Sunday, June 21, 2009

Want to 'needle' something -- try needle felting!

Barbara Potoczny's lifelong fascination with sewing machines, fabric, and collecting, has led to some of the most colorful, imaginative and inspiring fabric artistry you'll be lucky to experience. For the past ten years she has graciously shared her knowledge in workshops across the country. She's multi-talented making quilts, and art dolls, and as you can see here -- needle felting. She makes it look so easy! For those wanting to get started with these techniques, Barbara also sells fabric packs on her website-- Dawn

Here's Barbara in her own words:

Welcome to my world of Machine Needle Felting. Several years ago I was introduced to a new machine just on the market, the Embellisher. I wasn't sure just what I could do with this machine. It had 7 barbed needles and used no thread.

Now what?

It wasn't long before I was off and running. Since that time, I have added the new 12 needle Embellisher to my collection. I love them both for different reasons, and wouldn't part with either one of them.

I began this journey in machine needle felting by trying to punch all different textures and fabrics.

[See photo above for samples of materials I use]

Some worked and some didn't work so well. My favorite base fabrics for felting are duck cloth and wool. You can also embellish existing clothing, such as sweaters, jackets, blue jeans, and much more. These are all wonderful canvases for embellishing. The actual embellishing or what you needle felt into the base can be silk roving, wool roving, natural fibers, curls, yarns, felts, velvet, silks, angelina and whatever else you come up with.

Published Project

My project FELTING FOR FALL was published in Belle Armoire magazine, the September/October 2007 issue. [No photo available.]

This project was made from a thrift store sweater embellished with yarns and multicolor felted leaves cascading down the front, back, and sleeves. Extra pieces of my needle felting were made into a coordinating handbag. My favorite outings take me to thrift stores where I walk slowly up and down the aisles, searching for just the right color and fabric for the next project. I have such fun discovering just what new fabric I can needle felt.

I keep a basket full of samples as I try new items, making notes on each. My basket is over flowing with beautiful colors and textures, fabrics, fibers, yarns. This is why I love needle felting. It's a fiber artist's dream come true.

[Photo: Fish bowl -- base, polyester lining fabric, hand dyed handspun yarns, silks, wool. Once the needle felting has been complete the circular fabric was hand stitched onto my support ring. Complete directions will soon be on my blog. ]

Need for speed? You'll love this technique

One of the first rules to machine needle felting is "Keep you foot pedal going fast, and your hand movements slow."

This is important and prevents you from zipping through packs and packs of expensive needles. Once you get the feel of the movement needed for felting, you can needle felt for days or longer without breaking a single needle. I do, however, change my needles when I am working on a special project for exhibition. This gives the best look. When needles get bent or dull, the results will show on the fabric being punched down. Also, when using your machine for hours, keep in mind that these are fine needles, and when hot, could bend or break. Be sure to give your machine a cool down period for a few minutes every now and then.

Machine needle felting can be combined with quilting to achieve fabulous effects. Try to combine your needle felted pieces with other techniques, such as beading, painting, knitting, crochet, purchased fibers or hand dyed.
[See photo: Garden of Hope. The Garden Of Hope wall hanging was constructed by machine needle felting onto a black wool base. The wool base fabric can be found at thrift stores in the form of wool skirts or trousers. Once purchased I wash them in hot water, deconstruct then the fabric is ready to use. However, since this base is an integral part of this piece, I have chosen to use new wool for this piece. Embroidered and dupioni silks were used to create the floral designs. An assortment of fabrics including, wool, silks, woven cottons, and velvets are needle felted in place for the stem and all of the leaves. Using a variety of fabrics with different textures creates a much more interesting composition.

Shimmery fibers and yarns, glistening glass beads and tiny pink bows were added to complete this piece. The fibers and yarns were needle felted onto the wool from the front side, as well as the reverse side to show a variety of textures. The tiny pink ribbons have been placed randomly throughout this piece to honor Breast Cancer survivors. ]

I enjoy sharing my all of my tips and techniques and offer them in workshops across the United States. Needle felting is my passion and I teach techniques and uses that apply to all major embellisher brands. Information about my teaching schedule and workshops may be found on my website.

If you have any questions, feel free to email me at

And as a bonus, here are two more creations by Barbara:

This shoulder style bag is made from a variety of green silks and velvets in my mosaic style. A free form garden of rust colored silk flowers and handspun yarns has then been needle felted onto the base background. A marvelous green trim has been added around the bottom and then constructed into the shoulder bag with a beaded fastener. Note that the rings used for holding the bag handle are recycled belt buckles. I enjoy the challenge of recycling clothing and found objects in all my pieces.


This second purse, a shoulder style bag is a simple creation using wool fabric as my base and background. I have used simple flower and leaf shapes to create the floral tapestry by machine needle felting them onto the background. Recycled sari silk has been added with strips of the wool to create the handle and tassel.



Gari in AL said...

I have looked at the Embellisher several times but I think one must be something of an artist to make something the looks good. But it really does look like fun.

Dawn said...

When I read that it has so many needles -- as many as 12! I think I went into shock. I am comfortable with one, it is a stretch for me to use 2 -- but 12 needles all going at the same time with my fingers in the same region? And then a 'sewing' machine with out thread -- it definitely took me an adjustment to just comprehend. Yes definitely an artist's task, or at least better hand-eye coordination than I have is required. :)


Barbara said...

Hello Gari,
No art skills required, just the ability to experiment and have fun. I teach all skill levels in my classes. From the person who has never touched a machine to people who have used their machine for years. We all have a great time. If you are ever in the Myrtle Beach SC area, I teach there quite often, Email me privately, and I'll put you on my list to let you know my scheduled classes ahead of time. Go on, give it a try. Barb

Karen said...

Love them all! The Going Green bag is my favourite.

Barbara said...

Hi Karen,
Thanks for taking a look. The green bag was great fun to make.