What to know before starting to Needle Felt Animals

Needle felting animals is a delightful and rewarding craft that allows you to bring adorable creatures to life with just a few simple tools and materials. However, before you dive into this creative endeavour, there are some essential things you should know to ensure a successful and enjoyable experience. In this guide, we’ll explore everything you need to know before starting to needle felt animals.

Familiarize Yourself with the Basics of Needle Felting

Before you begin needle felting animals, it’s essential to understand the basic techniques and tools involved. Needle felting requires a special barbed needle that is used to repeatedly stab and sculpt loose wool fibers into various shapes and forms. Take some time to watch tutorial videos or read beginner’s guides to familiarize yourself with the process and techniques.

There are a few things to consider but don’t be discouraged; this art form is very forgiving and easy to learn. My ‘Hare’ is my first extensive test to understand all that is involved, so I’m sharing first hand what I have discovered.

Gather the Right Materials and Tools

Often Needle felting kits come with pretty well everything you need to start as a beginner (as you gain experience you will develop preferences)

  • Wool roving or core batts (often called sliver): Choose high-quality wool roving or batting specifically designed for needle felting. This type of wool has a good felting ability and is easy to work with. Different types of wool (merino wool, other finer wool) can be considered depending on the animal, fur type and scale.
  • Felting needles: Invest in a variety of felting needles, including coarse, medium, and fine gauges. These needles come in different sizes and are used for sculpting, shaping, and adding details. Nervous beginners can use some finger guards as well.
  • Foam block/pad or felting mat: Use a foam pad or felting pad as a work surface to protect your needles and provide a stable base for needle felting.
  • Optional embellishments: Consider adding embellishments such as glass eyes, sculpted noses, wire feet, to enhance your animal creations.

Start with Simple Projects

As with any new craft, it’s best to start with simple projects (like 2D felting or these Easer Eggs) to build your skills and confidence before tackling more complex designs. Begin by creating small, basic animal shapes such as these birds or mouse. Perhaps you want to start with a kit or enrol in one of the workshops.

Pay Attention to Proportions and Anatomy

When needle felting animals, it’s essential to pay attention to proportions and anatomy to create realistic-looking creatures. Study reference images of the animals you want to create and observe their unique skeletons, muscles and proportions. Tip; much reference is available online, using a printed image can set scale of your animal.

From the reference I am measuring and creating an armature as the starting point. It will help as a way to keep control of size but not all armatures need limbs attached.

Decisions need to be made about whether you need an armature to be posable. Perhaps the legs or arms can be added later? As with any art having some type of plan is best. Also consider how you will display or mount the finished piece. I will make more detailed tutorials for each stage in the future.

Start by breaking down the animal’s body into simple shapes and gradually add more detail as you go. The beauty of this needle felting sculpture is that you can add to the form slowly or even take away (cut or pull off) as you see fit. Keep the reference in view as you replicate anatomy.

Take Breaks and Pace Yourself

Needle felting can be a repetitive and time-consuming process, so it’s essential to take breaks and pace yourself to prevent hand fatigue and strain. It is often not understood how much actual poking with the needle is needed to sufficiently form the core wool (or polyester batting) for the core form. The use of multiple needle holders and coarser needles helps lessen the amount of time poking.

Embrace Mistakes and Learn from Them

As with any creative endeavour, it’s normal to make mistakes along the way. Instead of getting discouraged, embrace mistakes as learning opportunities and use them to improve your skills and techniques. It is quite easy to cut away or pull out extra wool. Looking at a project with ‘fresh eyes’ does help to see any errors.

I made sockets for where the eyes will be glued into. Double check to make sure you have symmetry.

Animals also have claws, noses and Ears:

Another crucial part of animals is their little features. Often the unbelievable realism is due to the detailed replication of their hands/paws, noses, ears, eyes and other characteristic features.

There are a variety of methods that can simplify the addition of claws & beaks. Most often it’s the little details that will grab the viewer’s attention.

I believe that it’s that ability to make & sculpt so realistically that is the allure to making needle felted animals. Addition of wool is simple, and more poking will sculpt the muscles.

I will soon provide some tutorials of how I like to make things like ears. It’s great to know before starting to needle felt animals that there are many options available to craft ears. The use of pre-felt, clay and fabric may save time felting.

The Amazing Properties of Wool:

After the base of the animal is formed adding fur will make it come alive. Mixing colours, length, kind all plays a roll in creating realism. It is fun to act as a barber cutting the fur of the specie’s traits. Tip, keep your work area tidy as there may be a fair bit of excess wool fibres. (hand vacuum is perfect)

Have Fun and Be Creative

Above all, needle felting animals should be a fun and enjoyable experience. Let your creativity soar and experiment with different techniques, colors, and textures to bring your animal creations to life. Don’t be afraid to add your own unique touches and personal flair to make your creations truly one-of-a-kind.

  • Practice Makes Perfect: Don’t get discouraged if your first attempts aren’t perfect. Needle felting takes practice, and the more you create, the better your technique will become.
  • Find Inspiration: Browse online craft communities and social media platforms like Pinterest to see what other needle felters are creating. This can spark inspiration for your own projects.

In conclusion, needle felting animals is a delightful and rewarding craft that allows you to unleash your creativity and imagination. By following these essential tips and guidelines, you’ll be aware of what to know before starting to needle felt animals. This will help on your way to creating adorable and lifelike animal figure to those who behold your creations. So gather your materials, pick up your felting needle, and let your creativity run wild! Happy felting!

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