This week’s project was so much fun! How come I've never come across needle felting before? Sculpting wool into form is quite challenging, but oddly relaxing. You get to prick your stress away…! I started by trying to sculpt a strawberry, but quickly decided to switch over to a gnome instead. Gnomes are fascinating characters that have often been reinterpreted to suit the needs of different story-tellers, even as creatures fond of crafts! So, whether you want to decorate your plant pot, carry it around the world when you travel (“roaming gnome”), mischievously hide it around the house, or protect yourself from evil sorcery, this felted gnome will do it all! But be aware - gnome kidnappers may be around. ; )
So, needle felting! You’ll need special needles that have notches along their shafts that grab the top layer of fibers and tangle them with the inner layers of fibers as the needle enters the wool. I felt very clumsy at first and unsure of how to coordinate the molding and the needling at the same time. After pinching my fingers a few times (and argh, it hurts!), I slowly gained confidence and discovered that it is actually a “by feel” technique. There is no single recipe to follow, but rather it is up to you to make decisions as you go.
There are, however, a few key things I have learned:
- It is important to keep the shape in mind at all times, and to constantly check that it is going in the right direction. I recommend holding it at a distance from time to time to get a better perspective from all sides. After all, this is a 3D sculpture!;
- Continuously turn the object around to prick it evenly;
- Start carefully and be patient with the shape development;
- Create most parts individually and plan ahead the order in which to attach them together;
- Prick a little more the next day, to refine the details. You'll see how a few hours distance will give you a fresh perspective and renewed patience.
Project: Needle Felted Gnome;
Source: A variety of designs found on Google;
Skills: Needle felting;
Time: 1 - 2 hours;
Cost: $35 for a set of 4 needles and 2 bags of wool in a variety of colors, which will last through many more projects;
- 100% Felted wool: red, black, purple, white and skin color;
- Triangular and star needles;
- Foam pad (I walked 2 hours around my neighborhood looking for something and finally found some scrap at an upholstery shop. You can find something appropriate at Amazon).
On online forums, people were advising to start bigger rather than smaller. I know, it is uncommon advice! But the miniature objects are harder to make, especially the details, and the result can easily frustrate a beginner. I had already made my gnome by the time I came across that information, but I think its size is right on the fence and the simple design made it possible for me to complete my project stress-free.
Start by sculpting the body with purple wool (or any other color you choose). Turn it and prick it, turn it and prick it, and so on. For molding the parts I used the triangular needles. It is normal for some of the wool to stick to the foam pad. Also, the more you prick, the more dense the shape will become.
Once you are satisfied with your shape, take a very thin layer of wool and rap it around the object and prick it a little more, until it blends in. This layer helps give the object a more smooth, finished look.
Then, do the same thing for the head. For spherical shapes I find it helpful to roll it a bit between my hands, but only once the wool is already needled into a somewhat round shape. Make sure the size of the head is proportional to the body. You can add more layers to make it larger.
Next, sculpt the red hat! In my opinion, some unevenness makes it more charming. You may choose to make perhaps a little hat, or a very long one. It's all about adding some character to your gnome.
Lastly, the facial details. To keep it simple, add two little dots of black wool as the eyes (attention to symmetry) and a "potato" nose. If you don't like the “shaggy” look, keep pricking using the needle sideways. Some people also recommend the use of a fabric shaver.
Your gnome is ready! Now go take it on adventures! And, if after this you "felt" like practicing further, take a look at some seemingly easier objects on my Needle Felting Pinterest board.
PS. I hope this post will encourage you to try this amazing technique. Note that it isn't hard to sculpt something you will love. This gnome was my second try, ever, with needle felting and I am happy with the result. The first was the following: