Halloween is pretty much my favorite holiday, it’s creative and fun and it inspires me; this year I’ve needle felted several Halloween puppets. Most of these puppets were time intensive and they have lots of details; I want to share some of my techniques and thoughts about needle felting faces in this post. Not all portraits have to be photo-realistic, cartoon techniques and-caricatures are also good ways to make needle felted portraits. My needle felted portraits tend to be realistic. NOTE: This is an advanced project but it can be simplified. This puppet is not a toy because of the hair and eyes which can be choking hazards for children. If you wish to make a puppet as a toy, needle felt the eyes (don’t use glass or plastic eyes or fake eye lashes) and felt the hair firmly so it can’t be pulled out.
These puppets can be used for puppet shows and they can also be conversational pieces of sculpture for your home or business.
My mother always told me not to talk politics or religion in polite company; that’s a tall order when writing or felting about the 2016 American presidential elections! I’ve been working on these needle felted puppets for months, inspired by the news and daily political events. I wanted to name the body of work but I’ve had a hard time choosing between: The Greatest Show on Earth, American Horror Story or Nightmare on Pennsylvania Avenue! Felting and re-felting the puppet faces for just the right look and creating the costumes for each puppet (mini suits and collared shirts are not easy to make). FYI: each puppets is wearing a handmade designer-suit because I bought designer suit fabric at my favorite fabric store and Hillary is wearing a little red crepe-georgette number of the highest quality!
My conundrum was that I wanted to “put my two cents worth in” but really not offend anyone while doing it because I have dear friends on both sides of the debate. I couldn’t bring myself to trash talk anyone but sometimes just reporting on the behaviors of the nominees was enough. My thing with the election is just how “down and dirty” it has become and personally I find it distasteful and embarrassing for America.
I think I can express myself just by “reporting” on the events or very similar events that have transpired over the last campaign year! Needle felting a portrait is either kind of easy or very difficult depending on your subject. Hillary Clinton has a delicate nose, she has no major defining features except maybe for her pronounced cheek bones; felting Hillary was tedious!
Bernie Sanders was the easiest portrait to felt because he has a pronounced nose, a facial shape that’s easy to recreate and hair that is “free” and easily recognizable.
Here, Donald Trump says that he’s number one; there are abundant poses that can be used and that help with “the Donald” portrait! There are so many familiar physical characteristics that define Donald Trump that one would think felting him was very easy, but not so. Trump’s cotton-candy hair was the easiest part of his portrait but Trump also has a small, delicate nose that was very hard capture.
Barak Obama was easy to felt; his features are not delicate and his look is easy to capture (salt and pepper hair and flying ears). I felted Obama eight years ago at the time he won his first presidential election. Eight years ago I didn’t have the right color of beige-brown to felt him so I had to mix the wool and I called the color Obama-brown. Today I have many more nuances of wool colors which helps immensely. You can see my progress from today’s Obama puppet portrait compared to the first Obama portrait of eight years ago!
I had a lot of fun felting “situations” and even more fun felting the election 2016 video:
My election felting has come to an end and I’ll now be riveted to my sofa in front of the t.v. to see who wins in November. In the meantime, Halloween felting continues and then onto Christmas felting!
Moments before the alligator attack, Kitty and I were sitting in the kitchen minding our own business….
….and BAM, the needle felted alligator puppet jumped off the table and attacked Kitty!
…oh, I was just daydreaming! I started making some puppets the other day, I intended to make a dragon like this one:
….but at one point it started looking like an alligator, so I “followed the shapes”. The simple puppet I set out to make became more complicated, with fairly sharp fimo teeth and finger slots to put your hand so the alligators mouth can be opened and closed. This isn’t s step-by-step tutorial, but I did shoot a few of the creation stages, have a look!
I made the alligator’s top jaw first, his lower jaw second and the body sleeve last. I inserted glass doll eyes into the sides of his head. I connected the two jaws with a thick, flat piece of wool that acts as a hinge.
The tricky part of making the finger holes in the jaws is making them deep enough for your hands so you have real control over the motion of the jaws. I used a pair of scissors to cut deep holes in the top and bottom jaws, I pulled out as much wool as I could so that it was still snug when I put my hands inside the holes. I felted the holes as best as I could to make them smoother.
