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How to add head and limbs onto needle felted animals

“How do I felt body parts onto my needle felted animal? How can I make them stay secure and not easily pull off?”

Today I want to show you some more basics of needle felting animals. In my other tutorials you will see how to make various animal parts e.g a badger head, bunny ears as well as the various stages of felting a full guinea pig, bunny etc. However one of my followers commented that it would be good to do a tutorial showing how to felt the head and limbs onto your animal. It is not so easy to demonstrate with photos but I have done my best by using the shots I took along the way when sculpting Chestnut; the little red squirrel I made.

There are many ways of felting one piece to another so you may have already found the best way for you. The method I will show you is just one way and was the easiest for my squirrel at the time. 🙂

Please note that the following tutorial will assume you know a little bit about needle felting already. See basics here.

Adding the head

01-Needle felted squirrel (5)

At this point I have felted the head more or less to completion. The body has its shape but no fur yet…

I have sometimes only got as far as the shape of the head when joining it to the body but I quite often find that it’s the head of an animal that gives its unique soulful character (especially once it has eyes).02-Needle felted squirrel (8)

I often don’t decide on exactly how the body will look until I have the head sorted. Being delighted by the cute nature of the face (as is what happened with Chestnut) often inspires me to continue on with the rest of the body. 

1) To join two felted objects together leave enough loose fibre on at least one of the objects where the join will be so that it can be felted into the other.

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It is a lot harder and perhaps impossible to join them if the wool is felted too firmly and the fibres cannot mix and bind with the fibres on the other object when you stab with your needle. 

As you can see, the neck at the top of Chestnut’s torso has been left loose and soft. The base of the head is soft to medium felted rather than firm to allow plenty of further stabbing..

2) Fluff the fibres up a bit before putting the head into the position you would like it to be. 

15-Needle felted squirrel (28)

3) Stab at the wool from a 45 degree angle under the chin of the animal. In effect what you are doing is poking the loose wool from the neck into the head. Insert the needle as deep as it can go and on all sides of the neck. This helps to anchor the head to the body. Remember (particularly at this stage when the head will just fall off the body if you try any other way) to lay your animal on a felting pad/brush and stab away from your fingers!

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To join body parts I use a medium width barbed needle (I find these are stronger than the finer ones for this purpose but do try out various ones to see what you are comfortable with and what works best for the wool and size of animal you are felting). If possible use one with many barbs along the length to help bind the fibres and as the needle will be inserted quite deep.

4) Once it feels like the wool fibres have attached so much so that the head no longer topples away, you can try felting at other angles at various depths. Here I laid Chestnut’s head over the edge of the felting pad as it made it easier to get the angle I wanted and also prevented me from squishing her carefully felted nose 🙂

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5) Carefully stab a few times from the top of the head to ensure it is firmly secure. NB this is easier if the head has no fur yet but if you have (like I have) you just have to take care not to leave stab marks in the face (as you are using a slightly thicker needle).

…and there we go, head on …looking more squirrel-like although much like a shawn sheep at the moment with lack of fur 🙂

25-Needle felted squirrel (38) 24-Needle felted squirrel (37)27-Needle felted squirrel (40)

Adding limbs

This is achieved in much the same way as joining the head in that you need to stab deeply in all directions to ensure all the fibres bind to each other.

For Chestnut I started with the hind legs so that it would be easier to see how her forelegs would be positioned once she was sat upright. Note the thigh part of the leg for my squirrel has already been sculpted as part of her body shape which ends up in a sitting pose. So when I refer to adding the hind leg, it is in fact the section below her thigh bone. 

1) Needle felt each leg onto the body by stabbing the wool at the fluffed up end of the leg into the body.

28-Needle felted squirrel (41)       30-Needle felted squirrel (44)

For Chestnut I had formed her feet using wool wrapped and felted over wire (see my tutorial on tiny feet and toes here) so I had to take extra care not to break my needle by hitting the wire when stabbing.

31-Needle felted squirrel (45)        29-Needle felted squirrel (42)

2) Continue at all angles for both legs until firmly and securely in position.

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08-Needle felted squirrel (17)  09-Needle felted squirrel (18)

Once in place I added more wool round the joins as fur and then decided to felt some of Chestnut’s back-fur too. Aw she is looking very happy and mischievous already!

33-Needle felted squirrel (48)34-Needle felted squirrel (49)32-Needle felted squirrel (46)

3) Then do the same for the forelegs.

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04-Needle felted squirrel (13)  03-Needle felted squirrel (12)

As the shoulder part needs to be attached along the side of the torso it is not sufficient to merely stab from the outer side at the shoulder blade to keep the limb in place.

To felt at an angle under the ‘armpit’ and also to ensure the leg cannot pull away at the join, stuff some extra(fluffed up) wool into the join and stab it securely into place (not too deep to push the lighter coloured wool through to the other side of the shoulder).

36-Needle felted squirrel (51) 35-Needle felted squirrel (50)

Tip: To get the correct positioning and symmetry when adding the second foreleg(as quite often you will want to play around with this until you get it right) you may find it easier to stab the second leg into place only a tiny bit at first; enough to hold the leg in place but not so much that you can’t alter the position if you need to. You can then step away to view your animal from a distance, then adjust until happy with it.

