Category Archives: needle felting

Tutorial – Needle Felted Pansy

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I hope you enjoy using this tutorial.  If you are unfamiliar with needle felting,  please visit the needle felting primer I have written.  As with all forms of craft, there are many ways to accomplish the same task, this tutorial is written the way I needle felt.   When making flowers, I like to refer to a gardening book for petal shape, color design and placement.     

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 Supplies:     

-Romney wool roving in your chosen colors.  I used purple (although it looks blue online), gold, black and white.  Any wool that needle felts well can be used, but Romney works well for me so that’s what I buy. 

-Felting needles triangle sizes 36, 38 and 40; star size 38   

-Foam pad  

-Pin back if you choose to turn it into a pin   

Step 1:  

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Begin by separating some fibers to use as a petal.

Step 2:  

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Shape the fibers into a basic pedal shape.  Remember everything will shrink as it is felted, so your piece should start out larger than the final petal.

Step 3:

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Begin felting with a size 38 triangle needle.  Start in from the edge about 1/4″.  Move around the piece as you needle up and down.  You want to evenly felt the piece, if you spend too much time in the same spot it will become more tightly felted than the rest.  Don’t forget to flip the piece over and felt from the other side.

Do not felt the bottom of the petal that will attach to the other petals.  It will attach easier and more securely to the others if not previously heavily felted at the connection points.

 Step 4: 

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 Begin to work on the edges.  It can be very useful to angle the needle to encourage a nice edge.  Remember, no matter what angle the needle goes in, it needs to come back out the same or you risk damage to the needle.  

Flip piece and work on the edges from the other side.

Step 5:

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At this point you want the piece to still feel somewhat spongy but nicely shaped.  By not completely felting the piece at this point, it will be easier to add details and they will incorporate into the piece nicer.  

Repeat all of the above till you have 5 petals.  You will need two back petals, two slightly smaller side petals, and one front petal that is much wider than the others.

 Step 6: 

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The front petal has an indent in the center of the lobe.  Use a 36 or 38 triangle to encourage the area to indent.  You can needle straight into the edge of the petal to help the piece indent.  Make sure to add this before you felt the piece too much or it will be harder to make it take the shape. 

Your pieces should look similar to this: 

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 Step 7:

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Before adding the color details, hold the pieces together to see if the sizes and shapes work together well.  If you are not happy with a piece, now is the time to correct it.  Remember the pieces will shrink more as the colors are added and the piece is felted more.

Step 8:

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Add gold detail to the two side petals and the front petal.  Only a small amount of gold is needed.  As you felt it in, remember to not overfelt, since more detail will be added.

Step 9:

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Add black line detail on side and front petals. Work one line at a time.   Pull a very small amount of black fiber into a line shape.  Lay down on petal so the lines will  look like they are radiating from the center.  Use the finest needle you have (tri 40) to carefully felt the line into place.  

It is often helpful on a line to hold the needle almost parallel to the fibers being added.  A gentle back and forth movement in this position will usually felt the fibers onto the petal.  The 38 star is a good needle for this.  If your line looks too heavy, you may want to remove some of the fibers instead of trying to felt them all in.  They will felt down more as the petal receives a final overall felting.

As you add them, they will look like this: (Notice in the photo the piece still does not have a tightly felted look.)  pansy-tut-12.jpg

Step 10:

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 Add solid black detail to side and front petals.

Notice as you add color detail on the front, it will begin to show through on the back:

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Step 12:

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Add small white throat detail to the two side petals.  The front petal has gold throat detail added.

Once all of the detail has been added, needle felt all of the petals except the bottom connection points.  Continue until each petal has an even tight felt.  Try to felt in loose fibers and work for nice crisp edges.  The 38 star is a good finishing needle.

Step 13: 

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Begin to connect the petals.  Slightly overlap one back petal with the other and felt the bases together.  Begin with a 36 triangle needle.  When it feels like it is “pulling” too much, switch to the 38.

Step 14:

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Add side petals.  To achieve a more realistic “throat” look, as you apply each side petal bend the bottom of the petal back to make an edge.  You can see in the photo the white edge that has been created.  Needle felt it to the back petals.  

Do the same for the center petal.  By bending the edge of the side and front petals, they will form a triangular shaped opening.  

If the white detail on the side petals doesn’t give enough definition to the edges of the triangle, you can embellish it further with a small amount of white running down each side of the triangle.  This will help to give the throat of the pansy a dimensional look.

The finished pansy:

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I hope you enjoy making a pansy of your own.   

Needle Felting Primer

This is a brief overview of needle felting and not intended to be a definitive guide.  Needle felting is easy to learn and relaxing to do while watching TV.  Give it a try, I think you will love it too! 