Here is the gator without any teeth, he looks pretty pitiful. I made the alligator teeth from off- white fimo (the photo shows an example of the teeth placement).
I shaped the alligator’s teeth so that they’re slightly rounded, those are shark’s teeth at the top of the photo, for a future project. I baked the teeth at a low temperature for about 7 minutes, then took them out to cool and harden.
With scissors, I cut deep slits in the jaws (following a photo of a real alligator with his mouth open) and glued each tooth in with fabric glue.
I needle felted a sheath to cover my arm; I wrapped the sheet of needle felted wool around the end of the alligator’s head and needle felted it on.
Now I have a fairly realistic alligator puppet with which I can use to help tell fairy tales or stories, use as a conversation piece at dinner parties or chase the cat around the house with!
Finger puppets help bring out the imagination in our children; the imagined worlds and characters of children are fascinating to watch! With this simple tutorial, you can make animals, monsters, aliens, sea creatures, people or whomever your imagination might introduce to you. Adults and children alike,please be careful with the felting needles, as they are very sharp, please supervise your children while felting.
The secret to needle felting is SHAPES! You determine the shapes that make up an object, felt each one and sew and/or felt them together-Voila-easy as pie! I will show you step-by step how to make the frog finger puppet in this tutorial, but there is a shapes guide that can be printed for the cow-pig-rat-frog and dog at the end of the tutorial to help you determine the shapes that make up the other animals.
When I first made my Easter puppets, I set them up to look at them as I always do, to see/feel if they were finished or if they needed a little something extra. Many things came to my mind, the first being that the chick, so different from the bunnies wanted to fit in with the crowd, so I needle felted the chick a bunny hat. Now the chick looks like his friends, more or less. This reminds me of my girls, dressing in “IN” clothes and having the right shoes or accessories to be in style. It also reminds me of myself in college, I usually dressed “artsy” or differently as a statement of individuality. The chick dressed as a rabbit struck me as sad; I felt sorry that he needed to be like the others.
After my thoughts of “fitting in” and my musings over my slightly humorous photo of “three rabbits” had passed, my light-hearted Easter puppets moved in a more somber direction, a different idea came to me. What if the chick needed to pass for a rabbit, what if he is in disguise, a disguise to save his life?
In 1940, my mother-in-law was 12 years old and her parents sent her to live with a family, in a small village outside of her town of Krakow, Poland. She was to live as a Christian because she was/is a Jew; later in history, we refer to the “hidden children” of WWII as those living with a different identity, different names, in foreign towns and with people who were not always a part of their family. These children were hiding from Nazis or in the case of Poland, they were hiding from every day Polish citizens who would turn them into the Nazis, who would kill them. The little girl (my mother- in- law) was given a different (Christian) name and she needed to be careful to answer to it when called, she remembers going to church and tells of how much she loved the stained glass windows. Luckily for my mother- in- law, she had white-blond hair as a little girl and big blue eyes, she easily passed for a Christian child in 1940. I can’t imagine the trauma of sending a child away to save their life or the trauma the child must have felt living away from the family; I have a 12 year old daughter now. I imagine my mother-in-law’s parents were grateful beyond words that they had found someone who would take their daughter in (I’m wondering if they paid the family to take her in). The people who took in my mother-in-law were helping to save her life, but the lady of the house wasn’t very nice to her and she used her as a maid. The man of the house noticed that the little girl read a lot, so he started to cut out all the articles related to the war and what was happening to the Jews from the newspaper. He told her this after the war, he said he cut out the articles so she would worry less. He told her he always knew she was a Jew because of how much she read (sterio-type?). She lived in hiding (as a chick amongst rabbits) for about a year and a half. We don’t know a lot of details from the war time about my mother-in-law’s life because she can’t bring herself to talk about it. She says after she talks about this time in her life, she can’t sleep for weeks afterwards, so we don’t ask a lot. Sometimes after a few glasses of wine at dinner, she starts to talk about the war and this is the time that we listen very intently, to hear her fascinating, heart-breaking story. She moved on from the small village and continued her journey through the war with her brother who had been in hiding in another town, working and living on a farm. The brother and sister never saw their parents nor their home again and from the stranger’s homes from which they worked, they moved on to live in the forest, accompanying and fighting with the Polish partisans….