Monday, February 5, 2007

The Embellisher: What is machine needle felting?

Marianne asks:
I would like to know what the difference is between an "embellisher" and my good old Singer sewing machine? On a lot of my blog tour people mention this "embellisher", what can be done with it? How does it work?

The Embellisher is a specialty machine that doesn't sew with a needle and thread. It uses felting needles to 'mesh' fibers together. The Babylock Embellisher uses 7 needles to do this. Some machine manufacturers have come out with an accessory that needle felts. Bernina has one called a Decorative Needle Punch Accessory - it uses 5 needles and has a special throat plate. Brother has a machine felting accessory and Janome has a stand-alone machine. There is one more I have heard of called a Pierrot but I don't know if you you can get that in the US. All have special guards to keep your fingers from the needles.

What can be done with it? You can decorate existing garments, you can add 'trim' to existing fabric and make something from it, you can make unique fabric, art quilts, appliques, and I'm sure there is a lot more. But you can't sew two pieces of fabric together with a needle and thread. It doesn't sew.

So how does it work? The felting needles are extremely sharp and have little barbs or hooks at their base that pull fibers from the top layer through to the bottom layer and they embed together. You can use wool roving or yarns or even certain materials. It's all an experiement. As long as you don't break a needle on it you can probably felt with it.

Paula Scaffidi was one of the pioneers of fiber art using the Embellisher. If you visit her site you'll find most of your questions answered in depth, plus galleries and even a tutorial or two. One tutorial has a short video clip where you can see her machine in action.

I have the Decorative Needle Punch Accessory and it's fun to play with although I don't use it too often.

Hope this helps,

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