Needle felting project: a colourful hillside scene


Capture the spectacular moment the sun disappears over the horizon with this colourful needle felted hillside ‘Shepherd’s Delight’ scene tutorial by Silvia Sapsford.

This beautiful scenic needle felt project is a (shepherd’s) delight to the eyes! So why not create your own and share for all to enjoy?! We’re in for a treat as Silvia takes us through the step by step process, along with some handy needle felting tips along the way.

“We recently moved house. Now we live on the edge of town with views across to the hills. This picture is inspired by some of the dramatic sunsets we are lucky enough to enjoy.” Silvia.

Materials

  • Black acrylic felt: 2 pieces, size 31 x 27cm. Use one piece as the background. The second piece acts as re-enforcement underneath your finished picture if you wish to do free motion machine or hand embroidery over the top.

Merino wool top fibres:

  • Taurus - 50cm
  • Saturn - 65cm
  • White - 15cm
  • Mercury - 50cm
  • Alpaca Pink - 32cm
  • Equinox -15cm
  • Glitzy Yellow/Catkin - 12cm
  • Whisper Pink - 50cm
  • Black - 28cm
  • Aubergine - 32cm

Equipment

  • Needle: single felting needle
  • Tool: multi-needle felting tool
  • Large needle felting brush, or piece of upholstery foam

You can use upholstery foam to stab into. However, the needle felting tools tend to get stuck in the sponge. The felting brush requires less force when you are stabbing meaning the needles are less likely to break. The single needle is used to make the shapes you want and to pin the fibres in place. Once you have done this, use the multi-needle tool in a stabbing action to work the fibres together.

Holding the needle felting tool:

  • Keep the tool vertical as this will make the needles less likely to snap!
  • This method will cause discomfort very quickly

Using a needle felting tool

  • This method is more comfortable & efficient

Holding a needle felting tool

  • Place your brush/foam under the section you are working. Lift at regular intervals to stop it becoming fixed!
  • Work from distant objects towards the foreground
  • Lay the fibres as shown in the pattern
  • Remember, a little fibre goes a long way!
  • Always take care: the needles are very sharp!

Get needle felting!

1. Spread out the Whisper Pink and lay across the top third of the felt to form the sky. Put the felting brush under your felt. Stab the fibres with the single needle, working horizontally to maintain the lines in the fibres. Then use the multi-tool to work the fibres in. Start at the top of the picture and work down.

Spreading out Whisper Pink wool top fibres

Stabbing wool top fibres with single needle

Using felt needle multi-tool to work fibres in

2. Turn the felt over and check to see where you have stabbed and missed. Trim the overlapping fibres but don’t cut into the black felt. You will square up your work once you have finished.

Trimming overlapping fibres

Top Tip! Always trim your fibres to stop them getting caught underneath your work and losing the edges. You need to do this every time the fibres go over the edge of the felt. Keep any trimmings and use in future projects.

3. Pull a short length of Alpaca Pink for the highlights on the foreground; you will use this in Step 4. Now pull three more short lengths and lay on the sky as a highlight. You don’t want too much Alpaca Pink; you are not trying to hide the Whisper Pink. Stab in with the single needle then the tool as before.

Pulling a short length of Alpaca Pink wool fibres for highlights

Top Tip! If you find it hard to pull the fibres, move your hands further apart and pull gently.

4. Lay a layer of Alpaca Pink across the felt slightly overlapping the sky. Spread the fibres out as before, covering at least two-thirds of the way down the felt. Use the single needle to stab the fibres in place and then the tool to work the fibres in. Don’t forget to put the brush underneath the area you are working on. And remember to lift and move your work across the brush.

Layer of Alpaca Pink wool top fibres on the felt sky

5. Pull a short length of Glitzy Yellow; these will be used for highlights in the foreground in Steps 21 & 34. Pull some very small lengths of Glitzy Yellow and lay on top of the Alpaca Pink, as highlights in the sky. Tease the fibres out and be sparing as you don’t want the Alpaca Pink to be obscured. Stab in place.

Glitzy Yellow wool fibres laid on top of Alpaca Pink fibres

6. From the Saturn pull a length containing the bright red; reserve for Step 7. From the remainder, pull some wisps of darker pink going to purple. Place these across the top of the picture and down the left and right sides of the sky. Always place the lighter shades towards the centre of the picture. Secure with the needle, then stab in with the tool.

Lighter shades of wool top fibres at the centre

7. Take the red section from Saturn and make a small hill on the righthand side of the Alpaca Pink. Place the lighter fibres towards the middle of the picture. Stab the fibres in. You should be on the Alpaca Pink and the hill must not come down more than halfway down the felt.

Creating a small hill from wool top fibres on left-hand side

8. In the same way, make a hill on the left-hand side and stab in, overlapping the right-hand hill. This hill should be bigger and contain the darker colours. This will mean you should have covered all the Alpaca Pink now.

