Happy New Year everyone! (It’s the end of January, you say? Well, so what, I say!)
For Christmas, I received a crafting kit. Now, I may have only shown my cross-stitching endeavours on this blog so far, but in reality I’ve found myself enjoying way more crafts than just that over the past couple of years. Scrapbooking, cardmaking, latch hooking, longstitching, and a little bit of crochet… I love them all. I’m hopeless at most, but I’m happiest when I’m tucking into one of those crafts. And, you know what? I haven’t been doing enough of them these past few months.
The kit I was bought, however, was for none of the above crafts. It was, mysteriously, for something known as “Needle Felting”. Of course, I was more excited about the prospect of learning a new craft than I was about the craft itself. I’d heard about “felting” but had no idea, really, what it involved. It took me a few weeks before I got round to opening the kit and actually seeing what was inside. But now, after a few nights’ work, here is the, er, finished product.
Penguins! Believe it or not, Needle Felting is the process of creating little animals with a sharp needle and lots of stabbing. Here are the three penguins I created: Big Penguin, Medium Penguin, and Little Derp. (I named them myself.)
They look a bit different to what they do on the box, don’t they? Well, there’s something else you should know about me: when starting new crafts – new anythings, really – I barely ever follow the instructions to the tee. If I play a new board game, I’m always trying to reinvent the rules on my first turn. And when I start a new craft, I always think I know best and try to do things differently. So, alas, these penguins look nothing like their photographic counterparts. (I think I’m also just really bad at this.)
In my defence, though, Big Penguin was made exactly to the rules.
I started off with a polystyrene egg, some black wool, some cream wool, and the orange beak and black flipper glue-ons. The wool was unwoven and very fuzzy; you try and pull it apart, and it just locks together. It’s the kind of material you have to be nice to. You separate it by tugging gently.
What I then did was I made a circular, stomach-shaped disc, and held it in place on the egg. Then, the instructions told me to “stab the felt”. And so I did; gently at first, but then I started taking all the fury of the world into my hand, and suddenly I was destroying the polystyrene and creating what could only be described as a “beige mess”. After that, I added the black and shaped it around the rest of the egg to complete the penguin. And all the while I was thinking, “this is a craft? Stabbing with a sharp needle is suddenly a skill of some kind?” But it is. Needle felting, amazingly, is all about stabbing wool. I was addicted right from when that beige mess was created.
For those who are as unfamiliar with it as I was, the needle you use when felting has little nips in the end of it which tug down on the felt as you “stab” it. (I tried to take a picture to show you, but it’s really hard to see in the photo I ended up with. Just take my word for it.) The more you stab the felt, the more the wool knots and matts together. The idea is to turn that fluffy stuff into dense, tough felt, that can then be essentially “carved” into the shape you want it to by further stabbing.
The polystyrene isn’t a trait of “regular” needle felting, by the way. Big Penguin is very light to hold due to his polystyrene core, but if he’d been made purely out of wool, the technique difference – and weight difference – would have been quite drastic for me as a newbie. Just making Big Penguin into an egg shape alone would have provided me with a week’s worth of entertainment.
Next up, the smallest penguin. Little Derp is different from his larger counterpart.
Little Derp was supposed to be made like Big Penguin – beige mess first, then add the black, and so on. I was quite excited about working on a smaller scale, so I decided to leap straight into the smallest guy before starting on the middle one. But it didn’t really click until I started just how bad this whole polystyrene design was.
As you can imagine, the egg they provided me for this guy was very small. Very small indeed. Hands up if you know what happens to polystyrene when you stab it loads of times with something sharp?
Oh, yeah. It loses all structral integrity.
After a bit of stabbing, Little Derp’s forehead caved in. It was a sorry sight. So, I reinvented the rules.
To make Little Derp I rolled up a wad of black wool and stabbed and stabbed it until it resembled a tiny egg shape around the same size as the one provided. I then pulled apart a little bit of beige and started making his stomach that way. Of course, any normal person would, at this point, realise that it would be better to do dark on light, rather than light on dark. But oh well.
I was proud when I’d finished Little Derp. He was tiny, cute, derpy, and totally solid. I spent ages working on him, and it was so worth it in the end. (Even if his eyes are a little too close together.) I much preferred making him “from scratch” than I did doing the whole polystyrene thing with Big Penguin. I was still addicted.
I started making the third penguin – Middle Penguin – the same way as Big Penguin, initially. I wanted to follow the rules again, see where it actually lead me. And I do admit, this attempt turned out real good.
The egg was fine, really. It held out like the big one did, and generally I was happy with it. But, there was something missing. I felt, after making Little Derp, that I wanted to try and do this one properly – the polystyrene-less way.
So I put this perfect little egg aside, Christened him “Almost Penguin”, and then took a big ball of beige wool and started stabbing it.
And thus, Middle Penguin was born.
For my first attempt at shaping, from scratch, a ball of wool, this guy turned out really good. I spent ages trying to get it into a perfect egg shape; pinching the top, flattening the bottom. I covered the body with the remaining black felt and managed to retain the egg shape. It was a bit slimmer than intended, in the end, but it worked really well. Adding the eyes gave him deeper eye sockets than he needed, but I cared more, at this point, about the shape of the body.
And then he was done. I used Almost Penguin’s beak and arms and finished Middle Penguin off nicely. And doesn’t he look amazing? Not perfect, certainly; but amazing. I’m so, so chuffed.
Like I said, I have done loads of crafts. Cross-stitch is my favourite because of how easy it is to create such a stunning visual. But no craft has ever given me the satisfaction that this did, when I finished Middle Penguin. From scratch.
So what, my penguins don’t look like they do on the box? So what, I ended up doing all three of them completely differently? And so what, I bent the rules? There was no way I was going to be satisfied with some collapsed polystyrene and a load of white debris in the felt. This was fun. This was really, really fun.
Since starting these, I’ve spent a lot of time on YouTube watching other people doing needle felting. If you have no idea what it is I’ve just been explaining, please take a look at some of these. I promise you, you’ll want to try it yourself when you do!
I have three more kits on order… we’ll see how I do next time. Let me know what you think!