Thursday, October 8, 2020

The Bat Needs a Body: Needle Felting Tutorial

Last week I talked about my Debbie Mumm Halloween ornament.  I'm working from the background forward, playing with various dimensional techniques and trying to balance the elements of the design.  Mr. Pumpkin is beaded so he draws the eye, but the bat who has just landed on the cat's head needs to be prominent, too.  I decided I would needle felt Mr. Bat.

Needle felting is quite easy but you do need special supplies.  In the photo above you see a felting needle, a felting block (it's just a square of heavy foam), and some purple wool roving.  If you need to buy supplies, your local big box crafts store may have what you need but I recommend you buy from Sandy Arthur's Etsy shop.  She teaches a lot of needle felting on needlepoint canvas and likes the Clover brand of needle felting tools and felting blocks.

When I wrote this Sandy was temporarily out of the Clover tools.  Here is what they are like—

It doesn't matter what brand of felting needle and block you buy in my opinion.  You can get single needles, multiple needles in a handle, two different kinds of blocks.  The important thing is to use only a wisp of roving.  Put the felting block on a table (with some sort of protection), put your canvas on top of the block, pull a tiny tiny wisp of roving from the mass of wool, and use the needle perpendicular to the canvas to poke the roving through the holes of the canvas.  Go slowly and be careful.  The needles are SHARP and they are barbed.  You don't want to poke yourself by mistake.  In the photo below you see how much roving I used—and it was nearly too much for this small a space.

You don't need much wool roving.  The bat's purple head and body are smaller than my smallest fingernail and my thumbnail, after all.  Cover up his eyes, mouth and fang with roving.  Keep poking it.  On the back side the roving will start to show through and you'll have fuzz front and back.  Keep poking it, remembering to keep the needle perpendicular to the canvas.  Don't worry about damaging the canvas.  As long as you work slowly you won't.  

Here I'm working on the bat's face.  The needle is slanted a bit to show you how this is done, but remember to keep your needle perpendicular to the canvas as you work.  The body isn't finished but I worked body-face-body-face alternatively, just trying to shape the two round areas so that there was a little gap between them.  

I ended up with this—

Doesn't look like much but it's featureless right now.  I added a long bullion for his ears, I padded the wings with long stitches in perle cotton that I covered with black Flair, and I gave the bat two red Swarovski crystals for eyes and a silk ribbon orange bow tie since I decided (the bat's head is tiny, remember?) I didn't have room for eyes/mouth/fangs.

Here is Mr. Bat, all finished.  Next time I'll talk about Mr. Cat who is going to be heavily padded in a stumpwork technique using layers of felt covered with satin stitches.

By the way, if you want to try needle felting on your own canvas, I have more information about it in a separate tab.  

Written by Jane/Chilly Hollow
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