Following a trip to the Silk Musuem in Macceslfield in November, I discovered the newly opened Maker’s Place . The top floor of the musuem is dedicated to the workshops and studios of 8 local makers where visitors can go and watch the makers work, buy their work and even give the craft a go in the workshop space.
I fell for the charm and character of Jo Gardiners needle felted animals, especially her needle felted border terrier. So when I saw a robin workshop advertised I thought it would be the perfect pre-christmas project to do with my mum to help us channel our inner Kirstie Allsop . Infact, needle felt was even featured on this years Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas, the Orangutan in the gift round was made from needle felt. Needle felt was new to me, but essentially you stab un-spun wool with barbed needles, so it felts togethers and you can create any shape, or in this case animals you like. The ‘stabbing’ was very theraputic and once you got the hang of it, quite meditative, so if you’re looking for a low impact and low cost craft with great results, I’d say give needle felting a stab.
To start with we used some raw wool, which you can pick up from here or here. For the workshop, Jo had everything we needed and laid out for us, so we could get started straight away, including the barbed needles, awl, sewing needle, eyes and nose and finger protectors. Next we started to shape the body of the robin into a ball, by continually stabbing the wool and moving the wool so it would be shaped evenly.
Next, using the same technique, we shaped the head of the robin. You can see that after a lot of stabbing the fibres felt together and become smooth.
From here, we joined the head and body together, by adding more felt to around the neck of the robin, to hide the join. We used the same technique, stabbing the felt around the join, so the fibres all felt together.
Next we created the wings, first by pulling the wool to create a tear drop shape, then shaping the wing, this time on a flat suface. We stabbed into polystyrene mats to prevent any damage to the table and which allowed your needle to go all the way through. You have to flip the felt every so often so it doesn’t felt together to the board. To shape the wing edge, you need to carefully stab around the edge to give the wing a smooth edge. We repeated the process for the other wing and the tail feather.
Next, we attached the wings, by simply stabbing through the wings onto the body to felt together the wing and body fibres.
From here, we used the coloured wool to create the breast and hairline of the robin. We used some more of the white wool for the belly.
To add the eyes we used the awl to pierce a hole, it looks a little brutal for the poor robin! We used a tiny bit of glue to stick the eyes in the sockets and same for the beak. Jo had moulded the eyes and beak out of clay. It’s important to remember that animals eyes are on the sides of their heads, rather than face on, my poor robin looks a bit bozeyed as his eyes are a bit too close together.
The final stage is to sew a ribbon on, so it can hang from the tree and hide the stitching with a bit more felt on top. And voila, Bobin the Robin is complete.
The workshop lasted about 3 1/2 hours and the time flew by (excuse the pun) and everyone left with a completed robin. I definitely wouldn’t have been able to do this without the help of Jo guiding us, checking the shape was right throughout and for the delicate beady eyes and beak. My robin is now pride of place ontop of my christmas tree and I look forward to getting him out every year, knowing the amount of work that went into making him and reminding me of my morning at the Makers Place in Macceslfield.
Jo Gardiner has a host of workshops in the new year, the polar bear and the hare really stood out to me, If you’re interested in giving this a go yourself I’d urge you to get signed up.