Monkeying Around: Removing a Broken Felting Needle

Let me take you back a few days.  I’m in the middle of a felted project: a monkey!  These were my thoughts at the end of that project: “Wow, 4 hours and I’m finally close to done. This monkey is turning out so adorable. Ha, he’s holding a banana! Just one eye to touch up and I’m all ready to show him off. It broke? I can’t see the needle! Where is it?!”.

Has this ever happened to you?  I’ve broken a handful of needles before, but this was the first time it disappeared into my project.  I was heartbroken for a moment; then I realized maybe someone who is not a child could still enjoy it.  Perhaps I could give it as gift to an adult with the additional warning of “Please don’t let any child play with this.”.  But I intended this for a children’s toy and the disappointment just wouldn’t go away.

Felt Monkey Toy

But luckily I have the best husband in the whole world.  After working a very long day and before he even sat down to relax, he offered his hand at removing this broken felting needle from my project.  I was nervous that he was going to ruin it, but it was already unplayable so I eagerly jumped at his help.  He carefully started prying little fibers off with the sturdy end of the broken needle.  He told me that he was “going to have to remove his eye”.  I swallowed and watched him maim my once adorable little monkey.

Needle Felted Monkey Toy Being Repaired

Finally, he found the broken bit of needle.  It was right where I suspected just a little farther inside his head.  My husband proceeded to grab the tweezers as if he was removing a splinter from a child’s foot or playing the game “Operation”.  My childhood memories took over as I halfway expected to hear a buzz.  Finally, he pulled the little bit out of the monkey’s head!  I was so happy.  He handed me the fuzz that had been removed during the monkey’s surgery and told me I should replace exactly that much wool into the eye socket and then felt a new eye into place.  One eye!  That is all the repair that was needed.

My Felting Needle Broke

So I went to work the next day.  Definitely, this one eye took me longer than previously, because I had to go extremely slow and be very careful with the needle size I chose.  His head was very dense all ready and the wrong needle at the wrong angle could have landed me in the exact same spot.  But I did it.  I finished my little banana-holding, bright-eyed, big-earred monkey!

Needle Felted Monkey with Banana

I hope that this story gave you some insight as to the appropriate way to remove a broken felting needle from YOUR project.  Just remember the exact place that the needle broke and please don’t use scissors to cut open the project unless all else fails.  Cutting the fibers will make it very hard to refelt after removal.  Simply pry the fibers away in the exact spot you suspect the needle is lodged; you can use the sturdier end of the broken needle or tweezers to do this.  And remember felting a repair means that you are felting on dense material to start with and a very small needle is required to do this.  Unfortunately, the very small needles are the most brittle; so, extreme care is necessary in any repair.    And please, nobody ever give a child a needle felted piece with a broken needle in it; while the needle may seem like it will be lodged in there forever, over time it could weasel itself out and end up poking your young child’s hand or worse being swallowed by your child. Happy felting and don’t worry; you CAN locate that broken bit!

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Follow Your Nose . . . A Felted Toucan!

The other day I sat down in front of the tv(an unmotivated choice)and I grabbed my felting supplies.  I randomly felted a bit of wool together.  It turned into an odd kindof crescent shape. Maybe it was because “What Not to Wear” was too distracting or maybe taking care of 5 kids had completely wore me out, but I looked at that strange felted object and had no idea what to do with it!  Many other projects have been started and finished, since creating that weird shape and FINALLY I realized it looks like the bill of a toucan!

I don’t know much about toucans and creating one from the top of my head seemed intimidating.  So, I did a google image search and found a very beautiful toucan. It was a rainbow-billed toucan(also known as a keel-billed toucan or sulfur-breasted toucan).  I duplicated the coloring of this toucan in my felting project.  I’m very happy I didn’t toss that weird shape in the trash becauseI think this felted toucan turned out very well.

A Felt Tropical Bird

A Needle Felted Tropical Bird: The Toucan

Turns out the rainbow-billed toucan is the national bird of Belize. It can’t fly very well and it sortof hops from tree to tree.  I thought that sounded perfect.  Children typically pick up any figurine style toy and make it hop from place to place.  This action really suits any rabbit or frog, but who knew that this form of imaginative play was perfect for a toucan toy.

A Felt Toucan

The backview of a needle felted toucan.

