I shared this tutorial several months ago on a lovely crafting website, WeeFolkArt. I thought that I would share it here as well. The truth is that my wool has been sitting untouched lately but if you would prefer to purchase rather than create, you can visit my little store, Chickadee Swing
I discovered my slight obsession with wool felting during last years long, cold prairie winter. I had stumbled across a bag of raw wool in a thrift store and finally tracked down a felting needle. My first project, a ball for daughter’s first birthday, was a miserable failure. But a little perseverance, a couple of online tutorials, and a lesson from a crafty friend later; I had discovered the beautiful Custom Woolen Mill and was holding evening felting parties.
The most popularly requested lesson was the felted finger puppets that began creating for my daughters and their little friends. They are made entirely from felted wool using both wet felting and needle felting techniques. Quite simple to make and a natural play toy; these puppets are well loved by children…and adults who still like to have fun. As a teacher even before I became a mama, I love the idea of making these little puppets to go along with stories and topics that we are currently reading/interested in.
Duck Finger Puppet
Part One: The Body
You will need:
Wool Roving (for the duck, I used bright yellow)
Medium Felting Needle
Take a long, thin strip of wool, fold once over the index finger tip and finger length.
Begin winding around your finger (not too loose or tight) and continue until it is the desired thickness, just remember that it will get thinner with felting and you do want it to be sturdy.
Give a little squeeze to hold the fibers.
Lightly needle felt to hold the wool together for wet felting.
Part Two: Wet Felting
You will need:
A large bowl
Towel (for wiping drips and soapy elbows)
Fill the bowl ¾ full with the hottest water that your hands can take (hotter helps speed up the felting I find) then with the puppet on your index finger dip in the water until thoroughly wet.
Drizzle a bit of soap around on the puppet.
Gently rub with other hand to start the wet felting process.
As the suds form and the puppet begins to feel more felted or tightened, alternate dipping in the hot water with continuing to rub while applying a little more pressure. Shape the top by rubbing it in the palm of your hand.
Take the puppet off of your finger and rub the inside to felt it; add a drizzle of soap if you feel you need to.
Round and level the bottom of the puppet, rubbing to felt it as you turn the bottom on.
Once you are satisfied with the felting, dip the puppet in the water and then gently squeeze, give a last shape and allow to dry standing upright (usually overnight) Sometimes I put the puppets on the heat register or outside on a sunny day to speed up the process and I will do multiples at once.
Part Three: Adding the Face and Details
You will need:
Wool roving (For the eyes, I used black and white, while for the beak I used orange.)
Finger puppet body
Medium Felting Needle
Make sure that the body is felted enough. Sometimes I will needle felt the bottom/inside a little more.
Take a small piece of orange roving and fold it to be about double (or a little smaller) the size that you want it to end up.
Fold it to round it into half of the bill; leaving enough roving loose to needle felt it to the duck.
Holding it on the foam pad and using a straight up and down motion, needle felt it until it is firm, smooth and the size and shape that you want.
Gently lift off the foam, it will stick a little and be fuzzy, and needle felt the other side until smooth. You may need to hold it and lightly needle felt the edges with the needle angled.
Repeat step 3 for the second part of the duckbill.
Place the two parts together and needle felt a line across, leaving enough roving end to attach it to the puppet.
Attach it to the puppet:
If you wish to, you could roll up a piece of paper or use a small piece of foam inside the puppet at this point to keep from felting the inside together. Once you get a feel for it though, you probably won’t need to.
Lightly needle felt the bill and check to make sure that you are happy with the position. Then needle until firmly attached and the mouth is nicely shaped.
I usually needle felt inside the bill as well just to get it really secure.
Take two small pieces of white and fold them into the shape that you want the eyes to be. Very lightly needle felt and add a small piece of black to each one.
Positioning the eye where you want it, needle felt one onto the puppet and then the other. Make sure that it is securely attached.
And there you have your duck finger puppet!
The possibilities of other animals, bugs and even people are endless by needle felting on to the same basic finger puppet body. I love combining a set of five with an appropriate storybook as a unique child’s gift. For example, a farm set goes well with a book such as The Big Red Barn, Farmer Brown’s Birthday, or Old MacDonald Had a Farm.
Note: Because of the small parts that are needle felted on, I always recommend that either they are for directly supervised play or for children who are passed the exploration by mouth stages as well as the discovery by pulling apart stage. It differs for different children, so I just leave it to each parent’s discretion.