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It’s the saddest day ever when we lose a pet! Nothing will replace their love. Let me offer you a tiny way to feel better; by making a Needle Felted Pet Portrait.

My Dearest Sweetheart ever!

It’s a good thing you can’t see through the screen… it’s not been a pretty sight lately! After quite a few months I’ve had to say good bye to my beloved side-kick Pip. He was the most precious companion (velcro-dog specie; Havanese) that anyone could want. I could not even write a post last week, but somehow this portrait does give me a bit of comfort. Any way I can keep the memories in my heart makes me feel better…

To make a good replica portrait you need to start with a good picture. If the eyes are too dark use some software image adjustments to bring out the sparkle in the eyes. I use Photoshop but basic editing software lets you adjust the dark and light. To be able to needle felt on fabric you will need to have an image to transfer to it. I use and iPad Pro & apple pencil to trace the lines I want in the Procreate software. It lets me make layers (like tracing paper) to create a drawing that is only lines.

Once I have the line drawing I need a paper version (yup digital to analog) in the size that wan the finished product. I was working to about 8.5″ x 8.5″ image on letter size paper.

Transfer to Fabric

Needle felting can be done on a variety of fabrics, but the weave should be tight enough as the fabric will get ‘stabbed’ many times with the barbed needles. The popular choices are linen, wool (pre-felt and felted) & cotton. I chose a tight weave of cotton. I hand-traced the image from the picture onto the fabric with a light-box method. If you do not have an ipad (use a white screen) you can also tape it to a window. The idea is to get the areas of value and colour mapped out. You can be really fussy or less; art does not always mean that it needs to be perfectly replicated!

To transfer the image I use a erasable gel pen; as it will be able to disappear when heat is applied. They are great for this. There are also heat transfer pencils that can transfer a traced line when ironed onto a tight weave fabric, just be aware you need to mirror the image. So to this point you really do not need fancy drawing skills…

The Needle Felting Supplies:

I like needle felting because it is clean and quite easy to stop and start. You will need a few of the special Needle Felting Needles. They have barbs along the side that catch the fine hairs of the wool and push it into the backing fabric – a simple concept. Yes, you need to ‘stab’ many many times to make it permanent so there are some special tools that will multiply your effort x6 or more.

You want to have some secure surface to allow easy ‘stabbing’ as well as being stable. Some people use some foam or even a burlap bag of rice. I wanted a nice flat and dense pad that was deep enough to not have the needles go through so I made one (of course)

It’s been a really rough time as EVERY thing I see reminds me of my sweet Pip! (darn, water works again 😢) I never knew how absolutely devastating such an experience is. I knew it was coming when they said he likely had cancer in his sinus over 2 years ago… but it still did not prepare me.

To save my lap from being stabbed I made a thick pad from vintage wool blankets, which have been washed and felted so they are thick and dense. The inside has 6 layers and the outside holds them together; about 1.75″ thick.

Now that the picture is on the fabric you can start to fill in the colours. The material is called roving. Roving is wool that is dyed and combed to be neat and ready for felting. You can pull bits from the end and use it to apply to areas by ‘stabbing’ it into the fabric. Sounds novel doesn’t it?! If you’d like to see it in video form:

Watch the Video:

Place the roving in areas that you see the colour in your reference picture. The areas fill in slowly as you keep adding.

Be careful not to stab your fingers! You can add smaller pieces on top of larger areas, depending how the picture looks. Since I am trained as an illustrator I know that getting fur to look layered is a challenge in some media. That is why I like this method since it allows the ‘layering’!

It also allows you to twist the fibres to look like their fur. My Pip never really had fancy grooming; he got my haircuts so he always looked like a puppy; even at almost 11! It’s a therapeutic art form since it can be a work-in-progress. If you do not have a complete range of ALL colours you can manually mix some strands of colours and the eye will not notice from a distance.

Final Details:

Look for the small details such as high-lights in the eyes to make the Needle felted pet portrait come alive. Here’s my artist’s trick; squint your eyes to see if you have the basic values (light and dark) correct, as sometimes we can’t see that since we get so obsessed with the details! It’s the same as standing back from work to check.

Every so often pull the fabric off the mat so it does not completely stuck down. Silk fibres from a silk duvet also add a nice shiny look of fur.

These dogs have a natural sweet temperament (no terrier at all) and pick one person that they will not let out of their sight; that is why they are called ‘velcro dogs’. I feel like I lost a limb…

What do you think? It’s a shame you did not get to meet him…

Finished Needle Felted Portrait

After I cleaned up all the fuzzies around the edges tidied up loose strands I gave it a good felting with the multi-needle tool’. To help keep the wool on place even more a good pressing helps. I stretched the fabric over the canvas frame and popped it into a ready made frame. I did not add glass

Yup, he followed me and watched everything I did. Imagine all the wealth of knowledge he had?!

Can my heart ever be mended? At this point I’m not sure… Hopefully the memories will fill some of that void and become stronger that the pain. Go hug your fur-babies. They give us so much love that the deserve whatever we can give them, and I hope my portrait is worthy of that. Always in my heart – my sweet Pip! ❤️

barbmaker

I'm an artist & I make things... all kinds of things.

This Post Has 35 Comments

  1. I’m so sorry for your loss Barb. You’ve really captured the essence and personality of sweet Pip with this beautiful keepsake. Time will eventually lessen the pain of your loss and he will live on in all the good memories you have of him. I find staying busy and creative can help immensely.

  2. So sorry about losing Pip. That’s a tough goodbye. But a beautiful, loving tribute is another gift from him to you. Was that your first video? Such an effective way to transmit information and I loved to see your hands at work!
    Thanks, Barb!

