As an avid gnome collector and semi-obsessive enthusiast, I have a Google News alert set up to receive notifications about all gnome-related happenings in real time. Well one day recently, I came across an article from a local Vermont newspaper interviewing a woman, Susi Ryan, about her felted gnome products.
Felted gnome products?!
My ears instantly perked up. I headed over to Susi’s Etsy page, The Felted Gnome Knows, to learn more.
There were lots of awesome things for sale here, including needle felted birds, hats, and of course, gnomes. But then I stumbled upon her Needle Felting Gnome Kit.
What if I could make my OWN gnomes?
Just like I’d always wanted to! Plush gnomes that I could carry around with my as I travel without fear of breaking!
However, I was confused and a bit nervous about the whole process. I knew what felt was, like those felt squares you buy in bulk packaging. But feltING? What exactly did that entail and was it feasible for a crappy crafter like myself?
According to Susi, “Needle Felting is a unique art. It is not an old technique, it started in the 1980s when some artists found that by using a machine felting needle they could shape wool by stabbing it. It takes many stabs, hours and bleeding fingers to sculpt wool but the results as you can see are terrific. There is something magical about wool felt creatures and paintings. It emanates warmth, strength and evokes a time when play was innocent.”
So I pushed my crafting insecurities aside and placed an order for the gnome-making kit. It arrived quicker than expected and was very cutely packaged with everything one would need to make – not just one, but several – felted gnomes. Inside the kit I found:
- Felting needles
- Foam square base
- Core wool,
- Hand dyed green, red and grey or brown wool.
- Hand dyed accent wool of blue, flesh and black.
- Complete picture instructions
Most of the wool is sourced in Vermont and Susi hand-dyes all her own wool. Now that’s hardcore.
To get started, I emailed a crafty friend for advice and encouragement, and she sent me a few YouTube videos. I found the most helpful one to be Basic Tools and Techniques for Felting by GypsyFelting.
Before even having a chance to get started, I broke a couple needles in half just trying to get them out of the packaging. This taught me very quickly how fragile these needles really are…even though they don’t look like they’d be. Susi was kind enough to send me a few replacement needles in the mail. Now that’s what I call a great Etsy shop owner.
After watching a couple YouTube videos, I concluded that the basic idea of felting was little more than stabbing fluffy fabric with a sharp object onto a sponge. Seems reasonable, right? I’m not here to make it look glamorous; I’m here to share a really accessible craft that is quickly becoming one of my new favorites.
I worked on shaping him for about an hour on a Sunday morning and then for another hour or so later that afternoon. Sure, he’s not that big or anything; but gosh was I surprised how quickly he took shape and began actually looking like a gnome!
I finished this nameless brown gnome, my first felting project, in just a single day and couldn’t have been more pleased with the result. It was a warm sunny day in Atlanta so I took him out to pose on my Jeep for a mini-photo shoot.
Like most crafts, felting made me incredibly intimidated before I mustered up the courage to just give it a shot. But with Susi’s kind, encouraging words and a couple hours of free time on my hands, I’m sure glad I did. Felting has become one of my new favorite crafts now, and I love the idea of making fun, plush dolls to give as gifts.
In fact, just today I was researching monkey felting projects and found this fun felted chimpanzee pattern. With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I think this might just be my next craft project!
Have you tried felting? I’d love to hear about what you made and how it went!
And if you don’t have time to try it yourself at the moment, I’d still highly recommend Susi’s Etsy shop. She has lots of ready-made stuff on there that’s super unique.
Needle felted rabbit mask, anyone?
*A version of this article is scheduled to appear in the next edition of the International Gnome Club Newsletter!