The Beginner’s start

The Beginner’s start


I am Caterina, and you probably have seen me around the Forum asking questions about felting and trying to learn from scratch and the web.

I have started felting just around the time we were all stuck at home with the pandemic, and it was a revelation, though not an instant success 🙂 I guess the other beginners here will sympathise with my struggle to get a precise idea of steps to take in order to get the magic of felt to work perfectly: I was instantly fascinated by the sheer freedom of not having a set of precise rules to follow to get there, and at the same time frustrated by so much choice of different paths to take!

I guess that it is the fact that this is based on traditional craft, and, like many crafts and women’s works, it is a fluid collection of honed instincts, oral passed wisdom, intimate physical knowledge of materials and creative whim. Like cooking, like spinning I guess, like parenting I am finding. And all those hundreds and thousands of years of crafting, I suppose: felting is so old and it shows on how many ways of going about it there are around, from before humans could leave written shape to their rules and steps.

So, I guess felting is something that you need a community of fellow humans to help you figure out, through apprenticeship, passed wisdom and experimentation: I am glad that I found the very supportive Felting and Fiber Forum community to guide me through my beginner’s steps on wet and needle felting.

My first experiments had mixed results, and all the successive tries have not changed this trend also!

My kids were very forgiving with my first needle felted tiny penguin, a misshapen thing that my son instantly appropriated and called like his younger cousin ( I am not sure what that says, I wouldn’t want to overthink it..). It is so tiny that he lost it a million times already,  and I had time to curse my decision to make it so small while going around the flat looking for a squishable scrap of wool called Giorgio!

needle felted penguin
My first try at needle felting

My daughter asked for a cat: I will not go into that, it’s best left forgotten. I only have blurry photos for it, mercifully.

Needle felted toy cat
Is that a cat, mummy?

She lost it soonest, and is now wary of asking for more pet animals (she is very kind and well behaved and couldn’t bring herself to say “What’s that thing??” to my face, it was a gift, you know, and she had seen me poking needles into my fingers for a long afternoon).

Luckily for my kids, I then dramatically improved my animal shaping skills by using real life photos as reference and learning to change needles as my felting progresses. (I still occasionally poke my fingers, I am told that this is normal?) A Waldorf style little playmat with tiny needle felted animals ensued, and I discovered the possibilities of wet felting that really got my mind reeling.

Felted playmat
My first Waldorf play felted mat, with tiny polar animals
Needle felted toy polar bears
A mummy and her cub for the polar landscape
Needle felted toy penguins
The Penguin family
Needle felted toy seals
Surely we need seals as well?

I felt on top of the world, and decided that I could make more of those playmats with animals, and start a home-based business! The idea was not exactly new: there are several businesses selling that type of toy on Etsy, as I discovered in time! Unfortunately, it is not as simple as that: I decided that I wanted to understand regulations on selling toys in United Kingdom, and found out that I could not really make those tiny needle felted animals pass official Health and Safety regulation tests. They are just too tiny, and too easily breakable, and I like them as they are. Also, it costs to have some of tests done (you can do some of them in your home, but not all of them).

If you are interested in understanding the requisites for toys in UK and Europe, check current Regulations for Health and Safety of toys with the British Toy & Hobby Association, that is the biggest Toy Makers association in United Kingdom, here.

Here is another maybe interesting link, to the British Toymakers Guild.

Here is a list of Toy Makers associations in United Kingdom, if you feel like checking other Toy and Games associations.

Other people would maybe choose differently, one could market the toy as something else, forget the labels and hope for the best, but I, on my part, would not feel comfortable with the idea, and decided to shelve the handmade toys budding business. I made only another play set for a friend’s 7-year-old kid as Christmas gift: I had other experiments to try, and wet felting to explore! More on that in following posts..

I am sure that many have had to shelve craft business idea, after discovering that they were impractical, or not profitable or not-the-right-time-for-this, or not really what their heart felt like making: I would love to hear about what those ideas were and the reasons for letting them drop. Please, leave a comment and tell us about your shelved plans.


19 thoughts on “The Beginner’s start

  1. We love your Waldorf Play Felted Mat with the delightful animals and we’re sorry to hear about the problems involved with selling.
    Don’t let that put you off your felting though. If your fingers are brave enough 🙂 just keep going because you have a talent for it.

    It’s not easy to make money with craft work. One way is to write tutorials to sell and another is to run workshops. We hope you find your way and enjoy the felting at the same time.

    Forum members will always happily answer any questions you may have.

    1. Thank you for your encouraging words! I am glad that I have found this Forum, it helped me a lot with all the questions that I have!

  2. Giorgio is gorgeous. In fact all your animals are – even the cat. And yes, fingers poked with needles from time to time is normal, though you can get leather finger protectors which could help. Mind you, when I wear them I tend not to use the fingers that are protected and end up poking the unprotected ones. The little cloud with blue smoke and lightning which usually sits above my head when I’m needle felting is getting smaller though as I learn to keep my concentration on my work. It’s only when I get distracted that the blue smoke and the “x!!**xz” words erupt again!

