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Making Whoopi! A Needle Felted Doll

Meet Li’l Whoopi

I was so excited to be commissioned to bring Whoopi Goldberg to life in needle felted wool. I couldn’t have thought of of a better subject myself! She is solid needle felted wool with flexible needle felted joints. She stands on her own and is about 12″ tall. I wet felted her dreadlocks using Merino Roving and for her glasses I used Merino prefelt that I needle felted and then wet felted. She was quite a project and a fun collaboration with my client. My only problem is saying goodbye! I literally fall in love with my dolls as they come to life on my felting pad. I have only recently started doing custom dolls for others instead of dolls for me – it is getting easier to part with them but never easy!

If you would love to learn the magic of sculptural needle felting, I’d love to show you how! I have several fun and comprehensive video workshops along with all of the tools and supplies you need!

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Daisy – A Felt Alive Needle Felted Doll

Those of you familiar with my work know that I rarely offer my dolls for sale. As living conditions for my collection get more and more crowded, I am faced with the reality that I must learn to say goodbye. So!!

Little Daisy is available for sale on eBay

Daisy stands about 7″ tall and is solid needle felted wool.

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Will Ferrell – ELF!

Will Ferrell – ELF!, originally uploaded by feltalive.

My husband requested a Will Ferrell caricature, my nephew suggested the Elf costume – I think it all worked out although I must admit, this li’l dude sort of gives me the creeps. He looks like he is up to no good if you ask me.

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Li’l Travolta Sightseeing in Alaska

I had to make a Li’l Travolta Saturday Night Fever style! Boy does that take me back. I have to find a place with a disco ball for his official photo shoot but in the meantime we took him out sightseeing here in Alaska. When we stopped in at McHugh Creek along Turnagain Arm he learned an awful lot about the Dall Sheep we spotted in the moutains…Hmm….I wonder why he was so fascinated????

I have never needle felted will Dall Sheep wool. Sounds interesting, though.

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The Man in Black needle felted wool

I must say, I’m pretty smitten with my Li’l Cash – he looked like Sean Connery for so long and while I am a fan – Li’l Sean was NOT who this guy was supposed to be. So, like I usually do at that one special moment where my character comes to life – I shouted out with glee “I DID IT!!!!!!” It really is a fun moment…really fun.

Li’l Cash stands about 12″ tall and is 100% needle felted wool. He is fully jointed with needle felted joints and stands on his own without the use of wire armatures.

For his core, I used my favorite wool batting from For his flesh layer, I used my all time favorite needle felting wool – Norwegian C1 Felting Batts (beige peach for Johnny’s flesh) from New England Felting Supply – For his suit, I used Merino Prefelt, also from New England Felting Supply. His hair is Merino roving. And like always, I used my Felt Alive Super-Duper, Color-Coded, Rubber-Coated Felting Needles.

Li’l Cash – An original Felt Alive Wool Sculpture by Kay Petal

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Clementine, originally uploaded by feltalive.

I made Clementine for a VERY special project. She made a long trip to China to a doll manufacturer to study her for possible mass production of my designs. Well, it was no big surprise to learn that they can not be easily reproduced – the style does not lend itself to the assembly line. I was glad to get her safely back home!

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Needle Felted Celebrities

Group Shot, originally uploaded by feltalive.

Eleven Li’l felted celebrities all in a row! Pretty funny – The Li’l Beatles were the first – their scale is a bit smaller than the others but I love them just they way they are.

front row – l-r Li’l Bob Dylan, Li’l Marilyn, Li’l John Lennon, Li’l Ringo Starr, Li’l George Harrison, Li’l Paul McCartney, Li’l Elvis, Li’l Janice Joplin.

back row l-r Li’l Elton John, Li’l Willie Nelson, Li’l Conan O’Brien

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Lil Marylin Monroe in needle felted wool

She looks tragic to me – I find it strange that most of my characters have a spark of joyfulness to me, but not so with Li’l Marilyn. This one was a real challenge – I don’t think Marilyn wanted to come to life in wool. But my li’l Marilyn is very balanced – she stands all by herself on her little red shoes

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Li’l Bob Dylan in needle felted wool

I am really happy to introduce my newest li’l Felt Alive celebrity – Li’l Bob Dylan! I just love how the wool can take on the look of a rugged face and a steely-eyed expression. And curly sheep’s locks seemed like the perfect choice for Dylan hair.

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Li’l Elton John Needle Felted Wool Doll

My Li’l Elton John was SO FUN to bring to life. Even his li’l glasses are made of wool – I didn’t even have to use wire. My proudest accomplishment is the lenses – they are wool, they are felted and you can see his eyes through them. I just love his flashy, flamboyant li’l personality.

