In this tutorial you will learn how to make a pocket sized monkey by needle felting wool. I made these for my niece and nephews over Christmas and thought that I'd share the how to as they are fun to make and cute when finished.
Step 1: Supplies
For this pocket pet you will need:
Wool roving in dark brown, light brown and black.
A Sponge or Brush felting surface. (The brush that I am using is a panda shaped nail cleaning brush that I found at the dollar store, it's not designed for felting but it is immensely useful for small pieces and flat pieces, though it isn't absolutely necessary)
Felting needles: 32G crown point needle and a 36G star needle.
Ruler or Measuring tape.
DO NOT stick a felting needle through your finger. Felting needles tear and stabbing your finger with them can be painful, and could possibly result in needing stitches. (I've never had to have stitches from a felting needle but I have from a regular needle that I put through my finger and ripped out, it's seriously embarrassing so just avoid causing yourself harm)
It shouldn't need saying but don't run with scissors or sharp pointy things of any sort of variety.
Lastly These make great toys, even for kids, but don't make one of these for your kids if they put things in their mouths and swallow them. That is to say that you could choke on one of these, so don't put it in your mouth.
Step 2: The basics of felting and some tips and pointers.
Needle felting is basically stabbing wool roving over and over again with a barbed needle causing the individual fibers of wool to interlock with one another. Each fiber of wool has scales along it that catch on the scales of other wool strands causing them to become permanently tangled.
In this tutorial I am using 2 different needles, I'm going to explain why I select and use each of them.
The crown point needle is one of my favorites. It has 3 barbs that are right at the tip of the needle. It's triangular in shape, so each barb is placed along one edge of the needle. I prefer doing most of my work with this needle because it only felt a few fiber as a time. It does felt slower than other needles with more barbs but it gives you greater control when shaping a 3d felted piece. The reason that it give you more control is that it essentially felts the inside of a ball of wool while leaving the surface mostly un-felted. This allows you more chances to move or reshape wool than using other needles and it also gives you a firmly felted piece.
The star point needle, which in this tutorial is a finer gauged needle has multiple barbs along it's four sided star shaped needle. These extend from the tip up a good distance as you can see in the photo. The barbs are also staggered. This needle felts wool very quickly. This can be a good thing, but it can also cause problems if you want a firmly felted piece in the end. Because it grabs many layers of fiber it tends to felt the surface of a piece while missing the center of piece, which can result in a squish-able animal, or caricature. It's star shape however tends to not leave a noticeable hole in a finished piece which is why I use it for finishing the surface and use the crown point needle for felting the structure.
Tips on shaping:
When working with wool I basically always start with a ball of wool. Then I Roll it to elongate it into a coil, or flatten it to make a flat piece, or keep rolling it to make a sphere. It's important to remember not to felt one area more than another so always turn a piece and move your needle.
Needle direction (or angling) is also important. Your needle is dragging wool in the direction you're stabbing the wool. It's much the same as pushing clay. So keep in mind where you want the fibers to go when you're felting them. If you want them to go in and to the center of a piece then you want you needle straight up and down. If your felting a curve then you want to follow the shape of that curve with your needle. If at any time you get lost, press into the wool with your finger and see how your finger alters the shape. If that's what you want then mimic that push of your finger with your felting needle.
Right, so I can't think of anything else to tell you about needle felting, other than it's a very fun and relaxing hobby that I'd suggest everyone try at least once. Hopefully I've covered the important bits.
Step 3: The body part 1
First cut 3 1/4 inch long strand of your wool roving in dark brown.
Then take the roving which is mostly straight and mix the fibers up so that they look like the second photo. The goal here is to try and get fibers going in every direction so that they tangle together more quickly and easily.
There is really only one step to this process, Roll the wool between your hands then stab your needle into it, over and over again, turning regularly and felting all sides. Then repeat.
Roll, Stab turn, stab turn, stab turn, repeat stab turn fifty or so times, then roll it again, then repeat the stab turn process.
Continue doing this until you have a sphere that is approximate 1 1/2 inch wide.
Step 4: The body continued
Starting with your sphere from the last step your going to turn this into an egg like shape with a flat bottom. To do that you simply felt the sides, pushing gently with your finger to help shape the wool more quickly. Then felt the flat bottom, then felt the top. Try to follow the curve with your needle so that the wool is being pushed towards the center. So by follow the curve I mean that your needle would be straight up and down at the top center, and then as you progress down the right side of the curve your needle end would tip to your right, where as the left side, your needle base (not tip) would tilt towards the left,
Again you just repeat the 3 steps above. sides, turning regularly so that the entire area is covered, the flat base, and the top.
