Needle Felted Cardinal Ornament – Tutorial

Every year, my girlfriends have an ornament exchange, which we conduct white elephant style. It is great fun, and being the crafty person I am, I brought a homemade ornament to the first time we did this.  And the second.  Then the third I just didn’t have time, and brought something that was handmade, but I didn’t make it. There were many protests, so now I happily come up with something not store bought most years.  For 2012, I made little needle-felted birds.   Here are the Goldfinch and Cardinal I brought:
Needle Felted BirdsThese were so well received that I’ve been making rather a lot of them as little gifts for those I’d like to offer a token of affection. They take about an hour to make (well, that’s how long it takes me when I’m supervising school at the same time!).  Since I can’t make one for all of you, I’ll photo-blog you instructions so you can make your own.

The instructions for the originals are in Wool Pets: Making 20 Figures with Wool Roving and a Barbed Needle by Laurie Sharp . I purchased my copy from Mielke’s while at Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival.
Wool Pets by Laurie Sharp
The book is delightful, and starts out simple with Ladybugs and Bumblebees. My daughter made this:
Bumble Bee

Then it goes to the birds, and on to things like sheep, cats, dogs, giraffes, and the penguins from the cover. All are delightful, and the steps are clear.

This cardinal combines the original instructions for a Goldfinch with my own adaptations. You will need some wool in red, black, and orange, a felting needle (mine is 36 gauge), and a piece of foam to needle on. The needles are sharp, so caution should be used. (It is quite easy to needle with abandon and end up stabbed! At least with our cardinal here, the blood won’t show. :> )
Materials needed to make a needle felted cardinal

Pull off a strip of red about 2 inches wide and about 7-9 inches long. Don’t worry if it isn’t perfect.
Beginning strip

Roll it up….
Roll strip to make body

Once rolled, needle all around to hold it in that shape, poking the non-round bits in and making it a nice cylinder.
Needle around to hold in place
Here’s the head area, poke it in and round it.
Smoothing and tucking head area

On the opposite end, flatten it to make the beginnings of a tail.
Flatten tail

And here is our body outline. Rather bird-like, eh?!
Completed body

Cardinals are a bird that carries itself a bit more upright, so I found it nice to give it a neck. I just poked in a line at the back of the neck.
Making a neck

Cardinals also have a crest on their head. To make that, take a little strip of the red fiber:
Fold for crest
Fold it and needle the middle bit flattish.
Start of crest
Then put the crest over the head, and felt it on.
Adding crest
Then continue shaping the crest to your liking.
Crest completed

Now we need some wings. If they are only made out of red, then they blend in too much for my liking, so I start out with a tracing of black. Notice there are mirror image wings.
Wing forms
Then add red over the top and felt it all together. The back one is done, the front one with the red just applied.
Felting wings
Peel the wings off the foam, and apply to the bird. The wings should touch in the back.
Adding wings
Wings attached
Pull another tuft of red, and felt it onto the tail to extend it. Needle quite flat. (You can do this before adding the wings, if you don’t want to hold them out of the way.)
Tail added

Now take some scissors and clip a V in the tail, and trim the wings.
Clipped Tail
Clipped wings

Cardinals have a black face mask. Felt flat some wool for this.
Face mask

Peel up the piece, and felt it onto the bird’s face.
Face mask added

Every bird needs a beak. Make this one by tightly wrapping a thin strip of orange tightly around the tip of a pencil.
Wrapping beak

And felt the beak on. I found this a little fussy, since there isn’t a lot of room here, and the beak wool is so tightly wound. I found it more effective to stick the needle in below or behind and push into the beak to secure it.
Beak

This is an ornament, so adding a bit of whimsical decoration hinting at feathers would be good. Start by drawing out and twisting some black wool into a thin yarn. (A slippery slope to spinning, my friends!)
Drafting wool to make detail

Apply the proto-yarn with the needle…this is a little fussy. Keep re-twisting your yarn, and poke poke poke.
Feather detail

Sew on some seed beads for eyes. You can pull the face in a bit while you do this.
Sew on seed bead eyes

And using an embroidery needle, pull through a ribbon or string for hanging.
Add hanging ribbon

And here’s our completed Cardinal!
Completed Cardinal

I hope you and yours have a Happy and Wooly Christmas!

About ThePaintedTiger

I'm an Indie dyer of yarn and fiber. I love all the colors, but especially green and brown.....and purple, and blue.....
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3 Responses to Needle Felted Cardinal Ornament – Tutorial

  1. Heather says:

    What a cute idea! I have needle felting supplies here but I just tend to get distracted and try to needle felt myself instead. Of course, then I see these and want to try it again!

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