My husband is exceedingly hard to buy for as he never wants anything. It's our little family joke. But this Christmas, he made a joking suggestion as he was playing Hearthstone, loving the new League of Explorers expansion. When Sir Finley Mrrgglton's card came up, he laughed and said he'd like a plush 'if they did one'. Later, I rushed to the internet, but to my dismay, I found no such plush. I took a long look at Sir FInley and decided 'I can make that'.
For those of you who don't know, Sir Finley Mrrgglton is a Murloc, (a froggish humanoid creature, and he has a strong Indiana Jones vibe). I decided for this project to try needle-felting for the first time, mainly because of Sir Finley's amazing Murloc skin which goes from bright orange on his extremities to green on his body. I didn't think I could replicate this with fabric or felt and that my attempts would look amateurish. I knew you could make dolls and toys with needle-felting, so I thought this was a good time to give it a try.
Needle-felting lets you take loose wool and 'felt' it together by sticking it with special needles. Before I started, I watched quite a few videos on needle-felting. The rest I sort of made up as I went along. It was daunting at first, but in the end, it was a lot easier than I thought it would be.
This project took me around two days for Sir Finley, and a day for the accessories.
Step 1: Materials Needed
I bought a needle-felting starter kit which you can find on Etsy or by googling, but I've broken it down into this list. You'll need the following materials:
For Sir Finley:
- Polyfill Toy stuffing
- Wool Roving in greens, orange and red, & cream
- Needle-Felting Needles
- Stiff Foam Mat
- Leather finger protectors (optional, but good to have)
- Glass Eyes
- Bendable wire (I used lead free solder on the spur of the moment)
- Toy voice recorder for cool-factor++ (eBay, teddy bear workshop insert)
For the Accessories:
- Strong Fabric for clothes
- Milliput or sugru for compass and monocle
- Clear plastic from recycled packaging
- A small stone or pebble
- Acrylic paint
- Spray varnish
If you have enough wool roving, you can just use it and opt not use the toy stuffing, which is only used on the inside to save on cost.
Step 2: Making the Body
The first thing I did was sketch around the glass eyes and recorder to make sure I would make it to the right scale. Yes, it's a scary drawing - don't worry, he gets cuter. Do watch a lot of needle-felting videos first so you get a grasp of what you'll need to do before you start. As my first-ever needle-felting project, I'm well aware there will probably be aspects of needle-felting that I've missed. So, I don't mind constructive criticism - but if you're adding commentary to this Instructable, please add video links to help people out.
The needles come in different gauges from a general felting down to a fine detail. I don't know if the colour coding is standard across the needles that the store sells. I used one for general felting, one for attaching the limbs, one for fine detail and one for smoothing. The gauge affects how deep the needle penetrates your felted fabric. The kit I'd bought had a little manual in it, which could be helpful if you're starting out.
- Start by putting your foam mat on a stable surface and grabbing a handful of toy stuffing. Lay it out on the mat and smooth it down as best you can, then take one of your general (not fine) needles and start stabbing the stuffing all over, straight down into the mat. My needle was silver. Try not to bend as you stab. The stuffing starts to lay flat. Then flip it over and stab some more. You will build on some pretty strong muscles in your shoulder. If there are thin places add more stuffing and stab it down. It's pretty therapeutic.
- Keep needle-felting the stuffing into a dense felt until you have enough to wrap around the recorder. If you're not using a recorder and want to make a large ball instead, you can follow this video. The more you stab the smoother it gets. Eventually, I got mine into a shape that held the recorder, then I pinched the edges together to enclose the recorder and stabbed until it joined, then I took out the recorder and continued to work the felt with the needle.
- After you get your stuffing shape finished, you'll want to felt the coloured wool onto the surface so your toy is green not white. I took light green wool roving from my kit and mixed it a little with some darker green so that it wasn't all one colour. If you're covering large areas, use a lot of roving, but if you're adding something like blush on a cheek, you really don't need much wool, only use a few strands. I wrapped the green roving around and continued stabbing, but PLEASE NOTE, if you want it to remain hollow, don't stab through both layers!
- Make the head by making an oblong sphere using the video in step 2, then wrap with the green roving and stab down with the needle until it's smooth, leave lots of fluffy, unfelted wool hanging off where the neck will be. Any time you want to attach something, like an arm to a torso, you'll need some wool to felt over the joint.
- Using an attaching needle (in my kit it was green), hold the head onto the body whilst stabbing down through the neck into the body, then after it holds firm, start felting down the loose wool over the join with the general needle.
At this point, you'll look at what you've created and feel... worried. But don't! You mustn't judge it until the end. At this point I moved on to the limbs, but in hindsight, I'd spend a little more time felting with the smoothing needles to smooth it out a bit. I found it was hard to do this after, then all the wool 'bloomed' and he's very fuzzy! So at each stage, before moving on, do smooth it out until you're happy with the fabric surface.
