Discovering needle felting was a creative home-coming for me.
For as long as I can remember I have loved making things. Anything I could get my hands on would serve as the raw materials for my latest artwork.
My mom came home from town one day to find a life size horse’s head peering over the stable-style kitchen door. I had commandeered a roll of chicken wire from my dad’s shed and a few pairs of laddered tights from the bin (or was that unladdered tights from the washing line? Hmm, not too sure now – it was a long time ago.)
The result was a happy looking horse in an interesting shade of flesh tone.
Paper mache has also been a favourite medium in the past. I love the idea of recycling and paper mache is perfect for that.
I make my armatures from all kinds of trash and then finish off with a strong skin of newspaper.
I still make some paper mache today, but felting has become my number one medium for so many reasons.
Why Needle Felting?
For starters I love working with natural materials. Handling the wool feels so good.
The colours are beautiful too. I’m planning to learn to dye my own fleece using natural dyes and mordants.
I’m also fascinated by the process of turning a handful of fluffy stuff into a firm and recognisable shape with nothing more than a barbed needle.
It’s also so portable. All I need is one little basket with my wool, my needles, and my felting block and I can work at the beach, in the woods or even just sitting in the car in a car park while waiting for someone.
I first heard about the medium from my mom who had been to a talk by a lady who needle felts dogs at the local Guild of Spinners, Weavers and Dyers.
I looked up some of her work online and was instantly hooked. I had to have a go myself. My much loved greyhound, Radley, had recently had to be put to sleep and I decided I’d make a felt sculpture of him.
My first attempt wasn’t great…
My wire armature was way too stiff, I used the wrong wool and I felted him far too firmly. I didn’t get the paws right at all and they started to unravel almost immediately.
The poor creature ended up being called Isaiah because one of the beads I used for his eyes was higher than the other. I still have him though and wouldn’t part with him for anything – not that I can imagine anyone else wanting him anyway. 😉
Not to be deterred I went on to make a wolf for a friend’s birthday. She loves wolves and it seemed like a good idea at the time.
He was a slight improvement, but the head was too small and his legs weren’t quite ‘wolfie’ enough for my liking.
I wasn’t about to give up though. I loved sitting there poking away at the wool (and occasionally my fingers) and ending up with a little creature – however weird.
So I got in touch with ‘the dog lady’ from the guild.
Her name is Cindy Thompson from Chicktin Creations and she does the most amazing dogs. We agreed a date for me to visit her home for a one-to-one felting workshop.
I had a lovely day in her beautiful little cottage and I learnt so much.
Meet Colin. He is the dog made at the workshop. I wanted to do a long haired one as I thought my wolf looked a bit moth-eaten.
I came away from the day knowing what type of wool to use, the needles I needed, how to make a proper armature, oh, and that needle felting dogs was never going to be my thing.
Cindy knows so much about their anatomy, their coat texture and colouring, their eyes and their personalities. I know my greyhounds pretty well but I don’t know a cockerpoo from a chihuahua.
I’ve always loved nature and fantasy though, and so I began felting faeries, elves and wizards.
I’m currently experimenting with other ‘people’ and I may have a go at birds and woodland animals too.
As I left the workshop Cindy gave me a gorgeous little mouse she had made. I’d admired it as soon as I walked in.
I’m absolutely loving wet felting too, which is really exciting. It amazes me how versatile the medium is.
I have so many ideas but I’m working on smaller pieces to perfect my technique before I let my wild side out to play.
But watch this space…