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My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys

Needle Felted Willie Nelson

My Little Willie Nelson!

Needle Felted Willie Nelson

Needle Felted Willie Nelson Rear View

Willie is about 12″ tall and is 100% Needle Felted Wool. His hair is a blend of Alpaca and Icelandic Wool. Like all my characters, I start with a basic body structure using what I call “core wool” which is basically wool batting that has not been dyed. The outer layers of the skin and clothing are made with Norwegian C1 Felting Batts. Willie was a wonderful, fun challenge for me – and he stands on his own!

Here is Willie with his buddy, Conan O’Brien!

Needle Felted Buddies

And here is a video so you can see how lifelike he is!

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Willie Nelson coming to life in Needle Felted Wool

My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys

willie wip

What fun I am having!! Willie will look much more like Willie when he gets a neck – I am learning that our necks really define what we look like! I will post again when Willie is complete but I love this stage and had to share!

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Conan O’Brien – Needle Felted Wool

I think I have found my calling! Celebrity Felt Alive – Hmm…

Needle Felted Conan O'Brien

This is so new for me – I am in my mid forties and never realized I had any kind of artistic abilities – that is until I discovered needle felting – two years ago! I am having so much fun with it – My new Li’l Conan is really a Felt Alive star. Somehow I captured Conan in wool – from his piercing look in his eyes, right down to his swagger, this truly is Mini Conan.

Li’l Conan is a HUGE FAn of the real Conan O’Brien and he plays in front of the tv every time Conan is on – it’s hilarious. He dreams of being Conan’s little desk buddy on his new Tonight Show….a li’l fella can dream…

What's going on here?

Conan and his horse??

Here is a little video so you can see how lifelike Li’l Conan is!

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Photographing My Work

I have been up against a challenge ever since I started needle felting of learning how to capture my work in the best light. I am finding that nearly as much as I love creating needle felted characters, I love taking pictures of them. My favorite lighting is natural lighting and my favorite backdrop is my gorgeous Alaskan scenery but I feel it is important to get several excellent, high-res shots of each piece in a controlled studio setting. But how?? So, like most things I’m curious about, I turned to the internet. After much research, I finally have a solution. It is called a light box or a light tent.

My Light Box in Action

My nephew made mine out of PVC conduit and unions. It comes apart for easy storage. I just have a plain white sheet to drape over the top – this filters the light – and I purchased a Flotone photographic backdrop that graduates from black to white. I use this as a sweep and stand my work right on the backdrop – this gives a seamless, wrinkle-free background. I think it gives professional look to my photos. Beside that – I have two 300 watt clamp lights to shine light in from either side to control or even eliminate shadows.

My Light Box Unveiled

Light Box

Here is a photo of one of my dolls, Evelyn making her debut in the light box.
Evelyn in the New Light Box
And in this photo – I didn’t even need to turn on my lighting – I have a nice, bright studio and this was taken on a lovely, sunny day.

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The Felt Alive Hilda Challenge

I invited some of my Felt Alive online students to join me in a challenge to capture the essence of Hilda – A vintage plus-sized pinup caricature by artist, Duane Bryers.

Felt Alive Hilda Challenge

Starting at the BOTTOM row- it’s FeltingFever!

Then in the middle we have Germa’s Felting

Then on the top row we have me – feltalive

What a fun bunch of Hildas!!

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Felt Alive at the Alaska State Fair 2008

I entered several of my characters into the Alaska State Fair – I was thrilled with how well they were received by the judges and it is very exciting to have them on display for Alaskans to see, adorned with all of their pretty ribbons.

Alaska State Fair 2008

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Cyrus is the largest Felt Alive character to date! He stands about 23 inches tall and is a pretty hefty guy. He is solid needle felted wool and is fully jointed with seamless needle felted joints. No sewing, no stuffing, just felted wool!

Chloe and Cyrus

My Great-Niece Chloe with her new friend, Cyrus!

Cyrus Hard at Work

Cyrus in the Garden

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Escape to the Mountains

My nephew Nick and his girlfriend, Mindy, stole away to the mountains the other day with several of my characters in tow. They returned with the most fabulous photos!

Escape to the mountains

Hal the Tourist Cozies Up with a Local

There’s more pictures – Here is a slideshow of their day!
Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

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Rufus – My first soft-sculpted canine!

This is little Rufus – He sits about 6 inches tall. He is soft and flexible and such a good boy!!

This is my first soft-scultped dogs. I made the little guys in my sled dog team but they are sculpted quite hard and are not as lifelike as Rufus.

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A Dude Named Alice!