Step 3: Making the Hands and Arms
Congratulations if you've gotten this far, as the body and the face are the most time consuming. The arms are fairly easy. As I found a great video on making toes, I decided to create bendable fingers on the fly, so I used lead-free solder as the 'bendable wire'. I knew my husband wouldn't play with him the way a child does, so I don't think it will matter, but if you want it to be more durable, you should use a bendable wire like copper, instead. I found this amazing video to help with the fingers. I found out she makes it look easy, and it's harder than you think.
- I started out by making the wire hands with two fingers, but changed to three. (I was going to have two inside a more handy hand, but changed to wanting more froggish grippy fingers. Please make sure you make a lefty and a righty. I made two lefts and had to bend it to correct it :OP
- After you bend the wire into a frame, you take little skeins of wool and wrap the wool around the length of the fingers then back again, as if you're wrapping tape onto a bike handle or tennis racket.
- Then you carefully stab it, trying to avoid the wire, until the wool holds firm and looks more solid.
- I felted two little reddish circle shapes to be the palms and to add shape to the hands.
- I took a chunk of orange roving and started felting one end into a rectangular shape, leaving a lot of long loose wool. This loose wool will wrap up the green arms to create the Murloc skin effect.
- Put the fingers onto the orange hand base and felt down with the silver needle. Then add a little red palm and felt down until the hand is assembled and shaped to your liking.
- To make the arm, take mixed green roving to the approximate length, with a width of about an inch and a half. Start stabbing along the length and roll into a long cylinder, stabbing it into a cylindrical shape. If it's not working out, roll it between your palms to help shape it. I then left one end woolly (to attach to the shoulder) and the other end I felted into a ball joint (for the wrist).
- Open up the loose orange wool roving and put the ball joint from the arm into it then wrap the orange wool up the arm and felt down.
- Take the loose ends of the green arms and roll some into a ball and felt, then use the green needle to attach to the body. With the silver felt the loose green wool down to the body to give a stable surface. Gently tug on the arm to ensure it's attached. If any join looks messy or weird, just take a little wool roving and felt it over the messy bit. You can see in the last picture, there's a few messy joints (neck and chest) that I'll tidy up at the very end.
By now the plush is starting to look promising. Legs are up next.
Step 4: Making the Legs and Feet
Legs and feet are very similar to the arms, and easier, since there's no wire. Yay!
- Take a length of green roving and start felting it down. Create a ball joint at one end (ankle), and loose wool at the other end (hip). I made the legs much shorter than the arms so that Finley looks cuter and more frog-like.
- Take a chunky rectangle of red/orange wool and felt it with the general silver needle. If you stab over and over in-between the toes with a finer needle, it'll create a more toeish look.
- Put the ball joint of the leg into the loose orange wool and felt into place. This will turn into the heel. I turned him upside down and hung the foot off the edge of the mat to help me make the foot more flat and and at the right angle.
- Felt the orange wool up the leg in a swirly way.
- Attach the legs to the body. If, like me, you find you have too much excess wool, you can hold tightly to the join and tear the excess away. felt the rest of the wool into the groin area. I did not make Sir Finley anatomically correct - or did I? I believe the Murlocs may be asexual, so I think he's okay. Make yours as you will. ;O)
- If you make the feet big enough, and at a right angle to the leg, he will stand!
Step 5: Making the Face & Hair
Here's where it gets a bit tricky. You might need a little artistic license. Watch a lot of needle-felting videos, maybe practice on a spare head.
- Felt a little red crescent and attached it to the head with a green needle. This is the mouth
- Felt a little ball for the chin and attach.
- Take a small rectangle and felt it, with loose green wool at one end. This is the nose. Lay it on the face and smooth the loose wool over the forehead. Felt it down, trying to keep the shape of the nose intact. I spread the loose wool to give an impression of an eyebrow ridge.
- Take two strips of roving for the lips, and roll and felt them into cylinders. Attach and felt them into place, trying to keep a semblance of a smile (or frown).
- I used 14mm brown glass eyes - check they're light enough before you order. Mine were much too dark, but I didn't have time to get new ones. Felt down the eye socket a bit first with a fine detail needle, then using a strong thread, sew the eyes straight through the head and knot. use a teeny bit of roving to cover up the knot.
- Use more cylinders of roving, first in cream, then in green to create froggy-looking eye detail. Yes, 'froggy-looking' is a technical term. With the eyes finished, isn't he cute? Now the project starts to feel like it's coming together.
- Felt some orange wool as detail on his skin to go underneath the hair. Look at the last picture for the forehead, and let the back go down to the opening.
- Make the hair: Take lots of skeins of wool and roll/felt them into cylinder 'dreads'. I started with two each of long medium and short, but found them easy and fun and made loads more.
- When attaching them to the head, start at the bottom and attach, with the loose wool coming up the head. They all mostly attach to that center orange stripe. They don't come onto the sides of the head at all.
