A bit about my technique~
Wet felting is an ancient process where natural wool fibers are lubricated by moisture and stimulated by friction to create a mat of cloth (felt). My process begins by layering different colors of dyed wool on top of several crisscrossed layers of un-dyed wool to basically block in my scene. I use merino, corriedale, curly locks and merino cross batt wools, as well as tussah silk and wool neps in my pieces. I often use hand carders to card several colors of wool together, which gives an even greater variation to my woolen palette.
After I get it all laid out to suit me, I wet the piece with hot soapy water and work it, pressing with my hands and then rolling it repeatedly in a bamboo or bubble wrap mat for over two hours until the friction of the rolling process binds the fibers together, creating felt. I then rinse the soap out of the felt and mat, and roll it again several times before letting it air dry.
When it is completely dry, I then use needle felting to add more details to the landscape, using special needles which have notches along the shaft. The notches on the needles grab the layer of wool fibers which I have added, and tangle them with the inner layers as the needle enters the felt. Since the notches face down toward the tip of the needle, they do not pull the fibers back out as the needle exits the wool. This is the most time-consuming part, depending on how much detail I want to add.
It never ceases to amaze me how just a tiny wee bit of wool, either added or taken away can make a huge difference to a scene!
The photos below show my process~
A bit about me~
I started felting in July 2013 after seeing an artist's work on the internet. I was blown away by the color and the texture of the wool, and knew that I just had to try it. So, I bought a book which showed the basic technique of layering the wool and wet felting, then needle felting in details. Since then I have created my own personal style, and continue to push the limits of what I can create, while always learning a bit more with each piece.
I am a self-taught artist with no formal schooling, but I have drawn and painted for as long as I can remember. Although art has always been a part of my life, I always wished I had more drive to create but could never seem to get beyond painting as a hobby. I knew there was some other medium out there besides my paints and pastels - something that would awaken that drive in me, and inspire and challenge me to create with the utmost passion and joy. I just didn't know what it was, until I discovered felting.
So, now my paints are wool fibers instead of pigment, and my brush is a felting needle. There is no end to my drive and inspiration to re-create the beauty I see around me in felt. I have found the medium I've been looking for my whole life! I'm very glad to have my painting background, as I believe it helps me to add depth and dimension to my felted landscapes.
Tracey McCracken Palmer
3. When it is nice and flat, I roll it up in the mat and roll back and forth, turning it 90 degrees after each time until it has become felt. I rinse the soap out, and roll it a few more times before letting it air dry. This is the hardest work physically, and can take several hours, but listening to good music helps!!
"Grazing the High Pasture" and the wool I used to create it.
Each of my felted landscapes are totally unique and often have a mind of their own, sometimes becoming something other than what I first envisioned, but that is one of the things I love about creating them!
Felting is very time consuming and challenging, but so very rewarding, when after many hours of work I have created something that I hope will bring joy to the viewer, and a "BONNIE BLINK" (Scots dialect meaning "A beautiful view") to someones home.
Being born and raised here in the Great Smoky Mountains of Western North Carolina, there is no lack of daily inspiration for me. The changing of seasons and weather each hold their own magic, and are a constant source for my creativity. I soak it all in, and am never at a loss for ideas to create!
I hope you enjoy my work, and please feel free to contact me if there is something that interests you, or if you would like a commissioned piece.
1. Laying out my scene with dyed wools over the base layers of un-dyed wool. I basically block it in, but do add some detail.
4. Needle felting the details is the final stage, and can take many hours, but it's the most fun, as this really brings the scene to life.
A small sampling of my "palette" of different wools and colors.
2. When I'm satisfied with my design, I add hot soapy water, and press it down with my hands, then roll it with a grooved rolling pin for about 10 minutes to flatten it down good. There is a piece of netting over it to keep my design from getting moved about too much during this step.