With my crazy work hours preparing for Fashion Week this past month, I havent been able to set aside enough time to work on my dress at all. So I decided to start a new project that I could easily do in small doses here and there before I go to bed at night. I’ve started my cake topper!!
Does this seem familiar to any of you? Last year my friend Mary asked me to make her cake topper. She was completely in love with those felt birdies that are so popular right now, and asked me to attempt to make a felt lovebird cake topper for her. I had worked on various felt sewing projects before, although nothing as ambitious as what Mary wanted. I always love a creative challenge and in the end, I was very happy with the results! They were stuffed birds made of felt fabric, blanket stitched together. I loved them so much that I even used Mary’s pattern to make a gift bird ornament for each of my bridesmaids.
So I suppose this project grew from Mary’s. The idea of lovebirds for a cake topper was something that I always had in mind for myself. Sure its super trendy right now, but if you look back at my artwork from when I was young, I had a bit of an obsession with birds and flight even then. So birds have always had meaning for me. I think if I had never made Mary’s topper, mine would have looked a lot like hers. But since I’m always so preoccupied with being different and trying new things, I decided to explore a new medium that I have always wanted to try. Needle felting!! I suppose this technique is still some form of felted wool, but it involves no sewing and is a little bit more of a tedious process. Lets take a look at my very first needle felting attempt!
Above you can see two of the three major supplies that you need for needle felting – wool roving (which is basically loose strands of natural and dyed wool) and these special barbed needles (felting needles). The third important supply is this thing called needle felting foam. Its just a styrofoam block that is used as a work surface. It gives you something to stab into without breaking your needles. You’ll see it in some of the other images posted below.
Next I balled up some roving using the color that I wanted to use for the base, then continually stabbed it with the needle while shaping it. I continued to do this until it was finally able to hold its form. Think of this kind of like a dread lock, its just a solid tangle of hair. The more you stab it the harder it gets. But you want to be careful not to let it get too hard right away because it will become difficult to add details to it later. Above you can see the basic bird shape that was formed – at this point its still pretty squishy. Tip: the more needles you bundle together and use at once, the faster the process goes. Use fewer for the small details. Another tip: I read that for larger animals, you can use a ball of loosely wound yarn, or synthetic batting as a filler so that you don’t waste as much of your expensive wool roving.
Once the basic shape is formed, I added my color details and the beak. For this you just lay shorter strands of wool on top and “needle” it in. The coloration is inspired by sparrows, but I chose to make the girl a little lighter than a real female sparrow so that it would look slightly more bridal.
Next I created the wings and the tail by folding some wool strands in half and needling them on the foam surface until they were able to hold their shape. Then I simply laid them on top of the bird form and stabbed through them into the body to attach it.
After I attached the wings and tail, I needled in additional details to bring them to life. I also added black metal studs for the eyes. At this point the felted forms were becoming very solid, and it was getting harder and harder to stab in any more detail.
Now that the bodies are done, its time to add feet! I would have loved to put feet onto Mary’s birds, but I could not figure out how to insert them securly into the stuffed fabric. These on the other hand are a solid mass of wool, so i just stabbed in three strands of floral wire into the same insertion point, but in opposing directions (to create stability). Then I twisted them into the shape of bird feet and wrapped it with thick brown string. Once they were wrapped, I coated the bottoms of the feet with clear fabric paint to make sure the string was secure.
And here (above) we have the completed love birds!! But that’s only 50% of the final cake topper I have in my head. I plan to surround the birds with sort of a “field” of buttons and hand made fabric flowers – kind of like the picture below. I’ll definitely write another post once I finish it =)
And hopefully I’ll get to work on my dress soon too. I’ll have ALL DAY on presidents day! Exciting!
EDIT: Someone asked me if I was going to lay the buttons directly onto the cake. Of course not!! This is just showing what the birds look like surrounded by buttons. I plan to have a base that the birds will stand on, and the buttons will be attached with floral wire and sheer fabric petals. Think of a jcrew hairpiece or something.