Monday, August 8, 2011

Needlefelting sculptures / tutorial, part three....let the poking begin !

Firstly, this is not a tutorial on all needle felting but creating a 3D sculpture . Not everything that applies to one kind of felting applies to other kinds of felting . Also, I've only been needle felting about 2 and a half years and most of what I learned was trial and error....(looking at my first sculptures, a LOT of error) . It is one of the best teachers, though a time consuming one . I'm hoping that I can share some of what I've learned but what works best for my mind may not be what works for yours . We all see things differently and my Aspergers may mean that some of the things I find most challenging may not be a problem for you...and vice-versa .Please read my previous tutorials on "materials" and "fiber" if you haven't already ).

The basic principle of needle felting...a sharp needle has tiny barbs that open the scales on the fiber so that they can be inter locked and create a more dense mass. However,  this is only one part of the process . The needle point is also pushing fiber into empty spaces in the direction that you are poking . This principle is just as important as the fiber displacment is what will create some of the fullness in some areas and depressions in other areas, depending of how you hold your needle .

To being this sculpture you will make the body base .  I took a couple handfuls of batting and rolled them into a loose tube shape and used my 4 needle holder to poke the center bit to hold it in place . As mentioned in second part of tutorial on fiber, use your medium coarse fiber to create the core of your sculpture .

If your using roving instead of batts, you can do the same thing by tearing apart 8 equal sections of roving about 12inches each (no cutting, roving should only be gently pulled into sections .) Lay 6 sections together and poke the very middle together a few times . Take last two 12 inch sections and split in half and place over very center and poke down another few times .

Using a batt or roving...divide the top and bottom of the "tube" into two equal sections and begin shaping . These will be the arms and legs .

You don't want to poke this hard at this stage because you will be adding you top fibers over this X shape .

Above, I have laid my top fiber...merino mixed with a bit of alpaca and mohair is my favorite blend for top fibers . It gives softness and a nice hairy natural look . Here is another important thing to remember about needle felting....begin felting at one end of the fiber strip of roving your adding on and hold loose enough that the fiber can fibers you are poking are going into the bottom fibers and you will have a smoother surface if you poke one section firm before you move to the next section . Does that make sense...(this is really, really hard for me to explain but feel free to contact me if you need some clarification on anything here .)

You will cover the whole X shape in outer fiber and if any base fiber show through just add a bit more top coat and felt over it . You only want to poke enough to make sure that the outer layer is staying in place but not a hard shape because we are going to adjust it into a sitting position before we hard felt it .

I wanted him sitting so I decided to add large back paws separately and felted them onto leg . When your adding appendages to another section, wither it is an ear to a head or foot to a leg you can simply poke it into the other section (which is why it's important not to felt to hard yet . ) To cover the "seam", you just add a thin layer of the same color roving over both sections and felt down . If you do accidentally felt a piece to firmly and there isn't enough lose fiber to join the two pieces you can try and add a bit of loose fiber between the sections you are joining . This is similar to what clay sculptures do using a muddy clay called "slip" <---(I learned that in seventh grade art class )

****One thing that always confused me when I was reading about needle felting was something I kept seeing repeated...."Never poke at an angle, keep your needle at a 90 degree angle ." The reasoning is that you can easily break your needle but...only if you pull it out at a different angle then you put it in . I move my needle at every angle because I want to felt fibers in every direction . This may be good advice if your felting into something very doing aplica' on denim or thick wet felted base material but it doesn't apply when you are shaping a felted sculpture until it gets very hard . Especially if you are using a 38 needle, which is relatively strong . So to clarify, it is not the angle that you put your needle in that will break it but hitting something hard in the fiber....(like a wire)or pulling it out of fiber crookedly . keep your aim straight when you are pulling the needle out and you can put it in any angle .

I like toes, and they are really easy, so don't be afraid of adding detail to your paws . All mine are like cartoon characters...4 toes only . I begin my felting a line in the center fairly firmly and then two on equal sides . I do the front of the paw first then flip and do the edge leading onto the bottom . then flip to the top of foot again and then add the paw pad toes .

Animals have different skin tones just like humans but I do have a personal preference for pink because it just stand out so well on the natural color wools I use . It only takes a small bit of fiber to make the toe, try a few before you add them because you can add more if they felt in to small but it;s much harder to remove them : )  Again, you don't want them to hard before you add them, some fiber needs to go into the foot to adhere it . One little trick in rolling up a nice small ball is adding a small bit of water to the palm of your hand and rolling it into a ball before felting it into place . Simply poke in the center to adhere and work from the inside out....ALways work from the inside out because that is how the fiber shrinks . You can get a bit cleaner line by poking the edges inwards one center is felted down .

I basically use my cats feet as "models" cause they are handy (though they don't like it much), but you can use google pictures to check out different animal feet as they are all a bit different .

One of the things you have to get used to when needle felting is that what you are making is going to look horrible for 90% of the time you are working on it...which on a large sculpture can be 10-20 hours .

So, here is the dog covered in base wool and still loosly felted but starting to resemble....something headless.....(Don't leave it around where it can scare the kids ).

If you want a "doll shaped dog, you can skip the next part and just move to the head but I wanted to show how you can sculpt him into a sitting position .

You can sort of see that he is still very pliable at this stage . Although everything is holding together. his front paws can still be firmed into their L shape and the back legs can be bent under neath him . And that's what you do, Put him into the position you want and start poking the jointed areas into their new positions . The front legs are easiest as you only need to lean him forward and poke from leg into foot and foot up into leg . Poke in all different directions but as it firms you will need to be careful to remove your needle straight so it doesn't bend as you remove it .

Back legs are harder and I didn't get a good picture of it but this is not a "real" dog and doesn't have to follow the rules of doggy anatomy . I chose to have my legs sticking out like a human would sit but you could make it more realistic by bending foot down onto mat and adding some more roving to create "haunches" . I do often make my animals like that but thought this style was a bit easier for a first time felter .

I think that is long enough for one post so I will do head and finishing touches in part 4 . Hopefully it wont take me a month to finish . (I hate to think of those kids finding a head less dog while you wait )

happy felting !

1 comment:

  1. Hallo, you make so wonderfull things. Is very lovely. Sorry my English is soo bad but i hope you can understand me. :-) Many greetings Jessi



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