|Mouse Angel by Catherine Lane www.etsy.com/shop/MrsPlopsShoppe|
I was never a 'crafty' type until I found out about needle felting. I am a creative person ie I write songs and sing, but in the past, whenever I made an attempt at a craft, it always looked like something you wouldn't even want to give to your worst enemy. It was that bad! :D
Then one day I was watching Kirstie Allsop's Homemade Britain, it happened to be the needlecraft episode. you can watch it here on 4OD Kirstie Allsop's Homemade Britain Series 1 Episode 3 Needle felting was featured on the programme, and that was it. I was intrigued. People can actually make teeny tiny animals out of wool?! I had never heard of it and I spent the next couple of days constantly searching the internet for tutorials on how to needle felt.
What is needle felting?
Needle felting is basically just manipulating wool with a felting needle. The needle has little barbs in it and when you felt, ie stab the needle into the wool, the barbs pull and push the wool fibres so that they become 'knitted' or matted together. The more you stab the wool, the firmer it becomes and then you can also shape the wool with your hands.
There are different kinds of needle felting, this post is about 3D Sculptural needle felting, where the wool is dry and you use one needle at a time. There is also wet felting (which I only tried once and it wasn't my thing)where the wool becomes felted by wetting it and manipulating it whilst it is wet rather than using a needle.
How was needle felting first discovered?
There are tutorials online and on Youtube that show the basics. Before I had ever tried needle felting, I did get a couple of basic books from the library, but I mostly just watched videos on Youtube. Here is one of the ones I found most useful....
Beth Stone's needle felting tutorial. Parts 1-7
Also, there is a fantastic series of needle felting tutorial DVDs that are so worth purchasing. They are by Kay Petal of Felt Alive. I didn't see the DVDs until I'd been felting for a while, but I learned so much from her. Thank you Kay!
Here is the link to Kay Petal's website, where you can buy her DVDs. Kay Petal Dolls Needle Felting Video Workshop
Mrs Plop's needle felted mouse and tutorial kit. This kit is for advanced beginners/intermediate but you only really need to know the basics. It also includes a free month of tutorial support and advice from yours truly :)
If you prefer books, there is a good starting book you could buy called Little Felted Animals by Marie Noelle-Hovarth
So how do I start?
All you really need to start is:
A pack of general felting needles (but I started with just one needle)
A foam mat/pad
and that's it!
I'll talk about each of the above list in a bit more detail:
Wool roving (basically roving is unspun wool)
There are lots of places online where you can buy it, just do a search, or if you have a local craft shop, you will probably find some there. But I can't really recommend types of wool, because I only use wool from local animals, where I know what their living conditions are. It might make things a bit more limited for me, but that's just the way it is. I found out about the animal welfare aspect of Merino wool and now I won't touch it. Again though, search that if you're interested, because this is a craft blog not an animal welfare blog and I don't want to start waffling on about it, but if you can use wool from a small herd of sheep or from a supplier who gives information about the origin of their wool, much the better! When you first start, your pieces will be practice though, and wool isn't massively pricey, so you can experiment with different wool and see what suits you best.
|Needle felting needles|
You can buy packs of general felting needles at lots of different places online, but there's a lady called Heidi Feathers on ebay who sells them and provides an excellent service. The packs she sells are very reasonably priced and are colour coded. She also provides an online guide to felting needles. Very useful!
Here is the link to her felting needles: Eight felting needles pack
And here is her guide to different types of felting needles A guide to felting needles
|Spiral/Twisted Felting Needle|
You'll need a mat or pad because you're using a very sharp needle and you're stabbing that sharp needle repeatedly into wool. Not only do you need it to protect you so you don't end up looking like a colander and being in a lot of pain, the wool needs something to support it during the felting process, and if you just felted onto a table you'd break the needles straight away. Felting needles break easily. Again, Heidi Feathers sells a foam mat which you can buy in her ebay shop. (this foam is the type of foam that is used to protect electrical items) You can also use upholstery foam, but I prefer the firmer foam as the upholstery foam tends to break up easily as you felt on it, and you end up with little bits of foam stuck to your felted animal. Plus upholstery foam tends to get thin in the middle after a while and then your felting area is all thin and rubbish for felting.
Before we go any further, a word about safety
Be very careful with the needles when you're felting, they are so sharp. When I first started, I was always stabbing my fingers with the needle, and it really hurts! My fingers were often covered in plasters. I thought this would just continue, but as I've got better at the craft, and got to know it better, I've stopped stabbing myself, which is always useful! ;P I'm sure I will again but it is just one of the things that can happen with needle felting, but just remember to be as careful as you can possibly be.
When I first started though, I tended to stab the wool too vigorously and I think that's one of the reasons why I stabbed myself a lot. As you get familiar with it, the pressure of your stabbing movements will become less vigorous, as mine did. My husband used to ask me to stop felting before he came into the living room in case I stabbed myself when he was there. Lol!
