This week I tried something a little bit different and attended a needle felting workshop at Kirton in Lindsey Town Hall. I’m a very artistic and crafty person and enjoy anything creative, so when my mother in law invited me to a workshop back in January I thought I’d give it a go. And I absolutely loved it, it was so therapeutic and amazing to think in a few short hours that a final piece is completed. Last time I made a teddy bear, and this time we got a little bit more adventurous and went for a freestanding needle felted hare. Both workshops I attended were run by a local crafter, Trevor, and you can check out his Facebook page here. The picture below is the model provided as a guide for us, however, we were asked to remain creative and not try and replicate this one, but to add our own flare to the hare. Isn’t he just adorable? At the beginning of the workshop I did not have high hopes that my hare would look anything like this one, and in actual fact, the six hours we had in the workshop were not enough. However, within the workshop I learned all the skills I needed to be able to complete Harry, that’s what I’ve called my hare.
- So, what is needle felting? And what do I need?
- Resources required for needle felting
- Making Harry the hare
- Top needle felting tips to remember
- Future workshops
- Other events at Kirton in Lindsey Town Hall
So, what is needle felting? And what do I need?
If you’ve never heard of needle felting before you’re thinking “that looks really complicated”, however, you will be surprised to discover how little resources you actually need to get started. It can be difficult to grasp the fine art of needle felting, however, like all crafts you need to start smaller and make something within your capabilities. So a needle felted hare might not be your first choice, however, there were multiple people on this workshop who had never needle felted before and took to it like a duck to water. As I said earlier the first thing I needle felted was a teddy bear (see picture below), as it was mainly made from simple shapes with nothing too intricate. A good starting project might be a snowman, but I’ll explain later how needle felting is done.
Needle felting uses a special kind of needle which have tiny barbs on the end. These barbs only face in one direction and when the needle is stabbed into the wool the barbs pull the wool in on itself, but not back out again. Doing this allows for the fibres of the wool to lock together. Majority of needle felting projects start with a rolled up ball of wool or a sausage shape of wool. The wool is then turned repeatedly whilst being stabbed to lock the fibres together and the wool becomes a firm round shape. Once you then have a basic shape to start with wool is added where needed to form a sculpture. I.e. start with a large ball/egg for a body, then add a smaller ball for a head, followed by sausages for arms and legs and you have the beginning of a teddy bear. You can see the progress below in the picture collage.
Resources required for needle felting:
- Wool (roving/core and coloured, depending on your project)
- Felting needle(s) in different sizes
- A cushion or pad to work on
- A handle for your needle (not essential)
- Galvanised wire for armature (only required for certain projects)
Yes, that’s it. Those are the bare essentials to get you started. You don’t necessarily need the needle handle, but I prefer to use one as it is easier to hold. You can buy kits with patterns in to help you and they will generally have the wool, needles, a handle and a pad to work on. However, you can buy the bits individually for much cheaper, and there are lots of tutorials online on YouTube to get you started. For the cushion or pad, you can use a bath sponge or a piece of upholstery foam which can be purchased from Dunelm or other soft furnishings suppliers. I would advise always using a cushion or pad, this way you can protect yourself from being stabbed with the needles. I use one side of my sponge for dark wool and the other side for light wool, that way I don’t end up with different wool fibres mixing into my projects by mistake. Your first project will not require wire usually, however, once you get more experienced and you want to make a poseable creature, or have something free standing the wire is an amazing tool to work with.
The photo above is my set up at the beginning of the workshop, with my piece of upholstery foam, needle, handle, wire amateur frame, core wool, and coloured wool. Here I had already shaped my wire into the shape of the hare’s body which I used to wrap the wool around.
Can I use any kind of wool you ask? Quite simply no, the wool used for needle felting is unspun wool. So if you have some balls of wool left lying around from that cardigan you started knitting 10 years ago (yes, this is aimed at you Mum), then that isn’t going to be much use here. For a small project, you would generally use the colours of wool you need, whereas with a larger project, you would make the shape out of core wool, and then cover it with coloured wool. Why you ask? The coloured wool is more expensive and this makes the model/toy more cost effective to make. The core wool we used in the workshop was from Baavet and is currently £10 for a large bag, but you can also buy core wool from Wingham Wools for £1.00 per 100g. The coloured wool we used was local Shetland wool and was also from Wingham Wools, and is currently £2.10 for 100g. This might sound expensive but you’ll be surprised at how little you actually use for projects.
For your needles, these come in different sizes and different ones should be used dependent on the project you are using. I would recommend always having at least two needles before starting a project, as needles do snap from time to time and with misuse. There’s also nothing more frustrating than starting a project, snapping your needle and having to wait for a new one to arrive in the post. Another top tip, don’t buy cheap needles on eBay. They are not very good quality and are more susceptible to breakages. I would recommend using Heidi Feathers needles, which are available both on her website directly here or through eBay or Amazon.
Making Harry The Hare
The first stage of making Harry the hare was to wrap the core wool around the wire frame. The wire used is galvanised wire which can be purchased at craft/haberdashery stores or garden centres. Basically, we wanted to turn the frame into a pipe cleaner. This then gives you something to work with for the rest of the project as there is wool in place you can join the new wool to. This was done in long thin strips around the frame quite tightly and stabbed with the needle as you go along to hold it in place. Then after it was all coated the middle needed to be padded out. This was where I had to decide how plump I wanted Harry to be, by deciding how wide I wanted his body section.
After the initial size was decided I had to start adding more wool onto Harry and plumping him out. I started with his chest and then worked on his large thighs and legs which are notable features on any hare.
