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A Bit of Stitch

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Needle Felting With Silk Chiffon!


Make a beautiful fabric collage with silk chiffon fabrics and a needle felting machine! Use the
finished fabric for lovely, wearable art garments or crafty projects like this little bird notebook.
More project ideas are shown at the end of this tutorial for your inspiration.

The book cover is embroidered with designs from the Little Bird Scroll design set.
Hand embroidered lazy daisy chains and colorful beads complete the look.

1
Please note!

While it is possible to use hand needle felting needles to create silk chiffon fabric collages, it is highly
recommended that you use a needle felting machine. All of the projects in this tutorial were made on
the 7 needle Baby Lock Embellisher. When using the 12 needle Baby Lock Embellisher, it is highly
recommended that you remove nine needles, leaving three in the center front of the needle head.
Removing and changing needles is easiest done by removing the entire needle head. Check your
machine manual for directions.

Materials:

Silk chiffon fabrics (use a color-coordinated assortment of both prints and solids)
Wash-away fabric type stabilizer
Clear monofilament thread

Why use silk chiffon? Silk is a very strong fiber that resists breaking and fraying better than
polyester chiffon. It also holds the texture created with the needles when felted, while polyester
chiffon tends to release the texture too soon. Silk chiffon has earned the reputation of being a
difficult fabric to sew with, but this challenging fabric becomes stable and easily handled when
needle felted!

Things to remember when needle felting by machine:

• Do not try to hold on to the fabric too tightly; let the machine “eat” the fabric. Encourage ruching!
• You have to “drive” the fabric… there are no feed dogs!
• If you do not like your results, gently pull it out and try again.
• Do NOT twist or pivot the fabric while the needles are engaged. You will break your needles!
• Do not needle felt in any one place too long.

Things you need to know before you begin:

Needle felting silk chiffon reduces the size of the fabric by approximately 50%, so begin with at least
twice as much fabric as you will need for your finished project. Start by cutting the silk chiffon into
Irregularly-sized, elongated shapes. Cut away the selvages. Avoid making the pieces too small. It is
better to start with a larger piece and trim it down as needed. The pieces used for our sample
projects ranged in size from 6 to 10 inches. When the finished project will be small and dainty,
smaller pieces will create a more interesting texture. Larger pieces will work better for larger
projects such as our jacket. To conserve fabric, begin with only a few pieces; you can always cut
more as you need them.

Use only a fabric type wash-away stabilizer. Clear film will not work. The stabilizer should be cut
at least 50% larger than the size of the desired project. It may be necessary to work with several
different pieces of stabilizer. If you need to join several pieces of stabilizer, sew them together with
water-soluble thread. The jacket shown was created with five different pieces of stabilizer: one for
the back, each sleeve and both sides of the front.

Whatever project you choose, it will be necessary to enlarge the project pattern by at least 20%. Silk
shrinks slightly when washed. As you will be using water-soluble stabilizer and it will be necessary to
wet the finished fabric, remember to allow for that shrinkage!

2
Needle felting:

Trace the pattern onto the stabilizer using a water-


soluble marker.

Begin in the center of the stabilizer and needle felt


one piece of chiffon into place. Attach this first block
from the center of the chiffon and work toward the
edges in a circular pattern. Needle felt the entire
block, attaching it to the stabilizer completely. Work
slowly and remember not to twist or pivot the fabric
while the needles are engaged. Try to keep the
stabilizer flat and free of puckers by applying
pressure on the stabilizer with the sides of your
hands while felting.

Add another piece to one side of the attached


chiffon block. Overlap the edges of the chiffon
pieces at least ½” and begin needle felting
along the overlapped edge.

Needle felt that edge in place completely.

Needle felt the rest of the piece in place by


working in a half moon pattern, radiating from
the attached edge toward the opposite side.

Add additional pieces of chiffon in the same manner, working toward each edge of the stabilizer.
Remove any large wrinkles or puckers in the stabilizer if they form by pulling up the needle felted
fabric and redoing that portion. Should the stabilizer develop a hole, patch it with another layer of
stabilizer. Try to avoid large wrinkles or puckers in the needle felted chiffon. Small wrinkles and
puckers are desirable as they add interesting texture, but too many will cause the fabric to be stiff in
that area. Avoid overlapping the chiffon pieces too much. Any more than 1/2” will be too much, but
any less than 3/8” will produce an unstable fabric!
3
Allow excess fabric to hang over the edges of the stabilizer. It is better to trim away extra fabric than
to come up short! Avoid having very small pieces joined together along the edges.

Covering the “seams”

There are now “seams” where the different blocks of fabric meet
and overlap. Trim away any long whiskers. Cover the raw edges
and give extra support to each seam by needle felting strips of
bias cut silk chiffon, silk ribbon or other light-weight rayon or silk
ribbon yarn onto the places where the fabric blocks overlap. The
photo on the right shows a 1” piece of silk chiffon being needle
felted in place.

