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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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Making Large Needle Felt Animals: The Goose with wire armature

Making Large Needle Felt Animals: The Goose with wire armature

How Brian the Goose came to be!

Our Brian is a life size white goose who is a pet portrait of a real circus performing goose who belonged to a local circus called Gifford Circus. (well worth a visit!)

Said goose had sadly passed away and our needle felted goose is in memory of the real Brian the Goose.

Our Brian started out as a wire frame made from ordinary garden fence wire which I purchased at a DIY store. I shaped it so that the whole of the goose from head to toe was supported by the wire.

 

I started wrapping the wire at the head end with strips of polyester wadding. I chose to use wadding as it is really 'sticky' and so adheres to itself when wrapping it tightly around the wire but also it is relatively cheap in comparison to wool roving. The wadding I used was quite thick and resulted in a 'springy' layer that built up quickly. 

Alternatives: you can use wool roving from the outset. Our Dutch Texel Roving is a cheap alternative (and a little less lofty) or if you want to stay with British wool start with our Ryeland Roving which is that is perfect too.

I quickly realised that simply wrapping the wire frame with wadding would not be enough as the large body needed bulk quickly. I overcame that problem by making a large 'parcel' of wadding to fit inside the wire 'belly' 

Alternative: use any wool scraps, polyester pillow filling, an old jumper or similar to create a large ball. You can tie it together with wool yarn or wrap it with wadding strips or wool roving to keep in a tight shape. You can also use stuffing wool or core wool such as our Shetland wool batts.

Now I was able to continue wrapping the whole of the frame including the belly with wadding. I was quite surprised and excited how instantly I could see the 'goose' shape emerging. 

 

At this point I found that the legs were pointing the wrong way and I had to turn the neck round. Simple!

Once I built the base layer with wadding I changed to wool. I used our locally sourced Ryeland Roving which is a lovely lofty soft and bouncy stranded wool that is perfect for wrapping around large as well as small armatures. We have also used this on our dormouse!

Alternative: a cheaper option would be our Dutch Texel

Inside the body I put a leaflet of the Circus programme where Brian the Goose last attended, just for sentimental reasons..... Oh look a goose is born!!

 

 

And on I go with wrapping the roving around the frame and starting to stab the needle into it as I go. I have to be careful where the wire is just under the surface of the wool and this is the beginning of breaking many needles.

Next were the legs: I found that the bright orange merino roving that I chose for this was too slippery to just simply wrap around the garden wire. I used pipe cleaners to wrap around the legs and feet so that I had something for the wool to grip onto. I could have also used masking tape or florist tape.

Alternative: Our Fox Orange Variegated wool batts

is great for the legs and feet as it already slightly 'dirty' looking with the darker fibres running through it. Although it is a batt it is just as easy to wrap around the wire and a lot less slippery!

 

True to a goose's leg's anatomy I separated the garden wire into the fibula and tibia and wrapped those initially individually.

Then on to the foot. Phew, to be honest I started to realise that the legs were going to be the most challenging part of the goose and needed lots of time and attention to detail. Something I lack on both counts!

I used the wire frame to accentuate the toes and built up wool between the toes for the webbed feet. By the time I was adding white claws I had also wrapped the tibia and fibia together with orange wool roving but still so that I was able to distinguish between the two bones. I also added wisps of brown to take away from the very bright clean orange as probably no goose would have squeaky clean legs and feet and certainly the real Brian did not! You don't have to do that if you are using our Fox Orange Variegated wool

I can definitely confirm that the legs took a lot of patience, needle felting and attention to detail but it was well worth it. Once both legs and feet were finished I proceeded to add PVA glue. Adding glue means that the fluffy appearance will disappear and the finish will look a lot more realistic. It is also an extremely messy affair and uses a lot of glue on large animals like this. The aim is to add so much glue that it saturates the wool but is not dripping wet. 

On Brian it took a good 24 hours before the legs were dry and I had to find a good place for him to stay in a stable position (excuse the upside down goose!)

 

I changed over to Shetland wool to continue building layers onto Brian. The Shetland is a lovely white wool and one of the whitest I know. This worked really well for a goose colour.

Then I started work at the opposite end now only using the Shetland wool.  It took little extra work to finish the shape of the head but before I started working on the beak I researched close up photos of geese beaks and was surprised to find that they are not only orange but also bright and light pink. Quite a contrast in colours! I felted a separate beak and needle felted it on once it was the right size, shape and colour. It took little work to blend the beak into the head and here you can see that I already put the eyes into the goose as well. I used blue glue-in glass eyes and if you look carefully you can see that the black of the iris is oblong. One of the real Brian's trademarks. I achieved this by using a black permanent marker drawing on the flat side of the eye. Before putting them into place I added a little blue wool which made the glass eyes more vibrant. You could use our medium blue wool batts. After glueing the eyes in I needle felted an orange ring around the eyes.

 

 

I continued to 'fatten' Brian up including giving him a proper tail and undercarriage. I also covered the beak with glue exactly as I did with the feet.

Brian turned out to be a handsome chap and you can see that he was definitely a hand or even an armful of stately poultry...