Remember to keep using your crown point needle, this leaves the surface bubbly looking like in the last photo, but you'll feel the needle resisting as in enters the center of your wool shape. Never force the needle through a piece as that can cause the needle to break, and keep an eye on your fingers. Felting needles tear the skin so it'll be very painful if you stab yourself. Hold the needle gently between your fingers so that if it gets stuck it slips upward as your hand moves down.
Now in the first photo you can see that I'm pushing down with my finger, and angling the needle to my left. the reason for this is that I'm trying to elongate the wool while still shrinking it down and in. If my needle was at a sharper angle I'd be moving the wool even more to the left side.
In the fourth photo you can see that I'm pushing straight down into the wool. This is the flat bottom side, going straight down and in means that you will just shrink it in the direction your needle is traveling. it's somewhat round, so you're needle will go round a circle, don't forget to get close to the edge on the bottom. You can round the edge up into the body as your shaping the sides of the body, I usually start at the center and felt down until it's mostly flat as it begins pretty rounded, then I felt outward to the edge. Always move your needle to a different spot though, don't just felt in one single location over and over again.
Here I'm rounding the top keeping it mostly spherical. In the fifth photo above you can see that I'm angling my needle to match the curve, At the very top my needle would be straight up and down, so as I move to the sides I want to angle the needle, following the curve, which is what you're seeing in the photo.
Just to reiterate you felt the sides, rolling it across the sponge as you do,(felting all sides), then you felt the bottom, then the top, and repeat until your wool has shrunk to about 1 1/2 inches and is somewhat firm to the touch when you squeeze it while still springing back out when you stop squeezing it.
Step 5: The face.
To begin you will want to gather some of your light brown wool.
If you want to measure you can cut a length of roving 3 1/4 inch long, then split it in half. Then take one of the two strands you have now, and split it in half again. I actually used a bit of scrap wool that I had from another project, but normally I would measure it out like this. I'd keep the other 1/4 of the roving for the belly later on. In the first photo with the dark brown wool I'm demonstrating how you split the roving in half by just pulling it apart from the top down.
Or you can guesstimate the amount of wool that you'll need, if you end up with too much you can always cut some of the wool away, or if you end up with too little you can always add a bit more. guessing generally results in something that is unique and one of a kind. For the face I used a pinch of wool fiber I had left over from another project. The second and third photo demonstrate the amount I used. If your guesstimating like I did then use the body piece as a guide, the loose ball of fiber is about half as tall as the body piece.
Once I have my fibers rolled in a loose ball I flatten this ball onto the brush. I usually push it down so the brush grabs it then gentle roll it in circles against the palm of my other hand. I couldn't take a photo of this process because it would require I have three hands or a camera that would attach to my tripod. If you don't have a brush just flatten the ball between both hands and gently move them in a circle, it gives you the same flattened sphere at the end.
Before removing it you'll want to stab your felting needle into a few times, not too many times, just enough to help the fibers stick together, so you can control them more easily.
Take this flattened disc and carefully fold loose fibers from the top edge under just a bit, then lay it down onto the body piece and using your crown point needle felt it together. Stick close to the top as much as you can, you do not want to attach the bottom at all.
make a notch at the top by using you needle to just grab the light brown wool and push it down. The sixth photo shows this, my needle is basically flat again the body, only grabbing the light brown wool.
Once you have a dip between the eyes that you are happy with, attach the top part. Make sure that you focus on the edge and then down to about the halfway point. In the photos above you can see I felted one side first and then the other. If you have loose fibers on the edges that you want to tame, use the tip of your needle to push them away from you, then insert the needle along the edge into the body, this makes the needle catch onto the fibers you've pushed away from you and drag them into the body of the felt. I usually tame the edge later on, as you can see in the final photo.
Felt until both eyes are done and about half of the face is finished. The last photo has a note that describes the are of the face you want to felt. The body is laid sideways so the top of the body is on the right of the photo. The fibers at the bottom are still loose.
