Wednesday, September 3, 2014

StencilGirl Guest Designer Janice Kissinger

Welcome to 
Felt Maker

I had an absolute blast on this project!  As a clothing designer and felt-maker, I had never used stencils in my work. I had been longing to explore ways to bring more graphic images to my pieces, so when I met Maria McGuire at an Art is You retreat earlier this year I took her up on her invitation to share a post here on StencilGirlTalk as a guest designer for StencilGIrl.

Tossing conventional wisdom out the window (Now, isn't that fun?) I decided to try not one but two materials totally new to me: stencils and oil paint sticks. Why not jump in with both feet, right?

Choosing from among the incredible selection of stencils was the hardest part. I went with Jessica Sporn's Judy's Trees and Elephant March by Nathalie Kalbach. (Why stop at one, right?) I also used merino wool, silk fibers I hand-dyed, and a bit of recycled sari yarn.

In keeping with my theme of excess, I decided to make a handbag and create surface design on both sides. There are lots of felt-making tutorials out there you can reference for details on how to make a simple seamless bag or vessel. I use the traditional wet felting method (lay out the fibers, wet them, roll in a towel, etc.) I do not use felting needles in my work - mostly because I am too charmed by the organic process to introduce those pesky sharps.

Once I laid out my loose wool fibers and wet them down, I used the stencil to help me outline blocks of color on the surface.

Here's what it looks like after adding a few colors of wool and silk into my "landscape." The elephant's blanket is bordered by yarn.

Next was the interesting part. Without using a needle, I wanted to figure out a way to use wool on the stencil without having the stencil felted right into the project for all eternity. Wool fibers are relatively long and it didn't feel right chopping them up into linty bits.  So, I first laid the wool and silk out on top of the stencil..sort of working from the inside out.

Then, I wetted it down and flipped it onto the surface of the wet project.

After rolling the piece up tightly in a towel and rolling out in four directions, here's how it looked.

On this side, you can see the area a used gray wool for the elephant's body and the orange area for the blanket on her back.

Once dry, I used the oil sticks (old-school style - just rubbing them across) on the stencils using a few different colors. NOTE--Please follow the manufacturers instructions on the oil sticks, they have long curing time.

I loved the sticks because the gave an additional layer of texture to an already rich surface. The shine of the silk fibers and the oil sticks looked amazing on the matte wool background.

Added a leather strap and I am in love! Stitching around the elephant or using different colors would make her stand out more so I will try that on the next one. I'm hooked!

Janice Kissinger exhibits her work at fine crafts shows across the country including the American Craft Council, at Art is You retreats and in select boutiques. She teaches felt making and meets with custom clients at her studio in Rhode Island. You can find her website HERE.


  1. Truly incredible...Outstanding, great work. I really, really like this

  2. That's amazing. What a great use of stencils.

  3. Who knew that this process was even possible! Your work is amazing! Thank you for sharing your process!

  4. Wow, wow, wow and wow!! This is so darn cool. I have done a little felting with our stencils, but Janice (!!!) you take it to an entirely new level. Really beautiful work. And the purse is simply gorgeous.

  5. Thanks so much! It was great to bring something totally new into the studio....I am eager to try this on jackets!

  6. I just love those! They are the most exciting projects I have seen in a very long time. Thank you for sharing.


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