I so love foxes. For many they are a real pest and I can understand how heart breaking it can be for a fox to take a beloved chicken (we live with 3 beautiful chickens and are often on fox watch!). However I will never stop being amazed at how in the UK we actually have wild dogs (almost mini wolves) roaming around. Not only that, they are a vibrant orange colour that matches the autumn leaves! I don’t know about you but I think they are stunning animals!!
Back in September I was so delighted to receive a commission from a lovely lady in California to needle felt a curled up fox. My second ever felted animal was a fox but I have learned so much since then and couldn’t wait to get started.
This photo of a beautiful real fox was my inspiration.
Fox fur is far from being one colour but a mix of brown, cream, yellow and orange tones which are accentuated by black and white. I love to make my wool sculptures as realistic as possible so I chose and hand blended a lovely colour palette in merino and corriedale wools.
I started off with a wire armature and wrapped corriedale wool over it using fox anatomy and skeletal pictures on line for reference. I then shaped the head, added the ears, eyes and nose and then added the paw pads to the feet. Then, using the long fur technique, I attached the foxy coat. I used black horse hair for the whiskers!
I hope you like this sweet little fox. Here are some photos of the finished sculpture. Such a bushy tail 🙂
Perfect autumnal (fall) setting for this little needle felted fox made by its new owner in California. Can you spot the fox? 🙂
This week has been an exciting week. The needle felted pipistrelle bat I created was mounted and given as an award at the Palace of Westminster to MP Helen Hayes as she is the species champion for the common pipistrelle and won best parliamentary species champion at the Species Champions Annual awards ceremony. Well done to Helen for all her hard work!! It was presented by BBC Journalist Frank Gardner.
I am so happy that my artwork became something so special for an amazing project. The project is run by the Rethink Nature partnership, a group of seven wildlife organisations working together to make a difference to species conservation. (Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, Bat Conservation Trust, Buglife, Bumblebee Conservation Trust, Butterfly Conservation, Plantlife and the RSPB).
The little bat took many hours of sculpting through the art of needle felting. His body is made of core corriedale wool. His wings, legs and tail are wool wrapped over wire. His beautiful brown coat is made of a blend of corriedale and merino wool. His eyes, nose, ears and tiny feet are made of wool too.
The common pipistrelle as its name suggests is the most common bat that you might see flying in your garden on a summer night! Yet like all our bats in the UK they need our help and protection to ensure their numbers don’t decline again. They are so important to our environment! I love bats but some people don’t and this is usually as they don’t know much about them and bats are so misunderstood.
When you look at a bat close up they are actually very tiny and many times smaller than the size of my needle felted one. In fact a real pipistrelle bat weighs about 5g and their forearm length is less than 35mm in length. One of these tiny creatures can eat around 3 thousand insects in one night – how amazing is that!? Due to destruction of their natural habitat many bats now need to roost in houses and churches and rely on people to preserve these roosts.
Each bat usually has only one pup each year and too often that little pup will become lost or get caught by a local cat and so many each year don’t survive. The Bat Conservation Trust has a fantastic helpline if you find a bat in need of help. You can also find out how to support their work 🙂
Here are a few work in progress photos of my needle felted bat…
Having worked for 12 years at the Bat Conservation Trust I have quite a good knowledge of bats but it was still a challenge to get the anatomy right. Bats are so fascinating and detailed with their tail membranes and wing membranes! I wanted to give the illusion of fully formed wings that could spread out but tucked in as if it has landed. I hope I did it justice.
As with all my needle felted animals I used lots of photos of the real animal at every angle for reference. Thankfully no needles were broken but I did remake his face at one point and a good deal of patience and chocolate rewards were needed along the way!! This aside I really did enjoy making him and I was so overjoyed to see the smile on Helen Hayes’ face too when she received him as her award !
Finally after many weeks I have finished “Paws”, an adorable and realistic looking Tabby kitten, looking up at you with those big green eyes and in need of a forever home. His little paws playfully protrude out of the picture. He has been lovingly hand-made and is ‘fit to be loved’. As you can see from the photos he is in a black frame with green insert to compliment his eyes.
The frame measures 9 inches wide by 7 inches tall perfect for fixing to a wall or standing on a table/chest of drawers. It has taken many hours of hard work and love to give him his playful character through the art of needle felting.
