Sunday, March 28, 2010

How To Make Needle Felted Bowls-Part 1

In this article I am going to give you the basic instructions for making a needle felted bowl.  Please feel free to email me or leave a comment if you have questions or need more information on any of the steps.

Wool- I recommend you have at least 8 ounces of various colors.
( I generally stay away from Merino as I don't want that really tight flat finish that Merino gives. I use Corridale or something similar. I am a handspinner so I often have stuff lying around. If you are not and are buying some wool, I would look for Corriedale wool for this project.

If you make more of these later on, you can experiment to see what fibers you like best. 

Additional optional embellishments that really make the bowls lovely if you have access or really get into it like I have and want to get more supplies.
pieces of wool or mohair yarn
mohair blend or fiber
Other feltable blends with wool, silk, and other animal fibers.
These will go on the final layers and you will not use them at the beginning.

Felting needles of a large or medium size or a felting tool like the Clover Felting Needle Tool

A foam mat

Something soft that you can put on the inside of your bowl as you shape to hold the bowl shape. I use a zip lock bag full of old yarn, or a smaller piece of foam cut and rolled into a round sort of shape.

Basic Steps
The Base
I start with basic felting wool for the first steps. The clover wool works well like the Clover Wool Roving Assortment B Lime Green, Teal, Orange and Violet)

I start shaping a round flat base of the size I want the bowl bottom to be. Keep felting and adding to it until it is starting to feel firm and solid.  In later steps, you can add decorative colors, but don't do this now if you plan to.  Just get a basic firm shape.

Adding the Sides
There are two ways to do it that I have found.  You are going to be shaping the bowl as if it were a piece of pottery.  You can use a coil that you keep wrapping around or you can make a flat side of the height you want for the finished bowl and attach it. The choice of method will affect the shape of the bowl.
The flat material side will give you a straight sided bowl. The coil method will give you a bowl that can turn in at the top.

This bowl was made using the flat method.
You can see that it has rather

 This second bowl is made using the
coil method. It has a much more
rounded shape at the top. I like
the artistry of the coiled ones. This one I left pretty thick. It really looks nice with dried twigs or bittersweet in it.

Once you have decided on your method, we can begin attaching the sides.  We will be working on getting the shape first, then adding fiber to it later on.  As you work, you will want your felt to be firm enough to hold together, but you don't need to have a finished look yet.  If you are coiling there will be spaces between the coils that you will have to go and fill in on a later phase. I will tell you more about this later on. If you are using the flat piece method you won't have so much filling in to do, just adding your final layers at the end.

How To Make Needle Felted Bowls Part -2 can be accessed here

How To Make Needle Felted Bowls - Part 2

At this point in the bowl making process you should have your base, and have decided which type of sides you are going to use.

Just in case you missed the first part, here is Making Felted Bowls-Part 1

Whichever way you choose, you will be starting with the base you made in Making Felted Bowls- Part 1.

You have a choice of two ways to attach or build up the bowl sides.
You will choose what I call the coil method or the flat side method.
I will go through each way of making your finished bowl.

The Coil Method.
Take a piece of roving about 1 inch thick and 6 or 8 inches long, and twist it slightly. Attach one end to your base and start felting at the base. You want to felt it in from the side, top and bottom with your felting needle so it hold well in place.

Continue to twist your roving or fiber gently and continue felting it in as you go around.

You will be making a coil that continues around the bowl.

The best way I can describe it is that it is like making a pottery bowl or one out of play dough, if you have ever done this.

Be careful not to get it to tight. You want the coil to start to move out as you work on the bowl until you get about to the middle of the piece and then start back in slightly to form a bowl shape. If you start pulling in too much at this stage, it is hard to get it going out the way it should.

As you felt in your coil, keep adding pieces of roving onto your coil and twisting it in to make a continuous piece. You don't need to twist it tightly, just enough to form a loose coil.

You will want to keep working the felt as you go to make sure it holds it's shape.

You are building your bowl up with the coil a little at a time.

A couple of things to be aware of are:

Your bowl will shrink as you work it. Make it just a bit bigger than you want it.

The more you work the felt with the needles, the tighter the felt will become and the thinner.

After you have your basic shape, you will need to add pieces of wool in between the coils to make sure you have a somewhat uniform thickness.

I use my fingers to feel for thin spots and fill in.

During the first stages, you may have places where you can insert your finger, it is so thin between the coils. Don't worry about this. You can go back in any where add more fiber.

Once you get to the basic shape you want, and have filled in between the coils in thin spots, you can start shaping the bowl.

If one side is a bit too high, or it is seems a bit lopsided, you can use your felting needle to shape it.

At this point, I often insert something inside the bowl I can felt against to help shape the bowl. I use a baggie of yarn ends or another piece of soft foam.


If you are using other fibers as a top layer, you can now add your more expensive and exotic fiber at this stage. I felt in little pieces of yarn. I use mohair in little coils, sometimes letting some stick out.

Some fiber will not felt very well.

Mohair with it's luster and color or another fiber blend can add a special touch to your finished bowl.

Mohair, although beautiful will sit on the surface and you will have to work at poking the ends in so that it stays well. I love this look, but some prefer a bowl that is tighter.

Keep shaping until your bowl is the shape you want, and the firmness. Keep making it tighter, and refine the shape as you work it more.

Keep checking for a somewhat uniform thickness and no thin spots.

Be careful not to add too many layers unless you like a thicker bowl in the end.

You may need to work the inside and from the bottom to make sure it is all well felted.
Here is a bowl decorated with mohair and yarns.  This one was made by a friend of mine.  Unfortunately, my puppy got hold of it and that is why it looks a bit  crooked.  Felting around the top and on the left side would help to make it a more uniform shape again.   You can see the yarns weaving on the top right edge, and on the sides.  All of the colors are individual pieces of dyed roving felted on separately.

The Flat Side Method

For the flat side method, you are going to make a flat piece of felt that will wrap around your bowl at the base. This works best if you have a larger base.

You will be starting with the base you made in part one of this article.

Make your flat piece of felt a bit higher than the height of the finished bowl.

Layer your roving on and start felting on your foam. You can keep it loosely felted.

Once it is so that it will hold together and is a solid piece of felt, you will start to attach it at the base of the bowl.

To attach, push your needle in along the base from the side, top, and from inside to attach. You will need to felt a seam to attach the two ends where they meet.

It works best if your felt is not too tight in this stage.

Once it is attached, you will have a floppy looking piece that collapses in itself.

At this stage, you will need something to put inside that you can use to shape and hold your felt as you work. ( A bag of yarn ends in a plastic bag or another soft piece of foam works well.

You will continue now to add fiber, shape, and tighten your piece.

Make sure you felt the inside seam at the bottom as well as form the outside. I like to add colored wool both in and outside of the bowl.

You can turn the bowl inside out to work on the inside, especially in the first stages of working on it.

As you felt, pay attention to your base. Make sure it is staying flat and that you have a good base to sit on so it does not lean when it is done.

There you have it as best as I can explain without you being here with me working.

Let me know if you need more help with this.

Plunge in and have fun.

Watch out. These bowls are very addicting. 

I have sold them, used them for rings, and jewelry, dried flowers, and just beautiful decorations in my home.

I have wanted to hang beads and dangles, but have not gotten to that. Perhaps, you will be the one to take them to that next level.

Send me pics. I would love to see them.


Where To Find Foam For Needle Felting

Some kind of foam is helpful and really necessary for needle felting.  The photo here shows a yoga block on the upper left, a thick piece of chair cushion on the right, and a thinner piece of foam that came with a computer I bought as packing.

The foam supports your work as you felt.  The other purpose the foam serves is to protect you from stabbing yourself with the felting needles. Ouch.  They are sharp. They are barbed and they really can hurt going in to your hands, knees, legs or whatever they are facing when they inflict their wounds.

I have many times been happily jabbing  with my felting needles and BAM- I  get stabbed in the leg or finger.

These days I usually use a thick piece of foam because I am forgetful and easily will puncture myself  If I am not careful.

In addition to using foam underneath the piece to support it and me, I often have a piece of various sizes inside my work to support it as I shape it.  For the felted bowls in this series, you will either need a piece of foam the right size to go inside your bowl as it gets made, or some other soft object that can serve the same purpose. ( I sometimes use a plastic bag filled with old yarn ends)- This will become more clear in the next article.
If you purchase a kit, or foam from a store for felting, it is usually firm but not really hard.  This helps keep the needles lasting longer.

I have found my own supports that I like, and have never purchased one.

Basically, any piece of foam large enough to use and thick enough is worth trying out.  You may have something lying around the house that can be used. An old  foam or fiber pillow with the cover removed, a piece of foam that was shipped with a computer or other object.

My two favorites are an old thick chair seat I cut into blocks, and a yoga block that I no longer use.

Even when I did yoga,  I never really used the block, so I didn't mind sacrificing it. 

I literally found the big chair cushion on the side of the road.  I am a big believer in law of attraction and in fact, have a website about it called in case you want to visit me there.

