Easy Cheap and Cheerful Needle Felting ––– A Free How To Series

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Start at the first link and work your way through,
or skip around to find what interests you most!

Needle Felting on a Budget! Part 1 – The Base

Needle Felting on a Budget! Part 2 – The Color

Needle Felting on a Budget! Part 3 – The Tools

Needle Felting on a Budget! Part 4 – The Face

Needle Felting on a Budget! Part 5 – Final Details

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Needle Felting on a Budget! Part 5 – Final Details

Making Horns and Claws is the final piece to making a dragon, or any fierce creature. After quite a bit of Pinterest research, I luckily noticed a photo from the blog Desert Mountain Bear about making Bear Claws. This was exactly the spark I needed to send me out with a coupon for Sculpty Clay to bake into horns & claws!

Part 5 - P1The wings for these dragons have caused me no end of trouble. I’ve tried beading wire, sewn fabric wings, glued fabric wings, purchased sheets of felt, wet felted flat pieces, dry felting flat pieces. In the end it was felting my own flat pieces in the coordinating color that worked the best. I roll some fluffing up and CAREFULLY begin felting it into itself. When I’ve got a shape that will fit into the wing, I felted the piece into the wing, along the edge of the already felted chenille stem base. This is where I still hurt myself with sharp barbed felting needles, but what is a dragon with no wings? The sacrifice is worth it!

One of the dragons I’ve made, for more photos click here: Drogon

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Needle Felting on a Budget! Part 4 – The Face

Part 4 - P1Felted eyes can be gorgeous, but sadly I don’t have that skill. On a happier note, I adore the look of basic black doll eyes! I order them from amazon in a mixed set of 2mm, 3mm, and 4mm. I also use black glass 5mm eyes. The important thing to have when using these types of eyes is a good awl, I use a nice comfortable rubber awl. Simple craft glue is enough to hold these eyes into place.

I also love the detail which can be achieved using glass eyes. I’ve tried a range of sizes and thickness when it comes to glass eyes, most have been frustrating to work with. I finally discovered LOW Domed 10mm Glass Cabochons, they ship from Malaysia, but they are worth the wait! For the design of the eye simply print out anything on photo paper and put it behind the cabochon! For these eyes I use craft glue to adhere the photo to glass, then Goop to attach the eyes to the dragon.

I had the amusing idea to add eyelashes to some of my dragons. Rich in time, but low in cash I searched through the reviews of amazon’s cheapest fake eyelashes, and discovered this gem: Natural Long and Thick False Eyelashes. I cut them into shape. For a large dragon, I just cut them in half, using one half for each eye. On a crazy whim I also bought these Mini Lashes (found them cheaper at Walgreens), which are just the right size for small dragons! I use a tiny amount of craft glue behind the eyes to hold them in place.

After choosing eyes and getting them glued in the right locations, the mouth and nose are simple by comparison. Use a “Fine” needle, a size 36 or up, to shape a mouth and nose wherever suits your fancy!

One of the dragons I’ve made, for more photos click here: Vixen

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Needle Felting on a Budget! Part 3 – The Tools

Part 3 - P1There are many sizes of needles, and they each have different uses. I’ll leave it to my fellow WordPress blogger over at The Felting Shoe to explain the specifics: Felting Needles 101

My favorites are a “Coarse” needle, sized 34, for making the body and applying the color. Then I go over the whole thing with a “Fine” needle, sized 36 or 38. I started with a basic set of Fine & Course felting needles from Michaels. I wrapped masking tape around the top tip of the coarse needles to keep them distinct from the fine needles. Eventually I invested in a set of Specialty Needles, but most often I still use the needles from my first pack of basics.

IMPORTANT NOTE! When I first started felting I attempted to use two or three needles at a time, in the misguided theory that would get the project done quicker. Don’t go down this road! It’s painful!! All I ended up doing was stabbing myself bloody. When you use a single needle you have more control, and you can stab deeper into the form of the project, which is actually what gets the project done quicker. Also I don’t use a handle, those seem to be meant for flat wet felting, not 3D sculptures.

