These instructions will introduce you to needle felting, but don’t think of them as rules, rather just as suggestions - in any creative process there are many different ways to create - don’t limit yourself - go with what works for you.
Needle felting is sculpting with wool fibres; adding and felting on layers of wool, to create the shape you want. You can add more at any stage - almost anything is fixable with needle felting.
Keep your shoulders relaxed, if you start to tense up, put it down for a moment and pour yourself a cup of tea.
Step 1: Getting Started
All wool fibres have scales on the fibres, it's this rough texture that will allow us to felt, or lock, the fibres together to create something beautiful.
The best wool fibre for Needle Felting is one that is coarse, with a shorter fibre length, like Perendale or Corridale. The wool is used in it's unspun form, called roving or sliver.
Felting needles have little grooves, like barbs, along the sides of the point that capture the scales on the wool fibres and lock them together. As you poke your needle through the wool it will shrink up and felt together in the direction that you poke your needle. Be careful not to bend the needle, they are very fragile and can break easily. Felt on a piece of foam board to keep from damaging your needles.
Felting needles come in different sizes (gauges) and shapes. Most are in a triangular shape. The smaller the number the larger the needle and the larger the hole it will leave. The 38 Star needles are my favourite all purpose needle. I use them in workshops, and in my own felting. This needle has one more side then the typical triangular shaped needle and has more grooves so it felts up faster.
Hold your needle at the bent end. Poke straight down into the wool - don't bend the needle or it will break. Push the tip of the needle into the centre of your wool - if you don't poke into the centre, only the surface will felt leaving a softer finished product. The more you poke, the more it will felt and shrink up and become firmer. Make sure not to felt all the way through the item and out the other side. If you do this it will make the item fuzzy as it will push fibres out the other side.
Start Your Owl:
Pull off a piece of the owls body colour and roll it into a nicely shaped ball, slightly larger then you want your finished owl to be. As you roll it, fold over the ends into the middle to keep it round and not cone shaped. You want to wrap firmly but not super tight. The neater and firmer you wrap your wool into a ball shape the better looking the finished product with less poking with the needle.
Step 2: Start Felting
Lay your wool ball on the foam and needle felt by poking all around your ball, remembering to go into the centre of your piece, but not all the way through. Roll your ball around as you felt from all sides until you are happy with your round shape and it is nice and firm.
Felt upwards from the bottom to flatten one side a little for your owl to sit nicely.
Step 3: Add the Owl's Belly
Take a small piece of wool roving in a lighter shade for the belly, fold it into the shape you want and felt it onto the body piece by simply poking straight down through the new colour into the body.
You can always add more if needed by simply taking another little piece and felting it on to adjust the shape or make his belly thicker.
Step 4: Add the Eyes
For the eyes, take little pieces of white wool, form them into little circle shapes with your fingers and then firmly felt them onto the body above the belly colour.
Step 5: The Beak
Pull off a little piece of beak coloured wool and roll it into a tiny cone between your fingers. Felt this on between the eyes and down onto the belly colour. Felt more around the edges of the beak so that the centre sticks out like a real beak would. You don’t want this piece of colour flat like the belly or white eye pieces.
Step 6: Centre of Eye
Pull off just the tiniest amount of black fibre and roll it between your fingers until you have a tiny ball the size you want for eyes. Roll both eye balls before attaching them to make sure they are the same size. Place the eyes where you want them and felt onto the face.
Tip: when attaching a tiny piece, always felt around the edges of it first - if you felt into the middle it can poke right through and disappear. If your owl body is not felted hard enough it can be hard to attach tiny details - if this happens just felt your owl some more all around. If your eye becomes too small when felting it on just roll another bit of wool into a ball and felt it on top of the first bit. Not too much happens in needle felting that can't be fixed!
I hope you have enjoyed needle-felting your owl. Now that you have the basic techniques you can keep felting as far as your imagination will take you.