It’s often hard to find your confidence when you start needle felting, even harder if you haven’t done any crafting before, so tackling those fears is the first hurdle. The second hurdle is finding a good tutorial and materials guide that will give you the best chance of success. I can help with both of those things but you have the most important job, and that’s allowing yourself to be a beginner. And, as sure as eggs is eggs, if you don’t allow yourself a period of ‘learning’ grace you are setting yourself to fail. In fact, you have to get it wrong in order to succeed and believe me, when it comes to needle felting success comes very quickly.
FEAR OF FAILURE
When you think to yourself, I’ve failed’ simply change the statement to ‘I have learned’ and see how that self doubt just falls away. Changing the mindset that makes you way too hard on yourself is the most important thing you will learn when it comes to learning a new craft, and also in many other aspects of our life.
FEAR OF WHAT OTHERS WILL THINK
Another potential problem is worrying what others will say and, the truth is, they will probably be super impressed that you are learning a new skill. If not then the problem is probably their own self confidence and lack of courage to try something new themselves. Ask yourself who you are doing it for? The answer should always be you! If you really struggle then don’t show your felt creations to anyone until you feel ready, and then not at all if that is how you feel. You are doing this for you and no one else and, before long, you will find people wanting you to make something for them, or even better, having a go themselves.
NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE MENTAL HEALTH BENEFITS OF CRAFTS
Anxiety, loneliness, isolation and depression have never been more prevalent than they are in today’s society, and with good reason; a global pandemic, climate change, rising prices, job insecurity, fear for our kids, caring for others, the list goes on and on… But, amidst all of that, the world is still full of great people and creativity. If we just prescribed ourselves some craft therapy on a regular basis then everything will feel calmer, more grounded, safer. And, if that is just for the time you are involved in something that distracts you from the daily stresses and strains it will allow you to go about your day in a much better state of mind. If not needle felting then a jigsaw, sewing, growing house plants, gardening, reading, knitting, colour by numbers, in fact anything that requires your undivided attention. Even though it can be hard it is so important to create a little time to focus on yourself, even if only for half an hour. And fortunately needle felting is incredibly portable so, if you can’t find a quiet space or the household won’t leave you alone, I have often found the loo to be a good alternative. As I said, needle felting is very portable 😉
ARE YOU READY TO START NEEDLE FELTING NOW?
Let’s get going. The video tutorial below is an introduction to creating a really simple shape that will become the most important technique you will learn when first starting needle felting. It can be made in just 5-10 minutes and will act as the structure, or scaffolding for the rest of your project. My tutorials are very workshop style and are the nearest thing to one of my in person classes. Simplicity and speed are the cornerstone of all my tutorials and I am always looking for new techniques to help improve your needle felting journey as well as give you the confidence to fall in love with this craft as much as I have. I have added links for the playlist that will teach you how to complete hares, sheep, mice, foxes, badgers, gnomes and too many to mention, with ease. You just need to be enthusiastic and willing to learn.
Parsley hare is one of my favourite hare designs and, with a touch of whimsy and a dash of folk art, you can’t fail to be charmed by him. This is such a great project that is perfect if you want to build on your existing needle felting skills. It’s a project that requires some previous experience of needle felting and assumes you have completed at least two beginners needle felting projects.
The ‘Magic’ Tool
Everything is made around a wooden skewer (apart from the ears) and is the tool that no self respecting needle felter should be without. If you haven’t used one before it is a complete needle felting revelation and you will wonder how you ever managed without one. It is also a great way to make perfect needle felted balls and acorn shapes in just three minutes.
Banish Saggy Legs Forever
Using the wooden BBQ skewer negates the need for using wire but still ensures that you have really firm body parts.
Create A Perfect Finish
Using this technique also allows you to get great symmetry, with ease, and a beautifully smooth finish. You can also create a perfectly shaped head every time, no lumps or bumps.
Use a good coarse wool top or, as I have done with mine, use carded wool in long lengths.