- I saved the teeth for last because I was worried they'd be hard. They were but not as bad as I thought. Use this video to help you out. Take a long, thin cylinder of cream, and roll it between your hands to get it smooth, then with one fine needle, stab the end in the edge of the mouth. take a long needle and wrap the wool around in a loop, and stab the needle into the mouth to hold it, then needle-felt the cream down. This creates one tooth. If they look bad or you mess it up, they come out pretty easily. I watched the video several times and got it done in one take, ripping out 2 teeth. They are messy and imperfect, but he's cuter that way. Sorry, by this point it was so hard to juggle the teeth and video, I didn't get a picture of this. I followed the video exactly.
Record his catchphrase "who's up for an adventure" in a grizzly scottish accent, or record straight from youtube. Put the recorder into the opening on his back. I also felted a flat round mat and inserted this over the recorder, so he has a 'back'. I wanted to be able to replace the batteries, or else I would have just felted over the whole back.
At this point, he's naked but he's done!
Step 6: Accessories
I didn't get many photos for this, at this point I was running out of time. It was the day before xmas eve, and I had to get it done.
I used this wundaweb container as a mold, and used milliput to create a monocle shape. I used a needle to create the hole while the milliput was wet. I cut a piece of plastic from a hand soap bottle for the 'glass' and used a toothpick to give it ridges. After it cured, I painted in with an acrylic paint (used for miniature figures) in a brass colour, then used an ink wash, then when dry, I used a dry brush in metallic. It's still messier than I'd like. I had to wait till xmas morning to get a clear rubber band to hold it on, so until then, it was attached with an orange cord, which he wore over his shoulder.
Very similar to the monocle... I made a flat disc of milliput, cut a circle of card and painted a compass on it. I laid this on the disc and pressed gently. Around the edge I laid a thin cylinder to add some height, so the 'glass' was higher than the compass drawing. I attached a small rectangle and used a needle to make a hole, so I could thread a cord through.Then I cut a circle of plastic and mounted it into the edge and pressed around it so it stuck there. The milliput dried and it held firm. I painted it the same way as the monocle and attached it to the orange cord.
The shorts are rubbish as I didn't use a pattern and didn't understand about how crotches are made. I traced around Finley's legs drew shorts on the fabric and cut out two, then sewed the seams and turned it inside out. I drew on a fly and sewed on a button. I'd follow a pattern if I were you. Mine bunches at the crotch but luckily, it's not too bad. I might redo these in the future. I used sofa fabric samples and the fabric was really bad to work with. Use a canvas or heavy cotton, nothing woven like this.
I cut a thin strip of leather (from scraps) and punched a hole through one end with a needle. I wrapped it around the body and stuck the end of the belt. I added a little bead that I pulled over the end so the belt couldn't slip off.
Bags are easy. Cut two rectangles the same size and sew a U shape, leaving one end open. Then turn inside out and sew another rectangle on to be the flap. Voila - instant messenger bag. Then, I added a leather strap, sewing the ends to diagonal corners. Finley had a backpack in one picture and a messenger bag in another, so I made this, mainly to cover up the opening on the back. I used the orange cord and beads to make a decoration on the bag.
I cut a thin piece of wood into the right shape though afterwards I felt it was too small, then trimmed it with a chisel. I sanded it and painted it with acrylic paint, (used for miniature figures) in a chainmail / gunmetal colour, then used an ink wash, then dry brushed in a tiny bit of black to give it that weathered look. Here's a video for how to dry brush.
Get a pebble that will fit in his hand. Take a light blue acrylic paint and draw on a swirl like this. Spray with acrylic matte varnish.
Sew half a sphere. Here's a pattern for the sphere... I made mine with four pieces, they looked like roundish triangles.Once you sew the four edges together you'll have half a sphere. Do not use this woven fabric. Looks great but it was so tricky with loose frayed edges. Ugh! Use a strong canvas maybe stiffened with starch. See my rudimentary pattern picture above:
- Cut four rounded triangles, as per the pattern. sew the edges of two, two pairs.
- Sew one pair to the other, then attach the last two edges.
- Cut four rectangles. Attach each rectangle to the each bottom edge of a triangle until all four are done
- Sew the edges of each rectangle and trim the excess threads off.
If the fabric is stiff and holds an edge, maybe cut a curve into the edge of the rectangle to give it that safari hat look. To be even more professional, for each rectangle, you could cut and sew two rectangles, then turn them inside-out, so there would be no edges to fray. I cut four pieces of card from a cereal box and glued inside the sphere to strengthen it and I signed it.
Step 7: Final Steps
All you have to do now is dress up Sir Finlay Mrrgglton and enjoy! Best Gift Ever!!
Will I make another needle-felted plush? Yes, most definitely. It was a very fun project, and even though I was rushed and stressed about making it nice, it came out so much better than I expected, and was still enjoyable throughout. Making one just for fun will be even better. My husband loved it and was his favourite gift this xmas.
Handmade gifts are the best!