February 4, 2010

Discovering Needle Felting

I needed a break from crochet...well, really I didn't, but my right wrist did. I'd had such fun making a felted hat, from crochet, earlier this winter, that I was drawn to some books on creating felted animals and other things (art wall hangings, etc.) from wool.

I love the feel of wool, especially white wool roving. I use it in creating what I call "spirit dolls." (At left is an old flyer featuring these...some are still for sale at Studio4 Art Gallery in Nelsonville, Ohio).

Anyway, I wanted to learn something new, so purchased a book called Wool Pets: Making 20 Figures with Wool Roving and a Barbed Needle by Laurie Sharp. I bought 2 bags of 100% wool from Wistyria Editions in Grnd Haven, MI. One bag of "furry friends" and one bag of "brights." I also bought a "pen style needle felting tool" from Clover (available on Amazon) and Felting Foam, also from Wistyria.

When all these wonderful things came in the mail, I settled down on the couch with my wonderful new supplies and the latest episode of "24/White Collar/The Good Wife."

In one evening I had my first wool pet! Here's a photo of my little penguin, the book, the wool, the felting pen, and my real pet, Farley, asking why she isn't the main focus of the photograph.

The penguin described in the book has beads for eyes. I didn't have black beads in the house (pink, clear, red, blue, green...no black!); so I used white wool rolled into a little bead-size ball and then a black tinier round of wool on top of it to get "googley eyes."

My pengin has a white tummy because I used white wool as the directions said. I do not know why the penguin on the cover seems to be made with a body of grey wool with a wisp of white over top. This discrepancy between what was shown in the photo and described in the directions, was a bit bothersome, but I am not the sort to follow directions too closely anyway.

The felting needle I purchased was actually THREE needles in a holder. It worked okay, but SILLY ME! had I read the directions included with the needle, I would have found that I could choose to have one, two, or three needles present when working.... I wonder how much easier it would have been to do the eyes with just one needle? Probably much easier.

I was surprised at how easy this craft was to pick up and do right away and what a cute item I ended up with. I have no idea what to do with it, but this took me back....

When I was a teenager I loved felt. I still do. I paint with it! Well, more accurately, I paint on top of it. I like to glue it onto the canvas, then put modeling paste on top, then acrylic paint on top of that (stay tuned for more on this). But, when I was about 14 or 15 and had some illness that required bedrest...okay, a bad case of mono and, no, I hadn't kissed anyone! Anyway, I had a lot of felt (the acrylic kind you can get for $1 a sheet or so) and hand sewed little felt creatures that I then sold in a craft store. They were pretty cute and I'd like to make them again. I just might, using this new technique.

If you haven't yet tried needle punch felting. Give it a try! I'd love to see your results.

Postscript: Farley, the pretty dog in the photo, was more interested in felting than I thought. Well, in the wool, really. She-who-has-never-chewed-up-anything carried off my second felting project, a tiny replica of our Pekingnese, Tyler, and mouthed it pretty good before handing it over. I should have known that her interest in the smell of the wool as it arrived into our home was too much for her instincts to resist. So, keep the wool and projects out of the reach of your favorite canine.

Second update: Snow is still falling here in the foothills of Appalachia (25.4 inches in this month of Feb, second only to the snowfall of 29.2 in 1910), but spring is coming. I've received all the books I ordered on creating small felt animals and creatures...the first, Wool Pets by Laurie Sharp, is still the easiest one for me to follow -- it shows the step-by-step photos and I like her realistic style. Last night I made a little lavendar bunny (yes, we are thinking spring here). What am I going to do with all these little animals? Put them in a pretty box and save them in a bottom drawer, a la Emily Dickinson! My own personal time capsule of The Winter of 2010. Here "cute meets cute" as Bunny considers the 2010 Winter Olympics' mascots.

Third update:
Look at this cute needle felted chihuahua!

Here are links to other books on needle felting:

Making Felted Friends: 25 Toys & Gifts

Needle Felted Figures

Beginner's Guide to Needle Felting

Sweet Needle Felts: 25 Projects to Wear, Give & Hug

Little Felted Animals: Create 16 Irresistible Creatures with Simple Needle-Felting Techniques

Fleece Dog: A Little Bit of Magic Created with Raw Wool and a Special Needle

Here are some other links:



Needle Felting Group on FLICKR (wow!)

Supplies at the Felted Ewe

Felt Alive (wow, again)

Martha Stewart has her hand in it too

Needle felting machine for big projects and big budgets.

Podcast on CraftSanity (one of my favorites on iTunes.)

Alpaca over wool for felting (pro alpaca)

tutorial on needle felting using cookie cutters

Teeny-tiny racoon and other miniature projects.

Tiny felted animal heads on keychains, for sale on Etsy (okay, this sorta freaks me out)

Really cute needle-felted green dragon (you know my love of Naomi Novik's books, right?)

Felted vegetables (I don't get it, but you might...)

Felting Facts

I really like the style of this artist's work. Animals, realistic yet stylish.


Wendy said...

Needle felting is awesome! I think you should translate some of your abstract paintings into needle felted pieces. They would be gorgeous!

Janice Phelps Williams said...

Thank you, Wendy. That's a wonderful idea! I'll let you know if I follow up on it.

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