Preparing the “Paint”

Dyed wool is the “paint” that I’m using for the coat ornamentation, along with other natural fibers. Even though some of the fiber has been pre-dyed by me, I’ve purchased most of it from a commercial source (mainly as a time savings). I was like a kid in a candy store while picking out the colorways from my commercial supplier. And now that we’ve finally had a real coating of winter white outside (snow), I’m happily swimming in color indoors! Honestly, there’s nothing better for the psyche than a dose of color in mid-winter.

These commercially-dyed green wool fibers were processed into a "top" form. Top is the word for rope-like lengths of prepared fiber that are fairly even in staple length (the natural cut length of the wool hair) and have received little or no twist in the fiber rope preparation.

To keep some order to all of the colors of wool that I'm working with (over 50 in total), I've devised a very exclusive Target® wreath container system. Ha!

Actually, wreath storage containers make great visual color wheels and nicely fit the bags of fiber by individual colorways, while providing easy access to the bags and a fairly tight storage container to keep bugs from getting to the fibers. (Target marketers... take note! This is a new avenue for marketing your wreath containers!)

I use hand carders to brush the fibers, while arbitrarily and intentionally blending the colors on the carders as I work, until the fibers become an airy mass ready for needle felting.  You could equate this blending/carding process to what a painter does when blending paints on a palette.

Yes, the carders you see in this photo are actually dog brushes. My next post will talk about some of the tools that I'm using—some unique and some quite traditional.

Fiber blending is an optical process—meaning that you can’t literally blend the colors together but when colors are closely juxtaposed, they appear to change their hue through a (sort of) trick of the eye. This visual alchemy is fascinating. [FYI… I’m developing a workshop in color fiber blending that will happen sometime this year at Gale Woods Farm/an educational farm within the Three Rivers Park District (in Minnetrista, MN). I expect to have more info about that class on my website ( in the near future.]

This is some of my hand dyed wool that I'll be using. It's already in an airy mass so won't require as much carding as the top. I'll also be using cellulose fibers like cotton and flax, along with other protein fibers like silk, since the coat represents all natural fibers that come from soil.

I’m enjoying this playtime of blending colors as I create an impressionist background on the coat panels. (Shhh! I’m leaking too much! I won’t say more about the final color design. You have to visit it this summer!)

When the fiber is blended to my satisfaction, needle felting techniques will be employed to apply the fiber “paint” onto the wool felt “canvas.” My next post will show you the tools of the needle felting artist—my “paint brushes,” so-to-speak!


About wendyj-sagahill

I am a textile artist, designer, and author.
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1 Response to Preparing the “Paint”

  1. Barbara Ruuska says:

    I love the colors. Such a great idea for the wreath containers. I never knew! 🙂


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