This is Alice – Don’t ask why – he’s just Alice! He looks like a laid back old surfer dude to me. I just love him! What a character!

And I’m pretty sure Alice is Crackers’ Bro’ I caught them down at the lake shore soaking up the Alaskan springtime sun! They are a couple of Laid Back Dudes!

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Mac – Extreme Needle Felting

Meet Mac! He is my crazy little Scotsman with a penchant for Irish Whiskey. I planned on making a grumpy little old man in a wool suit. When I was ready to get Mac dressed, I decided to let him pick out his own outfit. So – it’s not my fault!

It’s a full Scottish Moon!
It’s censored for the blog.
Here’s a link to see the the Real Mac

Party’s Over!!

As you can probably guess, I had a blast creating Mac. In my online classes, I stress the importance of relaxing and having fun! I certainly practiced what I preach when it came to my little Mac. He is about 8 inches tall and solid needle felted wool.

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Jammie Kids!

Here are a couple of my latest creations! I have several more in the works! These are so fun to make – I made these using the same soft sculptural techniques that I teach in my online class. It’s fun and easy to learn! No patterns, no sewing, stuffing and no seams – just solid needle felted wool!

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Happy New Year from the Whole Gang!

Well, another year down – and what a great year it was! I can’t wait to see what roads my needle felting will take me down in 2008.

In my first year needle felting, I have only been able to part with two characters – sob, sob. The remaining cast members decided to all get together for a group shot to wish all you happy needlers out there a very Wonderful and Healthy New Year.

After the group shot – they persuaded me to video them – it’s posted on the home page of my website too. Not only do you get to meet my characters, you get up and close and personal with my knick knacks and family photos they share my shelves with – I’m just glad the camera didn’t pick up the dust!

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Little Girl

I think her name is Hazel. She just jumped off my felting pad today. She is really difficult to photograph and is SO much cuter in person. She is another example of a wool soft sculpture – she is so soft and huggable. In her seated position she is about 8 ” tall. Make sure to watch the little video of Hazel. The background music is “Way Long Timey Ago” by The Red Clay Ramblers

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Chieder The Elf

Here is my latest character to leap off my felting pad. His name is Cheider and he is the largest I have made so far. He stands about 20″ tall to the tip of his hat. He is made of 100% wool with no wire armature. I wet felted his hat and it is removable. Make sure to watch the video to see him in action.

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Superman Underoos??

I just can’t help it – these two crazy kids just showed up on my felting pad. I do find it unusual how this old man bears an uncanny resemblance to my late father. I didn’t mean for there to be any resemblance but it is striking. My four year old niece who only remembers him from pictures took one look at this guy and said – “Oh – that’s my Grandpa Vern” I know it would just crack my dad up so the name stuck!

Dad had a great sense of humor and would love the fact that he gets to wear Superman Underoos.

I don’t know, however, if he would appreciate the fact that his girlfriend resembles his late mother (again – not my fault!)

I really don’t have any plans when I start needle felting a doll. Funny things always happen which might explain my addiction to this craft.

I made a little video show of Grandpa Vern and his gal enjoying a little music. (Music is “Boogie” by John Hartford)

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Grandpa Vern

I find it unusual how this old man has an uncanny resemblance to my late father. I didn’t mean for there to be any resemblance but it is striking. Dad had a great sense of humor and would love the fact that I put him in Superman underoos. My four year old niece who only remembers him from pictures took one look at this guy and said – “Oh – that’s my Grandpa Vern” I know it would just crack my dad up so the name stuck! Like my Dad, this guy is a little bit naughty so please enjoy the video of Grandpa Vern in action!

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Needle Felted Zaftig Doll

This is Cookie! She knows that a curve is the sexiest distance between two points and she is proud of her voluptuous figure. From a Yiddish word meaning ripe and juicy, Zaftig has come to be understood as pleasantly plump.

Cookie is needle felted out of 100% wool. She is very soft and is fun to pose. Her gorgeous red hair is from dyed curly wool.

Cookie dropped something!!

I created Cookie using soft sculpture techniques that I learned from Birgitte Krag Hansen. She is not totally complete yet as I have to do much needling to create a less fuzzy skin. I just had to share her because she makes me laugh! When I get her done I will post a video of Cookie in motion!

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Workshops with Birgitte Krag Hansen

Hi everyone! I’d like to share my fantastic experience that I recently had. In late August, I learned that my needle felting idol, Birgitte Krag Hansen would be in Alaska in early September putting on needle felting workshops. I was so lucky to be able to take not one but TWO workshops with her. The first workshop was a one day event titled “Funny Theatre Figures. This class was in the tiny, remote community of Kenny Lake; I had to drive 4 hours in each direction to take this one day workshop. It was so worth it! Our class was in a little library with only 9 people in the class.