So, to all my fellow needle felters out there, who create a strangely shaped felt piece and want to throw in the towel.  Don’t; just set it to the side and one day you’re sure to have an idea.  Maybe it will be a Resplendent Quetzal, an Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, a Blue Crowned Trogon or a Sunbittern!

A Felt Toy for a Handmade Doll

Usually, I only show my handmade needle felted projects here; however, today I’m going to share something a little different(but don’t worry, a felted cutie is here as well!).  My daughter is about to have a 6th birthday and I’m making a doll with clothes, pretend food, a diaper, and, you guessed it, a felted animal toy for her babydoll.  My daughter has this white teddy bear that she carries all over the house and I decided to make a tiny version of this bear for her new babydoll.  Toys need toys too!

White Needle Felted Bear

Felted Bear

I made the babydolls hair from a flat piece of felt;  It took me forever to needle felt this flat piece(I probably should have wet felted it).  I was getting so tired that my husband offered his brawny arms to finish it up!  Then I used a blanket stitch to attach the felted blonde hair to the doll.  It is super short hair because it is supposed to be a BABY. I wanted to practice embroidery for the eyes; but my daughter loves the movie Coraline and button eyes were a must!

Doll with Needle Felted Bear

I love how versatile felting is.  My favorite thing to make with felt is 3-dimensional figurines; but I don’t want to forget the usefulness of flat felt either.  Making this gift, allowed me to use the wonderful medium of wool in multiple ways.  Of course, these were only a handful of my ideas as how to incorporate felting into this gift.  How about felt shoes for the doll, a beautiful felt flower in her hair, or pretend felt food to feed the doll.  Unfortunately, there are only so many hours in the day and eventually I had to narrow down my list.  On to my next project!

Love Between a Handmade Doll and a Felted Bear

Handmade Doll and Needle Felted Bear

Felting Needles: Sorting and Storage

Pincushion for Felting Needles

I have had a hard time with my past few needle felting projects.  I couldn’t locate the correct size felting needle easily.  I had ordered four packs of different size needles and through use I eventually destroyed the flimsy paper containers that they arrived in.  In needle felting, you start with a large felting needle to really get it going and then you size down as you work, in order to get the most finished product.  And yet, my needles were all mixed up in the bottom of my container; making these last few projects very inefficiently produced.  “Is this the right needle, poke, poke, nope!”, I couldn’t take it anymore.

Felt Panda Bear

Felt Toys

I have seen color coded felting needles online but I had perfectly fine needles if only I could identify the size!  So I began my mission to identify and sort my 20 or so needles.  First, I grabbed two needles and poked them into a previously created felt ball(don’t use a super dense ball you will not notice the differences as well).  I noticed which of the two needles did the most damage to the ball.  I set the one with the most damage at the top of my foam pad and the one that did the least towards the bottom.  For the second two needles I compared them the same way, and then compared them with the first two needles.  Obviously, if they similarly dented the felt ball, I set them side by side.  Eventually, I had 6 rows of different size needles.  I double checked to see if the triangle ones and star-shaped ones were altogether, this is easily done by sight with a strong enough light and perhaps a magnifying glass.  Finally, my needles were sorted; but I couldn’t put them back into their paper containers and I was afraid they would become lost or broke in the bottom of a plastic container.  So now, I had a new challenge.

Sorting Felting Needles
Which felting needle is which?

Solution? I decided to create a pincushion for my felting needles.  I’ve seen people do this for straight pins and I thought this was my best option.  So I grabbed a small felted ball(I have a stash to help me jumpstart some projects) and I used some scrap wool to make it a little larger.  Then I split it into six sections, and felted a different color on each one; I didn’t felt it super dense, so that the needles could still do a little push into it for better storage purposes.  Now I had a vivid wheel to place my felting needles on; the last step was adding a small dot to a section and a large dot in the section right next to it.  I started by placing my largest needles on the big dot and worked my way around the pincushion until I was placing the smallest diameter needles on the tiny dot.  It was a success.  It reminds me of a “circus clown” or a “beach ball”, but it’s highly functional.  I can tell what needle is what.  Now I have to place it on a super high shelf away from little eyes and hands.  Success!  Now my next toy should be much easier to create!

This is where I store and sort my felting needles.