Annie, a Needle-Felted Cat
I’ve thought of it so many times‒starting a needle felting project. And today I did it! My plans for the day had changed unexpectedly. I was disappointed, but determined to make the best of it and it seemed the perfect opportunity to do something out of the ordinary.
It’s been a few years since I made my last needle felted animal, but I clearly remembered the process. I had an idea, printed a photo for inspiration, and got started. The first step is a wire armature.
I used gauge 12 aluminum wire which is a pleasure to work with. It bends easily, yet is fairly substantial and keeps its shape. As a guide for making the armature, I sketched a standing cat, then sketched in where the neck, spine, tail, and big bones of the legs and arms would be. Since I thought my cat would have pretty big feet, I made teardrop shaped loops for them.
Next, I covered the armature with pipe cleaners. They give a rough surface that the wool can stick to much better than it would stick to the wire. The colors don’t really matter, but sometimes the pipe cleaners will show a teensy bit at the ends of the nose, tail, and paws. I thought I’d probably make a tuxedo cat, and these spots would likely be white, so I used white pipe cleaners there.
Now for the wool! I used what’s called “core wool” for everything except the final coat where I’ll use the colors of the fur (I call that final layer the pelt). Core wool is somewhat less expensive than “finishing” wool and it’s also a coarser texture which felts easily. This is the first layer of core wool. You may notice that I have the neck wire bending forward quite a bit to help me begin forming the nose.
One of the tricky things about needle felting animals is that we start with an armature which resembles a skeleton and then begin wrapping wool. In some parts, like the legs and arms, the bones are approximately in the middle of the limb. In those parts, wrapping the wire works well as it adds an even layer all around the wire.
But there are other parts, like the torso and neck, where the bones are close to the back of the body. In these cases, I need to add wool at the front and sides, but not much at the back.
And then there’s the head. All I have is a wire, not a skull in the armature. So there, I have to add quite a bit of wool in the front and on the sides, all the time working towards shaping the head. So, as I work, I keep this in mind and proceed as best I can.
After adding quite a bit more wool, I think I’m ready to start the pelt.
All along, I’ve been planning to sew some sort of clothing for this cat. So I’ve purposely left the body, arms, and legs quite simple. I’m probably going to sew the clothing directly onto the body, and for that purpose, this will work quite well. As I look at this photo though, I think I may need to add more wool to her right arm and leg which look narrower to me than her left arm and leg.
The next day, after adding that additional core wool on her right arm and leg, I began applying the “pelt,” or the color coat. Initially, I was going to make her all black and then make a Halloween costume for her, but I thought a tuxedo cat would show her eyes better, so that’s what I did, and here she is.
Her eyes are glass eyes from www.glasseyesonline.com. I made her ears from wool felt that I needle-felted black wool on to, and made her nose of polymer clay. Her whiskers are 8 lb test Fireline beading thread. I used a Pitt pen to add a little color in the indentations on her muzzle.
I didn’t craft a realistic cat, but I think I did achieve my goal of making a cute cat that I could dress in an equally cute costume. The costume is what I’m planning to work on next weekend, so we’ll just have to see how she turns out.
I hope you enjoyed this little side trip to needle felting!
By the way, if you haven’t tried needle felting but are interested in giving it a try, a great place to start is with the free tutorials on www.sarafinafiberfiverart.com.