Step 6: The nose
To shape the nose you are going to take the loose fibers at the end, Shown from the bottom up in the first photo. Then your are going to pinch then from the sides in towards the center, shown in the second photo. Then the end that's loose and sticking between your fingers your going to grab and fold it down and under. If you look at the third photo I'm using my finger to hold this rolled fiber into place before attaching it with my needle to the body, you're looking at the bottom side of the face..
Pinch, fold under and up, then felt at the bottom with your needle.
Step 7: Finish the nose
You need to felt the snout from many different directions. .In the first photo your looking at it from the bottom, the second and third photos show the sides of the piece and the fourth and fifth are showing the front of the snout. Its helpful to move the body rather than the needle while felting the nose from all different directions. You can also use the edge of your sponge or brush and lay the nose over that edge and then felt it. Be careful not to get your fingers. Also make sure that the edges are well attached to the body, especially under the nose.
Step 8: Finish the face
Alright so at this point it usually becomes difficult to continue using the crown point needle so you will want to switch to your 36 gauge star point needle.
Your going to felt the entire face and nose randomly, and then felt the dark brown wool around them more. The star point needle felts the surface of the piece, so when felting the dark brown wool felt around the face for now, but not much further.
Focus on your edges by inserting the needle right where the light wool meets the dark wool.
Continue stabbing it over and over, moving your needle to different places. Focus on the nose and lay it along the edge of your felting surface to felt the sides of the nose into the center.
Don't over felt it, you still want to add the eyes and define the nose.
Step 9: A bit more felting on the body
Using the 36G star point needle go ahead and felt the rest of the body as well.
Keep the needle stabbing at random places and keep moving the entire piece. In the last photo show I'm felting right at the side near the bottom, right near the edge. It's easy to forget the edge of a piece especially if your holding it with your fingers. I usually place my finger on the opposite edge and then stab with the needle so that my needle is no where near my finger.
You'll notice that the surface is starting to look less bubbly and more like felt at this point.
Step 10: Give him some legs and arms.
Grab a piece of wool and split it into four pieces. This will give you four legs that are approximately equal in size.
roll them into loose balls, as you can see my loose balls are about just slightly bigger than the nose. In the first photo the longer bit of rolled wool is for the tail. You can get the wool ready for that now if you want or make a roll of wool later. I'll explain that part later on.
Felt each ball using your crown point needle. Roll it and stab it, every direction. The third photo shows how they look after being felted just a bit with the crown point needle. Don't felt them too much, you mostly just want to tack the fibers into a sphere so that they are easier to manage while still leaving some loose bits.
Then you attach the arms and legs and felt them together, focusing on the edges where the leg meets the body and then the center of the spherical leg. Use your star needle for this as it will be easier than felting with the crown point into the body. The photos show you the areas you want to focus on but remember to felt the entire surface of each arm and leg, dragging your wool down and into the body so they are well attached.
Repeat this until you have all four legs attached to the body, as you can see I have one arm on the top of the last photo that is higher than the others, this gives it character, you want them close to the same, but minor mistakes can add to the end design. One arm up makes it look like it's waving at you.
Also note that the second to last photo you can see the needle going completely through the arm. you'll want to do this from all sides of each arm., Getting at the sides can be difficult when the other arms are attached to the body so keep that in mind.
Step 11: Give it a belly
So again I just took a bit of scrap wool and rolled it into a ball. then flattened it. I ended up having more fiber than I needed, which isn't a problem as you'll see.
Once you've flattened you ball of wool into a disc like shape you want to attach it, starting right under the chine, make sure you leave a line of dark brown wool between the belly and the face. Work from the top down towards the bottom, using your needle to move the light brown wool where you want it to be attached. Again pay careful attention to your edged.
Once I reached the bottom and could see that I had too much wool I decided to cut it off. Cutting it wasn't absolutely necessary I could have also made the character have a fat belly by doing the same thing I did with the snout (nose) part of the face. I didn't want him to have a really big belly though and I wanted to show you how you can remove excess wool.
In the last two photo I swept the tip of the needle from the outside edges in towards the center. I'm using the needle to move the fibers, and the stabbing into the body to secure them. This technique is useful to master as it give you wonderful control over even the tiniest bits of fiber.
Continue felting the belly until it's firmly attached and there are no loose little bits of fiber sticking up on your edges. Also don't forget that you want to felt the dark brown a bit around the belly, if you ignore the dark wool you will find that you have a noticeable dip where one bit of wool meets another, but by felting both at the edges you avoid this happening.