49-Needle felted squirrel (.2) 37-Needle felted squirrel (52)

38-Needle felted squirrel (53) 40-Needle felted squirrel (55)

….then secure into place.

42-Needle felted squirrel (57)  39-Needle felted squirrel (54) 41-Needle felted squirrel (56)

Once all limbs are joined onto your animal you can then felt over the joins with fur. You wouldn’t even know your animal started out as separate appendages.

45-Needle felted squirrel (61)44-Needle felted squirrel (59)43-Needle felted squirrel (58)

Here is Chestnut as she looks now! 🙂

46-Needle felted squirrel (62) 47-Needle felted squirrel (63)

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How to needle felt bunny ears!

How to needle felt bunny ears!
See here for more pictures or to order one just like him

See here for more pictures or to order one just like him

Now that I have revealed my latest needle felted bunny in my most recent post, I can share with you how I made his cute bunny ears. The real bunny, owned by Pete and his wife, had the most incredibly gorgeous long ears and I really wanted to take the time to detail their every curve and beauty. As I created them I took pictures at each phase to document how I made them for my own reference when making other ears in future and also to share with you now on my blog..

For those of you who have some experience of needle felting I am sure you have your own preferred technique but please do take a look – your ideas are very welcome as I am still fairly new to this and so far it has been trial and error but most enjoyable. For those who haven’t tried yet , I hope this inspires you to have a ‘stab’ at it!

This is specifically to show you how to create ears for the bunny I made above, but some of the methods are very similar for other animal ears so feel free to follow them for other projects..

To get started you will need:

  • Foam pad or felting brush base (so not to stab your knees and to provide a firm base to work on)
  • Felting needles of various sizes; wider for initial shaping and finer for detail later on
  • A needle holder; this is optional but for making basic shapes it saves time to use 2 or 3 needles at the same time. In the pictures you will see I use the 3 needle holder pen by Clover.
  • Wool to felt with; I used natural corriedale wool to make the basic ear shapes as I find it felts well and ends up nice and firm (especially to keep in alert bunny position). I then used merino wool as the top coat as it’s soft and comes in some lovely animal fur colours. I buy my wools at a very good price from World of Wool.
  • Finally…   some time, some love, some patience, a drink and bar of chocolate for long sitting periods, perhaps some music (not tv as you may be distracted and stab your finger) and don’t forget a photo or drawing of what you would like to make…

So…. on to the tutorial!

By the way….. the point at which I am about to felt the ears I will already have my head sculpted, I can then at any time measure up the ears to the head to ensure I am getting the right proportion.

Step 1: take two equal lengths (and density) of your core wool (corriedale in this case). Bear in mind that you will need the two ears to end up the same size so keep comparing them. I find it works better if I do a bit on one then do a bit on the other as I go along rather than finish one and then start the other afterwards.

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Step 2: fold the piece in half in an oval shape (you can see already this is forming a long  ear shape before you even use the needle!)

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Step 3: using the thicker felting needle/s start stabbing the wool to go through to the other side as well as shallower stabs to the first few barbs of the needle in many directions (ensure you lift the needle in the same direction as you placed it so not to break any needles). Then turn over and do the other side

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Step 4: now you have a basic flat shape you need to make it more 3d and ear-like so roll the sides in to form thicker edges and stab at 90 degrees but also inwards at an angle keeping the edges rounded where the ear edges need to curve. Do this on both ears as you go..

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Step 5: Use fingers to knead the wool and stab with your needle/s and give shape on both sides. NB I have left a long unfelted end at the bottom of my work to make it easier to fix my ears on to the bunny head later on…

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Step 6: keep pulling edges in and hollowing the middle section with your needle/s

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………and turn over to felt the other side as you go…

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…. remember to turn your work and use various angles to insert your needle/s to mould the wool into the desired shape.

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Step 7: Keep felting and keep checking your photo or drawing to see how big the edges are and which areas should be flatter.

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On a real bunny one edge of the ear is thicker than the other so I had to make sure this was the opposite way round on the other ear (as it is in real life) for a mirror effect. You may want to use one needle or just two needles to make more defined lines..

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And there we have some bunny ears (err… minus some colour and texture!)

So then comes the exciting part …..have your finer needles and bunny fur colours at the ready for the final step….

Step 8: carefully shallow felt the ears with your coloured merino wools (just to a depth of first 1 or 2 barbs on your finer needles) to fix the wool in place but not allow the wool to go through to the other side. You don’t want the darker colours to be seen through the lighter colours on the other side! and vice versa  (it would be a medley of pink and grey in this case).

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……..where needle holes can be seen – you can use fingers or a normal sewing needle to gently fluff up fibres

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…. add different shades of colour to give a more realistic look. I mixed my greys and blues to get the bluey-grey colours. Then I  used a mink colour for the middle of the ear with lighter pinks around the edges. Finally a strand of grey down the very centre for light and shadow and 3d effect…

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Then your ears are ready to fix on to your bunny head for full bunny character!!

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I hope you found this useful. Let me know what you would like me to write about and what you would like me to make!

My next post will be a photo gallery of how I made my bunny creation from start to finish….so you will get to see me fixing the ears in place…!

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