The Rabbit Gets a Sweater

The little needle felted rabbit I made over the weekend seemed to need something to brighten her up.  So I made her this little sweater from scraps of a vintage felted cashmere sweater.  I buy these sweater pieces on Etsy, and in case you don’t know what the “felted” means in this context, it’s simply that you run the sweater through the washer and drier.  The process shrinks and entangles the fibers so that when you cut the sweater apart the pieces don’t fray – just like felt!  It’s a great way to use old sweaters and I’ve seen pillows, quilts, and jackets made from patchwork of old felted sweater pieces.  The cashmere ones are especially nice.

I took advantage of the rolled edge of a raglan sweater piece to use as the edge of the collar and the edges down the front.  I just wrapped a scrap around her and went from there.  Then I used the narrow ribbing from the sweater v-neck to finish the bottom.  The closure is a vintage mother of pearl button sewn to the sweater over a satin bow that matches the cashmere.

I have her sitting on a stack of ribbon spools to show her size.  Also, I think the ribbon spools make quite an appropriate seat for her!

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Creating a Needle Felted Rabbit

When I made this little needle felted rabbit over the weekend I took photos at various stages to document the process for any of you who might be interested in how needle felted animals are made.

Here are all the materials I’m going to use – 14 gauge aluminum wire, pipe cleaners, pure wool felt, and wool fiber in various colors.  I’m also showing the notebook because every time I made a new type of animal I keep notes so that I can make another one in the future. 
The first step is making the wire armature.  The gauge of wire depends on the size of the animal – the larger the animal, the lower (heavier) the gauge.  The wire armature is much like a skeleton.  It provides support for the figure plus allows it to be posable to some extent.
The wool fiber won’t stick very well to a plain wire armature, so I wrap the armature with pipe cleaners.  The fuzziness of the pipe cleaners helps the first layer of wool to stick.

Needle felting is an additive sculptural process.  That is, I build form by adding material in the appropriate shapes in the appropriate places.

For most of the first stage of the needle felting I use a core wool roving.  Roving is like a thick rope (not twisted, though) of wool fiber that you can split lengthwise so you can have thinner or thicker pieces to work with.  The roving allows me to wrap the armature.  Core roving is available in a variety of colors but I most always use white.

As I add wool, I secure it in place by repeatedly poking it with a special needle.  Wool fiber has tiny barbs on it, as does the needle.  Poking the barbed fiber with the barbed needle entangles the fibers and creates a single mass.  The more often you poke, the more compact the mass becomes.  In addition to securing the fiber in place, one can use poking to create particular shapes.

The photo above shows the rabbit after 3 or 4 stages of adding wool.  In the first stage, I add wool to the entire armature.  After that, I continue to add wool where the animal is thicker.  So, there are several layers on the belly, but few on the lower legs and arms.

The tricky part of the core wool felting is to not add too much.  That’s because there needs to be “room” for the final layer, which is the color layer.

Some animals have features that need to be sculpted in a special way.  For the rabbit, it’s the ears.

Bird’s beaks or feet, or claws on larger bears are other examples.  For bird beaks or bear claws, I make then with polymer clay, cure them, sometimes paint them, and glue them to the armature before I begin felting.  For bird feet, I often make them with twisted wire as part of the armature, using rusted or colored wire.

I made the rabbit’s ears as a separate piece and attached them to the rabbit when I was nearly finished with the core wool.  At that stage I can tell how big they need to be and where to attach them.  I cut two ear shapes from pure wool felt for each ear.  A single piece of cotton covered florists’ wire forms the armature for the ears.  The middle of the wire is the space between the ears.  One either side, a long loop of the wire is inside the ears, then the ends of the wire wrap around the head.  I sew two felt ear pieces all around the edges, sandwiching one of the long wire loops between them.

Before I attach the ears to the head, I needle felt wool fiber in the finished colors on both sides of the ears.  I find this step very difficult to do once the ears are attached to the head.

To attach the ears, I wrap the end wires tightly around the head, cutting off any excess.  Finally, I needle felt core wool over the wires.