Ok, so you have your wool, needles and a foam mat/pad and your heart's desire is to make the cutest needle felted animal ever! It will take time to get to the point, and here is the main point of this entire post. Do not lose heart! Keep trying, if you make one and it's not good, chuck it out! So what? Just keep felting and practicing, you will get there, and that's a fact!
If you want to make needle felted animals then you must be someone who really has a great love for animals. I think that's so important. I risk sounding flaky here, but I don't care, because it's the truth. The more love you have for animals, the more your felted animals will turn out how you want them to turn out. Put all that love that you have for animals into your work as you make it. (ok, I was brought up by musicians, what do you expect? ;) ) Choose an animal that you want to make and then look at lots of different photographs and videos of that animal, look at photos of the animal in as many different positions as possible. Look at the shape of that animal, read about their lives, get to know more about them. You're making a 3D sculpture out of wool, so when you're looking at photographs, look at the shapes of the body, head, legs, ears etc very closely before you even start. Have a picture in your own mind of what your finished felted animal will look like. I'm not saying that you're aiming to produce something that looks real, but get all the anatomy and shapes in your mind as much as you can.
I don't use or make patterns, I just start. When I start felting, I always start with the head, and I'm not completely sure how other needle felters work, but I personally put on the eyes and sometimes the ears, reasonably quickly, ie after I'm happy with the basic head shape. I know that some felters don't put the eyes and ears on until they have the head attached to the body, but it's really whatever suits you best. I find that if I can see the eyes, I am then working with something that has the beginnings of an expression and a character and I work around that, if that makes sense! Some people use a wire armature, which is basically thin wire wrapped together to make a 'structure' for the animal that you build the wool on. I did try it when I first started, I know some people swear by it, but I found it wasn't right for me, and when I stopped using a wire armature, my felted animals improved.
Don't worry too much if things aren't looking right! That's a very important point. These things take time to create as I've already mentioned! And more time than you think! It won't look great to begin with anyway, until you've worked on it and shaped it. If something's not looking right to me, I'll put it away and go and think about it. I know that sounds daft and kind of obvious, but to me, the time away from a project is as important as the time making it. You need the breathing space to think about what it is that isn't right, and again for me, after I've had that time, I'll look at it again with fresher eyes and I can see what the problem is, and then correct it.
If you've over-felted something, and this happens if you work on an area for too long, it becomes too hard to work with, you can't shape it anymore and when you put your needle into it, it just doesn't do anything except make holes from the needle, but the wool isn't actually moving anywhere. I think that was one of the things I did most when I first started, I over-felted my projects. So if you do that, just think of it as part of the learning process and don't worry too much if you do it. If you over-felt an area, or you realise you've put too much wool in one area, just cut it out! It's not a big deal, you can easily cut it out and just re-felt the area with your needle.
Give yourself the time you need to really get to know the wool and the needles. You'll find you just become more comfortable with it and you'll get to know how it works and how to work with it. Don't ever think you can't do it if it's not turning out right, just keep going! Otherwise you'll give up before you've given yourself the time that is so necessary to learn this amazing craft!
If you have any questions about needle felting or you need some help, I'd be happy to help you. You can just email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can visit my Etsy shop here: Mrs Plop's Shoppe on Etsy
Catherine Lane X
Here are a few of my felted animals...
|Sleeping white mouse in a vintage teacup by Catherine Lane https://www.etsy.com/shop/MrsPlopsShoppe|
|Homeless Mouse - Will Work For Cheese! https://www.etsy.com/shop/MrsPlopsShoppe|
|Needle Felted Miniature Palomino Pony https://www.etsy.com/shop/MrsPlopsShoppe|
|A Puppy For All Seasons-Autumn Spaniel by Catherine Lane https://www.etsy.com/shop/MrsPlopsShoppe|
|Little Carmen Miranda Mouse by Catherine Lane https://www.etsy.com/shop/MrsPlopsShoppe|
|Needle Felted Martin 'Marty' Mouse of Facebook Fame! by Catherine Lane https://www.etsy.com/shop/MrsPlopsShoppe|
|Oliver the Orpan Otter https://www.etsy.com/shop/MrsPlopsShoppe|
|Needle Felted Little Christmas Mouse by Catherine Lane https://www.etsy.com/shop/MrsPlopsShoppe|
|Needle Felted Miniature White Samoyed Dog by Catherine Lane https://www.etsy.com/shop/MrsPlopsShoppe|
|How D'ya Like Them Apples? Needle Felted Apple Scrumping Rat by Catherine Lane https://www.etsy.com/shop/MrsPlopsShoppe|
|Mouse Angel by Catherine Lane by Catherine Lane https://www.etsy.com/shop/MrsPlopsShoppe|
|Cocker Spaniel by Catherine Lane https://www.etsy.com/shop/MrsPlopsShoppe|
|Custom made Guinea Pig by Catherine Lane https://www.etsy.com/shop/MrsPlopsShoppe|