  But anyway, about the foam.  I was driving along and I was thinking about a needle felting class I was going to teach at a local yarn shop later in the week.  I was wondering what I would use for foam for the students in case there were a lot of them.  I noticed this thick seat cushion  on the side of the road that had probably fallen off someones truck or car while moving furniture.  I stopped, brought it home, cut it up, and washed it.  It was pretty filthy.

The blocks are not too pretty where I hacked them with a knife but it works great. It is very thick-about 5 inches.

You don't need to spend money to find foam for felting. Most likely you have something lying around that you can use.  Experiment until you find something you like.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Learning How To Needle Felt- Basic Felting Introduction

If you have not tried needle felting, I highly recommend it.  It is so much fun. You can make animal figures angels, all kinds of sculptural shapes. You can also make lots of other things like the bowls I showed you in my last post.

  These were made with basic needle felting methods.  The next article in this series will have the instructions for them.

First, let me say, needle felting is  really pretty simple.  You have very simple tools, and materials.  Felting needles, and  a foam mat of some kind  to keep you from stabbing yourself, and to support your work as you felt.

You also need a material that will felt like wool or similar animal fibers.  Usually wool is the standard material for felting.

It is helpful to have an understanding of basic felting to see how it works.  Wool fiber has barbs in it that you cannot see. When you felt, you are locking the barbs together and once they lock, it is permanent.

If you have ever felted ( hopelessly shrunk)  your favorite wool sweater or socks in the washer, you know just how permanent it is.

There are various ways to make felt. We are going to be doing what is called dry  felting, or needle felting.

If you are new to needle felting, I would recommend you purchase a how to  book unless you have someone who can teach you.  I like Beginner's Guide to Needle Felting by Susanna Wallis.

To felt, you are going to need felting needles. They are sharp barbed metal tools.  You will need to purchase more than one,  as they will break frequently especially when you are learning .

I use a felting tool which is a holder that hold three or four needles at a time.  It makes the project go much faster and saves on your hands and wrists.  I use the Clover Felting Needle Tool

Needles also come in different sizes from finer to larger. You might want to experiment with different sizes. I use large needles for my bowls because it goes faster. I am impatient, I have to admit.

If you don't have any wool or supplies, you might want to get a Felting Starter Kit that has everything in it.  That way, you won't have lot invested at first until you try it out.

A kit has the needles, wool, and a small mat.  Make sure you pick up a couple extra needles, if the kit only has one.

If you are going to try a bow, here is the materials list.

Felting needles- Medium or large size
Wool  -at  least 2 ounces.  ( How much you use for a bowl, will depend on the size- 2 oz. will make a small starter bowl.  I use up to 8 ounces in some of my larger bowls.)
Corridale is a good basic wool for this project.
If you want to embellish your bowl, you can also use mohair fiber blends, pure mohair, and other silk and wool blends in small amounts for the final layer.
A working mat of foam. It can be a soft styrofoam, or a softer foam like you would have in a seat cushion. You might have something lying around the house that you can use. If you use soft foam, it should be fairly thick so you don't stab yourself. It hurts.

Next time---
Drumroll please......
How to make the bowls.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Introducing My Needle Felted Bowls

I have gotten into making felted bowls.
Ta Da- Here they are photographed on my Coast of Maine Lichen covered granite rocks.
I got started making them one day on a whim. The first one I did was about 18 inches around and really colorful.  I wish I had saved a picture of it. I ended up selling it when a friend  asked it if she could buy it. 
The ones here in the photo are about 8 inches for the large one, 5 inches for the middle one, and 4 inches for the smaller one.  The middle one was made by my friend Eileen, when we got together to learn how to make them one day last winter.

I have to say it is very addicting.  People who see them often ask me to teach them how to do it.  I have shown lots of  non fiber types how to make them too. They are addicting to make for artist types, to say the least.

I am proud to say, I invented the ones I make myself.
I have seen lots of knitted or crocheted and felted bowls, but none like mine. I imagine there are people making them like I am, but I have just never come across any.

I like needle felting, but am not into gnomes and all the animals and things I see made with felt. I like things that are practical and usable like- uh, bowls.

They can be used for all kind of things. I use mine for rings, change, and all kinds of little things on the windowsill, and in the bedrooms. I also love to put dried flowers in them, or even real flowers. With the real flowers I insert a glass jar or bowl inside the felted one that you can't see and put the water in there.

The bowls are lovely, and if you make one, you will have them all over the house.
I use lots of leftover fiber bits and blends including silk, wool, even angora. Some things go in better than others. Wool is the best and wool blends. the angora tends to sit on as a surface decoration more. I like the effect and it gives the bowls a lot of luster and character.

