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Needle felted pipistrelle; Species Champion award

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 !

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How to needle felt leaves

If you are looking for a simple and effective method to needle felt some lovely looking leaves then this will hopefully give you some inspiration.

I recently felted some leaves for ‘Hazel’ the sleepy Dormouse and took some photos of the process for you along the way.

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! 🙂

Needle felted dormouse

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.

Needle felted bumble bee

needle felted bumble bee (33)

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******************

Needle felted animal vote

Hi everyone.  I have set up a fun poll to help decide what to make next.

I have chosen 5 animals which I think will be quite a challenge to needle felt.

Which one would you like to see me make next? 🙂

I will take photos as I go to show progress as usual on my facebook page and will blog about it once finished.

Whatever I make will be one of a kind and available in my Etsy shop.

So please vote here:

https://fans.vote/v/ACjrxdvd3l4

Bon Voyage little guinea pig!

I would like to introduce you to a gorgeous needle felted guinea pig called ‘Teddy’.

As you can see he has a cheeky little face and I really tried to make sure his autumnal orange fur tones ended up looking as fluffy and soft as possible just like a real guinea pig.

6-Needle felted guinea pig (6)

He is now on his way to France to live with a lovely lady who will take good care of him.

Bon Voyage little guinea pig! You were a pleasure to create and I hope you have a wonderful life at your new furever home x

5-Needle felted guinea pig (5) 3-Needle felted guinea pig (3)

His core is made of natural undyed Corriedale wool from New Zealand. His beautiful soft fur and detail on his cute piggy paws, ears and face are of soft merino wool (non-mulesed) from South Africa (Cape). His toes have been sculpted by wool wrapped delicately onto wire.

His eyes are made of wool too, so no glass or plastic.

You can see he is life-sized from the close up of me holding him in my hand.

2-Needle felted guinea pig (2) 8-Needle felted guinea pig (10) 9-Needle felted guinea pig (8)

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Hope you like him 🙂

Would you like to know how to make a guinea pig? (click on the photo to get started).

Needle felted guinea pig

Making a needle felted animal and need some help adding layers of wool to achieve a realistic long fur look? (click the photo to learn more…)

Felting long animal fur

See here for a variety of tutorials, tips and ideas to suit your project

Here are some other needle felted guinea pigs for more ideas.

Needlefelted guinea pig (2)  Needlefelted guinea pig (24)

Guineapig Guinea pig (37) Needle felted guinea pig (1) Needle felted guinea pig (38)

Needle felted bat (Brown long eared bat)

Seeing as I manage the National bat helpline (UK) as my day job it was about time I made a bat! Thankfully I was asked to make this little brown long eared bat (BLE) (Plecotus auritus) – although when I say little she is very big compared to real BLEs which have a body length of around 5cm.

She was a challenge as not only did I have to work out how to make folded wings and a tail membrane but BLEs have such massive ears as you can see. She is made of corriedale and merino wool and has wire inside her forearms, legs and ears.

BLEs can live up to 30 years, eat thousands of insects each night, have only one baby a year and these fantastic huge ears help them to listen for prey as they glean them from leaves.

This one is definitely alert and looking for a cuddle but usually at rest their ears curl back a bit like ram’s horns to show only the tragus (the pointy inner ear lobe). Hope you like her and agree that bats are amazing! 🙂
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