This is now the Year of the Horse, according to the Chinese calendar. Chinese New Year is a big deal here in Tacoma, Every new year (this year it was January 31st), a group of super secret glass artists distribute and hide 100's of glass spheres (Monkeyshines) all over the city. I have never found one. But then again, a lot of my friends get up at 5 AM to go find them and I come along 4 hours later and come up empty. Oh well, one day I will find one!
Instead of a sphere, I decided to make a needle felted year of the horse sculpture.
This is more of an advanced tutorial. If you know basic wire working and needle felting techniques, you can use this method to create whatever your heart desires.
You will need:
Stainless steel wire, 16 gauge for the main shape and 20 gauge for wiring bits together
Basic wire working tools: needle nose pliers, flat nose pliers, wire snips
Polyfil pillow stuffing. (It needle felts wonderfully!)
Various colors of wool roving for your horse, at least 1/2 oz. maybe more depending on your size
Needle Felting needles
Old Paintbrush and clean coffee cup or yogurt container.
The sketches on the left are what I ended up basing my sculpture on.
See how I made the basic outline shape of the horse's body, neck and head? That is what I used to make my outline of the horse in wire.
After I created my "outline" in wire, I made various ovals and circles to fill out the body of the horse and an elongated spiral for the neck. I wired the pieces in place with my 20 gauge wire. Finally, I added on the legs, making sure the horse would stand on all four legs. I started filling in the front left leg with wiring and then realized I didn't really need it. I also added a tail after I took this photo but note that I did not add ears because I could just felt them on later.
Next, I filled in the shape by needle felting polyfil. On larger sculptures, I will put styrofoam in the center of the shape as filler before adding the polyfil but this was small enough I went ahead and just used polyfil only. Really needle felt the polyfil tightly. The firmer your shape is, the easier it will be to add the wool roving on top.
After you have filled your shape with polyfil, you will cover the shape with your desired wool roving. The sky is the limit here and you can have a horse of as many colors as you wish. I chose a natural wool for the bulk of my piece. I can't remember the exact breed, Romney maybe?, but I bought it at a local fiber fair.
Here is the horse, completely covered in wool. You can stop at this point but I like to apply a stiffener over many of my needle felted sculptures. Over time a piece can become fuzzy and start to lose the needle felting details because it is not really a permanent process. The stiffener helps to protect it. Also, this Romney wool was quite wiry and I wanted a smoother surface.
There are many different brands of fabric stiffener out there. Pick a water-based formula. It looks a lot like white school glue. (Maybe it is, for all I know.)
Lay out plastic to protect your surface. Dilute the stiffener, 2 parts stiffener to 1 part water. It will be runny, but that is just fine. If you use straight stiffener, you will be able to see it on the surface and it's not very attractive.
Methodically dab the stiffener/water blend onto your sculpture. I say methodically because this stuff will saturate into the surface quickly and it is easy to forget what parts you have done already. Allow to dry overnight. You may need to do it in stages if there is a particularly flat side to your piece. If it dries against the plastic it can create a film. I covered the horse completely and stood him up to dry. The next day the bottom of his feet were still damp so I laid him on his side so they could dry.
And there is my year of the horse, needle felted sculpture!
It's fun to add in all the little details and swirls.
I didn't add eyes because I didn't want it to look too cartoony.
I still want to trim a few loose hairs off of him and maybe even a touch more stiffener in places.