My specialty in needle felting is trying to attain maximum details in my pieces. So, for each fabric or surface, I'll be picking subjects that have a good amount of detail to portray. For ease of comparison, I'll also be creating a toadstool piece for each fabric. My toadstool pieces have a good range of techniques, from blending and layering to broad coverage and tiny details, so I feel like they will help me determine the answers to my criteria questions.
Here's my criteria for Will It Felt:
Durability: Probably most importantly, I want to determine how the fabric holds up to the felting process. I don't want a piece to fall apart after I've worked so hard on it.
Fabric Displacement: Does it warp? Do the fibers get all wonky?
Pokability: Is it easy on the needles--does it feel like they'll break?
Availability and Price: Can the fabric be purchased easily? Is it expensive?
Will it Hoop?: I display many pieces in embroidery hoops. I thought it would be fun to make this a test for each fabric.
Detail Work: Is it capable of handling details? Do they disappear into the fabric?
So first up....
Durability: I wasn't sure what to expect with burlap. But as it turns out, it held up very nicely. I was worried that the needles might break down the fibers. They might eventually, but I needled it quite a lot, and everything seemed fine.
Fabric Displacement: Because of the looser weave, I expected a bit of displacement, but there was none. I even tried felting on Burlap "ribbon" (seen below on the right), which is an even looser weave, but even that stayed put.
Availability and Price: Burlap is not hard to find, and I found it at the price range of $5-8 a yard and in many colors. Not bad compared to $35-$40 a yard for wool felt.
Will it Hoop? Yup. It wasn't too easy to stretch when in the hoop, so centering your work as perfectly as you can before you add the outer hoop is key.
Detail Work: So, burlap can and cannot handle details. I'll explain. If there is a layer or two of wool already felted onto the burlap, then details are no problem. But I couldn't really get small details or crisp lines on the outer edges of the design. Any lines that were adjacent to raw burlap just didn't have enough surface area to cling to, which should be expected in a weave with gaps.
Will It Felt? It sure will! I recommend trying it--it's a fun surface and creates very pretty finished pieces.
I created a couple more pieces and experimented with a different way of hanging. I like the raw edges of burlap, but of course they unravel really easily, so I secured them with a thin line of fabric glue on the backside. This is my first time hanging pieces from copper, and I really love this look.
Let me know if you try felting on burlap! Comment here, tag me on social media or shoot me an email! And if you have any other suggestions for criteria, or suggestions for experimental fabrics, let me know!
Next up: Linen!