Follow along with this free photo tutorial to make your own needle-felted spider. A realistic-looking tarantula for your Halloween display.
I’ve been having so much fun making needle-felted sculptures. I wanted to try something a bit more ambitious this week.
If you read last week’s post you know I’m getting excited for fall and Halloween. A realistic needle-felted spider seemed like the perfect project to build my needle-felting skills.
Choosing my spider
I knew I wanted to make a realistic spider so before starting this project I spent a lot of time looking through pictures of spiders. There are so many varieties of spiders in shapes and sizes. Even though the competition was stiff for which spider to make I quickly settled on a tarantula.
A tarantula seemed like the perfect spider for needle felting. It is large (for a spider), fuzzy, and has distinctive features.
What is needle-felting?
If you have never done any needle-felting before, you may be wondering what it is.
Needle-felting is a way to sculpt wool using very sharp, barbed needles. The needles agitate the wool and cause it to lock together and get condensed.
You can use felting needles to make just about anything you can think of!
Supplies for a needle-felted spider
You’ll want about 4 oz of wool per spider, in the color of your choice. In addition to the main color, you will want a tiny bit of black wool for the eyes.
This project is a bit more detailed than some of my previous needle felting projects. I used three different-sized felting needles for different parts of the tarantula. A 36 gauge, 38 gauge, and a 40 gauge.
A few more things
For any needle felting project you will need a surface to work on that won’t be damaged by the felting needles.
You will also need some finger guards to keep your fingers safe from the felting needles. These are especially important for making the spider legs.
To make a realistic spider I needed to know the basic parts of spider anatomy. We wouldn’t want legs coming out of the wrong place!
Now let’s make a tarantula!
I didn’t want to use straight black wool to make a needle-felted spider because it would make the details of the spider more difficult to see.
Starting with a grey, brown, and black wool roving, using more of the grey and brown than the black, I laid the colors on top of each other. Then gently tugging from the sides so the fibers naturally separate, I pulled the fiber into two sections.
Remember: you shouldn’t be breaking the fibers while you are doing this, they should pull apart easily.
Stacking these two sections together, I pulled them into another two sections again. Then just repeat this process until the colors are as mixed as you like. I like to leave some variation, I think it gives a nice effect to the final felted sculpture. You can play around with different colors and see what you like!
You will also need a tiny bit of black wool for the eyes.
If you already have a color of wool that you like for your tarantula, you can skip the mixing and get straight to the shaping.
An easy place to start to make a needle-felted spider is the abdomen. Taking a section of wool about twice the size you want the final abdomen shape to be, squish it into a ball shape.
Then, using the large 36 gauge needle, start to work the wool into the center, making sure to keep the wool moving so you stab all over the shape. You are aiming for an egg shape, so you will work around the sides a bit more than each end to keep it from becoming too round.
With the large needle, this shape should take form quickly.
To finish out the body, we need to make the cephalothorax.
Just like starting the abdomen, get a section of wool that is about twice the size of the final shape you want and roll it loosely into a ball.
Using the 36 gauge needle, start to work the wool into a disc shape.
You can hold the wool between your protected fingers and squish the ball of wool into a rough disc then start to bring it together with the felting needle.
Keep working around the shape until you have a solid disc of wool.
Line the cephalothorax up with where you want it to attach to the abdomen. Going into the cephalothorax at a shallow angle, work the felting needle through the side of the cephalothorax disk into the narrow end of the abdomen.
Keep stabbing these two pieces together until they are firmly joined.
Before getting into all the legs, I like to add the chelicerae to the front of the cephalothorax to give the spider some personality.
Start by taking two small pieces of wool that are about twice the size you want your chelicerae, but make sure they are the same size as each other.
Tip: If you are making multiple parts of a felted sculpture that will be the same, divide the wool you plan to use before you start felting so you are using the same amount of wool for each piece.
Starting with one piece of your wool, use a 38 gauge needle to start to form it into a cone shape.
While you are making this shape, be sure to leave the larger side of the cone fairly loose. This will make it easier to attach the chelicerae later.
Once you’ve worked the first cone into the shape and size you want, make the second one the same way. When you’ve finished each chelicerae they should be about the same size and shape.
Then you can attach them to the front of the cephalothorax. Start by working the loose end of the cones onto the top edge of the disc. Once they are securely attached you can loosely attach the tip of the cones down the side of the disc to make sure they lay the right way.
To get the characteristic bend in the spider legs you will need to make the legs in two parts.
First portion out eight equal sections of wool. These will become the top of the legs.
Work each section of wool into a cylinder with one end of the wool still loose.
All eight sections should be about the same size and shape.
Then these are added to the cephalothorax, four on each side. They should be coming out of the top of the cephalothorax so when the rest of the leg is added later they will make a sharp angle.
Before shaping the pedipalps pull out two sections of wool of equal size, a bit bigger than you used for the tops of the legs.
Then shape each pedipalp in the same way you shaped the leg tops. They should be very similar, but longer.
When you have two matching pedipalps add them to the front of the cephalothorax, one on each side of the chelicerae.
Once the base of each pedipalp is firmly attached, you can work it into the front of the cephalothorax to give it a more realistic look.
The rest of the legs
The next part of the needle-felted spider is to finish those characteristic long legs.
Just like before, divide out eight equal portions of wool before you start shaping to make sure the legs are the same size when you are finished.
Before using the felting needle, you can do some wool pre-shaping with your hands.
Roll out a section of wool into a noodle. Then fold the wool noodle in half and gently pull the fibers apart slightly to get about the length of the leg you want. The shape should taper to one end like a long cone.
Once you have the base shape started you can use the 38 gauge felting needle to solidify the shape.
Repeat this shaping process for all eight legs.
Each leg end is attached to each leg top at about a 90-degree angle.
The final detail for the needle-felted spider is the eyes. Real tarantulas have eight eyes each, but I opted for two small eyes to stand in for all the eyes from a distance.
Using a tiny bit of black wool, use the small 40 gauge needle to work the eyes into the top of the cephalothorax, just above the chelicerae.
And with that final detail complete, your tarantula is done!
Show her off!
I can’t believe how realistic these needle-felted spiders look! If you know any arachnophobics, be sure to keep your creation away from them or it may get squashed.
It will be so fun to have cute little spiders around this Halloween!
Want more needle-felted adorable decorations? Click here.
What is your favorite type of spider? Let me know in the comments below!