See photographs below:
1 & 2: Start with a long length of wool and roll into a TIGHT rough oval/cylinder shape, stopping and tucking in the ends as you go; to get it really tight, push down into the foam pad or whatever surface you are using. Do not start to poke with the needle until you have rolled half way. If it is loose, unroll and start again. This will save you so much felting time and give more control over the shape.
Top tip: Start with less than you need and add to it as you go; you can add but not take away! Stab the wool as you turn – this is the felting process which tangles and locks the fibres together – keeping the needle straight until the wool fibres start to lock together and it starts to holds its shape. Keep turning as you felt so as not to make dents in one part of the body.
3: Continue to felt until you have achieved the desired shape and size for your project
4 When you have achieved a rough oval shape (the narrower end will usually become the neck of the body) gently roll it between your hands; this helps to smooth and shape the body and covers any deep needle marks.
Tip: If you are using Merino, which is a much finer wool, you will need more wool and usually have more needle marks. It will also take longer to felt. I prefer to needle felt with a more robust wool which is much more forgiving. Some of my favourites are Grey Jacob, Shetland, 56’s English, Swaledale, and Lincoln; all natural and un-dyed. If it is colour you want then Corriedale is a good compromise as it is a blend of Merino and Lincoln and comes in a large range of colours.
Now you have your basic shape, continue to felt whilst turning the wider end and felt it flatter underneath to help your finished animal to sit; the legs and tail (if required) will also assist with this. Your finished body shape should be soft but springs back to shape when you squeeze it.
I have used a dark brown dyed Shetland wool in the tutorial photographs below and 38 gauge start needle (good all rounder and the ones I put in all my needle felting kits). However, this is personal preference and a 36 triangular would also do the job just as well. Tip: The higher the number the finer the needle
Featured photo (top) is light grey natural Swaledale and it is sat on a home made hessian rice bag.
Top tip: Don’t worry if you have created a lumpy look due to over felting in one area. You can fix this by laying a very thin top layer of wool (see below) and gently felting all over that area until it is just secured and lightly felted on. Expect this to happen; you are just learning and you will continue to do this even as an experienced needle needle felter. The beauty of needle felting is that the majority of issues can usually be fixed; the biggest problem is caused by starting with too much wool…less is always more!