Hedgehogs are a much rarer sight in our gardens than they used to be and I remember my dad getting my 11 year old self, and younger brother out of bed at midnight to see a visiting hedgehog in our garden. What a treat and such cherished memories! Whilst you may not see the real thing very often, at least you can have your own handmade hoglet to keep you company all year round. So, I present my needle felted version of our beloved hedgehog and how using a reverse felting needle creates fabulous spikey details.
Did You Know?
Hedgehogs are lactose intolerant so bread and milk is not good for them! Find out what they really love to eat on The Woodland Trust blog at the bottom of this post.
MAKE YOUR OWN NEEDLE FELTED HEDGEHOG
Skill level: Complete beginners and beyond Make time: 1 hour
Time to settle down with creativity, a cuppa, maybe a slice of cake, and join me for a full tutorial teaching you new needle felting tips, tricks and techniques.
VIDEO TUTORIAL AND MATERIALS LIST
You will need:
Grey wool top for body
Brown carded batting for top layer
Light brown wool top or carded for face
Darker wool for nose
Brown wool top for spikey halo
Standard/medium felting needle – I use a 38 star
Reverse felting needle for spikes – I use a 32 reverse
If you want to encourage hedgehogs in your own garden here are a few guidelines from James Martin, content editor of the WOODLAND TRUST
What do hedgehogs eat, and how to feed them?
Evidence suggests this decline is most severe in rural areas and hedgehogs are actually faring better in our towns and villages than the countryside. This means gardens can be an important refuge for the species. One way you can help any visiting hogs is to provide some food. But what do hedgehogs eat and what should you feed them?
FOOD FIT FOR A HEDGEHOG
Insects and other invertebrates are the hedgehog’s main natural food source. A typical diet includes:
What to feed hedgehogs?
As opportunistic eaters, hedgehogs will readily consume food left out in your garden. The best foods to provide are:
Meat-based cat or dog food
Specially-made hedgehog food
As well as providing food, you can put out a shallow dish of water to ensure any visiting hogs stay hydrated.
What not to feed hedgehogs
The following foods should be avoided when feeding hedgehogs:
Bread and milk (hogs are lactose intolerant so milk can make them ill. Bread has little nutritional value)
Mealworms (thought to cause health problems when eaten in large quantities)
I will let you into a little secret; unless you are working on big projects you really don’t need a full wire frame.
Working with a wire armature can be a little daunting, especially if you are new to needle felting and, to be honest, I find working with a full wire armature a little fiddly. I usually prefer working with a firmer shape so I tend to work more with just part armature; usually just the legs, neck or tail. It’s easy and really useful for when something needs stability or to add detail or dimension that can’t otherwise be achieved e.g the neck and legs on the flamingo, the tail and legs of the mouse and the life size ears of the Snow hare below.
TAKE YOUR PROJECT UP A CREATIVE NOTCH
See how using paper covered floristry wire can take a project to the next level. I have used wire only for the legs and tail on this fabulous cat; a happy accident who started life as a mouse. Because the wire is paper covered the wool sticks to it really well. No need for messy wax. For a super smooth finish just roll firmly between the palms of your hands. You can also dip the pieces in hot water before rolling firmly for an even firmer finish.
Wrapping wire is really easy and can be done quite quickly and simply, but don’t be too ambitious and decide that tiny fingers and toes are going to be your first attempt. You will almost certainly set yourself up for a fail at the first hurdle and probably run for the needle felted hills. I still avoid tiny fingers and toes – if there is another option – so don’t sweat it.
Instead, get used to wrapping wire and creating simple shapes. Most important is the wool and wire you use. Get those right and the task is so much easier, a lot more fun and negates the need for any messy wax or glue.
What wire should you use?
My favourites are floristry wire (the paper wrapped kind) or cotton covered pipe cleaners. Using either of these means the wool holds really well as you wrap it around the wire and requires little felting, thus reducing the risk of broken or bent needles and no need for messy wax.
