Saturday, November 03, 2012

Tutorial: Needle Felted Cat Toy with Catnip

Thanks for reading my first tutorial! I've been really excited to do a photo tutorial on needle felting for quite some time now. I wanted to start out with something simple, not too complicated and well suited for beginners. When I first started needle felting, I found it rather difficult to find good tutorials out there that explained well enough how to achieve the finished look you're going for. Hopefully, I can offer you guys some good tips and insight about my felting process.

>>Skill Level: BEGINNER

Needle felting is a very rewarding activity and a great creative outlet for people who love creating things with their hands, like I do. Today, I'm sharing a step-by-step process on how to needle felt your own cat toy with catnip! There are many ways to needle felt and truly no right way over another. I'm simply going to show you how I go about creating needle felted things and do my best through photos and explanation to help you learn to do the same.

What You Need:

1. Felting NeedlePreferably a medium gauge, but fine will work, too.
2. Foam PadEssential for safe use with the felting needle.
3. Core WoolInexpensive wool used in the center of your project.
4. Carded WoolDyed fiber that you would like on the exterior of your creation.
5. Catnip –  Extra incentive for your kitty to play. ;) (Optional)

Getting Started:

1. Get your core wool and pull off a section to begin. If you are working with roving (yarn-like bundle) pull off a bit of length like shown. If you have batting, you can pull away the wool you'll be working with from the bulk of the wool batt. Once you have your sectioned off wool, gently pull the width to even out the thickness for rolling. Don't pull away too much or the catnip will fall through the gaps.

TIP: NEVER cut wool with scissors. It's very easy to pull apart and cut fibers are extremely hard to catch with the barbed felting needle.

2. Place a small amount of the dried catnip at the end of your wool, careful not to put it too close to the edges. Begin rolling it up.

TIP: The tighter you roll the wool, the less time you'll spend felting it.

3. As you are rolling up the catnip, pull a bit of wool out from the sides and tuck it in like shown in the photos. This gives the ends smoother edges and keeps the form from getting to be too long. During this process, you are essentially molding the form of your fish.

4. The most important thing to remember when using your felting needle is that the needle must go into and out of your form at exactly the same angle. If your needle is pulled sideways while inside the form, it can break off leaving you with a broken needle and the toy very unsuitable for kitty play. 

If you look closely, the felting needle has barbs at the end which is what condenses the fibers as you are repeatedly poking it inside the wool. This allows you to create any shape you like! Needle felting is as simple as in and out, once again paying close attention to the angle your needle is at while poking.

TIP: If you a frequent felter, you know the feeling all too well of being stabbed with your needle! As a beginner, be aware that the needle goes all the way through the form, which is why we use a foam pad, and to watch where your fingers are while felting.

This process requires patience. It can be very therapeutic if you enjoy it. :) Continue to poke into the fibers and you'll see a shape begin to form. Work your way around the wool to create a long egg shape to start out with. Your form should feel pretty solid, but not too dense or you'll have trouble getting your needle into it.

5. In my case, the form was a bit too long for my liking. Which isn't a bad thing because I can show you how I fixed that. You can use your needle to poke downward into your form to shorten it. You're condensing the length doing this rather than making it thinner. See the photos above to see how I did this. You can poke the ends to shorten the form, as well.

6. Once you have your basic shape, it's time to get more of a pointed end to give it more of a 'fish' resemblance. I simply used the needle to poke the ends down to a point, careful not to poke too much at the tip.

TIP: Wool is very 'mold-able.' Many times, I've used my hands to physically mold a shape when the needle couldn't achieve that perfect edge. As seen above, I squeezed the pointed tip together to make it not so round.

7. Time to give the fish a round belly. This is easy to do and very hard to mess up. Take a thin bit of length of your wool and wrap it around the base of the form. You can wrap it once and felt around it to see if it's enough. If not, you can always add more. I wrapped my form twice until I got the shape I wanted.

8. Creating the little fins is like making tiny forms. Get a bit of wool and simply roll it up into a rounded shape that looks like a fish fin. Again, felt it into a solid form and if you feel like it needs to be a bit bigger just wrap it with more wool and felt around it until you like the shape.

9. Hold the fin on your fish form with your finger and secure it with the needle. Poke in the fibers until you feel it's attached well enough. We'll be securing it better later, so it just needs to be held on without holding it there.

10. While making the second fin, take note that the loose ends (shown in the top middle photo) will make it easier to attach to the form. I used the same technique when making little forms by folding over one of the edges so it results in a smoother look. If I'm attaching it to another piece, I leave one end with loose fibers to make it easier to work with. Secure the second fin on the form the same way you did the first.

11. Now grab another strip of wool and wrap it around the form and around each fin like shown and felt it until solid. I had to do this twice to get the look I wanted. Doing this also helps fully secure the fins onto the form because they are felted into the entire piece. I also used more wool around the belly (not shown) to give it more roundness. I decided it needed to be a little more plump. :) Congrats, your form is finished!

12. Take your dyed wool and wrap it tightly around the form as shown in the photos. (You can use any color you like or even leave it finished with the core wool.) Now simply needle felt around the form until you get a smooth surface. Don't worry about it looking perfect. You can go over it and smooth edges after it's completely covered.

13. If you have patches or bald spots, it's an easy fix! Just get a pinch of wool (I used several layers) and place it over the spot you need coverage and felt over it.

TIP: I find it easiest to spot patches in your work in direct sunlight.

14. Wrap the fins in strips of your dyed wool just like you did with the main part of the form and simply needle felt until the surface is smooth. Now is the time to check for any more thin patches that show through to the core wool and smooth over the entire piece. By lightly poking over the project, you won't necessarily condense it any smaller, but you can smooth any bumps and tuck in any areas you feel needs touch ups.

Finished! What an adorable little fish this is! We have many kitties around this house (1-indoors & 6-outdoors) so little toys like this bring lots of fun to our play time. You could also add a string to your fish and attach it to a stick to give your kitties a bit of a challenge.

If you are interested in purchasing this little cat toy instead of making it, you can find it here

Thanks for reading my tutorial! Please feel free to comment or email with any questions. I would love to see pictures of your finished fish, as well. Hope you enjoyed and have a great weekend, everyone!

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