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Needle felting is a magical process that uses wool fibers and a barbed needle to create a sturdy fiber material. Using wire to create an armature, wool fibers are wrapped around to create a felted skin, and fine detail work can be added with bits of wool and a single needle. The process of changing woolen fibers into a sturdy cloth is remarkably quick. Layers of wool are added and felted into the structure until the sculpture is fully formed. The last steps are including details that bring the sculpture to life. Needle felting is fast, fun and my students’ favorite art project of the year!
What I LOVE about needle felting is it is:
Image retrieved from: http://www.wikihow.com/Needle-Felt-Wool-Sculptures
Step 1 – Instructor presents artist websites for students to see a variety of approaches for their needle felted sculpture. Realistic or fantasy creatures and people can be created.
Step 2 – Student creates drawings of desired sculpture showing 3 views of 3D sculpture as well as including color in design for colors to be used. Instructor can determine how many days for designing and drawing, typically 2-3 days to complete.
Step 3 – Student uses floral wire or pipe cleaners to create an armature for sculpture. Small details like feet or hands do not need to be completed at this point. Any portions that the student wants to be able to be bent should be included in wire armature like tails, etc. The basic armature should include head, torso, arms, legs and tail if in design.
Step 5 – Once an armature cavity is stuffed, completely wrap area with a layer of wool batting or roving (undyed colors are appropriate for this step). Wrap fairly tightly so the beginning shape of the sculpture is established. Use a 40 triangle (or coarse) needle to secure wool outer layer and to create some stability in that portion of the sculpture. Repeat the process for the other areas of the sculpture that have cavities (head, torso) or limbs (arms, legs). Integrate areas like head onto the torso, and limbs into the torso for maximum support.
Wrapping the filled armature with the inner core wool layer.
Step 6 – When entire sculpture has been wrapped with the base layer of wool and needle felted in place, student should make adjustments to sculpture shape by adding additional wool to build up areas like belly, large face details like nose, or muscular shapes for arms and legs. Check connections between limbs and tails and add wool for an overall solid feel to the sculpture.
Step 7 – When the overall sculptural shape is completed, the color layers and details are added to the sculpture. Working in small patches or areas, add fluffed out wool and needle felt to the base sculpture. Wool colors can be blended for subtle color changes. Small details like ears can be needle felted as separate elements on the foam felting pad, then needle felted directly onto the sculpture. The felting process does create a small amount of shrinkage, so start with wool that is 25-30% larger than the desired size. Using single fine felting needles, the student can shape and lay in additional color and line details to their sculpture. Working from the bottom base colors, the student will layer design areas in such a way that the finest details for the sculpture will be the last to complete. Twisting and rolling very small amounts of wool fibers can give such fine details as the iris of the eye or even the highlight on an eye. Many shapes and lines can be created by manipulating the wool and by felting on the pillow. Students should be encouraged to explore techniques or effects they have in their imagination.
Needle felting small areas like legs and feet with smaller bits of wool and working on the felting pillow.