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How to Make a Needle Felted Figure
In this lens I'm going to give you a brief overview of how to needle felt.
If you're following a link from the Melted Fabrics Calendar then you're in the right place to learn more about how to go about making the projects for March and August. In particular this lens should help you with how to felt the August doll.
I'm not an expert in needle felting but I have managed to make a few needle felted figurines and models. There might be other ways to felt with a needle but this is how I made the doll opposite.
Needle felting is the art of sculpting fibres by stabbing them with a large barbed needle. Your basic kit needs several spare needles (which come in different sizes for different levels of detail), a needle holder - I have a little wooden holder for my needle and a thick piece of foam (or sponge).
The thing I love about needle felting as opposed to wet felting is that you can needle felt pieces of manmade wadding into shapes too and use these bits as the inner core to your model - I like to do this because I always have lots of left over strips of wadding from my textiles work and it's a lot cheaper to use than wool.
This lens is an excerpt from my PDF book "Melting and Felting" and I hope it will help those of you learning to needle felt for the first time.
Leo and Virgo August Doll
If you're visiting via a link on the Melted Fabrics calendar then you might be trying to work out how to make the Leo and Virgo doll.
The girl from the doll is similar to the Shepherdess doll that I'm using as an example here.
I hope that you find this lens useful.
A Word of Warning!
The health and safety bit!
To needle felt you use a large barbed needle and you're stabbing it at things that you may be possibly holding.
You need to make sure that you place your foam (or sponge) block on a surface (like an old table that you don't mind scratching or a scrap block of wood). Do not needle felt on your thigh!
I've stabbed myself in the finger with the needle before and it kind of hurts! Not so much as sewing through your finger with a denim needle on the sewing machine but still not particularly fun! Make sure you're not going to be distracted. Never look away whilst you're moving the needle. If possible wear some sort of protection - like gardening gloves, or even a piece of leather over your hand would help.
Also make sure your wool is clean. I'm not sure about the facts but you want to be careful about things like tetanus.
Don't be afraid - I stabbed myself after needle felting all day and rushing to get a project done.
Just be careful and you'll be fine!
A needle sculpted doll.
I'm going to briefly show you how I needle sculpted this doll.
I actually started by wet felting a dress shape for her and stuffing it with wadding, but for purposes of this lens I'm going to skip that stage and start at the point where I began needle felting.
To find out more about my wet felting techniques and how I've played with adding my textiles into layers of felt, please refer to the Melting and Felting e-book.
I Started with a Loosely Felted Shape
I stuffed the dress shape full of a roll of wadding to give me a 3D shape to work with. I used wadding because this figurine is large and I didn't want to waste a lot of wool.
The figurines I made, when I first started making them, didn’t have a very shapely look to them- they weren’t much more than blobs with heads so I wanted to work as sculpting a curvy feminine figure for this doll.
This stuffed dress shape is twice the size of the finished doll.
A Close-Up of the roll of Wadding inside the Dress Shape
Need Supplies? - Needle felting kit.
Starting to Needle Felt
In the image below you can see the wooden top to my needle. The needle itself has been plunged into the wool and wadding shape.
At first I used the felting needle to stab all over the figurine to tighten the piece up and give me a good solid base to work with.
The friction of the barbed needle stabbing into the wool and wadding makes all the fibres cling together and get tangled up.
Once I had that more solid base I started working on making a waistline. All I did was work out where that waist needed to be and then I stabbed into the doll around that waist line, slowly pushing the fibres in. If you've ever modelled something before or worked with pottery you should start to get to grips with how needle felting works.
Once that waist was in place I then set about dividing the chest area up to give the figurine some cleavage. This process took days and days, during which I spent time on other projects so that I didn’t go mad!
Sculpting the Shape
A lot of the sculpted form was unintentional- I had an idea of what I wanted but I just let a lot of the shape find itself in the felt.
I’m particularly pleased with her belly area.
All you need to do for this sculpting is stab in the areas where you want the figure to go in and don’t stab the areas where you don’t want it to go in. It’s quite simple but I think it would help your brain if you’ve made 3D shapes before.
Sculpting the Head
Originally I was going to make her head from air drying clay (as I did with the Moth figurine) but I thought that would be a bit of a cop out since I was supposed to be learning about felting.
I made a ball of wadding (around twice the size I needed) and stabbed it together until it held and it was the right size for the figurine’s head.
Beginners Guide... - ...to Needle felting.
Adding Features to the Face
I covered the wadding ball with felt, stabbed it all into place and then started working on the features - stabbing in dips for the eyes, stabbing in the area around the nose and lips, then adding colour.
That Blue Faced Leicester wool is so perfect for the hair.
Add the hair first around the hairline at the front of the head and then keep adding more lines under the first line, working backwards until it looks like you have a full head of hair.
I Hope You've Found this Brief Lens Helpful
That's as much as I can really teach you.
There are no patterns for needle felting, you just need to practice forming shapes with needle and wool.
The Shepherdess doll was the first thing I'd ever needle felted and I picked it up quickly.
Experiment, have fun and don't stab yourself!