    One of the problems with making a business of your crafting is, if you do make an article that people want to buy and the business takes off, you have to keep making it – even when you are fed up with it. Also you usually have to spend more time “marketing” than “making” and even then you may find that you are “making” at a loss. Most people will not pay a reasonable price for what they consider is a “hobby” or a “home-made” item.

    Looking forward to hearing more about your crafting journey.

    1. Thank you, Ann! I do the same with my finger protectors: when I put them on, I tend to use the other fingers to be able to poke them as well 😀

  3. I too am a beginner to felting and really enjoyed reading your posts. I love the little animals you made, especially the Polar Bears. I tried making a hare, it looked awful. So then I went to a workshop and made a creditable hare.
    As to crafting businesses. I thought to make Boys clothes. You often see pretty dresses at craft fairs, so charming dungarees seemed a Good idea. I tried making a pair, it was really stressful and not very successful, so that was that!
    Look forward to your future posts.

    1. Oh, I feel you! I enrolled to workshops as well, but not all resulted in tremendous improvement 😉 more on that in other posts, maybe.
      I really love handcrafted garments for kids, and dungarees are very practical and cute: I can see how you wanted to craft some! It would definitely be over my head, though!

  4. Welcome Caterina! I’m glad you joined us and thanks for an enjoyable post. It’s great to see people’s first tries at felting and see how they progress along their felting journey. I think all of us have had wonderful ideas for starting a business but it always ends up to be a ton of work that doesn’t involve making or creating. It’s always a balancing act between what we want to do and what we have to do. Your playmat is adorable and I’m sure the kids love it.

    1. How true! I guess it is important not to lose faith and keep making also for the joy of it. Thank you for your comment.

  5. Welcome to the blog, we all have to start at the beginning. I am still not very good at sculpture. I like wet felting ( scarves hats etc) and am working on my artistic skills. I sell a few things and go to a couple of shows a year. I like teaching and am glad we are just starting back to that.

    1. Thank you! It’s good to know that everybody has started somewhere, and that we are allowed to have companions on this adventure into craft and arts! It’s much more enjoyable to share experiences!

  6. I loved reading your first post, such a fun read. Your animals are really lovely, I’m sure my fingers would be punctured too!

  7. Having had lunch today at a place called DiGiorgio, I’m finding this post serendipitous!

    I loved watching your felting progression. My first felted animal was a rabbit, but I wanted to make it large and, having only been taught to do wet felting at that time, proceeded to create a sort of Frankenstein’s monster with big ears, which I never finished, and ended up being eaten by moths… Ah, the memories 🙂

    Your polar scene is adorable! I’m really sorry you can’t monetise your makes, I too delved into that possibility and was quickly discouraged. You can, however, change your mind in the future and create lovely sculptures for people to admire instead of playing with! Who knows, you might have a lot of fun coming up with wildlife scenarios (check out @thegentlemanfelter on Instagram)

    Welcome to our merry group!

    1. I would have loved to see your original rabbit! 🙂 all the experiences of crafting are worthwhile, and for sure I can now think about sculptural pieces with only a moderate amount of dread 😉

    2. Trust me, you wouldn’t! It was a forensic mess of wool and moths ^_^

      Moderate amounts of dread are what keeps us going, I think – keeps us on our toes 😉

  8. Caterina, thank you for sharing your felting journey. It’s not always smooth sailing when we try something new. I have come to realize, the best learning happens, when we struggle a bit. It makes me evaluate what did and didn’t happen, and how I can improve on it. It’s good to share these not so positive experiences with others, so they realize they are not alone in their pursuits.

    Your mat, with different areas, for certain animals is a really nice idea. Don’t give up on that idea, maybe tweak it into something to be used by another age group. For example, your creativity might be very appealing in a memory care setting, where adults have dementia. Instead of encouraging playtime it could be used to encourage verbal communication.

    Just an idea for consideration. Thinking outside of the box.


    1. What an interesting idea! it is worth looking into, as felt is perfect sensory-wise, and I have never thought about adults settings, but of course it could be that a waldorf mat becomes useful there as well.

  9. Welcome Caterina!
    I loved your post. You have made so much progress in such a short time. I have no doubt your children loved their two animals, puss will turn up in time!
    Your artic scene is really lovely and I can see that there would be a market for such a scene. But I agree, the administration can really take over when it comes to children’s products. But as Capi mentioned it might be worth considering tweaking your market. You pieces deserve to be shared.

    1. Thank you, Helene! In the meantime, I have tried many different things: both needle felting and wet felting, embellishment and 2D and 3D shapes. I really think that felting gives a lot of scope for trying new things and I am fascinated by it.

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