Top Tip: I like to use the old-style cotton covered pipe cleaners. Look for the tobacconist kind as the wool sticks to these better than the chenille ones. They are also a lot cheaper than the craft ones.
Wire size/gauge – I usually opt for 0.5mm or 1mm if I’m working on something larger.
It’s all personal preference but for me it is usually wool top/roving because you can use long, continuous lengths that can be pulled really tightly around the wire, giving it a lovely smooth, neat finish. I like to use white Jacob or Shetland tops but any wool top will do.
I don’t use it unless I am wrapping tiny fingers and toes. I seem to get more on myself than the project so I avoid it if possible and find that I rarely need it anyway. That said, I know some felters who get on really well with it so it really is personal preference.
TRY THE MINI TUTORIAL BELOW!
Have a practice by following the tutorial below. This one is for creating Flamingo legs but the same method can be used for any felting project. If you are creating sheep or hares just continue to wrap your wool around the wire to build up the limbs.
Top Tip: This is where the majority of needles get bent or broken so take care and use the ‘softly softly’ approach.
1 Create the shape you want with your wire. I am using 0.5mm tape covered floristry wire, 24cm long which I have doubled over for strength and stability. There is no need for pliers with this gauge wire as it bends and twists easily.
1 Pull a thin piece of wool top/roving down the long length of your wool; it needs to be thin so it covers the wire without bulking it out.
2 Start to wrap tightly down from the top of the leg (this is to cover the wire). Tip: wrap a few times in one place at the top of the leg and rub around with your fingers to mesh the fibres together so they hold (no need for wax).
3 and 4 Wrap around the first half of the foot then pull the length of wool through the hoop.
5 Pull the loose length over the front of the foot and pull towards the back of the foot and felt gently a few times to hold it in place. Tip: I do it this way because I find it easier to cover the foot without showing any wire.
6 Continue to wrap around the foot until it is covered and felt each side.
Tip: Finish felting through the top of the foot and pull, or trim, any excess from underneath.
Your legs are now ready to attach to your creation.
Building up the legs
If you need chunkier legs, say something like mice – just continue to wrap with your wool until you are happy with the size and shape. Top Tip: always leave loose wool at the top of the wire so you can felt it to the body.
Hedgehog needle felting kits are available on the Website
So excited to introduce Colin Hedgehog, the prickliest member of the Lincolnshire Fenn Crafts tribe. The full needle felting kit to accompany this video is also available on the Lincolnshire Fenn Crafts website.
This is my version of our beloved hedgehog. More fun than you can shake a stick at? Not sure what that means but it is definitely a lot of fun.
Skill level: Complete beginners to intermediate
What you need: Enthusiasm!
So, make a cuppa, cut yourselves a slice of cake and join me for a full tutorial teaching you new tips, tricks and techniques as well as trying new wool and needles.
Bonus! if you are using the kit you get to make at least 3 Colin hedgehogs! What better way to spend a crafternoon…
A short video (only 12 minutes) to help you improve your needle felting techniques.
When needle felting a head (animals or people) it is important to make sure you have a really firm shape. If you have a soft head then when you start to add the features you will distort or flatten the wool.
It is one of the most common mistakes (apart from floppy legs) but very easy to get right. As with all things, practice makes perfect, but needle felting does allow for mistakes because you can just add another layer. Just remember the golden rule: Start smaller and build your shape up and you can add but not take away. If you start too big and have to keep adding you will end up with a head the size of a football and then have to make a body to match! We are now talking life size sheep or giant hares that will just scare everyone, especially the dog or cat…
My best advice: Be patient. Don’t try to run before you can walk. Get the basics right and the rest will follow. Yes, I know your bestie, family member or work colleague wants a sculpture of their dog making after seeing a flower brooch you made? However, anything worth doing takes time. If it didn’t we would all be taking David Bailey quality photographs after an hours tutorial, or be able to put in a whole plumbing system after fixing a leaky tap… Most definitely, very soon we would all be very bored of hearing about each others achievements and stop making the effort.