It Takes Just One Felted Gnome to Start a Village
These wonderful gnomes were all created by Diane Beauchner of Allentown, Pennsylvania! She is going to share with us how she made her “gnome village.”
“What began as an idea to create something out of alpaca fiber that might sell well at an “all-crafts-must-be-handmade” craft fair, has grown into a village of gnomes… It all began during the holiday season when I spied a gnome in a catalog and decided it would be fun to try to create one out of alpaca fiber. Coincidentally, The Knitter’s Edge, my local yarn shop in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, was holding a class on “How to Create a Needle Felted Gnome” and so… off we went to learn how to needle felt a gnome. With one class under my belt I was off to the races and by the next class I had overachieved and had created 13 friends for my first gnome!”
As a craft, needle felting is very easy to learn. You just need patience to repetitively move the needle up and down and an eye for color, coordination and design. The barbed needle does the work of entangling the fibers together as you poke the needle into the layers of fiber.
How to create a needle felted gnome out of wool and alpaca fiber:
As with any project, begin with the right tools. You will need:
multi- needle felting tool for felting a large area (suggested but not necessary)
accessories for embellishment (embroidery floss, beads, gems)
Begin by pulling a handful of sheep’s wool and rolling it tightly into a noodle. The length should be the height that you want your gnome to be. Most of my gnomes are 8″ tall.
Felt the noodle by repetitively moving the Multi Needle tool up and down through the noodle from left to right, turning it as you felt.
Keep doing this over and over again until the noodle is about one inch in thickness. Make the ends firm by felting the ends of each noodle.
VERY IMPORTANT! Keep your fingers out of the way of the needle! Remember that this is a very sharp, barbed needle and it will pierce your fingers and make them bleed. It HURTS! Once you stick your fingers it a few times, your fingers learn to steer clear of the needle. Believe me.
When the noodle is about an inch and a half thick, it’s time to start to shape it by adding more wool to the bottom than to the middle and top. You are trying to build a cone that will stand nicely with a firm, flat bottom.
Once the cone is the thickness and shape that you want, it’s time for the fun part: deciding what type of gnome you want to create and adding colorful roving or batting. My gnomes are all mood and color dependent. I am also influenced by my environment and what happens to catch my eye and attention that day will pull me in the direction of a particular theme. I have created gnomes with many different themes: seasons, holidays, school colors, sports team logos (carefully avoiding copyright infringement), animal motifs and anything else I can think of.
By the time you have felted your cone core it should be 90% complete. The last 10% of thickness will come from the colors that you felt on top of the white core. You will only need about two thin layers of color to cover the white core. I divide my colors into ¾ cap and ¼ body base. Once your cap and body colors are on, it’s time to create the arms.
Roll a noodle the length of both arms, felt it, then cut it in half. Now layer your body color on top of the noodle and felt until you have firm arms.
Layer the end of each arm with the cap color. Finally, it’s time to use the single barbed needle. You will use this to adhere the arms to the gnome body.
Here’s the SUPER fun part: giving the gnome a beard. For me, it’s all about the beard and the curlier, the better! I have purchased mohair locks from local farmers and from livingfelt.com. I open my box of mohair, decide which colors might accentuate the gnome the best and start to play with different color combinations. When I’m happy with my selection I felt the beard onto the gnome, piece by piece and layer by layer, allowing the beard to adhere to the spot where I am going to place the nose.
After the beard is in place, it’s time to make the big nose and pom pom for the top of the cap. That’s simple. Pull a small piece of white fiber and using the big needle, loosely felt the white fiber into a circle and attach it to the center line between the cap and the body, and in the spot where you have attached the beard.
On some of my gnomes I like to add a rim around the cap and the arms using braided embroidery floss. To adhere the floss band to the gnome I tie it a bit tightly around the gnome and – very gingerly – felt the floss in a few places into the fiber of the gnome. Be ever so careful that you do not break the needle.
LIVING FELT NOTE: The tip of the needle is very thin and brittle, sideways pressure on the shaft can cause it to break. So exit the wool at the same angle you enter it, and do not tug wool with your felting needle. A strong darning needle or tooth pick may help with this.
Your gnome is almost complete. Now is the time to decide if you want to add lettering or a logo. This is where you have to be somewhat artistic in reproducing an image or making letters using a needle and fiber. A few words about designs on fiber: if your design does not look quite right, the beauty of needle felting is that you can easily pull out the design and start over. The fiber is very forgiving and you will not be able to tell that your first try was not spot on!
If I’m not felting letters or a design into the cap, I will add some sort of embellishment like beads or gems; or, I might do both intricate felting and some embellishments. To adhere the beads to the gnome I use a long pin with a looped end (found in the jewelry design aisle of a craft store) and thread the needle through the beads. Except for a few occasions when I could not figure out a way to adhere the embellishment to the gnome and have had to use glue, I adhere all my embellishments using pins, needle and thread, or fiber.
Satisfied with your creation? Does your little gnome make you happy? If it does, then you are finished!
“I have made 40 gnomes to date and new ideas keep popping into my head. I am stuck on my gnomes and don’t mind being referred to as the “gnome lady.” I can testify that after many years of doing a variety of crafts and projects, I have never found a craft that has given me so much pleasure as creating these needle felted gnomes! If you have any questions or need suggestions or encouragement, feel free to contact me. Happy Gnoming!!”
By day, Diane Beauchner works at Lehigh Valley Health Network in Allentown, Pennsylvania. By night, she is a gnome creator! She owns Shepherd Hills Alpacas and boards her alpacas at Finca Alta Vista in Pleasant Mount, PA and Flint Stone Farm in Coopersburg, PA. See her full listing of gnomes on her etsy.com store under Shepherd Hills Alpacas or at www.shepherdhillsalpaca.com