Ginga Ninja, our real lifesize Rhode Island Chicken - by Steffi Stern

Ginga Ninja, our real lifesize Rhode Island Chicken - by Steffi Stern

Sophie and I couldn't have planned the joint venture of becoming parents to Ginga Ninja! It just happened! We were at a classy showcase Fair in Cheltenham, feeling a little out of place, and wondered what we could do to while the time away. At that point neither of us had done any serious large scale needle felting (Sophie did her sleeping fox!) and so we decided to upscale the chicken (cover picture) from our book Making Needle Felted Animals by following the instructions as written by myself for a tiny hen no bigger than the size of a child's fist. We were curious to see if we could literally make a small animal bigger!

As the chicken instructions start by making an egg shape (oh yes, the egg comes first!) from wool and we needed things to move faster we improvised by using scrap wool and wrapped this up with wadding, sewing it close to make a nice tight rugby ball sized egg. 

Next we sewed on a tubular shape rolled up from wadding to become the neck. Polyester wadding is great for needle felting and saves wool on larger animal projects.

So far we did not have to use any nice wool batts but that came next.

We used our New Zealand Merino Fox Rust Brown wool batts as the cover which worked great as it comes in big sheets and felts down easy. The challenge was to wrap the egg shape and neck tightly enough so that we could work with our single (!) felting needle efficiently. 


At some point we ended up stuffing more wool inside to make up for the bulk that was missing.

Needless to say that an awful lot of stabbing was done to make the 'gondola' shape of a chicken. Next came the beak, comb and wattle. All these were felted separately and then attached to the face one by one.

Wohoo, beginning to look like a chicken! Funny thing was that even though Sophie and I kept referring to the chicken as a 'she', people passing kept saying 'he' and 'him'! For a long time we called her 'She-chicken' to make the point! Poor thing! We put eyes into the prepped eye sockets and for those we used glue-in amber glass eyes 10 or 12mm in size.

A chicken was born! Adding eyes has that sort of effect, it makes the creatures come to life!

The next bit looks gross and is quite scary when we covered her comb, wattle, beak and face with pva glue! We did this to give these parts a more authentic look and finish as the glue dries hard and transparent. 


Legs next! I think Sophie is still hating those coat hangers, especially the one with thicker wire, that had to be bent (by hand, due to lack of tools - we did ask around) into the right shape! We bent (sorry, Sophie bent them) so that they were connected at the top to give our chicken more stability and to stop the legs from moving indivudually. The t-bar connection at the top was sunk into the tummy and felted over so it disappeared and was secure.

It took a while to get her to stand on her own two feet and balance but we managed! 

Next we started wrapping the legs with pipe cleaners in preparation to wrap them tightly with wool. The pipe cleaner helps for the strands of wool to stay put rather than slip around. It also adds bulk faster and saves using nice wool .  Then we covered the legs with glue too for the same reason as with comb, wattle and beak.

We took turns between wrapping her legs and finishing the face! One thing I will say: the larger the animal the more details need to be applied! I loved working on her face.  I looked at a real image while doing so as the right details in the right place really mattered to me. I think it was definitely worth it! 

She turned into a stately fowl though she is quite fierce at times and that is probably why her name changed from She-chicken to a Ginga Ninja!

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  • Joy Boughey - January 11, 2018

    I loved this blog and although I’ve just found your wonderful site, I do have your great book and have made the chicken, which I posted on FB and IG, hashtagging you both.
    I am in country Western Australia and needle felting pretty much on my own so it’s such a pleasure to find your site and all it’s fantastic information, thank you … and free too, which is a huge bonus!
    Huge thanks for all you do for the felting community!

  • Irene - May 02, 2017

    I keep hens and this hen is so life like…wonderful. Ginger Ninja….she will be laying eggs soon!!

  • Vicky Ryall - April 23, 2017

    Fantastic work

  • Christina Collie - April 22, 2017

    Aaaaw… I was there when you were both creating the fantastic Ginga Ninga What a Star she’s become The very first of many more great creatures you’ve made I wonder who will be next?

  • Aline WAtts - April 21, 2017

    Brilliant. Love the way she came together

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