Making your own fabric with the Needle Felting Attachment on the Brother XV with Angie Lawrence

There are many ways you can make your own fabric on the Brother XV/Dream Machine and this is just one of them – using the Needlefelting attachment to embellish and even create your own fabric.

Before I get into the detail of how you use this attachment, let me just put two common fears to rest!

1. Will it clog up my lovely machine with dust and lint?

Absolutely not! As you can hopefully see in these pictures, all lint and dust produced during needlefelting is caught in the little box attached to the needlefelting plate, sitting snugly in the bobbin race (the bobbin case having been removed).

The second picture shows the bobbin area after a couple of projects. Not a scrap of dust or lint to be seen! In fact, I would venture to suggest there is even LESS debris and dust than after a good session or two of machine embroidery. All you need to do is to clean out the bobbin area in the usual way – just as you would if you were doing machine embroidery.

2. Those needles look sharp! What if I catch my finger under there?!

With the robust plastic guard in place you would have to try quite hard to get your fingers trapped! Yes, a lot of people worry about that – me included before I started using it – but to be honest, there’s no reason for you to put them anywhere nearby. You are not using thread or having to insert or change a needle or bobbin in situ, meaning less problems.

What exactly is Needlefelting?

Needlefelting – or needlepunching as it is sometimes known – is basically the process of bonding one fabric to another using barbed needles which push or punch the fibres from the top fabric or material to the bottom piece – bonding them together.

You can use all sorts of media – woolen fabric, tweed, sari silk waste, wool roving, felt, cotton, linen – which you lay on top of your base fabric in whatever pattern you choose. There’s no need for stabiliser under your base fabric as it would interfere with the process. In this picture, I have needlefelted some small pieces of bright pink Harris Tweed to a scrap of dark green tweed. Depending on how thoroughly you punch your fabrics you can use either the top or the back in your project. The back is more subtle.

Using scraps of wool roving (wool which has been carded and processed but not spun) you can get some lovely effects. And, once your fabric is ready, you can switch to the embroidery side and embroider over it, using a hooping stabiliser and ‘floating’ your fabric in the usual way.

So how do you actually do it?

1. Remove the bobbin case and install the needle assembly as shown in the instructions in the pack. Thankfully, it’s clear and easy to do!

2. Select the correct stitch. On the XV you will find this on the sewing side, quilting stitches – at the very end of the menu. This is the stitch you want – C-01 Free-motion couching stitch.

3. Now, before you put any fabric underneath or go anywhere near any foot pedals, you need to gently turn the handwheel to make sure that the three barbed needles move up and down freely. You do not want them to strike against the base plate, you want them to go down through the gap on the plate. Just as you would if you were doing regular machine embroidery. Again, you can adjust the needle assembly position following the instructions in the pack and using the screwdriver provided.

4. Now you are good to go! Place your fabric – with the embellishment material on top – underneath the needlefelting assembly. You don’t need to adjust anything else.

5. If you have ever done free motion stitching or quilting, you will be quite at home with needlefelting. Place your hands either side of the needle such that they form a U shape – with your thumbs forming the bottom of the U and the rest of your fingers either side. If you are working on a large piece you might even find it useful to wear those cotton gloves with rubber bobbles (technical term!) on the palm which make guiding your fabric even easier.

6. Now press the foot pedal and begin to move your fabric around just as if you were free motion quilting or stitching. Don’t go too fast at first and try not to overthink the whole process too much. You need to keep the fabric moving and avoid tugging on the needles – which can actually be quite hard to do! You will soon find your ideal speed and rhythm. Move the fabric around randomly – in circles, up and down, side to side etc until you are happy with the way your fabric/medium is bonding to the base fabric. You can stop pressing on the pedal at any time and remove the fabric from under the needles to inspect it further. No thread to cut – no bobbin thread to worry about!

7. You can needlefelt as much or as little as you choose. In the picture at the top of the page I felted quite closely as I wanted a clear, flat surface for my embroidery and – as the item was destined to be worn as a neckwarmer – I wanted to avoid loose bits.

8. By the way – at any time during the process you can stop the machine and add more embellishment material if you wish.

9. And that’s it!

No thread issues
No tension issues
No bobbins to run out
Just fun!

Now what I am going to do with my finished piece?

Whatever you choose! You can needlefelt pretty much anything! So far, I have used my pieces to make handbags, neckwarmers and scarves. You could even embellish jackets, coats, hats and bring them right up to date. What about some boiled wool cushions embellished with some felt flowers, Boho style?

Here are some pictures of the things I have made so far. I’m at the beginning of my needlefelting journey – there are many exciting avenues to explore.

This is a neckwarmer in Harris Tweed which has had free cut leaf shapes needlefelted on to it and topped with embroidered detail using a simple triple stitch.

This small handbag was embellished in the same way as the neckwarmer above. The leaves give the effect of applique but without all the fuss and are very securely attached.

Another neckwarmer “Autumn Fox” – again in Harris Tweed but this time embellished with wool roving in autumnal colours and embroidered with black embroidery thread.

Okay! I’m sold! Will it work on my machine and where can I get the kit?

The needlefelting attachment works on some Brother sewing/embroidery combination machines. It works on the Brother Innovis V5 and Innovis V7, the Brother XV/Dream and a couple of others. It does NOT work on the Brother XP1/Luminaire.

You can get one from most Brother dealers and it is best to give them a call first to make sure it fits your machine.

Here are some pictures of the box and contents to give you an idea of what is included in the kit (sadly, the cappuccino is not included!).

Why not leave this article around somewhere your other half can see it? It would make an ideal Christmas or birthday or Anniversary gift!

Oh, and if you have any questions you know where I am!

Until next time…

Angie Lawrence
Cinnamon Crafts
Isle of Man


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