Needle Felting for Beginners
This post is about needle felting basics for the absolute beginner. I'll cover supplies and steps, and make this cute little mouse! I think its a very intuitive craft, anyone can do it, you just need to know where to start.
To see the entire process you can watch the video here:
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Needle felting is a very sculptural craft using wool. To start you need some un-spun wool, known as roving. In Canada and the US you can order it on Amazon, but I always try to check when I'm at a fiber or wool store as well, and have quite a collection now. Pick out the colors you need for your project, To form the shape of the body I use pencil roving - this is partially spun wool, basically a very cheap wool yarn.
Next you will need a felting needle. This is how felting works - you are going to stab the shape over and over in order to condense and tangle the fibers of the wool. This sculpts the loose wool into these tiny little sculptures. There are fine and coarse felting needles; coarse needles work a little faster and the fine needles are perfect for finishing the project. I like the have scissors on hand as well, and a sponge or felting pad to felt into. This is so you don't hit the table, or you fingers!
Let's get started! The first thing I'm going to do is roll a little ball using yarn or the pencil roving to form the body. As I go I use my coarse needle to give it a few jabs so it doesn't unravel. You can decide the exact shape and size you want to work in. I created a sphere for the head and a bit more of an oval for the body before wrapping some roving around both to connect them. I spend quite a while stabbing the form to create a solid shape and connect the two balls of wool.
Felting does take time. I probably haven't made a video before because I would rarely sit down and felt something from start to finish. It is a great craft while listening to podcasts or watching television.
As you are jabbing and poking, you are tangling and compacting the wool. It has a lot of give to start with, but eventually will condense into a very solid form. As you felt, make sure to shape your mouse with your hands, this will help you as you go to sculpt the end result.
Once you have a solid shape you are ready to start adding color. It will continue to condense so don't worry if it is still soft now.
I am starting with the white roving, smoothing a piece over the front of the body and attaching it. Hold it down with your hands to start and just start jabbing to begin the felting process. With the coarse needle it goes really quickly but you may notice the needle holes it leaves behind. If it's very noticeable I'll stretch another thin piece of white over later on and use the fine needle.
I'm adding the nice brown over the rest of the body so our inner structure is completely covered. You can start with a small area and continue until everything is covered. I am using my coarse felting needle to felt that brown into the mouse so that it is a part of him. We go from having something separate and fluffy to this solid form. Remember it does take time. If yours still seems too fluffy, just keep jabbing and felting!
I am adding more brown around the nose to build up the shape and create a defined line. I want it to look like the nose is up in the air. Pull at the roving with your fingers and use the needle to guide it and jab it into place for clear lines. I'm making a nice V shape at the top of his belly where brown meets white.
Don't forget about shaping as you go as well. You can see a more defined separation between the body and head with the indent of the neck now that the brown has been added. I'm also building up shape by adding extra roving to his nose so it sticks out more. The angle you are jabbing from will change the shape so keep shaping with your fingers and the roving and sculpting the wool as you go.
Using the pink roving I formed a little ball using my fingers and then felted it on as the nose. It will look comically large to start, as you jab it will get smaller and more condensed. Keep felting until it is firm and an attached part of our little mouse.
Now we need to start making appendages! Starting with the ears, I rolled more of the pink into a flat circle, and felted them on top of the sponge. This is when you will be really thankful to have that sponge there to work on top of. Adding the brown, you can create the ears entirely before attaching them to the body.
Now I have rolled up two little balls of the pink roving to make the feet. I felted them partially on the sponge and will finish while I attach them. They will also help him stand up, without them he starts tilting forward. By attaching them in the right spot he will be able to stand on a bookshelf or wherever you may want to put him. Finishing up the felting while attaching makes sure he balances properly.
Next up are the eyes! With two little balls of black roving I am going to attempt to place them on his head. Don't forget that they will get much smaller as you felt, so start big! I like to put both on so I can make sure they look even and balanced before I begin felting them both slightly. By going back and forth between the two I can make sure they stay balanced as well.
If you have a skewer or little piece of dowel it can help with making the arms. I wrapped brown roving around a dowel and a little bit of pink before sliding it out and beginning to felt. Starting with a cylindrical form I start the felting on the sponge before finishing them up on the body. Move them around, get them in place and find the perfect position before finishing up the arms on the body.
Remember to be conscious of the angles and sculpting. As I finish up the arms I'm going along the tops and bottoms so there is a defined crease and they aren't flat against the body.
You can see I added a little highlight to his eyes. Anything with eyes in felting is tricky, it is an opportunity to turn a little creepy. They are definitely the easiest to mess up. With the black already there and looking good though, we will follow the same process with the highlight. I have tiny little bits of roving and we will put both on at the same time.
Using a little of the blue roving I am creating him a little cap. I started with a little cone I made on the sponge and attached that to the top of this head. As it gets smaller and firmer, I also created that curve. Using a long piece of blue roving around the base I created the brim and kept shaping the hat.
Don't forget about the tail! I used the same dowel trick to create a cylindrical shape and felted the tail on the sponge. When it's about 50% felted I started attaching it to his body. I started by putting it right on his butt, felting into it from above so it is loosely attached. At this point, sit him up and see how it looks. I want to be able to see it from the front so now that it is attached I am going to shape the curve into it. Once it goes off of the body, use the sponge again to felt it into a nice point.
Look how cute he is! It will take a long time so don't try to do it all in one go. Take your time and have fun with it.