People often ask me, what materials and tools I use to create wool paintings. In this article, I’ll explain what’s in my toolbox.
Let’s start with the frame. I use an ordinary photo frame, which can be found at any home or craft store, as well as purchased from a frame shop. The average frame consists of a backdrop, clear glass covering, and its enclosing edges. I avoid frames with Plexiglas covers, as I don’t think they look as nice. But, if you have special needs, like the picture hanging in an area where it’s more likely to be broken, you can use them. You can also customize an unpainted photo frame, such as painting it in the tone of the finished picture. There are many options for your choice in frame, but you must use one with a clear covering, since that protects the surface of the picture and holds the wool fibers securely in place. Read more about framing options for wool paintings.
In order to keep the wool from slipping, and so it sticks better to the backing, I use a substrate (or underlying base) when creating my pictures. Some people use flezilin, plain natural fabric, or rough paper. But, I prefer to use a simple, quilted paper towel, for several reasons. First, it’s easy to find in a regular grocery store, inexpensive, and very economical. Second, I can sketch my picture’s outline on the paper towel before laying down the wool. Third, the wool fibers don’t shift out of place or roll down the picture’s surface, even when the artwork is stood vertically without its glass covering. And finally, the paper can be glued to the backing of the frame to keep it from moving, while I create my picture. But, I prefer not to use glue, so that I have the opportunity to mount the picture in a different frame, if necessary. Read more about substrate materials.
The primary material used in the paintings is wool roving, in the form of combed ribbon or carding. The combed ribbon (or tops) is combed wool in which all the fibers are stretched in one direction and laid in a ribbon. The carding wool is a product in which, unlike a combed ribbon, all of the fibers are bent and aimed in different directions. I try to have a wide variety of colors available, because the more shades I use, the more vivid and picturesque the wool painting becomes. Sometimes, to add a bit of shine to the picture, I will use fibers of silk or viscose. Viscose fibers are soft, smooth, straight, and have a strong shine to them, although they are less durable than fibers of natural silk. Visually, viscose and silk fibers do not differ much, so they are interchangeable. But, it can be difficult to work with viscose – it’s electrified, sticks to the glass and does not keep its shape. Because of this, viscose and silk are always mixed together with wool. Elements of a picture crafted from a combination of wool and viscose fibers, reflect the light and shine; giving the objects an animated and expressive appearance. Read more about types of wool.
When creating a wool painting, scissors are used a lot: not just to cut the strands, but also to move the wool around with their points, act as a brush to smooth out the fibers and help lay them in place, and so on. When working directly with wool, I always use a good pair of sharp scissors. I experimented with many types of scissors before finding the ones that fit my hand the best and were the most comfortable to use. I also discovered that those with sharp points work the best for me. I suggest using scissors with a comfortable rubber handle, which will prevent your fingers from slipping. When you first start making wool pictures, be sure to use the scissors that you already own. But, as you continue the craft, you will want to invest in a nice pair.
I use tweezers to lay out the small details in the foreground of a painting, but other artists just use their fingers. The way a person works is up to them and depends on practice. There are several varieties of tweezers, but I prefer regular ones. You should experiment and pick your favorite style.
Your hands are the main tools required for creating wool paintings. When working with wool, hands should be clean and dry. In my experience, it’s better to have short fingernails. Long nails can interfere with your work and might be cut by accident, when using scissors.
I fashion my works of art on a large, spacious table. That way I can put all of the tools, wool, and everything else I need, right in front of me to create my picture. When I craft a painting, I need to be able to see the whole thing to properly construct the image. That’s also the reason I bought a height-adjustable table. With it, I can work sitting or standing; whichever way the mood takes me. The table I use is from Ikea, and it’s called “Bekant”. I have used this table for several years and really enjoy its size and how it can be adjusted to different heights.