    1. Thanks! No, I have made many videos, mostly for my other job. My hands are a bit crooked from so many years of making so I’m a bit self conscious. Enjoy! I hope there will be more videos soon.

    1. Yes, that’s a perfect expression. Being mostly alone in a house, it feels so quiet and lonely now. Only 11 pounds but he did really have a big part of my day.

  3. Please accept my deepest condolences- your rendition is absolutely beautiful of your companion, Pip.. Losing a pet is such a heartbreaking loss, I like to think that the Heavens needed an extra star ⭐️ ❤️🕊
    Please let yourself take the time to grieve🤍 -Stacy

  4. Dear Barb, I am so sorry for your loss, but please remember this, Pip is still with you and not just in memories :). He will send you a gift when you are ready. Blessings and healing thoughts.

  5. So sorry for your loss – but you have done a wonderful job of replicating the beauty of Pip. He looks like he was a wonderful friend for you. And the reverse, you loved him so much and enjoyed his company – following you around, watching you create works of art in your gardens and now felting his portrait.

    You’ll never be able to replace him, but you’ll be able to find another friend.

  6. So sorry for your loss. You memorized him so beautifully! I’ve never heard or seen this technique done before and It’s absolutely beautiful!!

  7. I just lost my 6 pound Maltese (also a velcro dog) 3 months ago and I totally know what you are going through. Our dogs are family and the heartbreaking loss is overwhelming. I am so sorry about your Pip. Your felted portrait of him is a beautiful tribute to him and as always your amazing talent shines through. On another note, I ended up getting another Maltese and it has helped immensely. She isn’t Basil and I will mourn him for a long time but she has opened my heart to love another.

  8. I am so so sorry for your loss. I know what it’s like to lose a furry child and the void they leave with their passing, especially when they’re Velcro companions. My sincerest condolences. Pip lives forever in your heart and memory. He’ll always be with you. ❣️

  9. My sympathies to you.I know the pain of losing a dog.The void is indescribeable.your creation is amazing.So realistic.I wish I was able to do something like that .I just have pictures to remember my beloved dog(best friend).Time heals.Maybe you should start doing pet pillows for others.(a new business).!

  10. I am so very sad for your loss of Pip. What a wonderful creation you made. You both were so lucky from the love you shared.

  11. Oh, dear, this stirred up memories of all the “special” dog and cat friends I have lost over the years, including one cat recently (King Tut). The pain does lessen but never completely goes away, at least not in my heart. Your Pip was so cute, his personality just shines in his face.
    I have done needle-felting but I don’t think I could begin to match your expertise. Or come any where close to it.
    The Bible says there are animals in Heaven. Perhaps you will be re-united some day. In the meantime, when enough time has passed, I hope you will open your heart to another pup who needs your love.

    1. Jewel, please provide location of scripture which references animals in heaven. Have many times wondered about that.

    2. I had said that I could never ever bear this grief again… but I do notice myself looking at sweet little pups. It is so quiet I keep filling the void with useless TV. Maybe…

  12. Barb I am so terribly sorry over the loss of this sweet little soul. What a beautiful tribute to him you have made! All of your art is so amazing. I would like to share this and hope that it may bring you some comfort when you are missing him every minute of the day. Nancy Tillman is a children’s author and artist who writes in her book titled The Heaven of Animals, these words: “When angels whisper in your pets ear, it is your voice they hear”. I am sending hugs and a prayer for some peace in your heart.

    1. Awe, that sounds quite nice! It is a difficult thing to lose someone you love, but having made that awful decision is the absolute worst. I’ve never been on that end of an animals life.

  13. Dear Barbara,
    A bond of love, bottomless grief and loneliness (I do know – I’m an old woman), but trust God’s love. He cares for all his creation. Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine altars, O Lord of hosts, my King, and my God. PS 84:3 R.I.P., Pip.

  14. Barb, I’m so, so sorry for your loss of precious Pip. So many of us animal lovers have not escaped this heartbreak and we can only hope they go on to be happy and pain free. I’m heavily involved with parrot rescue and there’s always an occasion to send words of comfort to those who suffer loss like this. Here’s one of my favorites: ” Not the least hard thing to bear when they go from us, these quiet friends, is that they carry away with them so many years of our own lives.” John Galsworthy
    Your needle felted portrait is very good….I’m a needle felter too and happy to know another local who does it as well.
    Candace

  15. So sorry for your loss. It’s truly heart breaking to go thru. Nothing but time will help. We lost our fur baby in 2017 and still miss her deeply.
    I can’t get over your creativity and talent. The fiber art picture is absolutely gorgeous and an amazing tribute to Pip.
    Take care of of yourself as you grieve.

  16. Please accept my deepest sympathies on the loss of your beloved fur baby Pip. Rainbow Bridge is where she will run free while she waits for her master. Praying you find comfort and peace along the journey of grief. Been down this road too many times but try to focus on the joyf of that future reunion 💕🐕

    And what a labour of love tribute to your little one. I know just the picture I’m going to try your great tutorial on!

  17. So sorry to hear about the loss of your dog. It is so hard to lose a well-loved pet. I have noticed that my heart heals faster with a new pet added to my home. There are so many pets that need homes so please consider giving one a home. Check out Petfinder.com and consider fostering a pet before adopting.

    1. One of the issues I now have is the anxiety of worrying about the health of another living being. I had a fair number of health issues to worry about with my sweet Pip over the years. I think I need to work on managing the anxiety first otherwise I’d love to fill the void with another. Thank you

  18. So sorry for your loss Barb, no words can relieve your shattered heart at this time. Keep hold of the memories you have of your beautiful precious fur baby. Thank you once again for sharing your wonderful talent and techniques. 😘

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