His beautiful soft fluffy fur is a blend of merino sheep’s wool (non-mulesed) from South Africa and British Corriedale wool. His nose and eyes are made of wool too, so no glass or plastic. He even has cute brown wool paw pads when you look underneath! His core is made of undyed mixed rare breed sheep’s wool from Scotland with a wire frame inside his legs for extra support. His white whiskers are made from horse tail hair for a realistic finish. He has a little collar with gold coloured heart pendant.
He is a cute and unique gift for the animal lover in your life. Or why not treat yourself? Paws is now for sale in my Etsy shop. FREE UK delivery. Will also ship internationally.
Here are some photos of the needle felting process.
With real cat photos as reference, I started sculpting the core wool to make the head, then filled in the eyes and added layers of grey, black, brown and white wool to resemble cat fur. I added nose and mouth detail along the way. Once the head was complete I wrapped more core wool over a wire armature and sculpted the legs and torso. After attaching the head I layered coloured wool over the top of the body and legs to give that soft fluffy cat fur look as well as the paw pad detail. Finally after tying a collar round its neck with a gold coloured pendant, I threaded the horse hair whiskers. As with all my long haired sculptures I went over all the furry layers with a tiny needle to separate fibres and ensure no fluffing or matting and then trimmed any excess fibres that stuck out.
For more info about how to add long fur to needle felted animals, please do follow the tutorial here.
There are many ways to make needle felted leaves e.g. using leaf-shaped cookie cutters or felting sheets of wool and then cutting out the leaf shapes.
I decided to experiment with sheets of wet wipes (just cheap every day baby/hand wipes are fine). I found that not only are they a nice thin base to felt the wool onto for natural looking leaves but you still end up with sturdy pieces that keep intact and don’t easily fall apart. Having leaf shape cut-outs ready to work on made the process nice and easy too!
You can draw leaf shapes straight onto the wet wipes or you can (as I did) draw on to paper or card first to try out a few sizes and variations and choose the shapes you like best.
I looked up oak and maple leaves in a tree identification book and copied them freestyle onto my paper. You could also sketch leaves whilst you see them on a walk or collect them to draw when you get home. If you aren’t confident to draw them freestyle then why not trace over a book or computer/tablet screen image.
Here are my four sheets of wet wipes and I have cut out my leaf shapes (oak on the left and maple on the right) from paper ready to use as templates to draw round.
It is best to use a pen to trace round the leaf shapes rather than a pencil to make sure the lines show up clearly. Don’t worry about the wet wipes still being slightly damp as they will soon dry.
When it came to cutting I used small scissors as it was easier to cut the tiny jagged edges.
You can make as many leaves of however many species you like. I stuck to just the oak and maple and made two of each; a ‘spring/summer green’ version and a ‘changing to autumn’ version.
Here I am making a start on my first oak leaf.
For the ‘spring/summer green’ versions I chose a mixture of some beautiful vibrant green merino wools.
If you want to felt flat pieces quicker, a four needle tool is perfect. Triangle or star needles are great for this.
Continue to add more wool and firmly needle felt it into place. A single thinner needle (star or triangle) will help to define the edges and keep the wool to the shape of the cut-out.
If you are gluing or sewing the leaves onto a picture/collage you won’t need to felt the other side as well. For my dormouse nest however I wanted to be able to take the leaves out the nest as separate pieces of art so I decided to felt the other sides of the leaves too.
I used brown wool for the protruding stem of the oak leaf.
To ensure the surface of the leaves don’t look holey or to carefully brush the fibres in one direction for hairy leaves (make sure you have firmly felted the wool first before attempting this), use a spiral/twisted needle.
For the upper side of the leaf, carefully felt the stem and leaf veins with a thin (preferably a spiral/twisted) needle. Alternatively you could stitch on this detail using embroidery threads.
Here are a few process pictures of the maple leaf.
For my ‘changing to autumn’ versions I added thin layers of varying shades of green, yellow, orange and red merino wool to give a lovely blended finish before adding the stem and vein details.
You can really use your imagination when it comes to colour. When you look at real leaves no one leaf is the same as the next. I just love going for walks in the countryside and admiring the leaves on the trees or those in the autumn around my feet that have fallen. They are so amazing!
For really flat leaves, steam iron them for just 10 seconds each below a cotton sheet/tea towel.
I hope you found this step by step photo guide helpful for making your own needle felted leaves. Let me see how your leaves turned out!
Here are some final pictures of the leaves once they were finished. They look great on their own or with a woodland creature! 🙂
May I present to you ‘Hazel’ the sleeping hazel dormouse. She is snuggled up on her needle felted leaves in a wool nest I crocheted.
