Lydia made this wonderful needle felted pillow for her Nana, a fellow bird lover. The art of needle felting involves using special barbed needles to bind the wool fiber together; as the needles are repeatedly inserted through the layers of wool the fibers become permanently meshed together. This was Lydia's first decorative needle felting project, and I think it turned out beautifully. Lydia is very good at drawing birds and painting birds, and those talents served her well in translating her beloved avian friends into wool.
She started with a felted wool sweater (my method for felting sweaters is here), and then centered the pillow form inside the sweater, pinning it in place. You can purchase a new pillow form or repurpose an old pillow.
Then the fun started and she began placing her birds. She used her field guide as reference, and just jumped in putting on the birds. As you can see she didn't sketch anything out first, but designed it as she went. After a few birds were in place she began adding branches. As the roving is repeatedly punched with the felting needles it becomes enmeshed with the backing wool, and the two become one fabric.
She's working with the Clover Felting Needle Tool and I'm very glad I chose this particular tool. I had been tempted by the charming looking wooden needle holders, but the advantage of this plastic tool is the shield that covers the needles. The clear plastic shield retracts with every punch, and then pops back into place to safely cover the very sharp needles. When you are finished working you can lock the shield in place, so your needles are covered and protected and you can't get hurt by them. This is a great feature as it allows you to set the tool down whenever you take a break without having to worry about breaking the needles, stabbing yourself, or having curious little people come along and get hurt.
The birds are indigo buntings, and it's the males that are bright blue; as is typical in the avian world, females are simply a dull brown. Lydia continued working with the wool, adding details here and there, more color, more texture, until she was thoroughly pleased with the design.