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How to needle felt animal eyes

“So, I just about know how to needle felt a cute fluffy animal but how do I even start to needle felt its eyes? How can I make the eyes look 3D, shiny and realistic and not too cartoon-like?’, I could use glass or plastic eyes but would love to use wool so that my sculpture is totally needle felted- so what do I do?”

This photo tutorial will hopefully show you the basics of needle felting animal eyes and give you some ideas along the way too.

Adding the eyes to any needle felted piece is actually one of my favourite parts. It brings the animal to life and gives it its soulful character. Getting the eyes just right shouldn’t be a stress! it can take some practice but it can be so rewarding adding that final detail to your newly created animal…

Here are some of the eyes I have needle felted so far to give you some ideas.

1-eye collage

Can you work out what animals they are?

So here is how you can get started…

Step 1: Look at photos of eyes and get to know basic eye anatomy

Of course eyes are different for every species so the first thing to do is to take a look at photos of real animals to see how big the eyes are in proportion to the animal’s head, decide on colour, the shape, note where the light reflects etc. You don’t want to make the wrong sort of eyes for your animal (eg a cat’s eye on a mouse for example). I usually just do a web search and bookmark the pictures or pin them on pinterest to refer to whilst I needle felt.

Remember doing biology? well you don’t need to know full anatomy of the eye but knowing your basic parts does help. Here is an eye of a needle felted hare I made;

eye anatomy

You will find that most animals will have a pupil which can change in size depending on mood/ light exposure. For some it will be round or it can be different in shape e.g. a slit for cats and reptiles, square for a goat, even w-shaped in a cuttlefish!! Some have a distinctly coloured iris, some have eye lids some don’t- birds’ eyes face forward rather than sit on the side of the head… aren’t animals remarkable!

Step 2: Go for it

For demonstration purposes I will show you the stages that took place when making eyes for a mouse and then a badger. Eyes can be added early on or at the end, it’s completely up to you. I sometimes like to do mine near the end and when finished I can’t help but smile! 🙂

Some ‘Fit to be loved’ eye felting tips

  • use a fine barbed needle for detail
  • use warm hands to roll the tiny eye ball to keep rounded/oval rather than stabbing too much as this will just flatten it
  • it is easier to layer eyes parts on top of each other rather than try to make the exact shape (see what I mean below)
  • do each stage for each eye at the same time to get the eyes the same
  • measure using string/thread/fingers to check eyes are of equal size and symmetrically positioned
  • to attach eye to the head stab mainly around the edge of the eye in various directions rather than across the middle to keep the eye plump and prevent it from going too flat

Mouse eyes (-basic level)

  • roll in warm hands 2 equal sized rugby ball shaped balls of black wool to form the basic eye shape. Lightly needle felt in different directions then place on the mouse head viewing from the top to check the positioning is symmetrical. The eyes on this mouse are simple to view as they contrast well in colour with the rest of its face fur.

19-mouse eye2

  • firmly felt the wool into place by stabbing around the edge of the shape to keep the eye plump and not completely flat

18-mouse eye1

  • use a smaller amount of wool for each of the eye irises (using a grey/green colour) and again stab them into place, being careful not to flatten the eye too much…

17-mouse eye4

  • add a tiny ball of the black to the top of the iris to form the pupil. The position of the pupil will determine the way the mouse looks at you; for this little mouse the pupil at the top gives the impression that he is looking up. Ensure the pupils match in size and position on each eye (you don’t want him to look cross-eyed unless that is the expression you are after..)

02-mouse eye6

  • adding the pupil in this way i.e. layering one circular shape over another is far easier and less tedious than attempting to shape the iris in a half moon shape and also gives the eye a fuller shape..

03-mouse eye7

  • take a thin strip of cream-coloured wool to form the edge of the mouse’s eyelids (top and bottom) which nicely frame the eyes. View the eyes from the top to ensure they are in the correct position and of correct thickness

04-mouse eye9 05-mouse eye14 06-mouse eye11 07-mouse eye10

  • this is also a good time to manipulate the wool on the eyes as well as around the eyes with your fingers to make the shape of the eyes fit the face as best it can. For example you could pull in the bottom corners of the eyes and narrow the bridge of the nose slightly if you choose to do so or if one eye sticks out more than the other you can carefully push it in slightly.

08-mouse eye13 09-mouse eye12

  • as a finishing touch and to bring the eyes to life and make them look 3D and shiny, add a tiny dot of white to give the illusion that light is reflecting across the eye surface. The exact position of this is not so crucial as getting them in the same mirrored position for each eye…

10-mouse eye15 11-mouse eye18 13-mouse eye17 14-mouse eye16

Here is the finished mouse saying ‘I love you’ with it’s cute yellow felted flower…

needle felt eyes20

Badger eyes (- intermediate level)

The badger’s eyes are slightly harder to create. The reason being is that the badger’s dark eyes are hard to see on a fairly dark face so needing more careful measuring to ensure both eyes look the same. The eyes are mainly dark so need more help in making the surface look like it is shiny and reflecting the light. I also add colour to the bottom corner of each eye to form what is known as the ‘lacrimal caruncle’ that you sometimes see in mammals such as a badger (to make it look even more life like)

  • roll 2 small balls of black wool in warm hands and needle felt lightly in all directions

03-badger eye (9)

  • add the balls to the badger head, felting slightly to keep in place but don’t felt firmly until you have checked they are positioned correctly

04-badger eye (10)

  • whilst they are roughly in place view the eyes from above to check the position. As the background fur is very dark too, you may find this hard to do so you may wish to feel the eyes too to check this..as you can see the left eye was slightly higher at this stage so I moved the eye down slightly to match..