She is a mix of merino and corriedale wools with a wire in her tail and has horse hair for whiskers. Her tiny toes are all wool – I think they are the tiniest I have made yet and were very fiddly but certainly worth every minute of the process.
Hazel was such a joy to make while I have been recovering from a life changing operation. Curling up into a little ball just like she is doing in her cosy nest is something I have felt like doing a lot the past few weeks as I have needed so much sleep.
I hope you like her. I will be posting more about how I made the leaves soon too.
Here is my first attempt at a needle felted bumble bee. I gave it to my sister for her birthday last week. My sister’s name Melissa means ‘honey bee’ but she loves bumbley bees as they are so fluffy looking! I was brave enough to let it sit on my hand without any worries about being stung. Good job as it is much larger than life size!
I started off using black pipe cleaners as legs and antennae. I twisted them together in the middle to form the base for the body. I trimmed the pipe cleaners with small angled nail scissors to accentuate the leg segments and added tan coloured wool..
I tightly wound yellow, black and white merino wool tops over the middle section to form the head, thorax and abdomen and added more and more of the merino on top to build up the height. I needle felted the body with a barbed needle to sculpt into a bee shape. To create a furry bumble bee look I then used a reverse felting needle to pull out the fibres and added a layer of rusty orange over the yellow to give the colour more depth. (Note I didn’t use a cream colour core wool for this piece to ensure that only the pure colours I wanted came through when I used the reverse needle not any underlay of core wool fibres).
I had to get really creative for the wings. I searched my stash of crafty bits and ended up cutting out wing shapes from a silvery coloured organza bag and then hand sewed the pattern on each wing by hand with white embroidery thread.
Here are a few photos of the work in progress of how I started.
I am so pleased that my sister adored him!!
******You can now order a bumble bee for yourself here******************
My first ever needle felted animal back in 2013 was a sweet little white bunny holding a carrot.
He seemed to just emerge out of my wool the moment I started stabbing away and sculpting with my barbed needles! From that day I just knew this was the hobby for me!
It has been a journey of joy in creating, therapy and relaxation through the tough trials that life brings and through my own experimentation it has hopefully helped others as I journal and share my techniques as tutorials.
Needle felting is such a wonderful art form as it enables you to just go for it with whatever you want to make, with no need for a pattern or sewing, just your passion and imagination. If you make a mistake it doesn’t matter – it is forgiving and each time you create something new the result brings a smile!
As some of you have come to know, I love to improve and challenge myself. This last few weeks I set myself a challenge to make an animal with fur that has been reverse needle felted. At the moment we are staying in a lovely house in the countryside next to open fields of corn and wild flowers and we often see the cutest bunnies popping up from their burrows and skipping and playing in the sunlight. They are a delight to watch, especially when they hop away with only a flash of a white fluffy tail to be seen.
So what better animal to choose to have fluffy fur than a cute baby bunny rabbit! To me they are a real sign that spring has arrived and summer is on its way!
I would like to introduce you to ‘Blossom’!
You can see from the photos that she is the perfect size to sit on your hand just like a real baby rabbit. She is 15cm tall from the top of her head down to her cute bunny paws.
As with all my needle felted animals, it took many hours of hard work and love to give her that playful character. Her core is made of undyed mixed rare breed sheep’s wool from Scotland. Her beautiful soft fluffy fur is a blend of merino sheep’s wool (non-mulesed) from South Africa. Her nose and eyes are made of wool too, so no glass or plastic. Her whiskers are made from Shetland pony horse tail hair.
She even has pink paw pad detail when you look underneath her!…and look at that fluffy tail! 🙂 aw!!
Here you can see that I made the front and back feet individually and left a tuft of core wool on each for easy attachment.
You might be wondering what reverse needle felting is?
Firstly I used normal barbed felting needles to sculpt her shape with the core wool and add the colour with the merino wool. Once I had added a layer of white merino wool over her body I then added a layer of ‘pewter’ (dark grey) merino wool. I then took a reverse needle (which has barbs going the opposite way to a normal barbed needle) and as I stabbed at the wool it pulled the white wool fibres (and some of the core wool) through the grey. This resulted in a fluffy light grey colour. I carefully used an eye brow brush to brush the fibres in one direction to mimic the look of baby bunny fur.
She is ready to hop into your life this spring time!
Feel free to comment and let me know what you think and if you have any questions about reverse needle felting.