In the summer 2016 Brian spent some time at Gifford Circus (for old times' sake) and he earned himself a rosette which he shows off proudly when he goes on the many travels with The Makerss. He has also found a friend in our lifesize chicken Ginga Ninga and Reece the Fleece, our lifesize Lamb.

Brian with his mate Ginga Ninga. The two of them share a love and hate relationship as Ginga Ninga is quite bossy :)

2d Needle Felting Basic Instructions - Flowers, Butterflies, Bunting, Cards, Pictures etc

2d Needle Felting Basic Instructions - Flowers, Butterflies, Bunting, Cards, Pictures etc

2d Needle Felt Basic Instructions:

You will need:

Felting Needle (or 7 felting needles in holder)

Felting Mat (we use either foam or brush mat)

Felting Wool

Optional: Base fabric to work into (for example we use hessian or water soluble paper, you can use any fabric you can get a needle through!)

Optional: Scissors, Pencil

 

Basic Instructions for all types of 2d felting:

Have your felting mat in front of you. Lay the base fabric over the mat (if the fabric is bigger than the mat you may need to move it around as you work). Take a small pinch of your chosen colour felting wool, and lay it onto your base fabric. Take a felting needle, holding it near the bent end (or use your felting needle holder). Stab the needle through the wool, the base paper and into the felting mat a little way. Repeat this process, you will notice the little notches on the needle catch the fibres of the wool and push them down into the base fabric, and as you work the surface becomes less fluffy and more fixed. You can lay other colours over the top to add details. You will need to peel your shape carefully off the mat every now and then to prevent it sticking.

If you are using a 7 needle holder you may want to start with a single needle first to fix details in place, and then felt the surface smooth with the needle holder. You can remove a single needle from the needle holder by unscrewing it.

Flower Kit

Extra info for using Water Soluble Paper:

We use water soluble paper in our butterflies and flowers kits. You can create 2d items such as flowers and butterflies using the water soluble paper. These make lovely decorations, brooch, and framed pieces.

Draw an outline with pencil onto the water soluble paper, and then fill it in with wool as described above. When you have finished filling it in, cut around the outline.

Dissolving the paper: Dip the shape in tepid water for 2 seconds, you will notice the paper dissolve. Press the shape in a towel to squeeze most of the water out. You can shape it into a more 3d shape by pulling or bending it and leaving it to dry in that position.

Extra info for using Hessian:

We use the hessian combined with water soluble paper for our seasonal motif kits. You could cut the hessian to create bunting, bookmarks, pictures, motifs for cards etc.

If you wish to draw a motif or picture before you start working, you can either draw directly onto the hessian and fill in as described in the basics section, or you can draw onto the water soluble paper as above, cut it out and then felt the whole motif into the hessian. You would not need to dissolve the water soluble paper in this case, it can just be left in.

The edges of the hessian can be frayed to create a decorative edge, simply by pulling a few of the threads away from each side.

Extra info for using cookie cutters:

We use cookie cutters in our heart and star bunting kits. You can use a cookie cutter as a guide for a 2d shape. These make lovely decorations or motifs for cards etc.

We use hessian as the base fabric for our cookie cutters. You don't necessarily need a base fabric though. If using hessian, cut a piece which is approx 2cm bigger all round than your cutter. Place the hessian on your mat, place the cutter sharp edge down onto the hessian, and then place some wool into the shape. Stab around the inner edge of the cutter with your felting needle (a medium needle works well), adding more wool as necessary. If you have a complex shape such as a star, it help to do one point at a time. Keep your cutter in place until you have finished the outline. Add more wool as necessary to fill in the shape. Then carefully peel the shape from the mat. You can fray the edges of the hessian as described above.

2d Needle Felting Basic Instructions

2d Needle Felting Basic Instructions

2d Needle Felt Basic Instructions:

You will need:

Felting Needle (or 7 felting needles in holder)

Felting Mat (we use either foam or brush mat)

Felting Wool

Optional: Base fabric to work into (for example we use hessian or water soluble paper, you can use any fabric you can get a needle through!)

Optional: Scissors, Pencil

 

Basic Instructions for all types of 2d felting:

Have your felting mat in front of you. Lay the base fabric over the mat (if the fabric is bigger than the mat you may need to move it around as you work). Take a small pinch of your chosen colour felting wool, and lay it onto your base fabric. Take a felting needle, holding it near the bent end (or use your felting needle holder). Stab the needle through the wool, the base paper and into the felting mat a little way. Repeat this process, you will notice the little notches on the needle catch the fibres of the wool and push them down into the base fabric, and as you work the surface becomes less fluffy and more fixed. You can lay other colours over the top to add details. You will need to peel your shape carefully off the mat every now and then to prevent it sticking.

If you are using a 7 needle holder you may want to start with a single needle first to fix details in place, and then felt the surface smooth with the needle holder. You can remove a single needle from the needle holder by unscrewing it.

Flower Kit

Extra info for using Water Soluble Paper:

We use water soluble paper in our butterflies and flowers kits. You can create 2d items such as flowers and butterflies using the water soluble paper. These make lovely decorations, brooch, and framed pieces.

