Sunday, February 20, 2011

needle felted mother earth doll

I've been wanting to make a Mother Earth figure for our Nature Table for some time now.  We have some bendy little wooden people who often play there and at times one of them stands in for this universal figure but a larger, softer felted woman is what I have been picturing there in my mind's eye.

I wanted her to be needle felted.  Felting, in case you're not familiar with it, is the process of binding together the microscopically barbed fibers of wool (or other natural fibers) into a solid mass.  There are several methods to accomplish this irreversible process of making solid fabric from individual hairs.  The more common is wet felting in which simple friction and water (sometimes alternating hot and cold) are applied to swell, intertwine, bind and "full" a jumble of strands together.  For this doll though, I used the dry felting method and a single, very sharp, barbed needle that, when pushed through various layers, catches the fibers and entangles them into the chosen shape.  This method is a little like sculpting with a pin.  The fibers stay in place and become more and more solid the more times the needle is poked through a single spot.

This Mother Earth was surprisingly easy to put together using small scraps of wool roving I had on hand and simple needle felting techniques.

I started off with an armature of pipe cleaners molded into a basic skirted person shape (using an existing doll the size I desired as a proportion model).

Then white wool roving was rolled into a ball and tucked inside the head frame and a cone shape tucked inside the skirt.

Wrapped around that ball head, cone skirt and arms were thin, wispy strands of the same roving until the doll shape was in place.  This was then held gently in place by minimal poking with the felting needle.

(I also placed a jar lid inside of the base of the doll to give her some weight and stability at her feet.  In the past I have used flat stones or bits of metal for this same purpose.)

The underdress was a layer of blue roving wound around in wisps in the same fashion to the body.

The hands and head were left white.

I had some long stranded brown roving which I laid on in one piece for the hair. 

It's mostly held on at the hair part where I needled quite a bit.  The main portions of the head were not needled as much so that the look of loose hair could be retained.

For the apron, belt and hair garland, I laid strands of wool roving onto the felting pad and shaped each item before then needling them onto the doll.

The whole project took only about two hours.  The bulk of that was just spent methodically needling the entire doll many times over until the layers compacted to the smoothness and density I desired.

I wanted Naiya to be able to handle and play with her so she's a fairly solid doll.


  1. Very sweet little doll love the braid and flowers.

  2. Thank you for the positive feedback! I'm working on a whole family now...

  3. Amazing!!!! I loved this!! <3 Thank you!!!

  4. Gorgeous , love the pipe cleaner framework , never thought to do that :)