How to mount wet felt artwork

How to mount your wet felt artwork

Are you unsure how to mount your ‘wet felted’ artwork and want guidance on how to mount it, so it can be framed? This article covers all the stages of how I mount my own felted and stitched artwork, so it can be framed professionally. 

Feltwork is usually much thicker and heavier than cotton or linen fabrics which are traditionally stretched and laced prior to framing. Feltwork needs a different approach when mounting. Fabrics constructed with weft and warp fibres, have a greater tendency to distort more easily. The good news is it is much easier to achieve good results than other textiles when mounting felt.

After spending so much valuable time creating a piece of felt artwork, we want it to be displayed the best we can so it can be enjoyed. There are so many ways felt and stitched art can be presented. Framing in a traditional mitred frame behind glass, on top of a mount board (known as matt for USA readers), positioned to sit underneath mount(s), i.e., single, or double, framing in open frames such as a St. Ives frame which are traditionally used for oil canvases, tray frames, stretcher frames, D-rings, rods, to name but a few! I will be covering some of these methods in a future blog post as it is a big subject. 

Framing is a personal choice

Framing is a personal choice; a frame can enhance or detract from a piece of work. Over the years I have experimented with a range of different framing styles. From my experience work in good quality frames always sells first. I have a preference to frame my larger work in natural wood, yes, it is more expensive, but I feel it compliments my subject matter and the natural fibres of wool.  However not all work suits the colour of a wooden frame, so each new piece of work has to be considered on its merit.

I use a ‘stringing’ method where I want my work to be framed behind glazing with top mounts or in open frames where the work can be touched. I do not use potentially damaging glue or tape. I will discuss my framing choices in more detail in a future blog post.

Both these original framed works can be viewed in more detail by clicking here. My portfolio shows styles of framing that I have used.

If you are in control of mounting your lovingly made piece of felted artwork yourself, you can ensure it is aligned just as you want it. You may decide that only a portion of the work will be framed or perhaps it is best set at an angle to show the work in its best light. The knowledge that it is securely fixed in position ensures the final presentation is as you envisage. Some framers will want to do the entire process themselves. If that is what you want, you need to be very clear about where you want the mounts and alignment of the work. It is also worth asking how they intend to secure the felted textile art within the frame before you commit to using them. Not all framers are used to framing textile art correctly or securely by the stringing method.

Why do you need to mount ‘wet felted’ artwork?

Why do I always go the extra mile and mount my felt artwork securely by stringing it on to mount board? 

Let me tell you a story!

I was all set for a summer exhibition but had one more larger piece of work that was touch and go whether I would finish stitching in time. After a few long nights I did finish, but my regular framer could not turn around the framing in time for me. So, I had no choice other than to use a different framer. They seemed very helpful and said they could have the picture done and ready for me the next day. As I was in a rush it just did not occur to me to check how they would secure my work within the frame. 

I collected the work the next day and it did look lovely; I was pleased with the look and finish of the framing. It would now be the focal piece for my exhibition.

The exhibition was going well, lots of visitors and compliments and conversation received about the piece of work; however, the weather was hot, and the room was even hotter! A few days into the exhibition I was chatting to a visitor in front of my work, and to my horror out of the corner of my eye I noticed the work inside the picture started to move. It started to slide off the back mount within the frame. It literally slid into a heap inside the bottom of the frame! Not a pretty sight. I had no option other than to remove the picture and take it home with me that evening. 

After taking the picture apart, removing the sealing and picture fixings off the back of the work, it transpired that my felt artwork had just been stuck onto the mount backboard with tiny pieces of double-sided tape. If it hadn’t failed at the exhibition, it potentially could have ‘slid’ later in the home of a customer, which would not only have been very embarrassing but costly to ship back and forth.

So, the story has been told and the blog post written to explain why I ‘string’ my work onto a mount board to ensure nothing like this happens again!

What equipment will I need to mount felt artwork?

These are the tools you will need 

1.     Self-healing cutting mat (placed under the mount board to protect your table).

2.     Hammer

3.     Heavy gauge nail

4.     Awl or bradawl (optional, I don’t have one, so I use a nail and hammer instead)

5.     Set square with 90-degree angle.

6.     Pencil

7.     Thin upholstery thread. Colour to blend with work.  

8.     Sewing needle (needs to be able to pass through the hole that you make with the nail or awl)

9.     Conservation board

10.  Strong craft knife, to cut conservation board to size. 

11.  Metal rule. I use a thick metal rule as a guide when cutting the board.

12.  Artist gummed tape (or sticky brown paper tape).

Most equipment can be found around the home. I do not own an awl, so I improvise with a nail and a hammer instead. The self-healing cutting mat and set square can be purchased at stationery shops. Conservation board can be purchased online, try Lion, and cut to size, alternatively ask at your high street framer. They are often happy to sell you large pieces that you can cut down to size as and when you need them. Upholstery thread can be obtained from a good haberdashery shop. UK readers could try online at  Empress Mills. 