Coarse brown wool top or long carded lengths
White accent wool
1 Felting needle – size 38 is a good all rounder
1 Wooden skewer
2 Beads for eyes
The needle felting kit, wool and accessories can be found on the Lincolnshire Fenn CraftsWEBSITEand the kit comes with everything you need including the lovely antique style ruffle.
Below are five step by step, easy to follow video tutorials. If you prefer to work with written instructions the pattern is also available for instant download HERE
All photographs and finished pictures are Lincolnshire Fenn Crafts originals so please make sure to credit my pictures as inspiration should you decide to use them as reference for your own picture. This also applies to all social media and blog pages. Copies of my picture must not be sold! However I am happy for them to be gifted as long as full credit is given. All copyright laws apply.
I have had lots of requests to put together a quick guide to get you started on needle felting a 2D/3D picture so, using my own pictures as inspiration, here it is. It is suitable for all abilities (including complete beginners) and you can work at your own level and at your own pace. If this is your first time needle felting then please watch my beginner video tutorials to familiarise yourself with basic techniques:
If you are new to needle felting, or don’t have many colours, I have put together a picture pack containing a carefully chosen wool selection, natural pre-felt and natural effect fibres that can be used for needle felting and wet felting. I will be focusing on needle felting but you can adapt to suit whatever project you are working on.
Preparation and planning is really important. I find using a photograph of a landscape, animal, woodland scene etc for reference/inspiration really helpful. It can be the roughest of guides or very specific to the photograph or image you have in mind. You may have a particular animal you want to incorporate into the picture which is also a great starting point; anything goes.
For this guide I am creating fields as the backdrop with a 2 D wooden gate, Herdwick Sheep and pebble wall in the foreground. It is called, ‘Watching Me, Watching Ewe.’ I know, cheese on toast right… but it was too good an opportunity not to. You should hear my pirate jokes. I save those for special occasions, usually workshops. #sorrynotsorry to anyone who has been at the receiving end of them…
Enough pre-amble, lets get started.
1 – Using a piece of *pre-felt for the back of your picture take a marker or chalk to, very roughly, draw out your idea on to the pre-felt: ZERO DRAWING SKILLS REQUIRED. This way you can ensure that you can fit in all the elements you want to use.
* I always use pure Shetland but any 100% wool felt is OK. Size of the pre-felt I used for this picture is approx 20cm square. A 30cm square is included in the picture pack.
2 – I am making a *Herdwick picture with a landscape backdrop and stone wall to get lots of 2D elements in there. It’s quite a small picture; 20cm square to fit into some lovely shadow boxes I have. Also, starting with a smaller picture means there is less white space to fill which can be a little daunting and it takes less time.
*All photographs and finished pictures are Lincolnshire Fenn Crafts originals so please make sure to credit my pictures as inspiration should you decide to use them as reference for your own picture. All copyright laws apply.
3 – Mark your colours and objects so you know where your wool and 2D elements are going to sit. Keep it as simple as possible and remember these are just your guide lines.
4 – Time to get out your wool and needles. I am using a star 36/38 needles (good all rounders) and a punch tool (7 needles) to speed up the process.
5 – I felted the landscape first but you can start wherever you want depending on your picture style. I will be felting on my 2D elements later and adding embellishment. Lay your colour on, or between the lines, you have drawn, and use your needle to gently felt into place. It doesn’t have to be firmly felted but should stay in position.
I have used a mix of coarse wool tops and some semi carded wool tops that I had a lot of.
6 – Continue to gently needle felt your selected colours until the back ground is full.
7 – If you are happy with the layout then go ahead and felt the whole background more firmly (but not too flat), peeling it off your mat at intervals so it doesn’t stick. If you are doing a lot of flat felting then I recommend a rice filled hessian or strong cotton felting pad and a punch tool. Trust me, you will thank me later for cutting your felting time by three quarters.
Don’t worry if you have covered up some of your lines; remember they were just a guide.
