When I first started to stab I had plenty of fine Merino. Although it was lovely, and I had at least five whole fleeces, core wool it was NOT. This led me on a journey into a world of fibre that has become somewhat of an obsession to me now. You see it’s the fibre that has taught me the most about needle felting.
Trying to build a 3D form out of fine Merino is very tedious to say the least. Living in Australia and not having easy inexpensive access to the amazing fibres in the UK was also frustrating. I tried a lot of different ways to achieve size and shape with things like carved foam and polyfil, none of them were satisfying.
So I set off to find some local fleece to work with. Once the word was out I had plenty of small flock owners offering up their unwanted fleeces. Many of them were no good but they still taught me a lot about what I didn’t want from a fleece. It allowed me to “waste” fibre and the many washes that followed really helped me develop a great system which I use now to process raw fleeces. Of course I have my favourites for very good reasons and here are a few.
On top of my list at the moment is Romney Core. It’s a wonderful coloured fibre that washes and drys easily. It’s easy to pick and card not to mention it’s ability as a core and undercoat. Used exclusively in my Sleeping Aussie Babies Series, it has the ability to keep good shape whilst still leaving room to accept top coat fibre. This means a lot less stabbing overall as the core merely needs to be tacked prior to covering. When reversed it creates a wonderful curly undercoat along with the straighter topcoats for guard hairs. All of this in the natural colours of our creatures, even white.
Shetland and Corriedale
To create those convincing coats on my creatures I have used a combination of natural coloured fibres with Shetland at the top of my list. It comes in all of the natural colours and natural is best. This is shared with processed and dyed Corriedale in similar colours. Corriedale is shinier than Shetland and both are lovely and straight. Used together they create a luxurious texture to the creature especially when used in the direction of the fur.
For details and specialised features I use many different fibres. I have two Corriedale sheep that supply me with raw fleece each year. One is a gold colour and one is a bronze colour. These are my most versatile of all and get used for many things including smaller core pieces like eyelids to soft underbelly topcoat. It wet felts very easily (the Bilby’s ears are Gold Corriedale) and makes a fabulous net to hold other specialised fibres down. These include Silk Tussah and synthetic fibres.
Merino is still a great feature fibre and I use different forms of it from all over the world.
No matter what fibre I get my hands on there is a way it can be used. In my opinion it needs to be the driving force for artistic growth in this field. I found the search for the right fibre a long and very educational one however in hindsight I can see that finding the fibre was the easy part. Listening to it was the real lesson. Now I can go into a store of fleeces and hear them telling me what they want to become.
It’s my goal to offer an insight into the different fibres I use in my Feltorials by putting it into a kit. This is a very inexpensive way to try out different fibres and combinations and learn about using it a different way on each creature. From raw to processed, you can count on diversity and inspiration. I only want to open your eyes, it’s up to your imagination to experience fibre in your own unique way. I hope this gets you stared.