The mounting process

Start by measuring your felt artwork and make a note of the measurements. Then cut the conservation board to size allowing extra mount board all around the work, 10cm extra on each side of your work is a suggestion. (Note the conservation board I have used for illustration purposes is smaller than I would normally use). If your work is going to have mount(s) positioned on top of the work (as in photo 1) the size of the mount board does not need to be cut to the exact inside measurement of the frame. If you are mounting the work on a more decorative coloured or textured backing mount you need to discuss colour options with the framer first and purchase the specific-coloured mount board from them if they are unable to string the textile work.  Place the work on top of the piece of cut mount board and centralise.

Hold in position and make pencil marks on the board along the top, bottom, left and right edges. 

Using the set square and pencil, mark out every few centimetres to create an even grid across the board keeping within the guidelines that you made. These will be the marks for the punch the holes. I drew a nine square grid (see photos 4, 5 & 6) as my work was relatively small and was going to be top mounted with a square opening close to the edge of my stitching. I had already considered my ‘mount opening’ size at onset before stitching. 

Photos 4, 5 & 6 show the pencil marks where the holes will be made, note also the pencil lines used to align the top and bottom of the work. 

Place the work back on top of the mount and check the alignment lines are correct. 

Set work aside. Using an awl or the nail and hammer, punch a hole through each of the pencil marks on the card. Make sure you work on the self-healing cutting mat or a suitable surface so as not to damage your table. 

Using the strong upholstery thread, remove a long length and thread a needle. You want to have a continuous piece of thread as you will tighten the thread as you work. 

Start in a top corner and carefully skim a few stitches on the reverse of the work. Try to position these stitches roughly where the first hole will be.  Make sure the needle does not penetrate through to the front of the work. Once the thread is secure to the back of the work, position the felt artwork back on top of the mount board, and thread the needle through the first hole, I worked top left hole first then worked clockwise.

Check the work is positioned correctly by aligning on the top and bottom pencil marks and insert the needle through the next hole. Do not pull the thread all the way through to the front of the work. We want to skim stitch just under the surface of the felt, make a couple more stitches, then pass the needle and thread back through the same hole, pulling taut as you do so. Check the front of the work to make sure your stitches are ‘hidden’, and you are not puckering the felt by pulling too tightly. Keep working clockwise, skim stitching and threading each hole in turn. 

When all holes have been completed, secure the thread by knotting a few times on the reverse.

Finish off by sticking artist tape or sticky paper tape over the thread on the back of the board. This acts as additional protection to stop the thread untangling. 

Photo 16 shows the work now secured on the conservation board ready for framing.

Photo 17, shows my felt and stitched artwork entitled ‘Lichen study I.  Framed in a natural oak frame. This was  the first of three studies based on a series of photographs I took in the Highlands of Scotland where the lichens grow prolifically by the sides of a sea loch.

So, my advice is, when you have spent hours of enjoyment working on a piece of textile art, spend a little more time and mount your felt artwork correctly by stringing it!

I hope this blog post has been helpful. Just one of the many behind the scenes jobs at UpandDownDale art studio.

I will be writing another article about different kinds of framing which may be of interest to you, so keep checking back. Or you can sign up to my newsletters by sending me an email

What is wet felting?

What is wet felting? How do you do it? These are questions I get asked a lot. This article is intended as a brief explanation of what wet felting is, as well as its origins and how this traditional craft has had a new lease of life as an artistic medium for current day textile artists.

It all starts with wool

Wet felting is referred to as ‘wet’ because water is required to turn wool from a sheep into a useable fabric. Natural wool is used, predominately sheep fleeces that have been sheared (like us having a haircut), cleaned and processed to make the fleece more manageable to use. 

Sheep fleece was originally used to create practical items such as clothing, shoes and even yurts. Wool is used commercially today for clothing, household furnishings, rugs, blankets etc., the list goes on! 

Wool can be prepared in many ways for both artistic and practical purposes. The most common preparation we all probably think of is knitting wool or yarn for weaving, available in a variety of thicknesses by means of spinning wool. Preparation of wool for felt making is similar but stops before the spinning stage. The wool is cleaned, then either carded into batts (like a spongy sheet with fibres laying in different directions) or combed and into longer smoother lengths of fibre aligned in the same direction called wool tops or roving. 

