Needle Felting

I never thought I would needle felt. In fact, I’d never even heard of it until a few months ago. You might be surprised to hear it’s a cultural phenomenon in Japan and some people are really good at it –  look at these life-like cats and dogs. To be completely honest, I was skeptical about this hobby at first. In the spirit of trying something new though, I tried to keep an open mind.

Having tried my hand at a few creations now, I can see the addiction and I’m totally glad that I started learning this. It’s therapeutic in a way. Afterall, you’re stabbing wool (awesome) and somehow end up with cool little creations. Oh, it’s also incredibly forgiving, which is a bonus. There are two ways to needle felt – flat work or sculptural. One is 2D, the other is 3D. In this tutorial we cover sculpting and will make a mushroom character. It’s a great beginner project. The more advanced stuff will be at the end.

Materials (Included)

We included enough wool to make a sheep. We wanted to make sure that you could continue this hobby. You will only use a little bit for the mushroom.

  • A foam work surface
  • 36 gauge triangular point felting needles
  • Wool batt (“core” fiber for the sculptures)
  • Yellow, black, red, white, blue, and orange roving wool

Sculpting a Mushroom

You will only need wool batt, white, red, and black for this tutorial.

Pull off a handful of the core fiber (it’s the large quantity of off-white wool) and start rolling it into a ball in your hand. After about 15-20 seconds it should feel a little bit tighter or connected. Place it down on the foam mat and grab one of your felting needles. This will ultimately be the core of the shape we are trying to make. So to make a mushroom we will need to make a cylinder and half a sphere. The gif below is how to make the half sphere (top of the mushroom).

Roll the wool batt into a ball and lay it flat on the foam. You want to poke at a right angle to the surface and drive the needle into the foam an inch or so. Watch your fingers. Seriously. I poked mine a few times – doesn’t feel great. You will notice that wool will get smaller and denser and start to form a half sphere.

To start on the cylinder, I found it easiest to make a sphere and then go deeper around the middle to get a cylinder shape I was happy with. Look below, you can tell it’s a bit spherical at first.

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Focusing on just pushing in one side with the needle, it eventually became a cylinder. Don’t worry about the bumps around the batt, they will get covered with the roving colors.

 

You should have a pretty crude look at a mushroom now (see below.) A cylinder and a hat. Mine looked like this – I ended up making the cylinder look more cylindrical than this. Great part about needle felting is it’s very forgiving. you can keep poking and prodding until you feel it’s right.
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Now it’s time to paint these. I used white as the base color for the mushroom character. I took a small width of the full run of wool. Just one of the strands below covered the entire cylinder.

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It’s kind of like wrapping a blanket around the batt. I find it easiest to lay a blueprint by starting to cover it and then needle felt for a second to hold the colored wool in place. It can be messy at first, just get the color to stick to the batt then go back through and refine it to the shape. It’s the same process of poking through the wool to make it compact. Below is how it looked to start wrapping the top of the mushroom.

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Once you wrap it around all the way it should look a little bit like the image below. Start poking and compact the white to the core.

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Don’t forget to tighten in the edges of the shape!

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You’ll now want to repeat the same process for the cylinder shape. Cover it like a blanket and start poking. This is what my final cylinder looked like.

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I wanted the mushroom character to resemble Toad from Nintendo, so I added red circles to the top of the mushroom. To do this, start by pulling off just a small strand of red. It really doesn’t take a lot. If you go too small on this you can come back and add more. Below should be more than enough for one circle.

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For finer details like making shapes, I find it easiest to draw an outline with the wool, then go back in and fill in the shape.

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Don’t be afraid to add more wool if you need it when you start to fill in the shapes.

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I wanted my circles to be different sizes and places. The next one I made went over the edge of the top. I followed the same outline and fill process.

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The final red circle I made was just a tiny one on some of the open space. It brought some cool balance to the mushroom.

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All along, I really wanted this to be a character. So, it’s time to add some human characteristics to this mushroom. How about some eyes?

Take a small bit of the black wool (seriously make it a small amount) and dot in two eyes on the cylinder.

IMG_1739I really wanted my mushroom to have some personality. I wanted to the top piece to look like a hat, so I tilted it back.

This last part requires some patience – we now need to connect the top to the cylinder. It’s important to go slow because you don’t want to change the shape of the work you just made. Focus on the edge where the cylinder meets the top. Once you feel that is decently secure, push through the top of the mushroom all the way down to the cylinder.

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There. You have it! Your first needle felting character. Here’s what mine looked like…

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Continuing Your Hobby

We are so grateful to have such an active community. Last month we received the suggestion to add in a section to our tutorial on how to continue the hobby beyond what we show. So, I wanted to point you in the direction of a few of our favorite resources or next challenges for you to take on.

BB-8 For the Star Wars fans out there, check out this BB-8 tutorial. It’s a really fun one to make. It’s not incredibly difficult and you have all the colors to pull it off. If you don’t have the objects around to make the core in the video, just start with a larger amount of batt to make the spheres. I love this project by the way.

Minions This one is a little more advanced, but you have all the materials needed to pull it off.

Adventure Time – Any Adventure Time fans out there? This one is pretty cool.

If these aren’t really your favorite subjects to felt, just Google something your interested and add needle felting – there will most likely be something you like. I’m getting ready to make a series of ewoks for my next project. If interested I can share that process too. There are numerous communities out there, but Pinterest is a nice resource to get ideas. This link is a good source of inspiration for tutorials. Etsy creators are also pretty generous about sharing their templates which is cool.

We hope you enjoy needle-felting. Show us what you’ve made! You can find us on Instagram at @newhobbybox. Just tag us in your post.

Thanks for joining us – can’t wait for next month.

Steve

 

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