I don't use a pattern for my bowls or a form. I just shape them as I go adding more colorful layers inside and out as I near the end of the process. I like to make my bowls fat. Unless you are willing to work at them a really long time, they do tend to be thicker than crocheted felt bowls that are washed in the washing machine.

They are also not as tightly felted. I love the fact that you can shape them like pottery as you work.
I am putting them here today as I wanted to show them to you. 

Later this week, I will take some pictures of the steps I use to make them and post them on the site so you can try to do one yourself.

I hope you have some fiber fun this week,

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Where To Buy Purple Rose Fiber Yarns

As of this writing, I am not selling yarn in shops any longer.
I have limited time available for dyeing and getting it out there to wherever you are.

I do love dyeing yarn, and want to keep at it a bit, so for now-
My yarns are exclusively available through Etsy at

Buy Handmade

Monday, March 8, 2010

Ah Spring-Dangerous Season For Handspinners

Spring is approaching in the northeast US.  I am starting to get notices from farms in our area of sheep shearing days, and the fiber fairs are not far off.

One particular farm here in Coastal Maine sent me an email today of their shearing day coming up in a few weeks. I have gone to this and it is a lot of fun. You can help move the sheep into the pens for shearing and pick your fleece as it is being taken off the sheep. You can also help skirt the fleeces out as they come off on the table before they are rolled up. In this process, the short fibers and those covered with manure on the edges are pulled off and discarded, leaving only the prime beautiful fleece to be purchased by some addicted hand spinner like myself.

It is really exciting to watch the fleece coming off the sheep, and examine it at a respectful distance for crimp, color, luster, cleanliness, and all the other things a spinner looks for. The shearer is fast, and the poor sheep doesn't really know what happened until it is over. They shearers are super skilled and can clip around all those delicate areas without injury to the animal. The fleece comes off all in one piece.  I am always amazed watching the process. 

You can choose your fleece or fleeces for the seriously addicted, as they come off the animal.
That is, you can if you are fast enough.  I often wait too long and watch someone snatch up the one I have my eye on.
 Not to worry though, as there are plenty more coming along. Grey, chocolate, various shades of brown, and white- colors of fawn and apricot.  The beautiful clean fleeces from covered or well cared for sheep are a delight to behold.

I love the smell.  It is a smell of lanolin and manure. Why I like it, I am not sure as I suppose many would find it unpleasant. I enjoy the feeling of the lanolin on my hands after touching the fiber.

Each fleece has it's potential to be washed, possibly dyed, spun, and then knitted, crocheted or woven into wonderful and practical  things.

I think what really keeps me coming back for this year after year is the potential at the start of a new project or venture.  It is all possibility.  The reality that there are seven other fleeces in the closet, or stacked on the porch that still need to be spun does not really enter ones mind.  The potential for these new and wonderful fresh piles of fiber to become something beautiful overwhelms all sense of practicality.

My thrifty Yankee spirit is pleased, that for a few dollars I can have such a pile of possibility in my grasp.

When I get my fleece home, I start the process of steps to prepare it for spinning. Hopefully I have only bought one as they can weigh several pounds. Sometimes it is three or four, and I only really can spin one or two a year. If you can do any math at all, you can see what a problem is building here. This leads to the saying that the one who dies with the most fiber wins.  At this stage of the project though, that is of no concern. Trying to talk sense into me will do no good. I have gone over the edge, and will not be talked out of my folly.

I love to wash the locks gently in small quantities, and lie them in baskets to dry on my deck in the warm spring air.  I love to see the color change as the barn dirt and manure are soaked out and a yellow fleece suddenly turns to snow white. On one or two days in spring, I usually dye up a bunch of these gently washed  locks and spend many days admiring all the pretty colors as they dry in baskets around the house. The possibilites are endless at this point.

I am not one to dye my wool with a project in mind. I usually dye it as the mood strikes me in my favorite colors and then decide what I will use it for.

Sadly, I have to admit that once I get to this step, it often ends up in the closet unless I send it off to be carded by a professional. Carding, for you non hand spinners is the process of combing that prepares the fiber so that it can be spun easily on the spinning wheel into yarn. It is also the time when the colors can be mixed as much or as little as you like to make all kinds of color blends that end up in the finished  yarn.

Many hand spinners now days like to buy their fiber prepared, dyed, and ready to spin. I  can appreciate this, as the process of preparing the wool from start to finish is labor intensive. I myself, would not want to miss this spring ritual that has become a delight  that I look forward to year after year.
(photo courtesty of photobucket/ user whitestone 25)