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.
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 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 because the wool holds better than on the chenille kind.
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.
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