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:
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 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.
One of the questions I get asked the most is, “how do I get my legs really firm?” In the needle felting world floppy and saggy legs on your animals are a no, no! They are the finishing touches that add stability and dimension to your animal so don’t spoil it by being impatient and not taking the time it needs to get it right (approx 10 to 15 minutes for each leg). My short, real time video tutorial quickly teaches you how to avoid common needle felting mistakes by showing you the tips and needle felting hacks I have learned along the way. Hope it helps you improve your needle felting skills and remember: You can add wool but not take it away!
Herdwick three ways. My favourite sheep. Natural, sustainable and completely biodegradable; what more do you want from a craft…
Have a fabulous week everyone and always remember that crafts are the perfect, instant respite when the stresses and strains of daily life start to get on top of you. So, today is officially my ‘Crafts As Therapy’ Monday. Failing that, just read a few Winnie The Pooh quotes; if that doesn’t work then we are all doomed and should stay in bed for the rest of our lives…
“I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” —Winnie-the-Pooh
Use the basic shapes video or tutorial to make the head and body then be as creative as you like. Sheep are the easiest way to start needle felting and you don’t even need to add the legs: BASIC SHAPE VIDEO
Gnome needle felting kit is available on the Website and Etsy
Nordic and Scandinavian style decor is so popular and I just love it. What I especially love are the charming Nordic gnomes. You may also see them referred to as Nisse, Tomte and Tonttu. Our house is full of them and they are super easy so here’s a tutorial for you.
If you have never needle felted before or are an experienced felter this is a wonderful way to start and get you in the festive mood. It’s simple and relaxing and so much fun to make.
This is just one style to get you started but there are so many variations that soon, like me, you will be tripping over them. So grab a cuppa, mince pie and some festive cheer and get creating:
1 – Hat: Make this first so you can make the body to fit; much easier than trying to fit the hat to the body! You can go as small or tall as you like but this hat, when completed, is approx 20cm.My triangle template measurements are approx; base 10cm (slightly curved) and sides 12cm with a good few cm around each side. The wool I have used is Shetland.
Lay your triangle on top of your length of wool which is a decent thickness with a few extra centimetres of wool around each side. Tip; make sure your layer is a decent thickness so there are no thin, see through areas when felted.
2 – ‘Draw’ a line around the triangle with your needle to create a very rough outline
3 – Remove template and draw around the line a couple more times. This will be your fold line.
4 – Fold in the sides one at a time and start to felt to create a triangle; it will be a very rough shape to start with but you will tidy this up as the wool becomes more felted so stop fiddling with it!
5 – Gently fold and felt each side until you have this rough shape; keep the excess at the top of your triangle because this is going to create your lovely pointy hat shape.
6 – Gently pull away from the base you are using, turn and repeat. Tip; any felting base will do (foam, rice bag etc), whatever your preference.
7 – Keep repeating the process until it starts to firm up.
8 – Time to tidy up the shape; use your finger to fold in the sides that need straightening (doesn’t have to be perfect). Be slow and careful so as not to stab your finger; you can use a finger guard but I find they just annoy me. However, I have lots of customers who get on with them just fine.
9 – Your approx finished triangle which should be soft but firm and holds its shape.
10 – Fold in half and felt along the side to mesh the fibres together. Keep turning and repeating until the hat is now firmly felted along the side so it doesn’t pull apart when you gently pull it.
11 – Open up the base of the hat and tidy up the line by folding in any rough edges and felting. Keep turning and felting until you are happy with the shape at the base of your Tomte hat.
12 – Roll just the top 2/3 cm of your hat between the palm of your hands to firm up the top and point. This improves the look as well as allowing you to tip the point over to the side at a jaunty angle.
Basic Body Shape
Body shapes don’t get much easier than this. Don’t be too precious about needle marks and dimples because most of this will be covered by its big beard.
1 – Roll your wool (I have used natural white Shetland) into a basic barrel shape. It will do this automatically as you start to roll. Start with less than you need and build it up.
Most important! Do not start to felt with your needle until you have rolled at least half of it really tightly; trust me, this will save you a lot of felting time and applies to all body shapes made this way!
2 – Start stabbing all over with your needle (mind your fingers) as you continue to roll and remember to keep it tight. Tip: Check to see if your hat sits on top and if the body is too small add some more wool and felt again. If it’s too big then continue to felt where the hat will sit to reduce the size.
3 – Continue to turn and felt until you have a more even and neater shape. You may end up with a narrower end which is fine because you will pop the hat onto this. Pay particular attention to the base which needs to be flat for stability. Tip; you can also press on the base once felted as the wool is pretty malleable.
4 – Flatten the base until it sits without wobbling.
5 – Pop on your hat and felt, gently, all around the edge until it is felted securely onto the body making sure the hat seam is at the back.
6 – Make the nose by rolling a pinch of white or flesh coloured wool in your hands just to rough it up. Place on your mat and continue to felt with your needle, turning all the time. Now place back into the palm of your hands and roll vigorously until really firm and smooth. Tip; you may have to do this a couple of times to get it right as it is very easy to add too much wool and have a huge nose if you have never needle felted before. Less is always more when it comes to needle felting.
7 – Place the nose on its side, just under the front of the hat and felt the end into the body.
9 – As you do this the nose will naturally rise into its correct position. Continue to felt around the base until it is firmly attached. The base of the hat should be sat just above the nose.
10 – Decide what type of beard you are going to have. I have used grey Jacob but use whatever colour you wish. Curly locks also look really great.
11 – If using a straight wool pull off a small section and fold in half and start by felting it onto the body just under the nose. Don’t worry about it being longer than the body because you will trim it to size (or not) once it is attached.
12 – Continue to felt along the fold and attach it up the side of the nose and along the hat line. Tip; you can push the wool under the hat line with your needle (don’t bend it or you may break the needle) for a neater finish.
13 – Now trim your beard to your desired shape and style. I like mine quite ‘raggy’ so once I have got the length I then snip into the sides.
There you have it. One fabulous Tomte Christmas gnome! You can crease the hat or keep it straight. I like both. Told you it was easy!
But why would you stop there…The variations and colours are endless!
Gnome needle felting kits are available on the Website and Etsy
If you would like to see more of these types of tutorial don’t forget to leave a comment.