How to Make a Felt Cardinal Bird

When I bought a needle felting starter kit five years ago, I had no idea what I was going to do with it. It had been many years since I attempted any form of art or craft since I was never very good at it. I only bought it because I was fascinated by how these loose wool fibers could be shaped into creatures of such different forms. I began experimenting making animals that my frinds like and give them out as gifts.

Felted cardinal (Photo by NCC)

Felted cardinal (Photo by NCC)

I’ve learned through trial and error that other than keeping your fingers away from the needles while felting (you will feel sorry it you poke yourself with these extremely sharp needles), there aren’t many rules when it comes to needle felting. I usually start by observing the color of the wool fibers, rolling them into a ball and randomly poking the wool using the needles until it becomes a firm shape. The more you stab or poke the wool fiber’s shape, the firmer it becomes. With the use of your fingers and the needles, the wool can be sculpted into all forms and shapes.

Through making things, I have learned to relax my body and mind and let the material speak to me. Likely because I often see photos of different Canadian wildlife species at work, all of my creations have been animals such as the saw-whet owl and polar bear.

Felted bird how-to (Photo by NCC)

Felted bird how-to (Photo by NCC)


How to make your own felted cardinal

Here are the step-by-step instructions to make a simple cardinal:

  • Roll some red fiber into a tighter shape. You can always start with a smaller piece by pulling a strand of wool out.  Do not cut the wool!
  • Place the fiber on top of a sponge or brush. Holding it with one hand, poke the ball of wool with the felting needle. The barbs on the needles help weave the fiber together and tighten up the shape. The more you poke the wool, the firmer it becomes.
  • Continue to add layers of fiber on the shape until it becomes the right size. Be careful with the placement of your fingers and keep your eyes on the wool as you felt! It’s not funny when you poke yourself with these sharp needles.
  • Connect pieces together by poking one piece into another. To make the eyes and beak, pull a tiny bit of wool, roll it together with the tip of your fingers and some warm water, and poke the shape into the face. From here, you can decorate the bird or add wings by adding layers of different color and shapes over top of the body. Keep poking and watch the bird form in your hands.

Nature gives us so many inspirations to create. NCC’s Creative Conservation Pinterest board also has tons of ideas for nature inspired arts. Visit our board to check out some amazing art, and then pick up a paint brush, a camera or a little bit of wool fibers and make something!

Quincin Chan is the coordinator of data and online fundraising for the Nature Conservancy of Canada. This post first appeared in Land Lines, the blog of the Nature Conservancy of Canada.

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Panchali Yapa
Panchali Yapaabout a year ago

Thank you

Susan B.
susan B.1 years ago

I love this! My Mama will have a few flying to her tree branches in a month! Thank you.

Nicole H.
Nicole L.1 years ago

Awesome, thanks!

Natasha Hull
Past Member 1 years ago

I prefer real Cardinals.

Fi T.
Fi T.1 years ago

Make sure the real birds are respected

Alexandra Ekdahl
Alexandra Ekdahl1 years ago

Sweet :)

Ans Weevers
Ans Weevers1 years ago

"The greatness of a nation and it's moral progress can be determined by the ways it treats it's animals."
Mahatma Gandhi

Carole R.
Carole R.1 years ago

What a cute and easy project. Thanks.

Kay M.
Kay M.1 years ago


Fred h
Fred Hoekstra1 years ago

Thank you The Nature Conservancy of Canada, for Sharing this!