A few years ago I stumbled across a new craft that sent me into fits of rapture: needle felting. All it requires is wool fiber, a barbed needle, and the patience of a saint.
Needle felting is the art of sculpting with wool. Turns out that wool fibers are covered with tiny barbs. When the fibers are poked or rubbed together, the barbs hook onto each other and never let go. (Have you ever accidentally thrown a wool sweater into the dryer and had it come out shrunken and thick? That’s the felting process at work; all that tumbling around made the sweater felt itself!)
Anyway, a while back some crafty beast discovered that you can make creatures (and other things) out of wool via the felting process. You take a bunch of wool, roll it into a ball (or whatever shape your project calls for, like a cylinder or a cone) and then poke it with a long barbed needle that makes the wool barbs catch onto each other. If you do that long enough, you end up with something solid(ish).
So how do you make a felted beast? First make an oblongish ball. Then make four skinny cylinders and felt them onto the ball. You do this by pressing the cylinders against the ball (one at a time, of course), and poking at the border until they stick (it helps to leave the fiber loose at one end of the cylinder). Now you have a creature with four legs and no head. Add a smaller ball onto the body and suddenly you have an animal. Add two cones to the head and you have ears. Add a tiny ball — a nose! And so on — the possibilities are endless.
The eyes, it turns out, are key. They have to be buggy, otherwise your creature will hit a cuteness ceiling. Sometimes I make my buggy eyes out of wool, but usually I add glass eyes from www.glasseyesonline.com — a great resource for the crafty beast. Each of these creatures was made that way. Except for the glass eyes on a few of them (and, in the case of a few, some wire or pipe cleaners for support), these are 100% wool — no glue, no thread, no nothing!
Here are a few examples of my felted creatures.