Needle felting is remarkably simple

Have you heard of dry needle felting? It’s the process of making solid shapes by repeatedly stabbing natural fibres with a notched needle. The notches catch the fibres and pull them together.

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The toy in the photograph looks solid doesn’t it? It started life as bundles of fluffy wool.

With needle felting we can make soft toys, sculptures and textile pictures without sewing a single stitch or using any glue.

Making the shapes is very intuitive too. Imagine yourself pressing clay into a ball with your fingers. Felting a ball out of wool is very similar in the sense that the angled needle takes the place of the pressing fingers.

The toy in the photograph is a harbour seal. It’s obviously not a real animal. There are expert needle felters who can make realistic animals. (I’d love to know how they do it.) Click on this link to see realistic felted dogs.

I am a felting novice. So far I’ve made a brachiosaurus, a harbour seal and most of a baby grizzly bear.

When I started out, I hoped to go down the realism route. While working on the harbour seal’s skin patterns I realised that there is another path. i.e. Making animals that don’t look real but are identifiable and attractive.

Realistically, achieving total realism won’t be possible for me unless I take classes. Realist felters are using techniques that I know nothing about. But I don’t see why I can’t aim to make creatures that are attractive, identifiable and non-real.

At this point, I can see decisions have to be made in several areas when trying to make an attractive non-realistic animal.

1. Proportions

2. Size

3. Colouring

4. Texture

5. Additional features such as glass eyes

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