Step 12: The tail
For this step I took a scrap bit of brown wool and rolled it between my palms to get a snake like roll of wool.Again I estimated the amount of wool I'd need. Don't use too little wool, for something like a tail you can remove excess fiber using scissors easier than you can add it. I wanted the tail to be about the length of my thumb nail so I made a coil that was about three times that and about just more than half the width of my nail. If you go back to step 10 you can see the coil in relation to the body. Basically if you want a longer tail make a longer coil if you want a thicker tail add more wool to it.
To make the coil or snake.
This is exactly the same way you would work clay, start with a ball and then take the finger tips of both hands with the wool between them and drag the finger tips of one hand down towards your palm, rolling the wool between your fingers as you go. Then bring the other hand down the opposite direction. repeat this a few times using gentle pressure.
Once you have your coil of wool you want to begin felting it in the middle using your crown point needle. Do NOT felt either edge, leave the fibers at both ends loose. as you can see in the photos this causes it to look u shaped because the fiber in the center is being forced into the coil but the ends aren't worked at all and are still fluffy. Roll this and work the center out to the ends for the length you want the tail to be.
Then take the fiber from one end and use your needle to push the fiber away from you and then stab it into the center of your coil. This is a lot like the bottom of the body, just keep dragging your fibers into the center of your coil until you have a somewhat round edge as seen in the fifth photo.
Then turn it and work on the sides of the coil again, working down to the very tip while still keeping the bottom fibers free and loose. Again turn the piece regularly and felt from the right (the tip) to the very base, then roll it on your surface and felt from tip to base again. You want to keep felting
When it becomes difficult to work with the crown point needle switch to your star needle. You want to felt the tail really well before attaching it to the body.
If you notice the last photo I wanted to demonstrate the point at which the fibers become loose and un-felted, if you take your needle or your finger and push down you will find that it's firm up until you reach the loose fibers at which point the needle can completely compress them down. This photo is meant to demonstrate and remind you that you want to keep the base fibers loose. So focus on the tip and length of the tail more as you are felting the tail.
This actually doesn't take very long to make because it is so small. If you are having difficulties holding something tiny and not stabbing into your fingers you can always use another felting needle to hold it in place, or even a pen or something similar. My fingers aren't very big so I find it easy to work small things but most people don't. Just take your time and move slowly when doing a smaller piece.
Step 13: Attach the tail to the body
So begin by pulling you loose fibers in all directions. You want to move most of the fibers to one side and only have a few to the other like in the second photo which is looking from the tip of the tail straight down.
When you attach this most of your loose fiber needs to be right at the bottom of the body.
Attach it using your star point needle just like you attached the arms and legs. Just stab straight through the tail into the body then attach the loose fibers at the base to the base. Keep felting continuously moving your needle to a different spot until all of the loose fibers are attached.
You are only attaching the base of the tail, Too the body, so start at the previously felted base and work down to the loose fibers. Do not felt the tip of the tail, you want the tip to be unattached.
Step 14: Give it eyes
You want to take maybe 5-10 single hairs of black wool. Literally a very small amount of fiber and roll those between your finger tips to turn them into small balls, as you can see these aren't that large when compared to the needle.
Next you will want to attach them to the face. Use your star point needle to pick the piece up and then stab it into the center as shown in the second photo. Then work out from the center felting the black wool onto the surface focus on the edge again, you want to insert the needle right where one color meets the other so that half the needles barbs are catching one color and half is catching the other. This is seen in the third photo.
I usually stab the center into place and attach both eyes and then felt one and then the other. In the photos above I didn't take photos of the left eye, so if you look closely you can see that the edges of the wool on the left are not well defined.
If you want larger eyes you can use more wool and attach it to a wider area, if you want smaller eyes use less wool to start with.
If you have a stray bit of fiber that's sticking straight up away from the center of the eye, that's really long, you can trim it with your scissors. It's hard to tame long ends for such a small area, you can avoid having this happen by making sure your little balls of wool are tightly compressed and rolled until no fibers escape the ball before attaching them. It's something that can happen, and usually does, although for this pocket pet it didn't.
Step 15: Define the nose and mouth
Define the nose:
Start with a rolled ball of wool like you made for the eyes, this should be slightly larger than the eyes were, but still just a few strands of wool. (approximately 10 or more individual hairs)
Attach it in the center and work from the center out to the edges use your needle to capture the black fibers and attach them where you want them, make certain that you felt the entire area that you covered with black wool.