The next part to work on was Harry’s overly large hare feet. I wanted these to be large enough that I could stand him on a wooden base at the end, but also in proportion to the rest of his body.
Harry’s really starting to take shape now, I’ve done a little shaping on his face here, and I was finally happy with his legs and thighs, after much titivating. Now was time to make some ears. Again using the galvanised wire, wrapping the wool around the wire and then filling in the centre. At this point, I had a decision to make. Did I want Harry’s ears to be pointed upwards or laid down his back with his head pointed upwards? Almost like he was looking up at the moon. I opted for stood up ears as I was going for a standing hare. But I think a stargazing sat down hare would look lovely.
At this stage, I’ve now got the basic shape of Harry’s ears done and it was time to give him some arms, again using the galvanised wire. This time just one piece poked through the centre and out the other side. A good thing about using the wire is that the arms can be posed into any position you want, leaving the possibilities endless.
Finally, I have Harry’s final shape completed. Most of the other ladies in the workshop were well on their way applying the brown top coat at this point, but I was determined to be happy with the shape before I started. Here he is all ready for his brown coat to be applied.
Applying the top colour coat of wool is a long and somewhat tedious process. The key to applying it is to use small chunks of wool at a time and build the colour up in small layers. So ideally you should apply a thin layer all over the project first and then go back and build on it. However, as I was under time pressures in the workshop the aim was to have the face completed by the end, and I had to focus on this. Top tip: Always apply the wool in the direction it would face on the actual animal. So vertical on ears and body, not horizontal etc. This way it will be more natural looking and lifelike.
Here’s Harry’s face almost completed, I have just started making some indents in his face to stick beads in for his eyes. I have applied a small amount of pink into the eye socket so it will just be visible behind the bead and will make his eyes more prominent.
The picture below shows as far as I managed to get during the workshop with Harry. I am happy that I managed to complete his facial features (minus trimming his overly long whiskers). I still have the remainder of his top coat to apply, and add in some extra features such as the black tips on his ears and give him a tail. I’m hoping to get some time in the next few weeks to complete him, but I am such a perfectionist it may take some time!
You can see below some of the finished hares from the workshop, including a partially finished Harry. There were some really lovely hares made in the workshop and each one is so different with its own identity and style.
So if you want to give needle felting a try I hope my post has given you some useful information, and don’t forget to review the top tips below.
Top needle felting tips to remember:
- Always work on a cushion or pad
- Always have at least two needles on hand
- Don’t stab the needle too far into the wool
- Don’t use sideways pressure with the needle
- Start with a basic shape and move onto wire armature after more experience
- Always put your needle into your sponge/cushion when it is not in use
Needle felting has appeared to be rather popular here in Lincolnshire, and as such Kirton in Lindsey Town Hall has responded and have scheduled some future workshops. There is another felted hare workshop running on the 8th September, although this is already fully booked as there was a waiting list for this workshop.
There are also two Christmas themed workshops scheduled to felt a reindeer. These are on Sunday 18th November (now fully booked), and Saturday 24th November 2018. I have no doubt that this last workshop will also fill up rather quickly, so if you want to give needle felting a try and want to attend, I would recommend booking sooner rather than later to avoid disappointment. You can book by emailing Kirton Lindsey Town Hall directly here. Alternatively, you can phone the venue manager Sharron on 07752246255. The cost of the workshop is £25 per person and is payable in advance.
Other events at Kirton in Lindsey Town Hall
Kirton in Lindsey Diamond Jubilee Town Hall is located in Kirton in Lindsey marketplace, DN21 4LZ. There is free parking available outside the venue in the marketplace and in the surrounding streets of Kirton in Lindsey.
The town hall offers recurring events and activities on a weekly, fortnightly and monthly basis as well as one-off events and workshops. There is a vast array of events and activities so there is sure to be something to suit everyone’s tastes. Just a few of the upcoming workshops include;
- August 25th 2018 Rock Painting Workshop
- September 15th 2018 Woven Bracelet Workshop
- September 22nd 2018 Rock Painting Workshop
- October 27th 2018 Northern Soul Night
- November 10th 2018 Powertex Gingerbread House Workshop
- November 18th 2018 Needle Felted Reindeer Workshop
- November 24th 2018 Needle Felted Reindeer Workshop
Weekly events at the town hall include Weight Watchers and Slimming World as well as various fitness classes (aerobics, pilates, seated exercise, tai chi, and yoga). There is also bingo every two weeks with cash prizes! If you’re into performing or acting then there is the Kirton Call Drama Group which you can join, or equally, you could support them by purchasing tickets to their performances. In December last year, they performed a take on the classic pantomime Cinderella with their very own Citronella. There are also lots of other weekly activities taking place, and you can find more information including days and timings here.
Monthly events at the town hall include a tea dance, patchwork & quilting club and a craft club to name only a few. There is also the KLIX community and family cinema clubs where there are monthly screenings of top films and family films on a big screen. The experience is complete with a bar, hot drinks, popcorn, sweets and snacks to help create a true cinema experience, but for free! You can find more information including days and timings here.
In addition to a large number of recurring events and activities taking place, there are others available as one-off specials. Recent events have included a Barn Dance & BBQ, Vintage Afternoon Tea and Rock Painting Workshops. On a regular basis, there are also performances from folk and roots music artists at The Town Hall Live (https://kirtoninlindseytownhall.co.uk/town-hall-live/). You can find out more about other events here.
You can also access a ‘What’s On’ guide here for August and September 2018. If you would like to keep up to date with events at Kirton in Lindsey Town Hall you can opt to join the mailing list by contacting the hall directly here.