For Wool Week 2019, which starts 7 October, we are celebrating the use of wool in craft and where better to start than with All Things Felt & Beautiful's gorgeous felt artwork. We sent Suki along to to join a workshop and find out more...
Written by Suki, CraftCourses Customer Services
When it is coming up to wool week and you are an animal and nature lover, you have your pick of the lot when it comes to wonderful looking courses. So when I came across Sophie Wheatley’s Nature in Needle Felt workshop I simply fell in love; and I think you might too.
Some of Sophie's finished felt animal portraits
After arriving with 30 seconds to spare in my usual last-minute dash to destination; no dog hair = check, no goat hoof prints = check, hair and face, well you can’t win them all.
I parked up and hopped out clutching my printed materials for the days lesson. Spotting the dreamy little studio surrounded by a beautiful garden, trees laden with apples and flowers overflowing their pots, I stretched in the sun and felt the nerves creep in and oops, see Sophie (our tutor) coming out to wave in the last straggler (me) before the course could begin.
Saying “hi” to everyone sat (waiting) around the table, I place my image next to my little needle felting set up and sit down nervously.
Looking around I see Sophie’s incredible portraits and I start to wonder why on earth I was so cavalier about trying something so foreign to me. Sneaking a peek at my fellow group it was hard to figure out who was a novice and who was a secret needle felting ninja. It was actually a nice mix, a few of the students had been here before and would indeed return again and again after this. Thankfully there was one other complete novice who let everyone know immediately that this was her first go and to expect nothing but a disaster from her. Supported by nods from everyone else around the table, I mean, had you seen Sophie’s work?
It's amazing - no one here was going to do anything like that, surely. Then lovely Sophie beamed, started the class and promptly proved us all wrong.
Sophie's work on display
Needle felt animal portrait workshop - set up and ready to go
Introducing us to our kit, Sophie talked us through what we had in front of us, a very simple array of a felting needle, a block of sponge, an embroidery hoop and a selection of felt sheets.
Then she showed us how to outline our image on to the felt and after a little comparison of everyone’s printed images and oo’s and aa’s, it began.
As soon as you begin, the fears of the unknown melt away, after all, you are now doing the thing you were nervous about doing. So, we all stabbed the outline and key features of our image, mine being a head shot of my naughtiest goat, her crazy goat eyes and her dip dyed ears (I didn’t do that, nature did). Then we followed the dots with an ink pen and created a dot-to-dot image which we will then join up once our printed image was out of the way.
So far, so easy.
Then Sophie showed us her array of wools. Wow. As a lover of paintings and painting, the only thing I could liken it to is an artist’s palette. Then incredibly, she placed the tiniest bit of wool on her felt outline and started to stab gently until it was neatly felted. Then she added a bit of contrast colour, a bit of shading colour and we watched as this little avocado emerged from her felt sheet. Then off we went.
The ear (oops) and a bakewell tart
I chose a goaty looking selection of colours and Sophie added a few more that her keen eyes had picked out from my image. She advised us to find a larger block of colour in our picture to start with before we tackled the more complex areas, nodding I started on the dip dyed ear, oh wait what?
“Her pattern is deceptively complex there,” Sophie smiled, yes, I see that now. By the time lunch came, we were pulled from our woollen dream world out into the sun for a break.
Inspecting everyone’s work so far it was actually incredible how much everyone had done, and I had managed… an ear.
Making my goat portrait
Fuelled by biscuits, Bakewell tarts and plenty of tea, the team needle felted into the afternoon with gossip about who had the naughtiest dogs (I win) and who was coming back for more after this session (all of us). When I seemed a little disappointed in my abilities, we were all told to:
'stand up, get some (actual) distance from it'
...and then we all realised that it was better than it appeared when your nose was 6 inches from it.
As the day started to draw to a close, we passed bits of wool to each other, took breaks, walked the room with genuine exclamations in surprise at what we were all producing. There was either something in this tea or we were actually pretty good at this.
My finished needle felt portrait of my cheekiest goat!
Once Sophie was satisfied that we were satisfied and not a second before, we each handed over our finished works to be framed in the embroidery hoop, held up with victory, admired by the group and photographed.
What a day.
Waving goodbye to everyone I feel sure we will meet again, on this next occasion, we will share a little smile across the table, knowing that we are all needle felting ninjas.
Sophie holds classes in Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire and Warwickshire, so if you fancy giving needle felting a try then it’s time you went for it.
From one needle felting novice to another, you won’t regret it.
Plus, you can read our Wool Week Q&A with Sophie herself here >