Print Transfers and Embroidery - Felt Journaling

I had so much fun working on this page, that I literally spent an entire week working on it little by little. I wanted to introduce a technique here which you can use to transfer print to fabric. I have not tried transferring directly to felt. I may try that at one point. I think you would need to use a much thicker font than I chose for this project. I'll explain all of that in a minute, but first, I'll share my felt journal page, which is likely one of the most personal journal pages I've shared with you in a while. 

The words read "May you be happy. May you be well. May you be safe. May you be peaceful and at ease." It's from this wonderful meditation I like to practice, called metta meditation. The idea is that as you meditate, first you let yourself feel compassion and loving kindness for yourself, feeling a warmness in your chest in the area near your heart, as you mentally repeat the words "May I be happy. May I be well. May I be safe. May I be peaceful and at ease." Then you move on to your loved ones. "May you be happy. May you be well. May you be safe. May you be peaceful and at ease." After that you move onto acquaintances. You can even include animals, or really anything/anyone that comes to mind. At the end, you include those who have wronged you, whose suffering spreads beyond themselves, the ones that cause you to feel anger in your heart, people who are difficult. It's about connecting with the intention of wishing others well. If you feel anger or sadness while doing this, you sit with that too, getting to the root of it - the point is not to judge yourself. If you click on the link above, it goes more into depth about how to practice this meditation. 

Since I've been dealing with a certain, very personal yet unpleasant matter, it was really important for me to do this so as not to allow the anger to consume me. It was affecting everything, including my health and energy. I needed to fix it. I needed to do this page. As I worked on it, I practiced this meditation. Almost every fiber of this page is imbued with this energy of loving-kindness (almost, because the prefelt is what was left from a previously failed project, though I had used a good bit of it for other things). The lotus is an important symbol in Buddhism, because it grows from the mud and murky water and rises above, unsoiled. It's about not allowing the darkness around you affect you. It's about purity, strength, resilience. The red lotus specifically signifies love, compassion and all matters of the heart; in fact it's the lotus of Avalokiteśvara who embodies the compassion of all buddhas (think of it like a patron saint of Buddhism). I thought it was the perfect image for the words.

So now that I've explained a bit about the meaning behind my art, I'll share how I did it. To do the print transfer, you'll need access to a laser printer. This will not work with ink-jet. If you're not sure which one you have, laser uses toner, and ink-jet uses ink cartridges. Luckily my husband recently received a laser printer for the holidays, but if you don't have one, most businesses use laser printers, or you can print at the library. You will want to make sure that whatever you choose to transfer is reversed on the page, otherwise you'll end up with your words or image backwards on the final piece. 

I tried a number of methods to transfer the print. Usually it's done with xylene, however I do not have xylene on hand nor do I feel comfortable keeping or using it in my home. Not that the solvent I ended up using is safe, I don't think any solvent is, but xylene's pretty strong. I did try using other solvents first. While I was researching, I read that you can use nail polish remover. I'm assuming it's only if it has acetone in it, because I only have non-acetone at home and that didn't do anything. Neither did eucalyptus oil (another suggestion), leaving me to believe that either I was doing something seriously wrong, or eucalyptus oil that is used as a solvent is not the same stuff I put in my diffuser. It smelled good though. I also tried turpenoid, which is a safer, odorless solvent that I use with my oils, and that didn't do anything either. Turpentine was my last resort, and that was what worked for me. The point is, you need a strong solvent. Place the printout face down on your material (I used 100% cotton) and rub rub rub rub rub with a rag dipped in your solvent of choice. I needed to peel up the page a few times to check on the progress, since the type/image still remains on the page. Make sure you keep it securely in place with one hand as you peel a bit up just to make sure it doesn't shift on you. The turpentine dried clear and didn't leave any visible stains.

I'll also add that if you're doing a few separate lines, make sure you leave enough spacing between the lines so you can stitch/felt it on. I cut/ripped holes in my felt just enough to fit the phrase and sandwiched the phrases between the top felt and another piece of scrap felt behind. Cotton itself will not felt. You can felt onto cotton, but if you don't use some wool on top of it or find some way to sandwich in between, it won't stay put. You can also skip this step if you wish and just stitch it on later with some free motion stitching, which I'll get to in a minute.

For the flower, I needle felted red silk sari using the technique from last week's post, except this time I wanted to explore with shading and layering. I found that it's easier to layer one piece of silk on top of the other if you have a bit of wool between. I don't know why, but it was harder to felt silk directly on silk. Make sure you're using the thinnest gauge needle you have, which for me was a 40 gauge spiral. I think that needle felting some shade into the piece really added quite a bit of depth, and I was sure to use only the tiniest wisps of wool so as not to cover up the puckered texture of the silk. The lotus pod is made with a yellow sari, adding some lighter yellow wool for highlights. I went over the whole piece with free motion stitching, including stitching circles in the lotus pod and outlining the phrases to make sure they stay put. Without the stitching the words seemed to just be floating in the wool, which may be the effect you want, but I wanted to add emphasis to them.

The other thing I added to this page that I didn't do on my last one was embroidery. I used chain stitches for the designs, running stitches for the outlines of lotus leaves at the bottom, whipped wheels, fly stitches, buttonhole wheel, etc. If you have no idea what I'm talking about but would love to learn how to embroider, my absolute favorite site for this is pintangle, specifically the TAST page (take-a-stitch-tuesday) which has links to each one of the stitches I mentioned and then some, complete with photo tutorials on how to do them and examples of how they're used. I'm no expert on embroidery, having only done it a handful of times, but they were so easy to follow, I just picked a few and followed the instructions on how to do them on the page. It is really easy to embroider on felt, just make sure you use a sharp embroidery needle, or rather a sharp needle with an eye large enough to fit embroidery floss. Most embroidery needles are blunt so you don't split the fibers in woven fabric, but I've found that those are harder to push through felt. A sharp needle makes it effortless.

Don't worry about how the stitches look on the back, they'll be covered when it comes time to binding them in book form. There will be two options: either you can stitch your pages back to back, especially if you make sure they're roughly the same size, or you can use a spray glue that works with fabric and attach a piece of cotton or muslin to the back. The second option would allow you to write on the back if you wanted to do a little extra journaling, or go over the techniques you used on that particular page so you can use it as a sample and reference it later.

If you're journaling along with me, don't forget to share your page on instagram if you have an account (use the hashtags #feltjournaling or #feltjournal), and don't forget to share your work in my weekly art share on my Facebook page! Happy felting!