Third Time’s the Charm

Behind the scenes - designing needle felt reindeer

Creative projects have a mind of their own.

Designing can be like trying to walk north without a compass or sunlight to guide you.

As a crafter, there’s nothing more satisfying to me than when a design starts turning out right. There’s magic in the process. An idea goes from a theoretical, intangible thought into something physical and real. And, if all goes well, it’ll be pretty and practical to boot.

Design is a messy process. Yes, experienced designers have a better idea of what materials to use and how different techniques will turn out. It’s still just an educated guess. And if you’re a bit crazy overambitious like I am, you might even decide to learn new techniques while designing. All at the same time. Cue tears.

Behind the scenes - designing needle felt reindeer

My latest design challenge was to make nine reindeer. I needed something smallish, characterful, and easy to repeat for all nine of them.

In all my uneducated enthusiasm I was quick to wrap up nine bodies from wool yarn. Wham, bam, done. I knew from previous needle felting adventures that a yarn base was a cheaper filler than roving wool. Then, after sleeping on it, I realised I had no easy way to add sturdy legs. Or a neck. Bummer.

I might as well have worn a big paper bag saying “YOU SUCK AT MAKING” over my head, because that’s what it felt like. It took a lot of Oreos and coffee to get over myself and get on with it. 

Behind the scenes - designing needle felt reindeer

A search revealed the secret to sturdy needle felt animals is to use armatures. Little wire skeletons, why didn’t I think of that? After ripping apart my craft room to find the floral wire that I just saw it was right there yesterday, I followed this brilliant armature video tutorial. Figuring out how to actually use the armature took a few more failed attempts and googling to sort things out.

Throughout this process, I learned (or rather was reminded of) a few things.

  • My husband is practically a saint. (He was the one who went on Oreo runs.)
  • Designing is hard. It’s supposed to be hard. If it’s not hard, you’re not pushing yourself.
  • Needle felt is SO addictive. And pretty.
  • Don’t leave antler design last thing. You will panic and freak out.
  • Wrap the wire in masking tape. Just trust me.
  • Whenever you spend a lot of time on something, it will look terrible and ugly until you leave it for a few days. Familiarity breeds contempt etc etc.

Behind the scenes - designing needle felt reindeer

Above, from top: the failed first attempt with an armature; trying to add stable legs without an armature didn’t work out; and finally, the design starts taking shape

Then it was over. The process was broken down, nine reindeer were made, and little Rudolph got a red nose. I guess it’s a bit like finishing a race. The satisfaction of the results brushes away the pain and frustration it took to get there.

Here are a few other thoughts about the creative process:

What does your messy design process look like?

Lots of crafty love,


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#doitfortheprocess #wipsandblooms #creativityfound
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