I love to make special gifts for my kids and this year I made my daughter a felted love boa for Valentines day. These make great gifts and are easy and inexpensive to make. I have made several of these for gifts and also for myself to populate my house plants. Time involved is about 4 hours and material cost is low. About $5 per snake being very conservative, usually much less.
Since I have made these before I have all the materials on hand. If you are just starting out you will need to get some felt rovings and sheets of felt for the scales. The rovings can be ordered online or purchased at some yarn stores and other craft stores. I buy mine at a local yarn shop where I can get it for 75 cents per 1/4 oz. It takes about 1/2 oz to make the main body, all other parts take less than a full 1/4 oz. The felt sheets can be purchased at a craft store for about 33 cents each. Wool felt is best but you will pay a premium for it. For the scales inexpensive synthetic felt will work.
Along with the materials you will need the tools for felting. These can also be purchased where you buy the rovings. Felting needles are the main thing. You can buy individual needles or special pen holders that hold 3 or more needles at a time. I recommend getting one of the 3 needle holders for anything of bulk. This makes the work go faster and the larger implement is less fatiguing on your hand. You can also remove two of the needles and use it for the detail work. Children also do better with the multi needle tool because it is very easy to break needles and the tool makes it easier to hold them straight. The needles can be purchased for a few dollars each and the 3 needle holder I have was $17. The only other thing you really need is something to felt on. I prefer foam, nice spongy dense stuff is best. Find this at craft stores or if your lucky for free as packing material. Some people use bristle brush like bases but I have not tried these yet.
General tools you will need include scissors and a razer blade. I also like Netflix, felting is one of those things easily done while watching a movie or TV show. Nothing too exciting where you need to be glued to the picture but something easy helps pass the time. I watched the West Wing while doing this and its perfect.
Step 1: Making the Body
I always start my snakes by making the body. For a snake about a foot long and an inch thick I combine two 1/4 oz lengths. To combine them just pull bits out gently and lay them parallel to the main bunch. Make it taper at one end for the tail and thicker at the other for the head.
Once you get the basic shape you can roll it between your hands to start the felting process, this just helps me get started. Then I roll it slowly and gently on the foam pad while stabbing it with the felting needle. You don't need to stab it all the way into the pad, your just pushing rovings into other rovings to make the basic shape. As you roll the body it will take shape and you can adjust as needed to make it uniform and smooth. If you get too thin you can always add more rovings.
Work the body until it retains its shape and is firm enough to not lose its shape when poked. You will make it firmer as you add the belly color and scales so don't make it too firm now, no point making more work for yourself.
Step 2: Time for the Snake Belly
Stretch out the white rovings to match the length of the body. Place on the bottom of the body and start tacking it down with the needles. I like to go right down the center with 3 needles and then come at the sides more carefully. As you felt it into the body you will want to make the edges nice and sharp. Just keep the lines straight and you will be fine. Add more white if you can see the green underneath. Now is the time to make the belly of the snake as firm as you want it.
Step 3: Shaping the Head
To start the head I take about 4 inches at the fat end and fold it over on itself. Make it a few layers for the mouth and pile the leftovers where the eyes will be. Don't worry about being exact, you will end up adding more rovings to refine the shape later. Start stabbing the head and make it into the shape you want. For this I work one side then flip it over. Every so often I shape it by squeezing it into the shape I want. Keep stabbing and squeezing until you get the shape you want and then keep stabbing. As you do this the head will get harder and harder. You can remove some of the needles from the pen for better accuracy and do the eye ridges and nose. Stab more to make a valley, pretty simple and best learned by doing.
Step 4: I Don't Want My Snake to Be Blind
So give it eyes!
I like to give my snakes googly eyes. I think this makes them more comical and cute. I have one with snake like eyes and it does not look like it is having as much fun as the others. Start by rolling a small bit of the yellow roving into a ball. Make two of these the same size and a little bigger than you want the finished eye to be.
Using a single needle felt the eye onto the eye socket. Keep an eye on the shape so it stays round and even with the other one. With the single needle and some care you can make a nice round eyeball that sticks out for that cute bug eyed look.
Next roll up an even smaller black piece and place it on the yellow. Keep felting it in, with time you can get all the black inside the yellow for a nice hard eyeball.
Step 5: Making the Scales
To make the scales I used two pieces of felt. You don't need much. I then take the base color and start cutting out circles. I am not worried about exact shape or size, I am just making a bunch of them. After cutting out 15 or so I start lining them up in order of size. As I notice holes I will cut one to fit until I have enough for the length of the snake.
Now cut out even smaller circles with the other color and place them on the bases.
To attach them to the snake I find that a single needle is easiest to start. Pushing through two layers of felt with 3 needles can deform and pinch it. Also if you poke the felt too much it will start to fall apart. This is only true of the cheap poly felt, the wool stuff will stay together nicely but is also thicker. Starting from the center, carefully poke the felt circles onto the snake body. I do both at the same time, if you want to do them one at a time just tack the bottom one down as you will poke it more when you add the second layer. You will quickly see how much you need to do so that it stays on well. Go around the edges really well to shape them and make sure nothing is sticking up. If you mess up or the felt gets raggedy you can just pull it off and cut another piece.
Step 6: Head Details and Mouth
Now you want to finish shaping the head so you can cut open the mouth. Shape the nose ridges with a single needle. If you need to add more eye ridge now is the time. Use some small bits of black to add the nostrils to your snake, just like the eyeballs. Basically do what you need to so that the head looks how you want it to.
Once you have gotten the shape you want and felted it so that it is good and firm you need to cut the mouth open. I have used scissors and razer blades and prefer the latter. Carefully use the blade and saw a mouth for your snake. I usually go all the way back to the eyes. Next use some extra white or pink roving, fold it over and into the mouth. Felt it to the top and bottom of the mouth. As always, add more material as needed.
Step 7: Make the Heart and Your Done.
To make the heart just shape a pile of the red rovings into a rough shape by hand. Then going around felt the material in on itself while defining the shape of a heart. Add material as needed and make it good and firm.
When I have completed all the pieces I like to go over them with my scissors trimming off any fuzzy bits and single strands that stick out. You could felt all these in if you wanted to but at a certain point the shape is good, the texture is good, time to be done.
Stick the heart in the mouth and felt through the jaws and into the heart. This will keep the heart secure in the mouth but allow its removal without injury to the snake.
Now gift and enjoy. Happy Valentines Day everyone and please vote for me in the contest.