 Needle felting is a “dry” from of felting.  The fibers of the wool become entangled as a needle is passed repetitively through the wool.  The needles have small barbs on their edges that catch the fibers and draw them downward into the other fibers as the needle is pushed down.  As the needle is drawn upward, the fibers are left behind entangled in the others.  Needle felting is ideal for sculpture.  The wool can be felted so heavily as to be self supporting.  On very large objects, a wire armature can be added for support.

 Besides sculpture, needle felting is also very useful on flat surfaces. The flat piece can be made entirely by needle felting, or embellishments can be added to a piece that was previously wet felted.   

 

Very few supplies are needed to needle felt: wool, felting needles and a foam pad

Wool – Not all wool felts the same!  Just as curly hair and straight hair style differently, the fleece from each breed of sheep has unique characteristics.   Wools that work well for wet felting, like Merino, do not work as well for needle felting.  Basically, if you pull the fibers from the roving and it comes off in very long fine straight pieces, it will not needle felt as easily as fibers that are shorter and pull off more as a mass.  The fine straight fibers can be used successfully as decorative fibers however.  My favorite breed for needle felting is Romney.  It felts fast and leaves few punch holes.  All wool will felt, some varieties just take longer than others.  I purchase my wool already dyed.

Felting Needles – These needles have been used for years in the commercial production of wool.  They are available in different sizes and shapes: star and triangle.  The needles have very small barbs on the edges that catch fibers as they are pushed down through the wool.  The star shaped needles have more edges and therefore, more barbs.  It is important to have several sizes of needles because they each have their own purpose.  The smaller the number, the larger the needle.

This is how I like to use mine:

 36 triangle – since the barbs are larger, they catch more fibers with each push.  Use to attach parts and also useful at the very beginning of the felting process when the fibers still have a lot of fluff.

 38 triangle – used for the bulk of general felting.

 38 star – can be used for general felting, but I like to use it to refine the piece and add detail.  Great to use along the outside of the piece to help felt in stray fibers.

 40 triangle – switch to this needle when it seems like the 38 triangle is pushing too many fibers or when the detail you are adding is very fine.

 42 triangle – used for the very finest of detail work.  I find this size very useful when working on the details of eyes.

 Needles are VERY sharp, please use care.  I find it helpful to color code the bent end of the needle.  Some needles come already color coded.  A small piece of colored electrical tape works well for me.

 One company sells a much larger variety of felting needles, but in general the ones listed above are all commonly available. 

 

Foam – the foam is used as a work surface.  As the needle goes through the wool, the sharp end lands in the foam. Do not poke too far into the foam, or the fibers will get buried in the foam and be felted to it.  Blocks of foam are sold specially for needle felting.  You can use foam intended for chair pads, but it needs to be about 2” thick and have good density.

 

Needle holder – many different types are sold.  They hold several needles at once so each poking motion yields greater results.  They are useful when needle felting large areas.  I rarely use mine with the type of sculptural felting I do.   I do use it when doing background for a piece, or when adding embellishments to a wet felted scarf.

 

How to use the felting needle – most of the time the needle will go straight in and straight out of the felt.  However, when working on an edge (like the edge of a flower petal) you many need to work at an angle.  No mater what the angle, the needle should always come out the same way it went in to avoid bending or breaking the needle. You can also use a star needle almost parallel to the surface to “clean up” the piece by felting in the stray fibers.  I hold the needle between my thumb and index and middle finger.  A light repetitive motion is used.

 

Tips 

– As you work the piece, flip it over and needle the other side so it felts evenly and doesn’t get too attached to the foam.

 -When making pieces that need to get attached, do not completely felt the area that will be attached.  The join will be more durable if there are loose fibers to felt together.  For example, on a flower petal, leave the bottom of the petal somewhat unfelted . 

 -Colors can easily be layered or blended.

 -When adding more felt to an area, if the edges of the piece being added are loose, they will felt in to the main piece better without showing an unwanted line.

 -Remember your piece will shrink quite a bit as it is being felted, but it will become thicker and sturdier.

 -If you are making a large piece, you can use a cheaper undyed wool in the center and cover it with color.  I do this when making heads and bodies. 

 -As you felt, colored fibers from the front will begin to show on the back of a thin piece.  When you felt the back, if you don’t want some of the fibers from the back going through to the front, you can felt using a star needle and a more parallel angle.  Remember the fibers follow the needle.

I love to make faces.  These are all works in progress as you can tell from the wires coming through Santa’s head. All of the detail has been achieved by adding different colors of felt. 

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 If you would like a free tutorial, I have posted one to make this pansy.

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