On the discussion of felting mats, I don’t use one. Some people buy premade mats. Some people use foam of various thickness. Sometime people fill simple cotton bags with rice to use on a table. I’ve tried foam, I’ve tried the rice bag, and I find it’s really mush simpler to hold your project. True, you may get jabbed more this way, but only until your muscle memory kicks in, after which it quite rare to pierce yourself too hard.

One of the dragons I’ve made, for more photos click here: Morgan

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Needle Felting on a Budget! Part 2 – The Color

When I started needle felting I tried all kinds of fiber! I bought craft wool from Michael’s, I bought dyed wool roving from Etsy, I tried ordering it cheaper through Amazon, I even attempted to use real Alpaca. It was all difficult to work with, and ridiculously expensive. I was never going to be able to make this a permanent hobby with these prices!

I spent a couple hours Part 2 - P1researching different types of fiber people use for felting, yet it always came back to wool. Luckily right near the moment I was going to give up, I ran across a video of girl using a cat scratcher to shred regular yarn for use in needle felting. It was a eureka moment! I have boxes of yarn! I tried the method, and… it worked!! You really need to really put force into it, but I only use yarn now, because it has worked better than wool for every project I wanted to make. You can watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ILcYAXf_bg

 

 

On a side note: When my girls were young they misheard me when I was using pillow stuffing, so from then until now they call it “fluffing” and I can’t bring myself to correct them. In fact, the yarn shredded into acrylic fiber is so soft and fluffy, I’ve ended up calling it fluffing as well!

One of the dragons I’ve made, for more photos click here: Teagan

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Needle Felting on a Budget! Part 1 – The Base

I read a lot of blogs and books about felting, and the base seems to be a much debated topic. Some say the base needs to be wool, other say you can use doll stuffing. Some say they use wire armature, other’s say wire is not required at all. Here is what I do, penny pinching the whole way…

Step 1.
Start with chenille stems, also known as pipe cleaners. I buy mine from any craft store that I can use a coupon to get them 40% off. It’s easier to cover them if the end color is similar. So for black or dark green creatures I use black stems, or for example if my finishing color is yellow I’ll use white stems. Really any color will do, because we plan to cover it up! Bend the fuzzy wire into the basic bones of any 3D sculpture you wish to create (it’s okay if it’s super flimsy), then move on to step two.

Step 2.
You can use coarse pillow stuffing, it’ll do, however I prefer the very slightly more expensive doll stuffing. A word of caution, if you get pillow stuffing that is too luxury it will NOT function at all as a base. Wrap some of the stuffing around your wire base, and start felting it into itself. This will work with any needle, but a single course needle, sized 36 or below, will perform best.

Step 3.
Use a sharpie to mark out patterns before you start, then adding colored fiber is as simple as shading in a coloring page!

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OPTIONAL:
Magnets & Glue
I primarily make shoulder dragons, so I use Goop to glue two super strong Earth Magnets to the bottom of the dragon. I’ve tried several glue options, and Goop is the only one to hold up to actual use. For the wearable invisible shoulder base I sew a metal washer (from Home Depot), into a muslin cotton cover. To wear the dragon simply take the small cloth base and slip it just barely out of sight along the top of your shoulder under your clothing. Tighter clothing will hold the base in place better. Place the dragon on top of the base, the magnets will attach to the base. Play around with the placement of the base in a mirror until the dragon sits upright. When removing it’s best to slide it off, rather than pull.

One of the dragon styles I’ve made is below, for more photos click here: Toren

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Felting: The Butterfly Dragon

Of all my felted shoulder creatures, this butterfly is easily one of my very favorites!! The idea for it came through my very bright brother in law Ryan. He picked the colors orange & red for the wings, and I added the colors to the tail. What a wonderful collaboration project!!

You can buy one like it at my Etsy Shop here: Dragons From The Woodland Realm