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Friday, January 28, 2011

Felting using Water Soluble Stabilizer

As promised, here is some info about using water soluble stabilizer in your work. What is the stuff you might ask? Well it sort of looks like interfacing. Here is a link to one choice at JoAnn's -- there are even some handy instructions here: (and even some new ideas -- I've never heard of dissolving the stuff first the painting it on your piece -- but who knows?) You can usually buy the stabilizer at any quilt store as well.

Anyway, this is how I've used it. I cut out two identical pieces in the shape of the intended final product. The pictures are of a cuff in progress and a finished piece which is a jacket facing or part of a lapel. I love just making these little pieces of wonderful texture to work into a larger collage as well.

I then separate the two pieces of stabilizer and start to cover one of the pieces with different textures. Since you are going to stitch these things in place to form a fabric, you can add anything that your sewing machine needle will go thru. I like to add all kinds of textures -- lots of different silks, some velvet, some metallic fabrics, etc. I love to drizzle a wonderful yarn on top of the piece. I might use the yarn later as a guide for adding beads. I cut my pieces fairly small, but I have seen some beautiful pieces where the fabrics were larger.

If you are going to felt the piece, allow some space between the pieces for the wool to felt in later. Try to keep the overall piece lightweight.

When you are happy with the colors and textures you have added, add the remaining piece of stabilizer on top and pin securely. You don't want to lose anything on the way to the sewing machine! Then sew on top of the piece in all different directions. I usually use a contrasting or metallic thread. Your sewing lines are what bind the fabrics together. (Note -- I tried doing this by hand and it didn't work very well, but I think it was because I didn't add enough lines of stitches. Since the sewing lines are what create the fabric, it is a good idea to add lots of stitching to the piece. The sewn picture above is hand done but needs lots more stitching.) You can also free motion stitch on top of the piece if you are experienced at that.

OK, then you go to the sink and dissolve the stabilizer in hot water. It takes about 1 minute. Allow the fabric to dry and there you are! I later use a piece of prefelt which can also be cut to shape to felt into the piece. You won't get very much shrinkage as the stabilized fabric is pretty heavy, but you get a fun and funky textured piece of fabric.

Feel free to email me with any questions! We will be experimenting with this technique in my class at the John Campbell Center in May of this year. Here is a link to that class:


  1. If you put down a thin layer of roving before adding the other fabircs and then lay soem roving over the top before the stitching takes place, you would get the neat shrikage and even more texture. Margo Duke does some amazing things using similar methods!! You ahve me itching to get out the stablizer and scraps again!!! MUST FOCUS!!!!!!!

  2. Hi Elizabeth -- Love your blog!

    Margo does some amazing things using stabilizer -- I think she actually uses the stabilizer as a base to needle felt into then does free motion stitching, then dissolves, then felts. You could also add wool before creating your stabilized fabric, but I found that the wool grabbed some of my fun edges and smoothed them out. I was happier when I added the wool after the texture was already there and by using prefelt I could keep the wool a way from my edges. I guess this only matters if you want those free form edges.

    Thanks for your comment and go play!

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  4. Can you please give me some names of suitable water soluble fabric suitable for machine embellishing and then wet felting. I did go to Jo-Ann link to no avail. Many thanks. I am in Australia and we probably call it by another name.

  5. Can you access Amazon? They have it listed under water soluble stabilizer. Hope that helps??