Strips that are approximately 3/4”


to 1” wide provide a subtle seam
covering, while wider strips form
ruffles. Begin needle felting slowly and gently along the center of the
strip. Let the needles “eat” the fabric; do not pull or tug on the strip.
The photo on the left shows the project fabric with all of its seams
covered. The photo below on the right shows a detailed view of the
jacket. You can see where ribbon yarn was used to cover some
seams and bias cut chiffon was
used to cover others.

Helpful Hint!

As noted on page 5 of these


directions, it will be necessary to
stipple stitch the entire piece of
needle felted silk chiffon to
permanently secure the texture.
However, if you wish to add wide
ruffle seam coverings to your
project fabric, you will find it easier
to stipple stitch the base project
fabric before adding the ruffles.
Once the ruffles have been
added, either stipple stitch them
in place or sew a fancy motif stitch
down their centers as shown in
the detailed view of the baby
bonnet on the left.
4
To create a little rosette,
grasp the end of a short
length of ribbon yarn or a
narrow strip of bias cut
chiffon between your
forefinger and thumb. Hold
firmly while you wind the
strip gently around the held end, forming a flat jellyroll between
your finger and thumb. Fold the end under the rosette and hide
completely, or let a little bit extend out from underneath as you
place it carefully on the project
fabric. Lower the needles
slowly into the center of the
rosette and turn the wheel
by hand a few times. Then
felt it down completely,
working in a circular motion.
Do not felt the little tail if you
left one. The photo below is
a group of three rosettes
made from narrow strips of
silk chiffon. A tiny bit of fancy yarn in a variegated pink color
was needle felted on top of each rosette for further contrast.
The photo on the right shows a grouping of rosettes on the back
of a baby bonnet. Other light-weight silk fabrics and silk ribbon
may also be used to make very pretty rosettes. Variegated
colors work best!

Making the needle felting permanent:

The texture of needle felted silk fabric is not permanent


until you make it so. To make it as permanent as possible,
it will be necessary to stipple stitch the needle felting in
place. Use clear monofilament thread for an invisible finish,
or use a decorative thread for added interest. The bobbin
thread color should coordinate with the project fabric.
White bobbin thread works just fine with fabric that is
created from mostly white and light colored chiffons. Black
bobbin thread works better for darker chiffons. Stipple in a
tight, loopy pattern. Do not worry about crossing your
stitching lines; instead, concentrate on securing each area
and each seam completely. Do not forget to stipple stitch
over any ribbon rosettes you may have added. A loopy,
lazy daisy stitch works well for this, as shown in the photo
to the left. (The stipple stitching for
these sample photos is shown in
black for viewing ease. Normally the stitching would not show up at all unless
you use a contrasting or decorative thread for this step.)

Other fancy motif stitching may be used along the seams instead of stippling,
as shown in detail view of the baby bonnet on the previous page.

5
Adding Embroidery:

At this point you may wish to add embroidery designs to the needle felted fabric. Choose embroidery
designs that are lightly digitized. Open, lacy designs work best as they will not add bulk or stiffness
to the finished fabric. Although the needle felted fabric is already stabilized with wash-away
stabilizer, it will be necessary to add additional permanent stabilizer to keep the embroidery design
intact after the wash-away stabilizer is removed. Use a sheer mesh cut-away stabilizer.

Spray the stabilizer with a very light coating of temporary spray adhesive, hoop the sticky stabilizer
and drape the needle felted fabric over the hoop. Place the hoop on a hard, flat surface and pat the
fabric onto the stabilizer with your hand. If you do not wish to use temporary spray adhesive, pin the
fabric to the hooped stabilizer, keeping the pins well away from the needle’s path. It is possible to
hoop needle felted chiffon fabric as long as you do so gently. Loosen the bottom hoop generously,
position the fabric in the hoop and gently place the inner hoop into position. Tighten the hoop screw
just enough to firmly hold the fabric. Hooped needle felted chiffon is best stabilized by adding a layer
of sheer mesh cut-away to the back of the hoop once the
fabric is in place. Use a light coating of temporary spray
adhesive to hold it in place. The stabilizer should be large
enough to cover the entire back of the hoop. After the
stitching is complete, loosen the hoop screw before
removing the inner hoop.

After stitching the designs, cut away the excess stabilizer,


trimming as close as possible to the stitching around the
perimeter of the design. Do not cut away the stabilizer in
any open parts within the design unless absolutely
necessary to preserve the drape and appearance of the
finished project.

