Review by Lindsay Rendall
Needle felting has become a popular craft in recent years, with a number of makers specialising in needle felted sculptures of animals. One of the UK’s leading needle felt artists is Fi Oberon, who for the past 30 years has been a maker, designer and workshop tutor. Having grown up on a farm, Fi is inspired by the natural world around her and this is the focus for her first book ‘The Natural World of Needle Felting’.
After an initial introduction to the tools, equipment and techniques needed, the chapters are split into four habitats that reflect the animals featured in the projects. These are:
Farmland – incorporating a Sussex Hen and Chick, Ayrshire cow, Swallow and chick, Sheepdog, Cotswold sheep and Rabbit
Polar Regions – including Polar bear, Reindeer and Penguin
Uplands – Goat, Fox, Hedgehog, Snail, Dormouse, Red Squirrel and Owl
Coast – Starfish, Seagull and Oystercatcher.
The projects are all rated for difficulty as either easy, moderate or challenging.
Having dabbled in both wet felting and a small amount of needle felting previously, I was keen to have a go at creating some felt animals and was initially attracted to the book by the adorable penguins on the cover. The rest of the book certainly did not disappoint with a wide range of delightful creatures and some very thorough instructions. Fi includes some good techniques that I’ve not come across before including the genius idea to use rolled up pre-felt for the core body (which really cuts down on the time needed to prod it all together) and her own invention the Oberon pod method which uses pine cones to wet felt pod shapes.
One thing I loved about this book was Fi’s attention to detail. Not only does she felt a wide range of delightful creatures, but she also creates and stages habitats and environments to display them in, giving the photos a wonderfully atmospheric feeling. Beach scenes for example are created using things such as arashi panels hand stitched on to batting to represent the sandy ridges of a beach, aqua blue chiffon for waves and needle felted pebbles scattered across the shore edge. As well as the instructions for the creatures themselves, Fi also gives details on how to create some of the set pieces such as a papier-Mache conker (used as a bed for a sleepy dormouse), silver birches made from paper and felted mushrooms, shells and pebbles and gives ideas for making fabric backgrounds. I think you could have hours of fun creating whole landscapes for your creatures to live in.
Overall this is a fantastic book for both beginners and those with already some experience. I’m looking forward to felting myself a whole menagerie!
The Natural World of Needle Felting by Fi Oberon
Published by Jacqui Small