Ready to dive into needle felting those adorable animal eyes? Hang on tight, because below I’ve whipped up a super-duper easy tutorial just for you. This gem is all about taking your needle felting projects to the next level with the very same 8 step method I love to use on my own projects. Now, if those nerves are getting the best of you, no sweat! Give it a whirl with a couple of trial runs. And guess what? My guidance is always in easy-peasy steps, so take your time and start again if you’re not happy with the first one or two.
Are You A Complete Needle Felting Newbie?
There’s a whole lineup of newbie-friendly video tutorials waiting for you. I’m talking about my “needle felting for beginners” series, where I break it down – heads, legs, bodies, and ears. It’s like getting a free front-row seat to my workshops, minus the biscuit breaks. These videos stand tall on their own, but let’s not forget they’re a match made in heaven with the needle felting kits from Lincolnshire Fenn Crafts. So, here’s to some joyful felting! Get those hands busy and let the fluffy magic unfold!
As I sat down to make a sheep at the weekend I decided to take some of my own advice and step out of my comfort zone. I have been wanting to make a pig for months but time, as always, ran away with me and other aspects of the business demanded my attention. So, I changed tack and pulled up various images of pigs on Google; even if your creations are not true to life a photo is always great for reference, proportions etc.
Now, you would think pigs, with their simple shapes and obvious snout wouldn’t be too hard… Not so. Their perceived simplicity means that there is nowhere to hide when it comes to making mistakes and that body and head shape took way longer than I expected. However, now I know what I would change for the next one. Overall I am pretty pleased with the end result but I would definitely do a few things differently next time; bigger snout; change how I assembled it; more work on the face.
As far as technique is concerned I tend not to use full body armatures*, preferring to work with a much more solid shape and my favourite British wool tops. Instead, I used 1mm paper covered wire for the legs only to aid stability and create a leaner leg. I prefer paper covered wire as the wool holds much better when wrapping and negates the need for any messy waxes or glue. I wrapped each leg in a base layer of white Jacob top then added another layer of carded Corriedale flesh leaving the trotters exposed for contrast.
*Some pieces require a full armature, especially if you want to pose your piece when it’s finished. Carded wool usually works best for this and creates a much softer sculpture requiring much less use of the felting needle.
The body core is grey Jacob top which is a lovely coarse wool top that felts really easily and is still one of my favourites after six years of working with it. Felting the core really firmly allowed me to shape the wool once it was finished creating a nice curve along the back. See video tutorial: HOW TO CREATE A FIRM BODY
I actually made the body, head and snout as one piece but would definitely make the snout separately next time because it lost a lot of its definition and I had to build it up again. I then covered the whole piece in a lovely carded Corriedale flesh, felting just until it held using my 38 needle at a diagonal angle to reduce needle marks.
You may be wondering why the core colour is a complete contrast to the top layer; this enabled me to create that lovely dark wiry detail that you will see on many pig breeds which sits in dark contrast to the really light top coat. This contrast is achieved by using a 32 reverse needle to pull through the dark grey Jacob wool top, enabling it to sit on top of the flesh colour. Wool tops work really well for this as they have a much longer fibre length than carded wool which allows them to be pulled through the body without breaking off.
Ears were the easy part and using a photograph for reference makes it much easier to get the correct shape and proportions. My needle felted ears tutorial shows you my favourite, super easy technique for creating animal ears: TAKE ME TO THE TUTORIAL
Finally, I covered a short piece of 0.5mm paper wrapped wire in carded flesh to create the curly tail; roll vigorously in the palm of your hands once the wool is attached. This will create a lovely firm finish which stops the wool from ‘sagging’ when it is curled.
Add a couple of glass beads for eyes and hello Twiggy The Piggy*
*I claim no responsibility for the name. Blame lies solely with my good friend, Nancy (author of the amazing Maine Coon cat tutorial) who named her ‘Twiggy The Piggy’. I told her it was only marginally better than Babe but she insisted…
Needle felting kits for all abilities are available on the website and Etsy:
I was beyond excited when my good friend and talented artist, Nancy Sullivan, agreed to be a guest on the blog and put together a needle felting tutorial for you all. What I wasn’t prepared for though was an advanced tutorial that is so detailed that I have yet to see anything to match it. This beautiful life-size version of her own cat, Scout, has taken many, many, many hours to complete and is beautifully written in Nancy’s typically charming and funny way. Whilst it is a very advanced tutorial, Nancy’s writing style and presentation still make it easy to understand as she skillfully and seamlessly moves you from one section to the next, introducing techniques I have never seen used. Thank you so much for all your hard work, time and generosity Nancy xxx
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My name is Nancy Sullivan. I was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in 1950, moved to New York in 1988, and have been here in Southern California since 2002. Yes, I am 68 years old! My interest in art began in the 2nd grade when my teacher told my mother that I had talent. Because of that, my parents worked hard to give me as many opportunities for special art student programs as were available through my youth. Later, in high school, I entered a statewide competition in Oklahoma and won the first place prize, a small scholarship for college. Since then I have managed to work art into everything I do. I started working in Medicine at age 26, and before long my first “secretarial” job included working in eye surgery, designing and editing medical publications and doing medical illustrations of surgical techniques and graphically presenting research results for journals, textbooks, and international medical symposia. My mentors paved the way for me to attend workshops and special courses in anatomy and illustration. I was very fortunate to be able to create a situation where I could get this education as a part of my job. I also had the opportunity to attend and observe human head and neck dissections with Ophthalmology Residents. I also designed training manuals for non-medical employees so they would understand the basics of ophthalmology. I learned the most about anatomy from Joseph Sheppard, a celebrated sculptor and painter from Baltimore, who now lives in Italy. His training and publications gave me the knowledge to take my work to a higher level of accuracy. He teaches drawing human figures from the skeleton out – which is exactly how I approach the animals that I needle felt.
Needle felting is only the most recent of a life-long progression of crafts that I have enjoyed practicing. It started with making “outfits” for my Barbie doll when I was very young, which evolved into making my own clothes when I got a bit older. I used to make plastic car models with my oldest brother when we were young, and he was meticulous with tiny details, which seemed to rub off on me. My Grandmother encouraged me to take up quilt-making, which I did for many years with her, and continued to do on my own after she died. In my career, most of my “craft” involved technical illustration, but I still managed to do some quilting and other projects on the weekends. While in New York, I was exposed to the most wonderful variation of arts and crafts, attending shows and Museum exhibits as often as I possibly could. I was surrounded with inspiration from all kinds of art and music. The best time I’ve had has been since retiring, being able to choose how I spend my time – I have taken up genealogy of my family and created many volumes of information and images, and “scrapbooks” to be handed down to future generations. Paper crafts have taken over the landscape of my life, since there is no limit to the creativity you can translate into tangible pieces you can hold in your hands and share with others. Stained glass was also very exciting and rewarding. Recently I have enjoyed doing hand-bound books; stamping, mixed media and watercolor remain some of my favorite crafts. I make hand-crafted gifts for Christmas each year, and design greeting cards for all occasions.
I’d like to share with you some words that I have learned are true enough to live by, and they are certainly relevant when you think of how our artistic endeavors can enhance our enjoyment of life… the older you get, the more meaningful these words become!
“We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all that we need to make us really happy is something to be enthusiastic about.” Charles Kingsley
Thanks to Sandy at Lincolnshire Fenn Crafts, I have added needle felting to my growing list of interests, and enjoy it more than anything else I have done – wool sculpture – it’s the best! All these artistic endeavors have enriched my life enormously, and I am very pleased to have this opportunity of sharing that with you.