The next stage is to add the colored wool.  At this point, I tend to use wool batting rather than roving.  Batting is thick sheet of loosely entangled wool fibers.  Wool batting is available in a nice variety of colors.
The final step is to add the eyes.  The eyes on this little rabbit are 8mm amber glass eyes with black pupils and wire loops on the back.  I get my glass eyes from http://www.glasseyesonline.com and I highly recommend them and their products.
I think this little rabbit needs a special touch so it’s not quite finished.  I’m thinking about what that special touch will be, and one idea is a little sweater that I would make from scraps of an old cashmere sweater – like the beautiful lavender pieces that she’s sitting on.  (I bought these recycled cashmere pieces from another Etsy seller.)

Another Young Rabbit

I needle-felted another young rabbit – just for fun, and for my Etsy shop!  It’s always fun making these little creatures, and especially fun dressing them.  I didn’t make underwear for Claire – just the little romper.  Maybe wild rabbits don’t wear underwear.  But the do have dolls!
One of the most useful techniques I’ve developed is one I use for wings and large ears.  I cut the basic shape from wool felt, two for each ear, sew them together around the edges except for the bottom, slip loops of wire into them, then wrap the wire around the head part way through the felting process.  The key is to use wool felt so that the wool fibers will stick without having to build up a thick layer.

Evangeline’s Outfit

 
I’ve finished Evangeline’s dress and here she is holding her little toy rabbit.
 
As with all my animal doll clothes, this dress is completely hand-sewn.  It opens with a placket in the front down to her waistline.  There are two tucks on each side of the front of the bodice.  There is a small pocket on the right side.  The neck opening, sleeve ruffles, and pocket opening are edged with vintage pink baby ricrac.  The button is a small vintage pink plastic button in the shape of a little flower. 
 
I didn’t originally intend for there to be a ruffle around the bottom, but I cut the dress pieces a bit too short, so corrected that problem with the ruffle.  I began to run a row of ricrac around the top of the ruffle, but I took it back off because I think it was too much.
 
As for the rabbit toy, I needle felted it over a cut-out of wool felt.  The ears are wool felt.  The eyes and nose are glass beads.  I used chalk to add a bit of color to her cheeks and the inner ears.  The final touch was a ribbon around her neck with a ribbon rose.
 
Success!

Pantaloon Onesies for the Rabbit Child

The child rabbit finally has some clothes.  Not that she really minded running through the fields in her birthday suit!  But she quite likes her new onsies with the longer legs and crocheted trim around the bottom.

Actually, in this photo I’ve only as yet done the crochet work around one leg hem, but the other will be done soon.  Then it’s on to the dress.

I have some very cute fabric for her dress.  It’s new cotton fabric, but a tiny 30’s style print of little rabbits in boats.  The fabric has a cornflower blue background and the rabbits are white with tiny touches of pink.  I’m thinking a simple pinafore style that will let the crochet on the pantaloons hems show.

Mom’s Retro-Style Dress

Now I’ve finished Mom’s dress.  It’s cotton – a green background with a small 30’s style yellow and white print.  A lot of times I like to work with vintage fabrics such as old feed sacks.  But I was in the local quilt store recently and saw this sweet little print – and the one I got for the child’s outfit – and couldn’t resist.

Once I started sewing I realized that the cotton is a little heavier than I would like, but it all worked out fine.

The dress buttons in the front and has a slightly gathered circle skirt – again, not much bulk around the waist.

The collar is muslin and I added tiny hand-crocheted detail.  I think she looks very nice!

Rabbit Mom’s Beautiful Under Garments

 
 
Mom has some pretty fancy underwear.  The first layer is a “onesie” with a flower design embroidered on the chest and crocheted trim around the panty legs.  Over that, she has a half slip.  The top of the half slip is a circle skirt and then there’s a wide flounce at the bottom.  The circle skirt design on the upper portion eliminates bulk around the waist while the wide flounce adds “stick out” to support the dress that will come next. I’ve used new bleached muslin for these garments.  It’s nice to sew with and is a nice light weight.  I don’t wash it first because I like a little bit of “body” to the fabric while I’m sewing.
 
I use size 40 crochet cotton and a tiny steel needle for the crocheted trim.  It’s difficult to handle such a small hook – especially keeping the thread loops from slipping off.  Nonetheless, I enjoy the crochet.
 
I made this rabbit’s neck too long and her shoulders are quite sloped.  I plan to correct this look with the cut and style of the dress.