Needle Punch Felting with Machine Embroidery

needle punch felting 2
I’ve been playing with wool lately, and was reminded by the upcoming Bernina Inspirations class, that I can do needle punch using my machine embroidery.

For anyone who is a Bernina software user, Designer Plus allows you to do needle punch.  All you need is the needle punch accessory (which you can use with or without embroidery).

needle punch toolWhen you set up your machine for needle punch, you need to do a few things:

  • Inset the needle punch needles in your needle holder in place of your regular needle.
  • Change your stitch plate (there’s a special one for needle punch) and be sure to tell your machine that you made the change.
  • Put on the correct needle punch foot.  This not only helps to glide over roving and other wool or fabrics, but it also keep your fingers away from those needles.  You’ll often want to hold the roving in place to keep your design intact.
  • Completely remove your hook system, not just the bobbin.  Take everything out, and close the bobbin door.
  • Turn off your top and bottom thread sensors.

needle punch feltingIn the software, you literally just go to the Digitize toolbox, click on the PunchWork icon and digitize a shape.  Any shape.  And the software will generate one thread color to outline the shape, and then fill it with needle punch.  It’s amazingly easy.

I digitized the shape of this tree, measured it out and laid out the roving within the parameters of the shape.

And then I watched the machine do all the needle punch work.  Pretty impressive.

However, I did follow along with my fingers positioning and re-positioning the roving to be sure it stayed where I wanted it to be while the needle was punching.

Next, I layered an embroidery design on top.  Since I had gone with a tree shape, I was reminded of the tree of life embroidery design in the Sepia Petals collection from OESD. I ended up using the tree background file.

The result was interesting both visually and texturally.

Still exploring my love of wool.  It’s freeing and almost unpredictable as an art form or craft.  I think that’s why I enjoy it so much.

If you are interested in learning more about Bernina Embroidery Software or needle punch, think about attending your May Software Inspirations at your local Bernina dealer.

You just never know what you’ll be inspired to create!

needle punch felting 3

Photography and Stitching on Organza, with a Touch of Needle Felting

I worked on this piece several years ago, but I recently brought it out again because of my work with Transfer Artist Paper. (I’ll show you that in my next post.)

In this example, I transferred my photography onto printable organza.  You can buy sheets at an art supply store or even an office supply store…certainly online as well.  They are designed for ink jet printers only.

printable organza sheets

I played with black and white photography and used a (more or less) abstract photo and began a collage. stitch on organza  You can see from the photo that I added a number of different layers of texture — background fabric, organza photo, embroidery.

And believe it or not, the whitish fabrics floating a little ghost-like around the edges, are used-up bounce dryer sheets.  They are shredded and needle felted onto the surface, with embroidery on top.  (Incidentally, the photo is a detail of a wrought iron gate on the side of the road, which surrounded an old farm family tomb.  It is just down the street from my house. The gate has since collapsed and been replaced with something much less ornate.  But the tomb remains.)

In the detail below, you can get a good look at the needle felting used to attach the organza and the dryer sheets.  On the organza, the more felting I did, the more the organza began to sort of pull apart and shred, which gave it a wonderful, antique faded look.

detail machine embroidery

detail needle punch organza

The embroidery over the top added a whole new level of detail and interest. This is one of those experimental pieces that gets more interesting the closer you look.  I really enjoyed playing with textures other than simple quilt cotton.  Our sewing machines are designed to sew through many different types of fabric and materials.  While quilt cotton is easily accessible and stunningly designed these days, you just never know what fun things you can use in your “art quilting” travels.

Needle Punch Peonies


As I wait for this years’ peonies to find the courage to rise and bloom, I am inspired by a picture of last years’, and so I pulled out some wool, some roving and decided to needle punch a bouquet of peonies.  If you are not familiar with needle punch, it is the process of using needles to insert colored fabric into another fabric.  The process of punching the roving into the wool actually creates a whole new fabric because both fabrics become one.

Here’s an example of some roving, which is essentially semi-processed wool or cotton fibers.

Samples of dyed roving.

Samples of dyed roving.

Needle Punching on my sewing machine.

Needle punching on the sewing machine.

Using special needles on a machine and a needle punch foot, you can use your sewing machine to “punch ” the roving down into the wool fabric below. You’re not using any thread, and if you have thread sensors on your machine, you’ll want to turn them off.  After that, the process is a lot like painting with watercolor, or more precisely, like charcoal drawing, using the different colors of the roving to create shading, shapes and color.

My intent was to capture the carefree way the flowers moved and “relaxed” into the group.  I always want to loosen my style.  Sometimes my art is uptight.  One of the reasons I enjoy working with fiber over paint is the amount of control that one must give up to the medium.  That’s exciting and unpredictable.  (Some people love precision and this may be frustrating for you.)

After punching out the basic shapes, just add some background texture.

Adding texture through small quilting patterns. I added some batting to the back for stability.

Adding texture through small quilting patterns. Add batting to the back for stability.

What it looked like before I added the topstitching.

What it looked like before topstitching.

As the final touch, add topstitching to the whole arrangement. This brings a bit of dimension, with a “pen and ink” feel.  All of this is very textural. Interesting to look at, interesting to touch.

Anyone can do this with a little inspiration, some wool, and some roving.  You can purchase hand needle punch kits at any craft store and I’m sure most sewing machine manufacturers have some form of needle punch accessory.  (Bernina does, for certain!)  After that, the sky’s the limit.

Machine tip:  Be sure to clean out your sewing machine really well after doing needle punch.

Now get out there and have fun!!

Final piece.

Final piece.  Not sure if I’ll turn it into a pillow cover or garment or something else entirely!