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Are you house-bound and twiddling your fingers?! I bet you have some fibre ‘stuff’ somewhere, go find it and pull out the sewing machine! Here’s some easy creative therapy to make these Fibre Arts Bowls.

Simple supplies:

  • some Roving (wool fibre) or other fuzzy yarn (even bits of fabrics can work like I used here)
  • Soluble Stabilizer (If you can’t leave the house; you could use a very sheer fabric like tule or sheer curtain fabric)
  • Paper, pencil & Felt tip marker
  • Sewing Machine with darning or Free-motion presser foot
  • Thread (clear filament or colour of your choice)
  • ‘Stiffy’ or some other clear medium like this and a brush
  • Bowl or shape
  • Cling Film or plastic bag

Making Shapes:

This part is so easy, you can’t say that you can not draw! You can trace a leaf that you find or just look at one. Leaves are pretty easy to draw and they come in all kinds of shapes so they really can’t be wrong. Draw some leaves on paper first.

The big thick pieces of wool fibre are called ‘roving’. It is what the wool is like before it’s spun into thin yarn. It is used in needle and wet felting. I had some odd colours that were variegated with lovely colours.

If you don’t have roving you could improvise by using some fuzzy yarn and untwisting or a mix of any fuzzy fabrics and wool. See my scarf here to see how I used fabrics in a scarf of similar method.

Place the Soluble Stabilizer over the drawing and trace with a felt tip marker. You do not need every vein line, just the main ones.

Place some small pieces of the fibre haphazardly across the leaf shape. Don’t worry if they are over the outlines. I wanted the light to go through so I used very little fibre. Just criss-cross it so that it will give it some strength & stability.

Fold over another layer of the Soluble Stabilizer and flatten it carefully.

Pin it to keep from slipping out. TIP: If you brush a damp brush over the stabilizer it can slightly soften it enough to stick to itself, just be careful as it melts easily if too wet.

Pedal-to-the-metal Free-motion Sewing

If you like driving fast you will like this stage! Set up your sewing machine with a darning or Free-Motion presser foot (check what kind you need for your machine, as most can be adjusted for it) Test the tensions so it is not too tight.

The first sewing is just to get the background stable I used clear filament thread and also some grey thread so that it would not be so visible.

Start sewing… The free-motion foot will allow you to guide the piece in whatever manner you like. I flatten my hands on each side and start to pull it around in a random fashion. Some people use an embroidery hoop but I could not fit it under the foot. It’s so much fun since you can go so fast and in all directions. It did pucker a bit but that does not matter as the stabilizer will soon be GONE!

After the main ‘fill-in’ sewing the darker outline stitching will be added. By that time you will be a pro at guiding it under the machine. It’s also called thread painting. BUT really, it’s only a leaf, no perfection needed! (you could do whatever shapes you like) I made sewn Roses in the same way, so easy!

I used black serger thread and would follow lines back and forth until it looked full enough.

Each leaf is individual and will be separate pieces until later. Make a bunch!

Snip Snip Snip

Now that stitching has reinforced the shapes well enough, they can be cut from the Soluble Stabilizer. Be careful not to cut the edge stitching. I love all the different shapes that leaves have and pretty well any colour works too.

If you don’t have stabilizer, there are some fabrics like tule that are pretty well invisible. Even some out sheer curtains could substitute, look around, use what you have on hand.

You’d think that you have to use leaves, you could be creative and use whatever shapes & colours that you like.

Soluble Stabilizer dissolves quite easily. When I use it for a scarf I wash it out completely but here you can just partially wet it so that some stabilizer remains. Then they keep their shape better and also allow shaping better. Either way will work.

Stabilizer Gone

The fibre is even more visible now that the stabilizer is gone (or partially gone). Such lovely transparency through the wool!

Make a bowl:

At this point you can make whatever you like. Join them into a unique table-topper, or placemat. I like the shapes to have some sculpture so I use a bowl covered in cling film as a base form.

Shape the leaves (easier when damp/stabilizer/damp) and overlap them slightly. Leaf shapes fit into each other quite well.

Cover as much or little of the bowl as you like with the leaves. It could be other shapes just make sure it can be pulled off after dry.

After arranging the leaves brush on some of the ‘Stiffy’ stiffener. It will go on whitish and then dry clear. It works quite well as I made a whole ball light fixture with it and yarn. Make sure small sections overlap to keep them together later on. If needed use pins to hold them.

It takes a long time to properly dry. If it still feels too soft add another layer of the ‘Stiffy’. Twist pins to pull out.

