Time: 10 hours (depending on skill and gear)
100% wool sweater to be recycled
Mitten Template (made from tracing hand)
Felting wool in 5 colors
4 tiny black beads for eyes
Needle Felting Gear
Sewing Machine (or Needle) and Thread
Needle for sewing details
design for felting
(for a more complete materials list, check out part 2)
I attended a local Stitch and Bitch but I hadn’t any current, portable projects to work on. I showed up because it’s a nice crowd and I decided I’d work on an idea of something to make. I had an old cashmere sweater that was just too short for me and thought I’d recycle it. I’d recently seen some needle felting and it occurred to me that I could felt a design onto recycled mittens. I had no idea really what I wanted to sketch so I just let my pencil wander.
I was a bit surprised that this is where I ended up. I love to draw snowmen (in Japanese they are called yukidaruma). I wanted the snowman to have a little bit of character and something Japanese-styled. All I can say about the ninja is that I must have seen something on TV around that time. The way I drew the mask is a little bit like the female ninja character, Nezumi Onna (mouse woman) on a jidai-geki.
The snowflake above the head was supposed to be a shuriken/snowflake. I loved the idea but I quickly gave up the shuriken idea as being too difficult to for felting and the size.
I’m not sure how authentic nunchuks are for Japan and ninja. I don’t think they are very authentic but they were fun and easy to do, so I used them.
So I had one hand done, but didn’t want to have ninja vs. ninja. So a samurai was the next logical choice.
I had this idea of them fighting on a bridge with a castle in the background and snow falling. Then I had a reality check. This was my first needle-felting design project and I wanted it to looks good and be simple. I still like the idea so I might actually do this as a drawing someday.
I was really happy with how I got this snowman to appear to have more dynamic movement but still be round and weighty. His chomage (the samurai hairstyle) at this point looks ok. The clothes are suggestive of Japanese men’s kimono rather than representative.
That’s a Fun Sketch, but Can You Felt It?
So I had two simple designs that I really liked. Before I started to make the mittens, I wanted to make sure that I could felt the design well enough to satisfy me. This was my first time to felt a 2-D pattern, not to mention one of my own design. I didn’t want to go through the work of making mittens only to mess them up with shoddy work. I needed practice. In all honesty, the project languished at this stage for a few months.
I started with the ninja.
I did a bit of research and found this site for felting designs with a felting needle. I checked out a lot of sites but this was the easiest for me to understand.
I cut out a strip from the sweater and drew the design on the wool. It’s not easy to do a good sketch with a fabric marker on wool. I made an underbody of the snowman before felting his clothes on. I don’t know if I would do it that way again. I didn’t with the samurai and that was easier and less bulky.
When I finished I was pretty happy with it. Since I liked it quite a bit and didn’t want to waste the effort, I made it into a bookmark. The pink border in needled felted from some felting wool I had so that the sweater background wouldn’t unravel.
Next up was the samurai.
Having learned my lesson from the ninja (taken out of context, that sounds much more interesting than needle-felting), I didn’t put an underbody and felt clothes on top. The effect is a bit different. It gives the work a bit of a pieced effect, more pronounced lines between the colors. Sometimes it made a bit more of a gap than I would like but maybe that’s just the medium and I have to live with it.
This time I didn’t make a bookmark. The piece I cut was just large enough to test my design. I felt confident with the felting technique after the ninja. I wanted to practice the samurai before doing the mitten. Now I regret not taking a bigger piece to make a bookmark of the samurai. I’ll maybe felt it onto a larger piece someday.
Which brings us to the end of the design and practice portion of this entry. Check out part 2 on Friday.
If you have any suggestions of feedback about making the design process easier, I’d love to hear.
Thanks for taking the time to read the article. Hope you enjoyed it.