Sunday, January 04, 2009

Heart-felt hobby

Susan Bell is always coming up with another cool art project. I stop by her gallery with Sophie occasionally to see what she's doing. I love her painted animal portraits and am amused by her Dung Bunnies (biodegradable sculptures made of manure). Now she's got another medium: felt. She is still working on the Bernese mountain dog and the Jack Russell, but the poodle is pretty well finished.

The technique is called needle-felting. If you throw wool in a hot washing machine, the scales on the fibers stick up and get all tangled together, locking tighter and tighter as the machine agitates. This results in either a ruined sweater (unintentional felting) or maybe a nice purse (intentional felting).

In needle-felting, you use a very sharp, barbed needle to accomplish the same result, poking the fibers thousands of times to get the scales to lock together. With patience and talent, you can create some pretty detailed sculptures.

Here's a good explanation from someone who makes felted pet portraits. (It's amazing how many really badly photographed tutorials are out there! It took me a while to find this attractive one.)

I don't need any more hobbies, nor tchotchkes, but I thought this was pretty neat.


  1. Oh dear lord those are sweet. I think I need to learn how to do that. Because I have so much free time on my hands and everything... still, the allure of making little furry dogs is really compelling.

  2. Those are so cute! I once did a story on a fiber artist who made's so neat what people can do with fabric!

  3. That needle felting sounds dangerous--sharp needle and all. In a moment of weakness I bought a Martha holiday nutness magazine, and she had an article on felting, but I think all she did for some project was wreck a sweater (I can do that) and sew it into a pillow or hot water bottle cover (I could maybe do that).

  4. Those miniature felt animals at are sooooo cute! So appeals to the dollhouse-lover in me. Now I think I know what to do with our old dollhouse ... populate it with cute little felt animals!

  5. They are so cute, but I've tried needle felting. A few misses with the needle and you sort of re-think your new hobby. Needle felting and alcohol don't mix either.

  6. Lisa, they do seem hard to resist! I've seen some that were a lot sloppier and looser, but still cute.

    Mimi, I wanted to squeeze them!

    Duck, how did she make the bunnies? Some people are so talented with crafty stuff.

    Cindy, I've heard of that sweater-wrecking trend, which could be fun. Certainly easier than 20 hours of poking a needle, and safer!

    Jenny, that's an idea! you could make little people, too ...

    Betts, but alcohol works for disinfecting your punctures ...