Removing the stabilizer and finishing the fabric:

Follow the manufacturer’s directions to remove the water-soluble stabilizer. Two or three long
soakings usually work better than one. Do not wring or twist the wet fabric. Roll the fabric up in a
thick towel and squeeze to remove as much water as possible. Lay the fabric on another towel and
allow to dry until just damp. Iron from the wrong side using a press cloth. Silk fabrics will withstand
high heat. The combination of heat and steam (from the damp fabric)
will finish setting the texture of the felted fabric. Monofilament or
decorative threads are not always heat proof. Test the thread’s heat
temperature resistance before beginning.

Projects that must be cleaned eventually should be hand washed in


cool water with very mild detergent. Do not machine wash, even on
a delicate cycle. Do not dry clean. Repeat the same drying
process as noted above, ironing with a press cloth while still slightly
damp. Garments made from needle felted fabric store best laid flat
or gently folded with acid-free tissue paper. Dimensional detailing,
such as the silk fabric flowers on the jacket in the photo on the right,
should be protected with extra tissue during storage. A blast of warm
steam will restore them after cleaning or storing.

6
Sweet Baby
Bonnet
Silk chiffon, crepe, organza and
burn-out silk velvet create this
delicately textured baby bonnet.
Tiny pearl beads add a touch of
shine.

Silk organza strips were used as


the seam coverings for the bonnet
fabric pieces. Silk organza creates
beautiful, needle felted ruffles! A
pretty heirloom stitching motif
secures the ruffles permanently.

The little butterfly embroidery


design is from the Lightly Lacy
collection.

Antique Lace
& Chiffon
Jacket
A lovely marriage of needle
felting and antique lace
produced this elegant jacket!
The yoke and sleeve caps are
formed from needle felted silk
chiffons. Ruffles of silk organza
needle felted in place and then
embroidered with heirloom
stitching cover the seam
between the chiffon fabric and
the antique lace. Made-in-the-
hoop fabric flowers stitched on
light-weight silk satin and
taffeta decorate the neck. The
flowers are part of the Flower
Brooch design set. Designs
from the Isabella collection are
embroidered on the silk chiffon
fabric.
See another detailed view on the last page!
7
Silk Chiffon
Needle felted
Jacket
The jacket on this page was
made using silk chiffon in
black, three different shades
of gray, and one black and
gray print. As you can see, the
fabric remains soft enough to
drape prettily with just the right
amount of body necessary for
its slightly fitted profile.

The embroidery designs are


from the Lightly Lacy design
collection. These designs work
very well with sheer, delicate
fabrics.

Add a ruffle!

No need to run a gathering thread to


attach a silk chiffon or organza ruffle!
Simply let the felting needles do the job.
Instead of placing right sides together,
trim the seam allowance to ¼”, overlap
the selvage edges ½” (ruffle fabric on the
top) and needle felt along the raw edge
of the ruffle fabric. Keep a bit of tension
on the bottom fabric layer. Guide but do
not restrict the ruffle fabric, and let the
needles gather up the ruffle as they will.
The selvage edge of the fabric became
the hem for the ruffles on this jacket. Any
hemming necessary for the ruffle should
be done before needle felting it in place.
Ruffles cut on the bias will gather up
more than those cut on the straight grain,
but both versions are very pretty!

8
A Pillow
Fit for a Princess!
A silk chiffon ruffle and tiny pearl beads
add extra sweetness to this girly pillow.
Different shades of pink silk chiffon, white
burnout silk velvet and a very light weight
silk crepe were needle felted together to
make the fabric for this project.

Petite rose designs from the Spring


Button Covers design set and a tiny
butterfly from the Lightly Lacy collection
were embroidered on the pillow for added
interest.

The ruffle on this pillow was attached as one would normally attach a ruffle to a pillow. The big
difference is that instead of sewing a gathering row of stitching on the ruffle material, the ruffle was
“gathered” by the needle felting needles directly onto the selvage edge of the pillow. To create this
type of ruffle, place the ruffle material and pillow fabric right sides together, selvage edges aligned.
Needle felt along the selvage edges, keeping a bit of tension on the bottom fabric layer as you go.
Guide—but do not restrict—the ruffle fabric, letting the needles gather up the ruffle as they will.
Place the pillow backing over the ruffled pillow top, tucking the ruffle down inside the two layers of
fabric, and stitch around the outside perimeter. The seam allowance you use should cover the path
the needle felting needles made while gathering the ruffle. Check to see what the seam allowance
will need to be before sewing on the pillow back. Unless the ruffle has been cut on the bias, you will
need to hem it before needle felting it to the pillow top. The tiny pearl beads on this pillow were sewn
on by hand after the pillow was constructed.

Resources:

www.babylock.com Embellisher, needle-felting


machine
www.abitofstitch.com Machine embroidery
Designs: Light & Lacy collection; Little Bird Scrolls;
Spring Button Covers; Flower Brooches; Isabella
Designs
www.hermajestymargo.com Needle felting fibers
and other fun stuff about needle felting
www.denverfabrics.com Silk fabrics
www.thaisilks.com Silk fabrics