Needle-Felted Wool Sculpture

J.R.R. Tolkien's Beorn Needle-Felted Wool Sculpture

Written and Posted by Sarah on December 31, 2014
This needle-felted doll is based on another character from J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit as portrayed in Peter Jackson's marvelous film adaptations. Elizabeth loves needle-felted characters, and I just can't say 'no' to such a fabulous sister. She has decided that it would be fun to make a dollhouse display of Beorn's house (as seen in the film The Desolation of Smaug), and she wanted an 8-inch Beorn doll to go in it. So, I got the job! It was a nice break after doing Elrond, as this one is a smaller sculpture with simpler clothes. Beorn's stance was a lot of fun. It is based on Michael Persbrandt's portrayal in the film of the character as he enters the house while the dwarves are sleeping. He wears a sort of woven vest, but Elizabeth wants to have that hanging on a hook in the house --- hence the doll has no shirt.

Beorn is made of Merino wool roving, with some Cotswold for the skin tone. He stands 8-1/2-inches tall (including his hair), weighs just under 2 oz., and took approximately 38 hours to complete (over the course of three months). The sculpture was made with .40 and .42 gauge needles, and his boot laces are linen thread. Everything about him was rather straightforward, but his hair was the tricky part! I have a lot of different wool hair for these dolls --- all types and colors. But nothing seemed right. Elizabeth and I spent an evening trying to pick one, but nothing was satisfying me. So, I had a fitful night --- until the wee small hours, when I suddenly remembered something! A friend had given Dad a piece of Black Bear fur (helps to know a taxidermist!) for fly-tying. That was it! It would look perfect, but the only problem would be getting it to felt. I figured that if it would not felt on, then it would be worth sewing on. Surprisingly, the fur felted fabulously!! Thank the Lord, it worked so well that I was able to do the hair in one evening. Of course, trimming it took another evening. ;) So, Beorn has genuine Bear hair!!

The bear hair is almost a light grey at the end (near the skin) and very soft. It was this part that felted so well. Each hair is very long and turns to a light brown and then to black by the end. The darker the hair, the coarser it is. You'll notice in the photos that the hair does not hang like mohair or human hair. Since the smallest area on each hair is the soft part (and that is felted into the wool of the head), the hair actually stuck out almost totally straight. I was then able to use the felting needle and the scissors to shape and trim it to look like the character in the film. His beard and eyebrows are also made of the bear hair --- though that is trimmed quite short.

I've included lots of photos in the column at right. The photos were hard to take and don't give the doll the 'softness' that it has in real life. If I can ever get some better photos, I'll be sure to post them.