About a month ago, I needle-felted a small purple elephant for my neice (yes, another homemade toy for the tot, yes I am making the most of the fact she’s not old enough to verbally critique my work yet) and it actually turned out very well. Feeling pleased with myself and with my dormant felting skills now reawakened, I asked my teenaged daughter if she would like a purple elephant.
No, I have no idea what I was thinking either. This is the same teenage who adores the stories of Dracula and hobbitses and such, who regards the colour pink much like a hospital matron regards the e-coli bacteria, and who recently rejected the purchase of a black hoodie because it had hearts on the inside lining, despite the fact no one would be able to see them. Purple elephants were not wanted (as indeed they wouldn’t have been by me at her age).
Instead she asked for a dragon. Ah. Dragons are not known for their fluffy round qualities, more for their scary-spiky-fire-breathing qualities. Still, I had some slightly prickly-to-the-touch alpaca wool I’d picked up when we were at Solva Mill in Pembrokeshire. So, I set to trying to draw one. Create a design if you will, like a proper artist.
Four bizarrely chicken-shaped dragon drawings later, I gave up, looked at some postcards of dragons painted by the talented Jackie Morris that we’d got from the same place and decided I needed to think long and lizard-like instead. And, after a month of poking furiously at the wool, damaging my shoulder with over-enthusiastic poking, and stabbing myself in the fingers countless times, I’m really quite pleased with the result:
His eyes, a happy accident that occured when I tried to make him blue ones, stood back and realised I’d felted them too far back on his head and I couldn’t get them back out again, are possibly my favourite bit. Somehow the accidental blue reminds me of a jay’s eyes with the flash of colour.
His wings are actually made from a softer wool, felted into a roughly triangular shape and then the edges bent over some florists wire to help them retain shape. The darker veining, a whim, makes me really happy:
Actually, all the little bits of detailing make me extremely happy – especially the little curly tufts on his head:
And look at his pointy tail! Made out of the same wool as the wings because it was actually easier to shape. The long body and tail are 100% wool only, no wires involved, and this is one of the reasons I love needle felting: it feels like a proper sculpture taking shape under your hands. From a soft, formless pile of wool, this creature emerged.
And what a beautiful creature he is! I know I’m biased because I’ve made him but honestly? For a first time dragon attempt, I defy anyone to say he’s not pretty darn great. The only thing I would do differently are the feet: I feel he needs talons not paws, but I’ve already figured out a way to solve that for the next one.
And absolutely most of all, I love his slightly tilted head, the unconsciously created quizzical expression, as if to say “this is all well and good, but when do I get unleashed on the village?”
And there you have it. One needle-felted, quizzical, curly headed dragon for my daughter’s Christmas when he’ll be named and given pride of place at the top of the tree.