Draw an outline with pencil onto the water soluble paper, and then fill it in with wool as described above. When you have finished filling it in, cut around the outline.

Dissolving the paper: Dip the shape in tepid water for 2 seconds, you will notice the paper dissolve. Press the shape in a towel to squeeze most of the water out. You can shape it into a more 3d shape by pulling or bending it and leaving it to dry in that position.

Extra info for using Hessian:

We use the hessian combined with water soluble paper for our seasonal motif kits. You could cut the hessian to create bunting, bookmarks, pictures, motifs for cards etc.

If you wish to draw a motif or picture before you start working, you can either draw directly onto the hessian and fill in as described in the basics section, or you can draw onto the water soluble paper as above, cut it out and then felt the whole motif into the hessian. You would not need to dissolve the water soluble paper in this case, it can just be left in.

The edges of the hessian can be frayed to create a decorative edge, simply by pulling a few of the threads away from each side.

Extra info for using cookie cutters:

We use cookie cutters in our heart and star bunting kits. You can use a cookie cutter as a guide for a 2d shape. These make lovely decorations or motifs for cards etc.

We use hessian as the base fabric for our cookie cutters. You don't necessarily need a base fabric though. If using hessian, cut a piece which is approx 2cm bigger all round than your cutter. Place the hessian on your mat, place the cutter sharp edge down onto the hessian, and then place some wool into the shape. Stab around the inner edge of the cutter with your felting needle (a medium needle works well), adding more wool as necessary. If you have a complex shape such as a star, it help to do one point at a time. Keep your cutter in place until you have finished the outline. Add more wool as necessary to fill in the shape. Then carefully peel the shape from the mat. You can fray the edges of the hessian as described above.

How to use our wire birds legs - photo tutorial

How to use our wire birds legs - photo tutorial

How to use our Wire Birds Legs

Our wire birds legs have been so popular, we thought you might like a photo tutorial.

You can buy our wire birds legs here

You will need:  

  • Wire Birds Legs
  • A bird which was finished
  • Clear drying glue
  • A sharp point such as an awl, thin knitting needle or you can use your felting needle
  • Pliers (optional, if you are bending the legs)
  • Felting needle and wool the same colour as where you are attaching legs (optional)
  • Patience!

When you buy the legs from us, they arrive straight (left). If is fine to use them as they are, or you can bend them for a more natural look (right). If you are bending them it is best to do it with pliers. Bend the leg backward at the ankle, and forward at the 'knee' (bird knees go the other way to a human knee!).

If you have bent the legs, check that the bent part is in line with the middle toe when looking from above. Bend both legs to the same shape.

The legs can be wrapped with brown florist tape, or painted for a more realistic look. We have wrapped our kingfisher legs with orange florist tape.

You will glue the legs in underneath your bird, slightly towards the back. There will be a space of approx 2 - 4 cm between the two legs, depending on the size of your bird.

Hold the leg against your bird to work out where and at what angle you will make the hole. In the image you can see the hole will follow the line of the chest.

Use your sharp point to make the hole. If using your felting needle push it carefully all the way in to the fatter part of the needle. I usually wiggle the sharp point to enlarge the hole slightly, be careful if you are using your felting needle. As you pull the sharp point out have your leg ready to go into the hole, on the same angle as the point came out. Put both legs in.

Check that your bird stands up and that the feet are fairly flat on the table. Here you can see that the back leg doesn't sit flat. 
I bent the top of the leg forward until the foot sits fairly flat. You may have to play a little with the legs and adjust them. This is where patience comes in handy! 

When you are happy with the legs, pull them out just a little way, then put glue on them. You don't need a huge amount of glue. Push the legs back in and turn them to spread out the glue. Stand the bird up, checking the position of the legs, and leave to dry.

Trousers: When dry, you can add wool 'bloomers' if you like to give the legs more stability, simply by wrapping a little wool around the top of the leg and felting into place.

A quick how to for Robin season! We have all the supplies you need, right here:

A quick how to for Robin season! We have all the supplies you need, right here:

To make a robin:

Create a teardrop shape from core wool (our favourite is Shetland Merino).

Felt around the tail to give it definition, and add more wool at the head if you need to build it up.

Add brown roving over the back and sides of the robin.

Add an orange red over the chest, coming all the way up to meet the brown at the forehead - we use variegated fox red orange , which has darker fibres in for a natural look.

Create a beak from a short fibred dark brown such as portuguese merino .

Sew on some beads for eyes, we use 6mm black beads for our robins.

Make holes for the wire legs with a thin knitting needle, or by pushing your felting needle deep in. Position the wire legs in the holes, and check that your robin stands up, (ie. doesn't look like he's been on the sherry). When you are happy, pull the leg out slightly, and put glue on it, pushing it back into position. Leave to dry.

Your robin is finished! We would love to see a photo of your Christmas robins - email info@themakerss.co.uk

Our all new shop page

Our all new shop page

Welcome to our new shop!  We are getting ready for Christmas as fast as we can! We are still adding listings for needle felt kits, materials and more, if there is anything you would like to purchase which is not yet listed, please email info@themakerss.co.uk , we can take an order via email.