When they are fully dry, carefully ease them off the form. They will still be slightly flexible unless you coat them many times. Fill these lovely bowls with whatever you like and enjoy!

The way the fibres mix is like marbled paint, very unique and wonderfully textured. Oh, I can imagine a few of these added to edges of a scarf… so many ideas and options! Some LED lights would enhance the lovely transparent qualities. It would make a wonderful lampshade…

Fibre art has so many possibilities since we have fibre all around us. Up-cycle that old sweater, or blouse, or curtain, or wedding dress… I Hope I inspire you!

I enjoy ‘making’ nature inspired projects since we all agree nature is beautiful so you just can’t go wrong. A perfect accent to Eco Printing

Enjoy! Smile when you can and appreciate all your blessings…

I'm an artist & I make things... all kinds of things.

This Post Has 20 Comments

  1. Hi Barb, I thoroughly enjoyed reading about this project. I am wondering if instead of the fabric stiffener a clear epoxy can be brushed on then placed over the bowl to form. I am thinking in a very humid location or if someone wants to clean, the stiffening will disintegrate. Wondering about your thoughts on this. Thank you for taking to time to respond.

    1. That sounds like a good alternative! Some resin/epoxy will drip for a while though. Also a clear enamel/varnish can also work. I like using whatever I have. I am a bit of a rebel in that way…Enjoy!

    2. That sounds like a good alternative! Some resin/epoxy will drip for a while though. Also a clear enamel/varnish can also work. I like using whatever I have. I am a bit of a rebel in that way…


  2. Hi, Barb. I am continually amazed at your original ideas!! Thanks for your creativity and sharing. 🙂

    1. Maybe it’s because I’ve had lifetime of making in almost every media AND I still teach in an art college. I have ideas buzzing in my brain all the time! Even when trying to sleep!

  3. I have everything required so can’t wait to try this project. Thank you so much for sharing.

    I thought I would share a way I made a wall hanging of a tree in the fall a long time ago. I used Ultrasuede for the leaves and I zigzagged fine wire around some of the edges on the back side leaving a place without wire to stitch them to the Ultrasuede wall hanging. This allowed me to bend them into different shapes and away from the backing. It really gave it a 3D look. The tree trunk and branches were done with embroidery thread and free motion stitching. I was hired by a company to make this and I really wish I would have taken photos. I hope this inspires someone to try something similar.

    1. Wow, that sounds interesting! You can’t go wrong with nature as we never tire of it. Creativity across many mediums makes for unique projects! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Hi Barb,

    These are so beautiful and the possibilities have my head swimming. I do not have any Stiffy and wonder if Elmer’s glue all would work? Maybe water it down a wee bit?

    Love your work,

    1. I think even an acrylic medium/varnish would work. I remember many years ago crocheting small hats for the Christmas tree and stiffening with a sugar solution. It worked but took a while. Elmers qlue is probably close to Stiffy, as long as it dries clear. Make sure to use some plastic on the form though.

  5. Hi Barb. love your methodology for this – looks like fun. If people are concerned about drawing leaf shapes or even drawing round them, I found a quicker way – I photocopy them …works for all sorts of natural forms, flowers etc.

    1. Yes, for sure. These days though, some might be out of toner/ink. Also tracing an image off a screen works as they are lit from behind. Have fun

  6. I really enjoy your openness to all media and shapes, etc….there is no end to your creativity. I love creativity especially in my sleep. Unfortunately, by the morning I can’t remember everything, yes somewhat frustrating. I never get bored visiting you on F you inspire me beyond any expectation, thank you Barb. Until next time…stay well!

    1. After a lifetime of making and creating my way of giving back is by inspiring. Some travel the world, I ‘travel’ all the Art Forms I can! It’s much more fun!

  7. I absolutely love these delicately beautiful artful pieces, Barb. I’ve collected almost all the supplies to start. I do have a question. For the free-motion stitching, do you put the feed dogs down? Thanks for sharing this wonderful tutorial.

    1. Yes, so that you can slide it around as needed. Different machines have different ways of setting it up. A practice session would be a good idea. Have fun!

  8. Having just received your latest post, I noticed Fibre Arts Leaf Bowls which somehow I have missed in the past. This is so timely as I wanted to explore some ideas for 3-D Fibre Art as an extention to my eco-printing. This looks brilliant and I cannot wait to get started. Thank you so much Barb, your eco-printing ideas have been such an inspiration for me in my artwork.

    1. I keep combining ideas and fibre art is so accommodating! As an artist I love the tactility and versatility! I think it’s in my DNA… Dyeing, printing, sewing, surface designing and sculpting, so many I can probably not get through all I want to do!

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