Felting Tutorial: Wet & Needle Felting Round Robin
This tutorial for felting with children was generously gifted to our community
Laura Ballard (aka Laura Bill)
who teaches at a Montessori School.
When the robins return up north it is a sign that spring has finally arrived, even if there is still snow on the ground! When I was a kid one of my favorite books was called Round Robin by Jack Kent about a baby robin that ate and ate and ate…
Until he looked more like a ball than a bird. Everybody called him Round Robin.
Come fall, Round Robin is too fat to migrate with the other robins to the south, so he tries to hop along to get there. He is much slower than the other birds and it takes him all winter to catch up and join them down south. I still love the story and if you would like to read it to the children you will be doing this project with you can get it used, as it is unfortunately out of print,
through the following link: Round Robin
You can also read A Nest Full of Eggs, which follows a robin family through the spring activities
of nest building, hatching, and fledging.
For this project you will need Core Wool, Mc-1 Merino Cross Batts, I used a gray color [ willow ] from the Scenic Vista Studio Pack and 3 varieties of pink from the Berries Studio Pack, as well as black, white, and yellow for the head. You will also need a felting needle, an old knee-high stocking, soap and water. If you would like your Round Robin to make noise when you shake it you will also need a hollow ball that you can put in the center with bells or rice in the middle.
Projects with a wet felted ball as a base are great to do with children because there is less chance of them poking themselves or breaking felting needles when they have a large base to felt on.
If you would like to put a shaker in the middle start by wrapping the wool snugly around the form being careful to keep the fibers from twisting as you wrap it. Turn the ball slightly every time you make a rotation so the wool builds up evenly on the surface of the ball.
Continue to wrap the wool until you have reached a size a little bigger than you would like your finished product to be (keep in mind that the form will shrink in the felting process).
Once the desired size has been reached, the ends may be tacked down a little with a felting needle or just put it directly into the stocking by putting the stocking over your hand, grabbing hold of the ball and flipping it over the outside of the ball.
(Young children may need help with this step).
The seam of the stocking should be facing out once the ball is inside. For the next step you will need a bowl of hot water that is still cool enough to put your hands in. You can grate some bar soap into the water or you can use mild dish soap in a very small amount directly on your hands. Rub and roll the ball in different directions until felted. See the tutorial on Wet Felting Easter Eggs for more instructions on wet felting but ignore the part about fulling at this point, as you will be felting another color to the top of the white wool.
Once felted, carefully peel back the stocking from the wool ball. Squeeze out excess water and leave in the sun to dry for a few hours. The ball does not need to be completely dry to add the next color. Wrap the gray wool around the ball, tacking down the ends with a felting needle to ensure that the wool won’t shift when it is wet felted.
Repeat the wet felting process starting with putting the stocking back over the ball and follow the instructions all the way through fulling on the Wet Felting Easter Eggs page. Once finished with the felting process, leave the ball to dry overnight. Once dry, needle felt the pink or red patch where you would like the robin’s belly to be.
Needle felt black wool in a small circle at the top of the ball where you would like the head of the robin to be. If you would like the head to be more three dimensional, continue adding black wool to the top of the robin until it is the desired size.
Measure out two small tufts of white wool for the eyes. Roll one of the tufts of wool into a ball leaving one side a little fluffy so that you have some material to attach the eye with.
Poke the ball with a felting needle on a foam block, turning the ball constantly so it does not flatten on any side. Children will probably poke themselves in this step so an adult can make the base of the eyes for them, they can be wet felted, or the eyes can be two dimensional and children can needle felt them directly to the head. Black wool can then be needle felted to the white ball followed by a small white inner circle for the details of the eyes.
Round Robin’s beak is made by attaching a small amount of yellow wool to the middle of the head, pulling that tuft to a point and felting it directly to the ball. The beak can be made 3D by making a yellow cone-shape out of wool and then attaching it to the ball.
Take the eyeballs that were set aside earlier and attach them above the beak by fluffing some wool on the backside of the eye and needle felting the fibers into the head. If the eyes were wet felted there may not be enough loose fibers to needle felt the eyes to the head. In this case you can sew the eyes on.
Draw a tail shape on a piece of paper (it can even just be a triangle) and cut it out. Lay the paper tail pattern on top of a swatch of black wool on a foam block. Use a felting needle to make an indent around the outside of the tail shape.
Fold in the wool from outside the indented line of the tail to the inside and felt the tail leaving the end that will attach to the bird unfelted. Attach the fluffy, unfelted end of the tail to the backside of the bird with a felting needle.
Add wings or any other embellishment you would like. Your Round Robin is now ready to play! If you enjoyed making the robin you can make him some friends using the same technique but the markings of a different bird. Be sure to send us pictures of your children’s creations.
If you would like some more bird-themed activities to do with your children, there are some printable bird coloring pages that may help your child plan out the colors of wool they would like to use in the robin project or with another bird. Enjoy!