Birgitte is on the porch and that’s Penny Wakefield, her host from the Fairbanks Spinners and Weavers Guild.

There wasn’t even running water – we had to use the outhouse out back!

We had so much fun learning how to make these funny little theatre figures! The little guy I made is in the video below. His name is Kleebus. He only has one hand (and that is at the end of his neck/body) but really, he needs no more! He is fun to play with and kids absolutely love him. Birgitte taught us how to work the wool so that the characters come to life. I hope you enjoy the video of Kleebus as he hams it up for the camera! Sorry about the backgroud noise – its one of my big dogs having a big drink of water!

This is Hailey! (My 4 year old niece is in charge of naming my creations)

I made her in the 3 day workshop I took in Fairbanks with Birgitte. This was so intense and I learned so much. Luckily, I took a flight up there because the 6 hour drive each way would have kicked my butt.

The workshop was called “Figures in Motion” and I had the idea that mine would be sunbathing. The end result was more like she was flying!

The last pictures were taken during the workshops – Birgitte’s Workstation is quite interesting. I love the one of the family of characters that were made in the class. There were some fun and talented people there!

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Alaska State Fair

I entered some of my felted creatures into the Alaska State Fair and was pleasantly surprised at how well they did.

My little Einstein seemed to be a real favorite. He took first place in the category of Fiber Arts – Needled Felted – Three Dimensional. He also won Division Champion in the Needle Felted Division and the real kicker was that he took Best in Show in the entire Fiber Arts department. There were so many beautiful works of art in this department and here is little Einstein just dripping with ribbons!

My dog sled team took a first place ribbon in the category of Fiber Arts – Needle Felted – Other. It also won a special recognition from a sponsor – which I believe means a cash prize – not sure yet though!

The final prize winner was Skye. I decided to enter Skye outside of the Fiber Arts Department and let her compete in the Arts & Crafts Department in the Dollmaking Division. She won a first place ribbon in the Soft Sculpture Category and also won Judges Choice in the Arts and Crafts Department. Pretty Cool!!
I entered a few other pieces but they were eliminated from prize contention as I can only be judged for one piece in each category. All in all – I was thrilled.
I got a lot of attention from the local fiber fanatics – my head swelled a little, I think! I was invited to join the local fiber arts guild which I had been meaning to do, but just never got around to it. I was asked to do a needle felting demonstration at the fair- I did that yesterday afternoon and that went very well -I had fun – people seem to be quite intrigued with this craft. I was also approached to teach a needle felting class at a fiber arts retreat. I will be doing that in April of ’08. The theme is funny faces – it should be fun.

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Bjarney The Icelandic Night Troll.

This Bjarney! He is an Icelandic Night Troll.
Icelandic legend has it that these mischievous trolls come out at night. They must be well hidden during the day as even one ray of sun can turn a Night Troll into stone.
Bjarney sits about 7″ tall. With the exception of his hair, Bjarney is made from 100% Icelandic Wool. I used three natural colors of wool – black for his body, light brown for his eyes and natural white for his teeth and the whites of his eyes. Icelandic wool is rather coarse and hairy. This gives Bjarney a very primitive look. His hair and beard are made from a course, wool yarn.



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Finally! I finished my little sled dog team.
It’s Grandpa Harry out for a Sunday drive with his pups. Grandpa doesn’t race anymore but he still loves to train and run his dogs. The pups are just mastering their sport. Grandpa taught them well as they navigate the trail like old pros. They love to run!
Grandpa Harry is a true Alaskan Sourdough. You can tell by the Bunny Boots – that’s what we call those big, white, rubber Army issue boots that are insulated with air. He’s also wearing his green wool army pants and his trusty old Buffalo Plaid jacket. His fur trapper’s hat and mittens keep him warm and cozy. If he gets too hot, the hat comes off!

The pups are made from a variety of wool and even have shading done with Alaskan Husky fur.

Grandpa stands about 6 1/2″ tall and the pups stand 2″ tall and 3″ long.
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Jackrabbit Slim

This was a fun little guy to make. I used local wool from a little Shetland sheep that lives in Palmer named Shiska. Her beautiful, course wool gave JR Slim a very primitive feel. I think he looks so proud against his gorgeous background. The photos were taken outside my home studio. I listed JR Slim on eBay and he is now in his new home in Texas where he is the newest member of a rabbit collection. He was my first attempt to sell any of my work on eBay and I was happy to see that I had two people bidding on my creation. I was so nervous sending him off but the new owner loves him! So that was fun and really inspired me to get busy with some new works.