Sunday, August 5, 2012

Pictorial for adding eyes and ears to needle felt animals

 When I first began learning needle felt, figuring out how to add eyes and ears to my base sculpture was one of the biggest challenges . I tried several different methods before I came up with something that worked for me . It's obviously not the only way to get the job done and I do plan on playing around with fake furs and leather lids some day .

The first step is choosing what eye to add and for my extra large critters and low budget, I chose to use a nice quality/plastic safety eyes ...(if you click on the picture you will be able to read the label on the bag of the seller I use .) A pair of eyes is around a dollar compared to the $10 glass eyes cost . Also, instead of sewing eyes on, I cut off the back nub of the safety eyes using a wire cutter and glue them down with small drops of super glue . The lid will also help them stay in place just be very careful with the glue as it will ruin any wool it drips on .
 Once the yes are glued down you can start on the top and bottom lids . I'm working with mohair here so when I pull of a section, the longer fibers are more then I need just to cover the eye but once the lid part is felted around eye any extra wool can be felted directly into the check bone area to make it blend in . I don't firm up the whole section , just about twice the area of the eye,(since it will shrink up as it is completely firmed up over the eye .
 I then attach the simi-firmed lid into place at the corner of the eye area and continue firming the lid  "before" attaching the outer edge . The most important things to remember is to be careful not to poke the eye itself and to felt very small sections at a time . Due to shrinkage, you can't just tack the whole lid down at once but work from inner lid to outer .
 You follow the above step for all four lids and blend the extra wool into the face after the lids are firmly where you want them . Because I am generally not going for a "real" animal eye look, I have the freedom to use some creativity to make the eyes "pop" . I add Vanilla merino which has a light pink tone that I like for my "flesh" color, snout, nose , ears and around eyes . I know not all animals have pink skin tones but I found the darker colors just don't have enough contrast with the brown fibers I use . I do plan on using some detail coloring to add some more natural depth to the "flesh" area but that will have to be a different tutorial . After the pink is felted into the eye lid, I use small balls of white at the eye corners to fill in the rest of the area  .
 I tend to use large floppy ears on most of my animals but went with a shorter ear for this guy . Again. I am using a long fiber mohair for this and just pull out one section and fold it in half . Because the fibers are all going the same direction which makes for slow felting, I add a very thin layer going side ways . Think of it as similar to creating fabric which couldn't be woven unless fiber/threads are laid across each other, not all laying parallel .Felt area and flip and repeat this at least 4 times to create a semi felted sheet . focus on edges to shape and firm the shape you want and add small bits of fiber if it's not the shape you want .
 For longer floppy ears just don't fold in half and don't forget to add the cross fibers . The main rule of felting is don't forget that everything will shrink , A general rule is you will lose 1/2 to 1/3 the size you start with once the piece is felted and this is especially true for thin areas like lids and ears .
 Some times I use roving for the inner ear but I recommend creating another semi felted pink piece rather then just adding pink roving directly to the semi felted brown ear . Above is a newer method felting premade semi-felt directly to the home made prefelted ear . I actually felt the pink semi-felt into the ear starting at the center of ear and felting out and then cut around the attached inner and out ear  .The ears are still in a prefelt state here, so a bit strange looking but I like to add them to the head at this stage and firm and shape them more after attaching . It's easier to felt to head if you create a semi-circle by felting the bottom edges together and felt into head "trying" to attach them in symmetrical placement-------I'm embarrassed to admit that mine are never symetrical . Some glitch in my brain causes one ear to always be a little higher or further back on the head , (God made the same mistake with my own ears so I guess I shouldn't feel in to bad ). Hopefully you can get them centered where you want them  : ) One thing I like about this method is that it naturally creates those little fleshy bits on the inside of the ear . Just make sure that you start attaching by felting down the bottom of the inner ear where you want the ear , folding the bumpy bits in and felting down the back of the ear . Actually was much easier to type then it is to do but just take your time and keep checking your placement .

Once the ears are attached where I sort of want them, I firm and shape them as evenly as possible  . If one ear ends up larger then the other just make sure and call it "whimsical" and all is forgiven : )
 You can leave it at this point but I am in love with my reverse felting needles and reverse felt the head starting at the base and working up to the top . You can also just reverse felt sections for a totally different look or trim "fur" to different lengths . I generally just trim the top of the nose and comb the rest to style it .One of the funnest thing about reverse felting is creating different layers of contrasting color and types of fiber . When the reverse needles pull out the fibers you can get some really interesting textures and color blends .

Happy felting !


  1. Piękny się "wykluwa" zwierzaczek i bardzo pracochłonny.
    Dziękuję za odwiedziny i miłe słowa.

  2. Thank you for another generous tutorial. Your posts come up on my home screen and I eagerly await a new one. You are a very talented lady!!!

  3. Thank you for another great tutorial. You are very generous and talented and I look forward to all your posts.

  4. Thanks, it's rewarding to know someone is reading them . I'm glad to share what I'm learning since others have been kind enough to share with me . Just remember that what I'm showing is just my trial and error and not necessarily the best way to do something .



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