Introduction: Needle Felted Owl

This owl is made using the time consuming process of needle felting, where you repeatedly stab at loose wool fibres with a barbed needle. This Instructable will show you how to create a tiny owl with two options for legs, either thread (pictured) or wire. This project took me about 2.5 hours, it's a great rainy day project!

All the best!

Andrea at Backyard Spruce on Etsy

Step 1: Supplies

You will need the following for this project:

  • felting needles sizes 36 (optional), 38, 40, 42 (and higher if desired)
  • coarse wool roving / matt (any colour, but white is most common)
  • white, black, brown, gray, and yellow merino wool (will vary depending on what bird you want to make)
  • a stick suitable for a perch (optional)
  • needle and brown embroidery thread

  • stainless steel wire (optional)
  • nail polish (optional)
  • sharp scissors
  • pliers
  • wire cutters
  • hot glue / super glue
  • 2-4 hours

Step 2: Make Wire Legs (Optional)

I started this project with wire legs, but ultimately I chose not to use them. I felt my owl had too much detail to use such a simplistic style of legs, but it is up to the artist! This project will have wire legs right until the end where I will explain how to create thread legs instead.

Using stainless steel wire as shown. Bend the loops over your pinky one at a time. Take your time and start over if they are just not turning out - I know I have to! Once there are three loops, press the centre using pliers and wrap one loose end over the other until tight. Leave enough wire to wrap up the leg into the to-be owl sculpture.

Step 3: Connect the Wire Legs

I chose at the end to colour my legs with nail polish. I would highly advise you do this prior to building your wool sculpture to save a lot of stress and mess.

Simply choose a colour and paint the wire, making sure that the sharp ends are completely covered. I didn't have enough wire to hide the sharp edges inside the owl, so this served as an alternate way to cover those edges. I also preferred this look to just wire, but again, it will depend on your style.

Step 4: Shape the Owl

Use rough "roving wool" for the body and wrap it around the wire frame (or into a ball shape if you've chosen to forego the frame). Use a coarse felting needle (36 or 38) at first and felt until you have a rough shape and it holds together on its own (as pictured). Once this is complete move to a higher felting needle (40) which will allow you to gradually felt a denser body. Begin shaping your animal by layering appropriately and creating denser areas (increased stabbing!) as needed. Do not move on to a 42 or higher felting needle as your project may become too dense.

Step 5: Add Eyes and Shape Face

I like to add eyes early on and build from there as it helps me guide the shape and character early on.

Put a layer of yellow merino for the eyes in a ball and stab it down into a circle using a 40, starting at the edge and working in. Do not use a 42 as it will become too dense for details later on. Now do the same for the pupil using black.

Once the eyes are on, build up the face at the nose and "eyebrows" using the rough roving. Roll it between your fingers and felt it slightly so it maintains it's shape but still has loose edges, and then add it to the face. I find this is faster than felting layer by layer.

Next, start colouring in the face using brown roving.

Step 6: Colour the Owl

Felt thin layers of the wool to the body of your animal using a very fine 42 felting needle. Make sure the wool is aligned with the position of your animal to avoid a "striped" look. Felt it evenly and ensure all areas of the rough roving are adequately covered. This will require multiple layers.

Your owl should be starting to become quite firm, but still have some "squish". Do not worry about details yet, they can be layered on the brown afterwards.

Step 7: Add Wings and Tail

Using a sheet of brown felt, cut out two wings and tail. Felt them directly on at the top and to the sides using a 42 but do not felt flat on as to leave some "lift". Make sure they can withstand a light tug before moving on.

Step 8: Detail the Face

The black nose is placed, along with a highlight in each of the eyes. I've also added black under the eyes and a light gray on top using a picture of a real owl to figure out what was needed. All detailing should be done with a 42.Continue detailing (or decide to leave it simple!) until you are satisfied.

Step 9: Thread Vs Wire Legs

In the last step's picture, the owl has wire legs. As mentioned, I opted to go for thread legs instead. I cut off the feet and curved the wire legs up into the body using pliers and twisted. I covered them in wool.

My next step was to wrap brown thread around a branch for a perch three times (for three toes) and tie it off. I then hot glued the owl to the perch.

Step 10: Finishing Touches

Give one last look and felt any stray fibers with a 42 needle and felt horizontally to give it a smoother look. Snip loose fibres closely using a sharp pair of scissors. I also snipped the owl's felt wings and tail to be "frayed" in feathers and added "ears" at the top, just to make it extra cute.

All finished!