Continuing with the theme of ‘Oddly Specific’ tutorials, today I’m going to be showing you how to make a cone shape.
And now you want to know why on earth you’d ever need to make a cone shape.
Well, surprisingly, there are quite a few uses for cone shapes. You could use it as the base for a tomte gnome, or a witch’s hat; a waldorf-inspired doll or a Christmas tree. Whatever has inspired you, it’s a shape and a technique that is worth learning.
For this technique you will need:
- Wool tops
- A pipe cleaner (short, not a long craft pipe cleaner)
- A selection of felting needles (in 36, 38 and 40 sizes)
- A carded top wool in the colour of your choice (optional for Section 3) – I recommend using NZ Carded fibres from the Felt Box
- Needle nose jewellery pliers (optional)
Step 1 – Preparing the pipe cleaner
1.1 – Using a pair of fine-nosed pliers (if you can) bend back the very end of the pipe cleaner and squash it closed – this will ensure the safety of the wire while you use it.
1.2 – Take a long thin piece of your tops and lay the very tapered end over the other end of the pipe cleaner. Bend the end of the wire over tightly, this time trapping the end of the fibre with the pipe cleaner. This will make it easier to wrap the whole pipe cleaner.
1.3 – Wind the fine end of the fibres tightly around the pipe cleaner – the fibres should grip into the fluff deeply and become very thin (like hair) as you come to the end.
1.4 – You’re now going to wrap fibre all along the length of the pipe cleaner. Pull the width of the fibres out slightly so that they are wide and not clumped together. Pulling them downwards at a slight diagonal angle slowly wrap the fibres around the pipe cleaner. It is important that you do guide the fibres down the length as you turn it, so that the fibres spread out relatively evenly. They don’t have to be perfectly neat – just as tight as you can make them.
1.5 – When you get to the other end of the pipe cleaner wrap the remaining fibres tightly around the base. You don’t need to do this at an angle here as it’s fine for the base of the cone to be wider. Well, not just fine – pretty necessary actually!
1.6 – Now we need to felt the fibres down so that they don’t come loose.
Start at the wider end and felt carefully along the thicker part of the fibre on both sides of the pipe cleaner. Go slowly and carefully here as the wire can easily snap your needle.
Once you have done this, carry on up the pipe cleaner, felting even more carefully as the wool on each side gets even thinner.
1.7 – Next, angle your needle so that it is almost flat against the pipe cleaner and felt the fibres carefully along it. Do this on all sides. By the time you have finished the fibres will be a little looser than when you first started, but will be securely attached to the pipe cleaner.
Step 2 – Bulking up around the pipe cleaner
2.1 – So now we’re going to do this all again!
It gets a little repetitive for the next few steps as you will largely be repeating steps 1.3 – 1.7 until you reach the desired size. However, one thing you need to bear in mind is your starting point each time you add a new strip of fibre.
What’s going to happen if you start felting at the very point of the cone? Well, it won’t be a point for much longer. So, for your second strip of fibre you are going to want to start wrapping it about an inch below the point.
2.2 – Wind the fibre tightly down the whole length of the remaining pipe cleaner, again wrapping it a few extra times around the blunt edge. As can be seen in the picture below, if you let go it will loosen a little, but that’s ok – you can tighten it again as you begin felting this in place.
Step 2.3 – Felt the fibre down as you did before – and don’t forget to watch out for that needle-breaking wire!
2.4 – You don’t want the fibres to get lumpy, so angle your needle so that it’s perpendicular to the wire – this will help achieve a more even surface.
2.5 – Repeat this process until you have a cone shape is approximately the size you want it to be. I say approximately as the core will shrink down as you felt the fibres more tightly.
If you feel that your cone is too thin, or that the sides don’t go down at a smooth enough angle, you can add more fibre (attaching to the pointed end of the cone) and repeat this process as required (image 2.5)
2.6 – Once you have added enough fibre it’s now important to make sure that it is fully felted down. Although you have been felting the fibres down as you added them, this is the stage where you want to make the core really solid.
2.7 – Pay particular attention to the point of the cone. There won’t be much fibre here, so I recommend felting slowly and carefully around the wire, using the tip of the needle to guide any stray or nobbly bits of fluff into position as you go.
2.8 – Work from the top downwards – this is so you can control the evenness of the shape as you work. There might be some sort of mathematical reason behind it, but what it comes down to is that if you try to felt it the other way the fibres will bunch and ruck and basically fight against you.
2.9 – Your final shape should be the overall size you want it to be, with a’slope’ that is consistent no matter which side it is view from, no lumps or dips, and a bumpy bottom (having a bumpy bottom is not deliberate – it’s just easier to fix in the next stage. If you have managed to succeed in creating a flat bottom then great!)
Step 3 – Covering the shape
Now of course it is entirely possible to create this shape using tops in your desired finishing colour. If this is what you have done then all you need to do is skip to step 3.3.
3.1 – Take a generous amount of carded fibre – more than enough to completely cover the cone and thick enough so that the core won’t show through. Lay it flat and place the cone on the centre.
3.2 – Tightly wrap the cone with the fibre and hold it down with your non-dominant hand (I use the length of my thumb to hold it in place – there’s less flesh to get in the way of the needle this way). Using a 36 or 38 needle, felt the bottom half very securely in place, turning it so that it is felted on all sides.
3.3 – OK, so now we need to cover the bottom.
You’re likely to have some excess fibres overhanging the bottom here from when you wrapped it. You’ll need to leave enough to cover the bottom, but tear off some of the excess.
Once this has been done, start folding in the sides of the loose fibre so that they cover the bottom. How you do this depends on how the fibre is distributed, but if you find that there are any sections left uncovered you can use some of the fibre you have already removed to patch it back up.
You will need to make the bottom completely flat, or else it will topple over like a drunk skittle when you try to stand it. Just keep at it, testing its balance frequently and maybe adding fibre if you need to adjust the tilt.
3.4 – OK, this is where it might seem weird, so stick with me as this technique does really work.
You’re likely to have some excess fibre over the end of your pointed end as well, so gently tear this off so that the fibre reaches to just under the tip of the pointed end.
3.5 – Peel it down in two sections like a banana, until you reach the felted part.
3.6 – Take one of the ‘peeled’ sides and (carefully) pull it up to the point of the cone.
3.7 – Felt it securely into place.
3.8 – Turn the cone over and repeat this process, ensuring the the side edges meet and are felted together seamlessly.
Once all the carded fibre has been felted down, your final task is to neaten it. Use a 38 or 40 triangle, star or spiral needle to felt down any areas that are scruffy, fluffy, bumpy or lumpy, holding your needle at an angle to reduce needle holes.
If you find you have areas where there are dips or crease marks you can take an extra bit of your top colour to lay over these areas – gently felting over these areas hides a multitude of sin!
And the final result…
If you have found this tutorial useful, or there is a particular technique you’d like to see me cover, feel free to leave me a note in the comments, and don’t forget to share a link to this page on Pinterest, Facebook or wherever!