very edge fibres have been needled into the outer few mm of the flower

This is going to be the bottom section of the layered flower, so it won't have as much detail as the upper flower.  At this stage, I want to make the petals curl up a little.  To do this I repeatedly poke my 3 finer needles into the central base of the petal, moving upwards slightly and always angling my needles towards the flower centre.  This effectively shrinks the base of the petal, causing the outer petal to curl upwards.

The base flower is finished for now and it's time to move on to the upper flower.

The smaller, upper flower is made in exactly the same way as the larger flower, except a little colour is added to the petals before they are shaped.  Break off a tiny tuft of a slightly contrasting shade of wool and lay it onto each petal halfway up.  To attach it, needle over lightly with the 38 gauge needle and then go over it gently with a couple of 42 gauge needles.  Any excess fibre can be lightly felted into the centre, but this will be covered up later anyway.

After the colour has been added, the petals are then curled upwards using the same method of needling into the base, as for the first flower.

To attach the two flowers together, place the small flower on top of the larger one and use the heavier gauge needle to attach them together.  To do this, firmly poke through the two flowers in a circle to form the flower centre.  Repeatedly prodding in a ring will begin to form a mound in the flower centre, and bond the two flowers together at the same time.

To add a little more fullness to the flower centre, add a tiny bit more fibre, and secure it down around the edge, going over the central ring firmly with the heavier gauge needle.  Needle over the centre lightly with a finer needle.

... and there you have two completed 3-dimensional needle felted flowers!

I love how much more natural they look than my original cookie-cutter needle felted flowers... 

...but still whimsical enough for them to be made in a rainbow of colours to go on my Joyful Wreath.

If you've found this tutorial interesting or useful, please pin it to Pinterest.  It makes a big difference to me and helps other crafters find it too.

Other Related blog posts - 

Easy Needle Felted Flowers

Needle Felted Remembrance Day Poppy

Knitted Curlicues - How to Knit a Spiral


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Friday, May 06, 2022

Spinning into Focus

I recently wrote a blog post in which I experimented with many different ways of preparing and spinning a mill-blended, multicoloured top.  I wanted to find out the best techniques for preventing the colours from completely blending together into a muddy brown or grey.

I learned so much by just allowing myself to play with fibre.  I worked out which methods worked best for me, which yarns I preferred, and which methods I found were really way too much effort for anything but the smallest of projects!

9 of the yarns I spun showed at least 'pops of colour',
while 2 (not pictured here) were almost totally brown throughout

In my previous post, I demonstrated how you can get an idea of how a final yarn will look fully blended, by digitally blurring an image of the unspun top; I think the rectangle above is a pretty fair representation of the colour of my most blended of yarns from the John ArbonMidsommar blended top.  For this reason, I'm calling the following technique, Spinning into Focus.

In spinning up 11 different yarns, I produced nearly 300 grams of yarn in varying levels of blendedness (I'm just making up words now!).  I wanted to see how all of the yarns looked knitted together, in order of how blended I think they are.

I didn't have enough yarn for a sweater, so I knitted myself a kind of oversized cowl.  It was a really useful exercise as it helped me to see how the colour transitions worked over a much larger (and more realistic) number of stitches.  It also made me rethink which techniques I would use in a sweater spin.

Here's a visual breakdown of all of the various techniques I used.  Straight away, you can see that the lovely yarn at the very bottom, that I spent hours painstakingly breaking up into a gradient, turned into a bold stripe when knitted over a large number of stitches.  

The section that was spun from the fold also stands out a little too much for me.  Most of the other yarns are slightly muted, but the colours in the yarn spun from the fold seem to have retained their original hue, but are scattered around randomly in a way that could be distracting: I liked this technique, but I think I would reserve its use for more analogous colour blends.

Some of the later, more blended sections do look very similar to each other, so I would probably remove a few of those too.

I would love to knit a top-down sweater using this Spinning into Focus method, working from the most blended at the neckline, down to the least blended at the bottom rib.  

I tend to avoid sweater spins as I find them a little monotonous, but if I were to break it up into 6 or 7 smaller spins, I think that would definitely hold my attention.  I would also have 6 or 7 yarns that were certain to complement each other as they would be spun from the same multi-coloured fibre.

Here's a closer look at how I think I would divide up my yarns for a Spinning into Focus sweater spin - 


I didn’t actually include this one in my original blog post as I felt that the colours were much too blended to be helpful. As the description says, instead of lashing the fibres onto the hackle, I drafted them on carefully, trying to lay the colours down on top of each other. I then dizzed off a thin roving. It still came out very well blended, but this yarn is probably very similar to the yarn you would get if you pre-drafted all of your fibre and then spun it from the end. It has a little more depth and complexity to it than the one that was randomly lashed onto the hackle.


Unfortunately, the close-up of my knitted sections appear slightly out of focus when I zoom in, but please be assured that spinning from the tips of the fibre, moving slowly from side to side, gave me a very subtle tweedy effect.

Here's a close-up of how I spin from the ends of undrafted top, moving slowly from side to side for subtle colour transitions.


There were a few yarns that had this level of subtle colour blend, so I've reduced them down to this one as laying on several layers of fibres onto the blending board made it much easier to diz off.


You can see with this one, the colours are starting to come into focus a little more and there is a little less brown than in the previous yarns.


This was probably my favourite technique, as it was quick and simple and gave a lovely blend of muted colours.

Here's a video of this method in more detail - 


This is already a very popular method for avoiding spinning mud.  If I was splitting it for a sweater spin I would probably break off much longer lengths, but still arrange the colours randomly so that it fitted in with the other irregular colour transitions.


Although this method took significantly longer than any of the others, I decided to include it, as I think its boldness would make a striking stripy rib trim, and finish off a Spinning Into Focus sweater beautifully.


I humbly offer to the spinning world my Spinning Into Focus technique.  I'm definitely going to use this method the next time I buy a multicoloured blended top with the intention of knitting an easy, top-down, seamless sweater.  It would certainly keep my attention longer, the 7 different yarns would all complement each other, and I'd have a jumper that was unquestionably unique and handspun.

If you have found this post interesting or useful, please consider pinning it to Pinterest.  It makes a big difference and it helps other spinners find it too.


Other Spinning Related Blog Posts

9 Different Ways of Spinning a Multicoloured
Blend While Trying to Avoid 'Spinning Mud' 


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