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adventures in needlefelting

needlefelted guinea pig
Click for larger picture

In case you’ve never heard of needlefelting before, here’s the basic premise (ignore the rest of this paragraph if you already know all about it). By stabbing unspun wool repeatedly with a barbed needle, the wool fibres get tangled together and the wool begins to form a denser, more coherent piece. The more you stab, the firmer the piece becomes. By building up layers of wool in different colours and in different areas, it is possible to form complex sculptures with fine detail. That’s the theory, anyway!

There are some amazing examples of finished work in the Needle Felting Flickr group pool. I think I first heard of needlefelting over a year ago through articles in CRAFT magazine, but I’ve never tried it until now. I had my first attempt this weekend, using the supplies I got from the show last weekend. I couldn’t decide whether to start with something simple to learn the techniques, or to jump straight in and try to make something I actually wanted to make. In the end, I decided I didn’t want to ‘waste’ my wool on a test piece, so I dug out my photographs of Cinnamon (the best guinea pig ever) and started work.

I really liked needlefelting – I found it to be like a combination of my crocheted animals (texturally) and polymer clay sculpting (you can build up areas by adding more wool, in the same way as you can with a clay sculpture). It takes a lot of stabbing to get the wool to felt together firmly , but I discovered that, by compressing the wool first as much as possible, the wool begins to hold together after only a few stabs. I also discovered (after a few hours of make-it-up-as-I-go-along experimentation) that there are some very helpful videos on YouTube that show the process – I recommend watching a few if you plan to start needlefelting for the first time!

Now back to my guinea pig sculpture. It took a long time and a lot more wool than I expected. I tried to make the markings as accurate as possible, so I started with the white wool at the head and worked my way back, adding darker sections where they were needed. With hindsight, I think it would have been a lot easier to make and shape an all-white guinea pig body and then add thin patches of darker wool over the top to create the markings – I’ll know for next time!

I needlefelted in tiny black wool patches for the eyes, and then sewed round black onyx beads over the top to give them that realistic glint. I also used two strands of embroidery floss to stitch on a tiny nose and mouth. Apart from that, the whole mini-pig is solid wool.

needlefelted guinea pig

needlefelted guinea pig

I’m very pleased with this as my first piece, and I have enough wool left to make a few more little sculptures. It’s very satisfying when the piece comes together, and if the shape isn’t quite right, you can just add a litle more wool over the top to reshape it.

Another craft conquered! Well, the basics of it, at least. What shall I try next…? Any recommendations? Please leave them in the comments!


  1. Billi said

    It’s a beautiful first piece. I have a sculpted cavy (guinea pig) myself from a needle-felting artist. My regret was that at the time I refused to allow her to teach me the technique as, at the time, I considered myself to be all thumbs and especially when faced with a person of such immense skill. Her pieces were genuine art sculptures. I’m glad to have a small custom piece from her.

  2. Marcia Smith said

    I’ve gathered the materials to try needlefelting too but haven’t yet. Your subject and the result are darling! Thanks for sharing such positive comments; I think I will try it sooner now.

  3. Robyn said

    I thought it was real too! Adorable!

  4. Mary said

    Hi June, I am doing learning 2.0 so of course I am using your blog.

    Your g.p is so realistic! I haven’t looked at the blog lately. You have been busy. Lol.

    Talk to you soon.

  5. June said

    That’s a good idea! I think you would have to crochet with wool yarn so that the wool would ‘stick’ to it when you try to felt it, although you could always experiment. Acrylic doesn’t felt, so it may not work if you don’t use wool yarn as the base form! But I have heard that fiberfill (regular polyester stuffing) DOES felt, so you could save some of your precious wool by felting over a fiberfill core.

    Your wire idea would definitely work really well – if you build a wire armature you could easily felt around the wire ‘bones’.

  6. FishRockette said

    Ok, now I think I’m going to give needle felting a try, you explained it so well! Question, could you have crocheted a simple form, then needlefelted over that? What about a wire frame that could give it poseability? Very cute btw!

  7. Out of the corner of my eye, I thought that was a real guinea piggy

  8. Josefin said

    Oh, it looks great!
    I have also tried needlefelting before, but I think I have to try again, someday!
    After seeing your creation, that is your first, I really wants to try one more time. ^^

  9. val said

    oops…I mean the cutest GUINEA PIG ever……8-)

  10. val said

    OMGosh….that little hamster looks so REAL! What a cutie pa tootey!

    I’ve never been interested in needle felting…I value my fingers tips too much.
    But…..gotta admit, that hamster tempts me!

  11. Miriam said

    That is too cute. You are a genius at imbuing your little animal creations with personalities.

  12. Carina said

    Oh, it’s absolutely adorable. Good job!

    And I totally agree about the jumping straight in instead of testing things. Of course, that sometimes leads to ‘disaster’, but sometimes the result can be really quite awesome. 🙂

  13. Crafty Carolinagirl said

    Great job on your first piece. He is so cute! Someday I’d like to give this a try too.

    Why not try a little bowl? I’ve seen so many cute ones around the web and on Etsy.

  14. jessica said

    He came out absolutely adorable. Very impressive for your first piece!

  15. domi said

    So cute!! I can

  16. Jessica said

    Aww – your miniature guinea pig is just adorable! I’ve never seen a baby guinea pig before, but this is what I guess one would look like. I’m now very tempted to have a go myself and try to make a needle felted version of my little cheeky hamster.

    I’ll only suggest one craft as I’m worried that if I give you too many ideas you may stop designing all your fantastic patterns (and I’m ever hopefully that one day you’ll do a crochet fox). I used to do a lot of glass painting (I must dig out all my paints again and do some more) which I found to be great fun. The colours look so lovely and bright and making simple nightlight holders is great fun + are always appreciated as gifts.

  17. Robin said

    that’s so _cute_. But I think Angie was the best guinea pig ever;)

  18. IdaDown said

    Fantastic! I first saw n/f in the teddy world, for both mini teddies and to sculpt realistic muzzles. Suggestions: your cute little dogs! Have you seen these?

    ps Any chance of a peek at more of your o/tang?

  19. OMG! That is so cute! I bought a felting needle and pad on sale, but I haven’t tried it yet.

  20. Hello June,

    Your FO are allways so cute, whatever craft you do! Your little animals seem to be alive (my husband who come back from office see your picture over my shoulders, and he thinks it id a real Guinea Pig).

    An idea for the next? Why not a little cat?

    Thank you to share your work with us, it’s a real pleasure.


  21. Kari said

    My word, is there any craft you’re NOT interested in trying? (And being super-AWESOME at??? LOL)

    Your first needle-felting project is amazing! I can barely believe you haven’t ever done it before!

    It’s something I’ve wanted to try for a while, I may have to drag my wool out from the back of my closet!!!

  22. Brie said

    I love love love love it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! How awsome!! My needlefelting sucks yours is stunning!

  23. dawn said

    min min!!! It looks just like her. Except not as big… XxxxX

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