Wednesday July 18, 2012
Sculpt by stabbing
By LEE MEI LI
Fashion candy-coloured wool into an array of dolls, by way of pin pricks.
IF knitting or crochet work is too complicated for your liking, why not give needle-felting a go? One of the wonders of this craft is that you don’t need much prior knowledge to begin making your own fuzzy dolls. All you need are a barbed needle, small tufts of unspun wool, and a whole lot of “stabbing”.
Needle-felting is really about sculpting with a needle via light stabbing motions – this technique is popularly used to achieve fine 3D details. The barbs on the needle serve to tangle up and bind the layers of wool together.
Depending on how patient you are with the stabbing process (a small quail-egg-sized figure may take up to two hours to complete), the result is a slightly hardened woollen sculpture, which can also be used as a keychain charm. If you’re making a doll with limbs, you simply have to prick the parts together and they’ll miraculously stick.
According to Catherine Amoroso Leslie’s Needlework Through History: An Encyclopedia, needle-felting was developed by US artisans in the early 1980s. Interest in the craft has since spread around the world, notably in Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
In recent years, Malaysia has seen a rise in needle-felting artisans, one of whom is video editor Michelle Ong, 32. A variety of needle-felting materials are affordably priced and sold on her blog, Nekomeow.com.
Last year, Ong went on a week-long trip to Taiwan to attend needle-felting classes by four different artists. In the accompanying tutorial, she shows us how to make a cute needle-felted onigiri (Japanese rice ball).
Essentially, needle-felting is a very “forgiving” craft – mistakes can be easily covered over with more wool, or snipped away with scissors.
It is also a great beginner’s craft for kids, provided they are old enough to heed instructions. In a YouTube video by Melody Park Shin aka mommychick2008, the hobbyist had her seven-year-old son conjure a Granny Smith apple out of green wool in a matter of minutes.
Children can start off by needling wool shapes within a cookie cutter, which eliminates the risk of pricking themselves in the finger (see iSnap video).
I recently spotted RM5 DIY needle-felting kits to make bear and bunny keychain charms in Daiso at Pavilion KL. When you’ve turned pro, you can also make woollen appliques and needle-felt them onto cloth bags or even clothes – no sewing skills required!
Lee Mei Li gets her crafty inspirations from making ‘amigurumi’, a type of Japanese crochet doll. Meet her woven whimsies at amiguruMEI.com.
Featured artist: Michelle Ong
Skill level: Advanced
Time required: Two hours
Stuff you’ll need: White wool (5g), green wool (0.5g), a tiny bit of black and pink wool, felting needle, scissors, base sponge and a pair of doll’s eyes (4mm diameter).
1 Roll the entire skein of white wool into a triangle – start “folding” the wool from one corner and slowly work your way to the end. Do it like how you would roll a plastic bag into a tiny piece. Pack the wool as tightly as possible to minimise the excess space in between. This will reduce the time needed to finish the project.
2 With the sponge as a base, take your felting needle and lightly stab the surface of the triangle to secure the wool in place. Once that’s done, you can start pricking the needle deeper into the core to form a firm foundation for your piece. Make gentle stabbing motions along the entire surface of the triangle, turning the ball of wool every now and then. Take care not to bend the needle at an odd angle or you may risk breaking it.
3 The finished triangle should be firm, with a smooth surface. Lightly stab the surface to cover the needle entry points. You may use a pair of scissors to cut off any excess fuzz. Set the piece aside.
4 To make the “seaweed” part of the onigiri, roll the green wool into a long piece of string.
5 Use the green string to make an outline of the seaweed on the onigiri body – hold the string taut and gently stab it into place. Cut or tear off any excess wool at the end.
6 Now fill in the rest of the seaweed by needling on more green wool. Stab gently so that the green wool doesn’t disappear beneath the white wool.
7 Decide where you want the “eyes” to be. Make two eye sockets by poking a pair of scissors into the onigiri body and lightly snip an “X” shape into the wool.
8 Push the eyes in place. To keep them in place, apply fabric glue onto the back of the eye pieces before you insert them.
9 Roll some black wool into a string and lightly stab it into place to form a mouth.
10 Use some pink wool for a blushing effect.
11. Make a few more of these anthropomorphic rice balls, with a different expression each!