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Needle Felted Barn Owl

This barn owl was a hoot to make (couldn't help myself, sorry!).  He is a loosely felted 2D piece with 3D elements (his feet).   He has quite a few layers of color, as barn owls do.  For every piece I sculpt, I look at many photographs of my subject to understand the varieties of colors in their coats, fur or feathers.  This owl is a bit on the impressionistic side of my work, not designed for perfect realism.  



MATERIALS:  Wool Roving or Batt:

White, Tan, Brown, Peach, Off White, Black.   Black or Brown Pipe Cleaner


Look online for pictures of owls with the look you want. Start by loosely making an oval shape for the body.  


 Freeform wool sculpting is a bit more challenging than using patterns (as in sewing) but if you break your object down into separate shapes it becomes easier.  As you can see, on the right side of this owl I have started to refine the shape down.


After you get the bulk of the main shape down, start adding the color details and the wings. 

SIDENOTE: Although I ultimately decided to keep his wings neater and closer to his body, I thought about just allowing the wings to flow as they are here as I think that is also very owl appropriate.


At this point, you want to start building up the face and adding to the beak area.  Use your photo to get a clearer look at the owl's face.  Subtle shading with various shades of browns, whites and grays add a more realistic look.


Work on getting his legs to just the right size and width.  


Using a pipe cleaner, twist it into a shape and size appropriate for his leg and talons.


Carefully wrap the foot very tightly with leg colored wool and then felt down.  Leave a small bit of the toes exposed so that they resemble claws.  I have also sculpted claws and talons out of Sculpy (a plastic like clay) but as this owl is not intended to be perfect in realism I think these toes look just fine.  


This is how the leg and foot looks after it is wrapped and felted.


To attach the claw section to the leg, wrap the leg portion to the back of the felted body leg.  Use the same wool that was used on the lower leg and make sure you wrap tightly and felt down.


Again, using your photo image of your owl, start to add details to the face.  These are felted eyes but I've also used glass eyes for a more intense, realistic look (buy on Etsy).  Although he is more of a 2D sculpture, you want to have certain parts of him with a bit more 3D look.  This includes his face and his feet.


This piece took me probably a total of    1 -1/2 hours to make.  He is a loose felted, impressionistic type sculpture.  I always put my pieces in some kind of background scene as they are special (time-consuming and to make!) and I hate to see them languishing propped up and in a corner as opposed to having their own, nice little world to live in and be admired by others. Birds look great hung on the wall with a background of some kind of bark and moss.

Needle felting - A Complete Course is a step by step, pictorial guide to sculpting with wool that will equip you with the skills and knowledge you need to get started felting quickly. Along with our clear tutorials for each of the  projects, this book also teaches you all the basics on wool, needles and supplies.

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