Define the mouth.
Grab a small strand of black wool that is straight from the roving. Fold this straight piece in half, creating a loop , then insert your needle into the loop pulling the needle opposite of where you are holding it. This gives it tension and tightens the fiber around the needle. You don't need to pull to hard. With the wool captured like this near the tip of your needle take the needle and wool to the face of the animal and insert your needle into the center of where you want the mouth to be. Don't remove the needle from the center of the mouth just yet.
If you look at the fifth photo you can see that the fiber is behind the needle, and between the needle and the body of the pocket pet. you'll want to remember that you can trap the fiber between the needle and the felted body as you work the mouth because you are working with just a few tiny strands of wool that aren't much bigger than your needle.
Now you will want to open the ends of the loop that you made to begin with. Do this before pulling your needle out. Pull the right side to the right and the left side to the left.
Now simply felt along the length until you have a mouth that your happy with the look of. You can even try varying the shape of the mouth to make a creature more emotive at this point. So don't be afraid to play around.
Step 16: The ears
To make the ears I measured out a piece of wool roving that is 2 1/4 inch long. Then I split it in half, then I split that half in half (1/4 of the original size) I then split this one last time in half (1/8th the original wool roving).
You can see photo 1-5 the measuring and splitting process. This will give you mostly equal amounts of wool so that your ears are approximately the same size.
Make a sphere by lightly rolling the fibers as you did before and then flatten this sphere into a flat coin shaped piece.
Use your brush to felt this into a circle with one edge of fibers still unfelted. You want to insert your needle straight down from the top of the brush. If you look at photo seven you can see that I placed my Ring finger on the needle to mark the depth I could push the needle in with out hitting the bottom of the nail brush. You can use this same method any time you need to pay attention to the depth you are felting fibers.
You also want to felt the top and sides of the circles edge. You can turn the brush on it's side as seen in the second to last photo and stab from the edge towards the center.
Now you will felt the flat part, felt the edges and then you will flip it over, so what was on the top is now on the bristles of the brush. Then just repeat until it's firm and shaped as you want it to be.
Look at the last picture to see the shape and also remember you want to leave fibers loose on one edge so that you can attach the ear to the body.
Step 17: The second part of the ears
Again I estimated the amount of the light brown wool I needed for these. You do not need as much wool as you had for the first step of the ears.
Roll the fibers into two spheres and then squish them flat. You can felt them a bit before attaching them. Just like you felted the ears before, only focus on felting the center and leaving the edges kind of loose.
Now when you attach these peices to the dark brown ears you made in the last step it seems rather tricky. You want to keep your needle at a sharp angle and then like in the last photo, you do not want the barbs of your needle to ever go completely through the dark brown wool. If you push your needle from the top all of the way through the ear you will end up with bits of Light brown wool poking through the other side of the ear. It's very important that you control the depth of your needle while felting this. As I showed you in the last step, you can put your right finger down along the needle at any point. This way when your ring finger makes contact with the felt you don't push further into the piece. If you control your depth with a finger further down the needle you don't have to move slowly or cautiously.
Also, keeping the needle angled results in a sturdier felt as your Felting only the surface if it's not strongly felted this part will fall off.
Felt from the tip down towards the loose fiber end of the ear. again continually move you needle so you're not felting one spot continuously.
Step 18: Add the ears to the body
This is essentially the same as attaching the tail to the body. You want to put the loose fibers towards the back of the head.
Start to attach the ears at the front and in the center. As shown in the third photo. Move from the center outward. Curve the edge of the ear towards the front by gently pinching both sides together. Again be careful when you felt the edges not to catch your finger.
Then felt the back side. again you want to keep the ear held in place with your fingers and you may want to continue pinching the sides together until you have the curve felted the way you want and it doesn't move when you release it.
Just felt the front, the back and all around the edge where the ear meets the body and keep felting until the ear is in place.
Repeat this for the other ear.
Step 19: You're done.
At this point you should give it a name because once the ears are attached it is complete and ready to become a pocket pet.
My niece and nephews absolutely love these things, and They are always asking me to make different animals to send them for their birthdays or holidays. They also sit really well on shelves and if you need to wash it you can hand wash them gently in cold water.
I hope that you enjoyed this tutorial and that it made some sense.