As different fleece breeds have differing properties or characteristics, not all breeds will felt particularly well, create the desired look or handle. It is therefore worth experimenting with different breed types. A good wool to start with for wet felting is Merino, prepared as wool tops. Wool tops are what I use with most of my work, the prepared and aligned fine fibres allow for a smoother finish that I prefer, tiny thin tufts can be placed to add areas of interest within the work. Merino is widely available and comes in a huge array of colours. Another breed to try once you have mastered wet felting is Blueface Leicester, a British native. 

I strongly encourage experimenting. It is a good way to learn! 

For those asking “What is felt making?”, I would recommend further reading on types of wool used for felt making. I recommend the International Feltmakers Association book British Wool for Feltmaking, Crowood Press. ISBN: 978-1-78500-989-1 

Wet felting vs needle felting

The second most popular question I get asked. “Is this needle felting?” or “What is needle felting, is this what you do?”, in short, no! 

I rarely ever never needle felt, though I do possess a pack of needles and occasionally use one to secure a wensleydale lock that may have come loose during the wet felting process!

There are similarities when comparing wet felting and needle felting.

Both techniques use prepared fleece. Wool tops have a tendency to be used in wet felting and shorter haired carded batts tend to be used for needle felting. However, there are no hard and fast rules for this and both fibres can be utilised in either discipline. Some artists combine both methods within a piece of work.

Needle felting is worked with dry fibres to produce a 2D pattern or picture. Needle felting also allows 3D forms such as animals to be constructed.  The pattern or picture is created with either a single sharp barbed needle or multiple needles inserted into a handle. Repeatedly stabbing the fibres, compresses the fibres bonding them together. The technique lends itself to creating precise mark making so exact images can be replicated. As the fibres are worked entirely dry, it is possible to transfer an image onto a background and trace the image by stabbing outlines or guide marks. The finished look being more a facsimile rather than the free form of wet felting.

Wet felting vs needle felting is a personal choice, 3D and 2D works can be made with both techniques. I recommend you try both methods of felting, and see which suits you best. 

What is wet felting?

So, we know that wool has many varied uses, and can be prepared in many different ways, so what is wet felting? 

Wet felting is the process a feltmaker goes through to turn prepared sheep fleece into a useable cloth, called felt. 

A sheep fleece goes through a series of processes before it can be used for wet felting. First it is washed, then combed and carded. This removes any vegetation from the field or hills and aligns the fibres in the same direction, to make it more practical to use. 

The wet felting process

Let’s look in a bit more detail at what wet felting is and how I create a piece of felt.

I work predominantly with wool tops. 

I typically lay out three layers of dry thin tufts of wool tops, working the first layer in rows, overlapping the fibres as I go. The work is turned 90 degrees and the second layer of wool is laid out in overlapping columns. The third layer is my design. These first three layers are all worked with dry wool.

A light net is then placed over the dry wool. Warm soapy water is added and eventually by means of agitation by rolling and rubbing and applying more soap and water the fibres bond together forming a cloth. 

Each strand of wool fibre has tiny scales similar to human hair. When water is added the scales soften enabling them to entangle more easily with neighbouring fibres. The soap being alkaline assists with absorption of water, speeding up the process.

Wool shrinks during the wet felting process, which needs to be considered at the onset. The cloth (felt) once ready is washed cleaned of soapy residue and left to dry. 

A basic piece of wet felt can be made in a morning. A more complex design, a larger size, or thicker layers can take considerably longer than this, the laying out of the design and the wet felting can be done over several days if necessary. 


Once the piece of fabric has dried the stitch element of my design can commence. Some of my larger works such as ’Moss and Lichen on a Dry Stone Wall’, pictured below, have over 40 hours of stitching time. So, a morning’s work to produce a piece of felt is only a fraction of the time spent creating the entire work!

I love the textures that can be achieved by wet felting. It is a wonderful carrier for other natural fibre too, that in turn create texture and interest. 

Handcrafted felt in my opinion is one of the nicest fabrics you can stitch into, whether that be free motion machine embroidery or hand stitching with beautiful hand dyed natural threads. Stitching into a unique piece of fabric, that you have made feels special.

So, what is wet felting? It is the marriage of wool fibre, water, natural soap and friction. It is my favourite medium for creating textile art.

I love the free-flowing effects that can be achieved by wet felting it seems unforced. The fluidity of sustainable fibres, that have only been touched by hand, water and soap, seem to mirror patterns and structures within nature, I can relate to it! 

Further examples of my work can be found on my portfolio  page. Please contact me if you are interested in purchasing my art. If a piece you like is already sold please enquire as I often revisit favourite subjects. 

I run felt making courses in the North Yorkshire area, often in beautiful settings such as stately homes. To see my current workshop availability please see my shop. Or send me an email to be added to my mailing list. Mailing list subscribers will be notified of new workshops prior to general sale.

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