last updated January 17, 2024 by Sheila Schmutz, Saskatoon. [email protected]
Needle Felting with Natural Fur
Caution, I am very new to needle felting and have taken a course and done some experimenting with the sole purpose of trying to use natural fur. This webpage contains some of the things I think I've learned in this process. I have not "time-tested" the things I've fur needle felted yet so do not know how long wearing this is. I can say that it feels lovely though!
Several of us experimented with this technique at a Saskatchewan Trappers Association convention workshop in March, 2019. Many participants were far more artistic than I was, so they created much more interesting designs. One woman made a snowflake with arctic fox fur. One man did his cattle brand in black silver fox fur on his mitten tops. I wish I'd taken photos of their work, but didn't.
Fur, Fabric, Needles
Tanned fur scraps can be used for this purpose. Simply cut the fur away from the leather, as close as easily possible. The underfur works better than the long guard hairs or the shorter hairs on the lower legs. Therefore the small scraps of underfur and thin parts on the belly often work better than the “hackles” area.
You can also used fur that has been brushed out of raw pelts. The type of brush with many thin metal teeth that "ejects" the fur is the easiest to use to obtain this fur. In this case, the fur fibres are going in many directions and for wet felting or for needle felting onto large areas, this is considered appropriate. I have not used this type of fur much myself.
The fabric that you choose is important. Ideally it should be thick with a high wool content. Recycled wool sweaters or coats can be used for this. Machine wash and dry the fabric before you needle felt into it. This “fulls” the fabric, or shrinks it and makes it thicker and denser and thus more likely to take in the fur fibres and bind them in place. The fabric of the scarf, shown on the right, was relatively thin and did not take the fur fibre well. Adding a thin strand of wool yarn over the design helped somewhat.
If the fabric you’ve chosen isn’t taking the fur in well, you can also add a thin layer of wool roving first. However, the look (as illustrated above) and feel will change with the addition of wool roving.
Specialty online shops have many types of needles ( i.e. https://fibrecraft.ca/). However, the basic triangle needle seems to work just as well. The only specialty needle that may work a bit better is the star needle. The higher the number, the finer the needle: 40 is very fine, 38 is typically used, and 36 can also work but is considered a coarse needle.
Plan your decoration and its placement first. For example, if you intend one symbol on a mitten top, then over the back on the hand may be the best position instead of over the fingers. You could draw an outline of your symbol with a chalk pencil and then proceed to fill it in. You could outline your object with black wool yarn and then fill that in. Stained glass patterns provide many ideas to use with this method. Cookie cutters can also be used, and filled in with fur as was done with the blue mitten top shown.
Try to use the soft underfur if possible, at least as the base. Try to mix it up so that the hairs are going many different ways before applying it. Fur that has been brushed out of a pelt could be very good for this.
If you are going to make “lines” then use a mix of fur and form it into a coil with a light twist before you lay it in position.
Mitten tops cut from thick wool melton or coating that has been machine washed and dried are a good “canvas” for fur fibre decoration. There are several patterns on the internet for mittens but the top is always just a rectangle with an arch at the finger end. The palm side varies.
You can use the same coating fabric on the palm side if you like. Since melton doesn’t fray you could use a hand blanket-stitch in a contrasting color with this type of mitten. Most people choose to use a softer fabric for the palm side, or leather. If you use leather, choose soft leather unless these are meant to be large gauntlets worn for snowmobile riding.
Old sweaters work well for the palm side. Try to use the ribbed edge at the bottom of the mitten. Be sure to cut and zig-zag around the cut edges as soon as possible to avoid getting “runs”. If you want the thumb and inner edges to remain stretchy – use zig-zag stitching there too. The outer edge can to sewn to the wool fabric top with regular stitiching. Fluffy wool lining fabric is great but you must be sure to allow for a bigger size since it is so thick, and only comes in cream color. It frays easily!
Polar fleece fabric is another option. Some people choose to make a mitten of polar fleece within another mitten. Be sure to make the inner one your hand size and the outer one bigger, if you do this.
Links about Similar Needle Felting
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