You can also blend colours either by hand or using blending brushes (glorified dog brushes). For this picture I used a blend of Shetland blue top, light blue silk fibre and light grey Swaledale top for the sky.
8 – I wanted a distinct line separating the fields and used very thin strips of dark brown Jacob wool top to achieve this. Felt the lines quite firmly into the pre-felt which will push it down and give a little more depth.
Time to create some 2D elements.
9 – Wall
I have used lots of muted colours to create the pebbled wall appearance. Avoid all ‘flat’ colours by blending different colour wool by hand; if using the landscape box some colours will not need blending as they will already have texture and different shades. A soft palette works really well for this style of picture e.g purple blended with white, dark grey blended with white or light grey
Make your stones by rolling your wool into a very rough ball shape (this is not the shape you will end up with but will create dimension) and felting all over with your needle. Keep the wool moving as it firms up and don’t try to make it even; have you ever seen even shapes on a dry stone wall… Make quite a few different shapes and sizes; mine are approx 1.5cm to 2.5cm then place them on your picture in the walled area to see how many more you will actually need.
Once done stitch or glue them into position; I’m not a purist and whichever you choose is fine. Clearly, using glue is so much faster and a strong fabric glue will do just fine as long as you give it a little time to dry. Using glue also allows you to move your pebbles about before the glue dries; you will be ready for a cuppa at this stage anyway.
10 – Time to make the Herdwick sheep head (or whichever animal you have chosen).
Please follow the link to the video tutorial:How to needle felt a head shape You will want to flatten the back of the head so it sits nicely on your picture. You can then needle felt your eyes or use beads (included in the picture pack).
11- Start with a small length of white wool (approx 2g) and roll into a rough oval shape felting (stabbing gently with your needle) and tucking in the ends as you go. Gently felt until it holds its shape and turning as you felt. Continue to felt until you have achieved a rough egg/oval shape. Now flatten the back of the head by needle felting until it sits flat on the picture but don’t attach it yet; it’s ears are missing.
12 – Ears: For the ears take a pinch of white wool. Lay it on your pad and draw a rough circle with your felting needle and fold the wool around the line you have drawn, felting it into the centre. Turn over (to prevent from sticking) and repeat a few times, leaving one end loose (to attach to the head) and felt until flat, smooth and slightly firm. Repeat for other ear. Attach the loose end of each ear to the side of the head and felt or sew into position so it is peeping over the wall.
13 – Gently felt on very thin wisps (even thinner than that) onto the face to create the nose and mouth. N.B. Easiest way is to roll very thin wisps of wool between your fingers before felting to the face. Alternatively, you can sew on using black or dark grey thread.
14 – Add your gate by rolling and felting your brown wool into short lengths and overlapping for effect before gently felting into position. You may reposition a few times before you are happy with it.
15 – Add your wool for the body of your animal but don’t felt it flat and keep it quite loose as this will create dimension. I have used loose curly grey locks.
16- Now add your foreground details. I have used greens and some locks for a grassy feel but be as creative as you wish. You could add flowers, butterflies, bees etc.
17 – Finishing touches make all the difference and as you can see I have used french knots (easy and absolutely no need to be perfect). YouTube French Knot Tutorial. Curly locks also add more interest and dimension.
There you have it. Super easy 2D picture tutorial.
I have done a few pictures which are so worth the time they take. Here are a few more ideas for inspiration.
‘Asleep Under The Cherry Tree’ A gift for my daughter.
Again, I have used French Knots as well as beads for interest and detail.
‘Midnight At The Northern Lights’
Midnight is the name of my hare in the picture and inspiration came from my dream of visiting the Northern Lights.
You can also use wet felted pictures as a base and then add two dimensional effects using needle felting. Free motion embroidery works really well on wet felted backgrounds. Below is a very unfinished picture waiting for me to decide what to do next. I have needle felted onto Shetland pre-felt then wet felted the whole scene incorporating locks and silk fibres.