05-badger eye (12)

  • once happy with the positioning, felt around the edge of each shape, not across its middle, to ensure the eye does not become too flat.

06-badger eye (13)

  • take a thin length of grey wool for the top and bottom eyelid edges for each eye, these will nicely frame the eyes.

07-badger eye (14)

  • needle felt these into place and then view both eyes from the top to ensure they are in the correct position and of correct thickness

08-badger eye (15)

14-badger eye (6)

  • add a tiny amount of brown wool into the inner eye corners (the ‘lacrimal caruncle’) – this was the same colour as the brown detail on the badger nose

15-badger eye (11)

17-badger eye (4)

  • the eyes of the badger are very dark so as well as having a tiny white spot to give the illusion of a shiny eye as with the mouse, I wanted to add some grey to the sides of each black eye for extra 3D light reflecting effect.

16-badger eye (2)

  • it is very important to ensure that what you do with one eye is mirrored with the other so checking from all angles is crucial.

11-badger eye (18)

  • and add the white dot…

12-badger eye (1)

13-badger eye (19)

Yes these eyes can take a while to get just right but oh how cute do these badgers look when finished!!

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2013-11-03 16.47.43

Did you find this tutorial helpful? What would you like to learn about next? Please leave comments. Why not post a photo of your own creations?

For more tutorials like this please visit my Tutorials, tips and ideas page.

Don’t ever miss out on my latest tutorials! Insert your email address and click the ‘Follow’ button on the right hand panel to receive notifications of when the next post is up..:-)

Don’t have time to make one but would love a one of a kind needle felted animal by Fit to be loved for yourself or for that special someone? Visit my Etsy shop today to see my latest creations. Or like my facebook page to see what I am making next.

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48 responses »

  1. Really helpful will be following you thanks just started needle felting

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  2. Can you show how to do cat and owl eyes? Your tutorials are great. I an new to felting and am loving it. Thank you for any help you can give me.

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  3. Glenda Patterson

    Wonderful help. Thank You!

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  4. Thankyou for showing me what is possible. I have only made a bear so far but I’m addicted and want to learn so much more….

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  5. Wow, brilliant, thank you so much for this tutorial, Amanda!
    I’ve been needle felting for 12 years, but was looking for an alternative to glass eyes, as I want animals that are safe for young children. I couldn’t work out how to make the eyes look shiny and realistic.
    You have done an incredible job (that badger!), and I can see every step clearly. Going to have a go – THANK YOU! 🙂

    Barbara

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  6. This is a wonderful tutorial! I’m going to try it! Thank you!

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  7. hi, my name is Angelica and i’am from Chile, thank your for your work and for give us your help in this beautiful art

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  8. Thank you so much for an excellent tutorial! I’ve already bookmarked it for future projects.

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  9. Pingback: How to needle felt animal eyes – Felting

  10. I AM 64 and when I am 64 I found needle felting …and a baby squirrel fell down my chimney into my lap ….now I want to woolen his image. can you help

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    • Amanda Adebisi

      Wow Patricia. Nice you found needle felting. It is so much fun you will just love it so much. I wish I had more time to do it but I work full time. I love squirrels. What happened to the baby squirrel? Did you have to feed it? You can see photos of my squirrel I made. It’s all about starting off with basic shapes and then adding fur after by doing layers of wool. Let me know how you get on. Happy to offer any advice I can. 🙂

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  11. So helpful, thank you!!

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  12. Your animals are fantastic. My son and daughter in law bought me a felting kit for Christmas and if I could make anything like yours I would be ecstatic. Great tutorial x. Thank you for sharing

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  13. You are such a good teacher with everything in such small steps!

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  14. Elisma Groenewald

    thanx for inspiring me to really getting into this craft so that I can share it with my class of mentally handicapped learners who are such wonderful crafters

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  15. thank you, I will be sharing your felted eye tutorial with my sisters,we meet up on mondays and try and be creative.

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  16. Wow great job on this tutorial! Super work on photographing the steps! This will help me out immensely since I just started needle felting and wondered about how to do the eyes. So happy to find this on Pintrest and so happy that you made this tutorial! Thanks very much!

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  17. Well! Aren’t you smart! Thank you for sharing!

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  18. I love your animals and really appreciate your generosity in sharing your skill with those of us who love to create but need a helping hand to get started. Thank you

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  19. What a fantastic tutorial, thank you. Your animals have so much character. I will try this, I have struggled with eyes up to now.

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  20. Chibi Animals

    Would you allow me to re-post it on my blog also? It’s one of the most useful tutorials I’ve ever seen 🙂 Thank you!

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  21. obsidian acoustic

    Brilliant i love the badger, ive only just started needlefelting but amalready quite good, but hey you are really good. have you got any good tutorial vids i can watch pls? the more intricate the better love emma x

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  22. gorgeous badger. great tutorial

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  23. Thanks a lot for sharing!

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  24. GREAT tutorial on needle felted eyes. I was wondering how to make and found your amazing blog. Thank you for sharing.

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  25. Excellent tutorial! Thank you for sharing. I LOVE your badgers!

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  26. Fantastic tutorial

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  27. Hi Babe – great eye tutorial very easy to follow thanks for the update I havn’t started my next project yet as busy sorting out our new fire 🙂 Love and hugs Mumsky XX

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  28. Reblogged this on Felt Buddies (and stuff) and commented:
    Ever wondered how to make convincing animal eyes in felt? Here’s your chance to learn. Reposted from Amanda’s blog.

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  29. What a lovely and useful tutorial. Would you allow me to re-post it on my blog?

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