Friday, 14 February 2014

Spiral Pattern Needlefelted Cushion Design

This spiral pattern just worked itself out serendipitously.  My primary intention was to clear the decks of various substandard stash items. The idea of stabbing at a needlefelted cushion also suited a woman with a weary brain. Look how lush it turned out.  The pattern below is written as if there had been a masterplan. Actually, one step led to another, more by luck than judgement. I'd better write down how it was done, before I forget.  


70 x 35cm thick, stiff fabric
Marker pen, ruler and two paper circles
Pins, sewing needle and strong thread
500g stuffing material
Felting needle
20m wool yarn
45g wool roving - 15g each of three colours


The fabric I used was boiled wool, military grade, bought on eBay.  It feels like those horrible scratchy blankets of my childhood.  Close examination showed the tight weave has bits embedded in it which I am sure are fragmented grass and seeds. Not quite 100% wool.  Rough processing, not soft and no stretch.  
To work.  First, draw two circles 35cm diameter and cut out the fabric. Find the middle of each by folding in quarters and mark with a pen. Take a circle of paper and make a straight cut to the centre. Fold the circle into three and cut one third out.  This gives a template with 120 degree angles.  On each cut edge, make a mark 2cm from the middle and more marks at 3, 4 and 5cm.  Line the paper circle up with the centre dot on the fabric and put dots on it at these points.  Rotate the paper circle to line its marks up with one set of dots and make the third set of dots on the fabric.  To find the centres of the three outer spirals, put a ruler along each line of dots in turn.  Make a dot on the opposite half of the fabric circle 11cm from the central dot. Take the second paper circle and make a template with marks 1.5cm from the middle and at 2.25 and 3cm. 
Use this to make dots for the three outer spirals.  Repeat on the other piece of fabric.  Lay the two pieces together with the marked sides facing inward.  Push a pin through the centre of one and line it up to the centre of the other. Check that an outer spiral on each piece is facing an outer spiral on the other and pin together.  Sew a seam about 1cm from the edge of the circles, leaving a gap at the end big enough for your hand. Turn the cushion cover inside out.

Last summer, I bought several ill judged fleeces very cheaply.  For stuffing, I had a nice, soft, Down type fleece with an uncardable, uncombable staple length of only a couple of centimetres.  I put it through the washing machine, tightly packed nearly 500g into the cushion, then sewed up the gap.  Now I feel happier to put that one down to experience.

The yarn I used was the ball leftover from spinning a much better purchase, my glorious Hebridean fleece.  Take three lengths and needlefelt the ends into the central dot on the cushion. Form a semicircle of yarn to each of the inner three dots and poke the needle through the yarn to felt it on.  Trail each length of yarn in a curve to the next dot round and keep spiralling outward til you reach the outermost dots.  
Leave the loose ends dangling and repeat the process on the outer spirals, making sure that all three curl in the opposite direction to the inner one.  Now continue the inner spiral until the far end of each length of yarn is just above the top of an outer spiral.  Repeat the process on the other side of the cushion, making inner and outer spirals curl the same way as on the first side.
Fiddling about with all the loose ends, I abandoned thoughts of extra curly details.  Each line of the inner spiral links to the furthest away line of the next outer spiral, brought round to the bottom.  The remaining two ends of each outer spiral were continued to the top and dropped in simple curves to link up around the body of the cushion with the ends of the ones on the other side .

The roving is some left over from a year ago, when I was learning to use a drop spindle.  It dyed unevenly in the recent, disappointing Woad Vat Mark II, becoming rather matted in the process.  It would have to be combed again to spin it, but I had no problem pulling out pinches of fibre for needlefelting.

Starting with an inner spiral, fill in each of the three curls with a different colour.  This will also felt in one curl of each outer spiral. To keep the correct colour sequence, choose the shade that matches the section where the inner and outer spiral meet and felt back from there to the centre of an outer spiral.  Then carry on with the section, round to the other side of the cushion.  Fill in the remaining curl with the third colour, also continuing this segment round to the other side. 
When you have filled in all the outer spirals on one side, the colour pattern on the other side will be half completed.  Easy enough to see how to finish.  It takes absolutely hours to felt the roving on.  If your mind wanders, you'll stab yourself with the needle.  At difficult times in the past, I have attempted emptying my mind and thinking only of blue sky.  We once did this in primary school under the instruction of a supply teacher.  Though my class had an evil reputation, even our ringleader was tranquilised.

The needle felted dyed roving has a fuzzy softness. This is a firm, but huggable cushion. Blue spirals are therapeutic.  I realise where I have seen them before.  I couldn't meditate at the age of nine and I still can't now, but on a black night, needle felting enforced focussed attention.  For a while, troubles disappeared over the Mediterranean with Antoine de Saint-Exupery.  Si les insomnies d'un musicien lui font creer de belles oeuvres, ce sont de belles insomnies. 


  1. Lovely - love the colours and the design.

  2. It's absolutely gorgeous - what a great idea!

  3. Totally awesome! My type of colours and the swirls are amazing! Love it! :)

  4. Bloomin' marvelous, Woman!! What a brain you have, Fran. And you finished what you started... Bloomin' marvelous!