Thursday, November 1, 2012

Botanical Needle Arts

Other Media:  Botanical Needle Art

by Judy Thomas
When I first started botanical illustration/art classes, I was quickly disabused of the notion that this type of art was pretty much restricted to watercolor.  Botanical artists use many media, including watercolor, graphite, pen and ink, colored ink, oil paint, gouache, pastel and colored pencil.  I also discovered that many of my fellow artists were also fiber or needle artists as well, and incorporated botanical images into their work.  This inspired me to attempt botanical illustration in a needle art with which I am familiar: needle felting.

Anne McCahill is working on a large project to create large panels of plants and pollinators.  She is creating botanical art using embroidery:

Anne McCahill "Coneflower and Bee"
As well as smaller, decorative works:

Anne McCahill "Ixara and Monarch"

Anne works in muslin, duck cotton, and linen.  As she writes "I used my lightbox to draw the outline and painted very diluted shades of the various colors for the design.  [For the stitching] DMC floss works well, mostly using 1 strand for finer texture and detail... It really parallels sketching or painting, needing as much patience as the other techniques. The DMC color chart offers lots of shades, but it would be rewarding to create botanical hand dyed shades, a project in the offing."  Anne also writes "beginners in stitchery would like Needle Painting Embroidery. Fresh Ideas for Beginners (Milner Craft Series), available at Amazon."

I am also attempting to use needle arts to create botanically-inspired work.  Currently, I am finishing an illustration of cattails, also known as bulrush, in needle-felted wool.  I sketched the cattails both in graphite and color pencil.
Judy Thomas "Typha latifolia" in colored pencil and graphite

I am now "sketching" it in wool.  It is difficult to be as accurate with wool as with graphite or colored pencil, so compromises must be made, while trying to stay as botanically "true" the plant as possible.
 Judy Thomas "Typha latifolia" in wool

The Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh, Scotland incorporates fiber arts into their program, including needle felting, web felting, natural dyed fibers and paper making.

On Nov. 3 and 10, 2012, and February 2 and 16, 2013 I am teaching 2-day, beginning needle-felting classes for botanical artists at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens. We will learn how to create flat and dimensional botanical art composition in colorful wools, with the conventions of botanical illustration as our guide.  I hope the course will be repeated regularly.  Go to for more information.


“...the true secret of happiness lies in the taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life...”
-William Morris

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