Creating a hill from wool top fibres on right-hand side

9. From the Mercury pull a green/brown section; put to one side for the bushes in Step 15.

10. From the remainder of the Mercury, pull a small blue/pink length. Place this on the right-hand side below the hill, with the pink towards the middle. Stab it in.

Top Tip! Remember: always use the single needle to make the shape followed by the tool to work in. And keep moving your work across the brush.

11. Take another pink/blue length from the Mercury and place on the left-hand side, with the pink towards the centre. Stab the fibres in.

Pulling a small blue-pink length and placing on right-hand and left-hand sides

12. Position the remaining pink Mercury in the centre, just below the previous two pieces. You should now have approximately one quarter of the felt left uncovered. If your fibres have moved too far down push them up or just pull them off and try again. Until you have stabbed the fibres ‘hard in’ they can be pulled off and moved. Stab the fibres in with the tool.

Stabbing the wool top fibres in with the needle tool

13. Turn the felt over and trim off the excess fibres. If there are bare patches, this indicates that further stabbing is required.

Top Tip! If you are using this as a picture for a wall you can stab it as little or as much as you like as long as the fibres are attached. But if you are putting the picture on something you use and touch, then the fibres must be stabbed well in until the picture appears on the back and the fibres of the picture don’t move.

14. Cover the remaining felt with Aubergine. Secure with the single needle first then stab in with the tool. Turn the felt over and trim off the excess.

Covering remaining felt with Aubergine Merino wool top fibres

15. Take the piece of green/brown Mercury from Step 9. Snip off a 2cm length of brown with a little green. Pinch the brown end to form a fan shape (this is how you make all the bushes). Referring to the template, place the bush on the left-hand side towards the top of the blue from Step 11.

Placing wool top fibres bush on left-hand side

16. Stab the pinched brown end with the single needle then work up the fibres, maintaining the fan shape. When the fibres are secure, snip off the excess then stab in with the tool.

Snipping off excess fibres

17. Make another bush with the green/ brown Mercury, but don’t use the bright green middle section. Place it just below and to the left of the first bush.

Making another bush from wool top fibres

18. Make a third bush, this time using the bright green fibres. Place to the right-hand side level with the first two. Stab it in.

Making a third bush from wool top fibres and stabbing it in

19. Place some of the left-over fibres of Mercury under the bushes as shadows. Try to place the lighter colours towards the centre. Stab them in.

Placing leftover fibres under the bushes as shadows

20. Pull 2 thin strands of Taurus and place across the top of the Aubergine. Don’t use too much as you don’t want to hide the colour underneath. Stab in the fibres.

Pulling wool top fibre strands across

21. Take the small wisps of Glitzy Yellow from Step 5. Place on the pink and Taurus in the centre of the picture. Stab them in.

Placing coloured wool top fibres in centre and stabbing them in

22. Place a very small strand of Alpaca Pink across the centre of the Taurus and stab in.

Placing coloured strands across the centre

23. To make the bushes in the foreground, use the Equinox. Follow the technique in Steps 15-18 but
make the two on the right at least 3cm long. They need to be bigger because they are closer. Use the template for reference. Stab in.

Creating bushes in the foreground using green wool top fibres

Stabbing wool top fibre bushes

24. Make a smaller fan of Aubergine and place over the base of the bush. Stab in as a shadow.

Making a smaller fan of Aubergine colour fibres and placing over bush

25. Make another bush using the Equinox. Place next to the previous one, overlapping slightly.

26. Place some small strands of Taurus below these bushes, reaching the bottom of the picture. Stab in.

Making another bush and overlapping

27. Now to make the tree. First you need to blend some Black and Taurus fibres. It is better to start with less and add more as you go. Take a pinch of Taurus and pull sideways, then a pinch of Black. Put the two pinches together then split them to mix the colours. Repeat two or three times to blend the fibres.

28. Lay the fibres up the left-hand side, starting just up from the bottom and going up between the first two bushes. Grip the bottom few centimetres between your finger and thumb to keep the fibres taut, otherwise the tree will be too wide. 

Making the tree from wool top fibres

29. Stab across the trunk to anchor the fibres then stab upwards for about 4cm with the single needle. If you are happy with the shape, stab in with the tool.

Stabbing across the tree trunk using needle tool

Stabbing finished tree shape using needle tool

30. Snip off the fibres at the bottom, about 2cm from where you anchored the trunk, and spread out the fibres to form the roots. Shape with the single needle then stab in with the tool.

Spreading out the wool top fibres to form tree roots

31. When the tree trunk is roughly level with the bushes, split the fibres to form two branches. Don’t forget to keep the fibres taut: the branches must get thinner as you go further up the tree. Pull the fibres apart to make a V shape. Starting with the right branch, keeping the fibres pinched and under tension, stab 3cm up the branch. Split again and stab 2cm up each branch. Keep dividing and stabbing then go back and do the other side. After you have secured the fibres with the single needle, stab in with the tool.

Splitting the tree fibres to create two branches

Securing fibre tree branches

32. Carry on up the tree, stabbing and splitting the fibres to form smaller branches. Allow the branches to bend and twist to look more natural but don’t let them spread out too far. Don’t forget to keep the fibres taut to keep the branches thin! Once finished stab all the fibres in with the tool. You can add more branches if you wish by using the left-over Black fibres.Splitting the wool top fibres to form smaller branches

Stabbed fibre branches using a needle tool

33. Make the final two bushes to go at the foot of the tree using Equinox fibres as you did in Step 23. But make these slightly bigger again as they are the closest. These need to be about 4 to 5cm. 

Making final fibre bushes for foot of tree

34. As Step 24, place a smaller fan shape of Aubergine over the base of the bushes and stab in.

Placing a smaller fibre fan shape

35. Place a small strand of Taurus across the base of the bushes then a tiny wisp of Glitzy Yellow across the centre of the foreground as a highlight.

Highlighting needle felted foreground

36. Now to make the sheep. Wrap a thin strand of White around two fingers to form a circle. Place it on the picture next to the tree. This is one of the closer sheep so needs to be bigger than the rest. This will help you do the other sheep which must be smaller as they get nearer the back of the picture.

Making a sheep from wool top fibres

37. Hold the fibres at the base and stab in with the single needle. It needs to be more oval than circular. The hole in the centre will fill as you stab. Don’t stab in with the tool until you have created the legs. If you want to alter the size of the sheep, add or subtract fibres now.

Holding fibres at the base and stabbing it with a single needle to create a sheep

38. Snip the base of the oval and use the single needle to shape two legs. Make them quite thin. If you don’t want to make the legs, make the base flat and the sheep can be lying down. Stab the fibres in with the tool. 

Snipping base to create two sheep legs

Creating two thin sheep legs from wool top fibres

Sheep shape created from Merino wool top fibres

39. To make the head, pull a much smaller strand of Black and wrap round your finger to make a loop. Place the fibres onto the body, loop down, about a third of the way down the body. Secure with the single needle, making sure you give the sheep an oval face. Don’t stab with the tool yet.

 Creating a loop of fibres to make a sheep head

Placing the fibres on to the sheeps body

Giving the sheep an oval face using Merino wool top fibres

40. Curl each side of the Black round to form the ears and secure with the single needle. Snip the ears to the size you want then stab it all in with the tool.

Forming sheep ears using Merino wool top fibres

Snipping the sheeps ears to size

41. Make the second sheep in exactly the same way, just slightly smaller, and place it next to the first.

42. The sheep on the right-hand side is sideways on, so make the body longer. Stab the body with the single needle before you make the legs.

43. To form the legs, make two snips on the left to create two forelegs and one snip on the right to create one hind leg. Use the single needle to shape the legs (keep them thin) or make the base of the body flat to look like the sheep is lying down. Stab the fibres with the tool.

Sheep created using Merino wool top fibres

44. Make the head as before and place on the left of the body.

45. The sheep further back are made exactly the same but they need to be smaller the further back they are. The one in the far distance is just a small White blob with a tiny Black blob for a head. You can make as many sheep as you have fibres for.

46. Place a few wisps of Whisper Pink across the foreground as a highlight then stab everything in with the tool.

Colourful needle felted hillside scene

47. Turn the picture over and trim off any excess fibres and square it up with some scissors. Bare patches will show where the fibres haven’t been stabbed enough. If the picture is going on the wall then you can leave some fibres slightly fluffy to add texture. If you are going to make the picture into something that will be handled, such as a bag or cushion, then all the fibres must be stabbed in very firmly so that they don’t move when touched.

48. You can finish with some hand or free machine embroidery over the top. This is optional, but it adds definition. Don’t forget to place the second piece of black acrylic felt underneath before you start, otherwise the fibres will get caught in your machine. All that’s left to do is sit back and enjoy the view!

Finished needle felted hillside scene

About Silvia Sapsford

Silvia works with her husband, Paul, to design pictures, bags and kits using needle felting techniques. In addition, she dyes fibres by hand: painting silk, wool tops, textured fibres and yarn. These fibres are used in the artwork but also in the yarn she spins and the drum carded batts she makes. Silvia draws her inspiration from nature whilst walking in the countryside or visiting gardens. She has recently moved home and can now enjoy the views across the Lancashire hills directly from her window.

Find out more:

Website: www.littlegemfelts.co.uk 
Facebook: Little Gem Felts 

Read our focus on… needle felting blog for more on this wonderful skill – and why not check out another stitching technique with our focus on… free machining?