This needle felted VW Beetle convertible has a secret DIY cheat! I love the shape and form of a VW beetle and was sad when Volkwagen discontinued them. They certainly had the cool factor going for them. So I’m going to show you how to sculpt your own out of wool!
After taking a beginner course in needle felting at my local stained glass studio just over a year ago, I quickly became enamoured with sculpting wool – and ‘breaking the rules’. When you’re new to a craft, it’s easy to get creative with your own techniques because you don’t know what you don’t know!
International Blogger’s Club (IBC)
The IBC is a group of bloggers from all over the world who challenge each other to make something using a common upcycling theme. This month’s challenge, is “Don’t Sweater the Small Stuff“. Last month’s challenge was Cast in Concrete and we showed you how to make a cement planter.
You’ll find all my friends’ sweater creations at the bottom of this post and they’re all spectacular. So don’t forget to check them out before you go. And if you don’t have time to browse today, pop back in later in the week to pick up where you left off.
The Inspiration Behind This Project
We jumped on the sustainable bandwagon in 2016 when we wrote a series of blogs for IKEA’s sustainable living project and never looked back. As part of our later Sustainable Sunday series, I used this picture of our friend’s cabriolet, taken at the wedding of her son, to introduce the first post. This beetle convertible is the inspiration behind my needle felted version of this vintage car. And, of course, my miniature version is sustainable because we’re using a thrifted sweater as the base.
Foray into Needle Felting
Besides the stress reduction that naturally comes from poking a felting needle in and out of a mound of wool thousands of times, I love that one can easily stop and return to a project at any time. Needle felting is a great craft for busy people who only have limited time. Broken up into half hour increments here and there, it’s a delight to see it come together.
My needle felted VW Beetle is a LOOOONG project so I’m just going to touch on some of the highlights in the written version. For anyone who’s ambitious enough to give this a go and work along with me, there’s a 2-hour video tutorial near the end of this post.
You’ll find details on how to get the free pattern at the bottom of this post.
Start with a 100% wool sweater and felt it in hot water in the washing machine. Then toss it into the dryer to shrink and felt it even more. It will likely pill, but that doesn’t matter because you won’t even see it.
And, We’re Off!
I started this project on a cold winter night. Hubs had gone to bed and I was snuggled up in a blanket by the warmth of the fireplace. Instead of reading, I suddenly had the urge to craft. So apologies that the following pictures aren’t better against my brown blankie.
As a trained fashion designer, I’m no stranger to taking 2-D patterns and making them into 3-D objects. For the needle felted VW Beetle, I’m using the same principles. Start with a paper pattern, then pin it onto the sweater:
Cut the pattern out.
Be sure to put a piece of foam under the work so you don’t stab yourself with the felting needle. Since this is an impromptu crafting session, I’m use a small scrap of foam.
Bend the pattern into its 3-D shape and overlap the seams. Poke the felting needle along the seams to bring the VW beetle shape together.
After the shell is formed, insert a rolled wad of core white to support the base.
Now you can needle felt the sweater to the core all around the exterior to further shape the foundation. You’ll see the familiar beetle shape start to form when you needle felt a line into the hood of the car. I ran a marker along the seam lines so they would stand out for you to see below:
Needle Felted VW Beetle Shaping
If you’ve been reading Birdz of a Feather since the beginning, you’ll know that Hubs and I are VW fanatics. So of course I have this toy beetle convertible to compare against.
See how the sweater really helps nail the initial shape of the felted VW Beetle? Using this sweater method takes all the guesswork out of sculpting the shape from scratch!
Here it is the sweater foundation from the front. Hold onto your pattern pieces because they’re going to be used to help sculpt all the layers of the beetle.
In the morning, I move everything over to the dining room table and a proper felting pad. I top the felting pad with pink felt to extend the life of the pad from all the needle pokes.
I could not find a buttery yellow wool felt, so I created my own! Take equal parts lemon yellow and core white then pull and stack them together to blend them into a cohesive soft yellow.
[If you’re looking for some of the things we used, we’ve got you covered (disclosure): Most of the links below are not affiliates but we may receive a commission from Amazon for qualified purchases there. But don’t worry, you don’t pay a cent more and it helps us make more unique crafts to share with you! Thanks for helping to support our blog!]
- Wool roving. I used the following Corriedale colours from FibreGarden: lemon yellow, white (top), licorice, grey and cherry red
- 38 gauge needle felting needle. I used a triangle style but would suggest playing with a variety of styles like the ones in this deluxe felting needle set from Fibrecraft (you’ll also find roving there too). It will give you a good selection of speciality needles to try!
- Dense foam felting pad
- Thrifted wool sweater
- Blunt darning needle
Needle Felted VW Beetle – Using the Paper Pattern
From here forward, I continue to use the pattern to its fullest advantage. For the body, tear off some yellow roving for the sides, then needle around the perimeter of the pattern. Once secured to the felting pad, fold in the edges and you’ll have the exact shape you need. Lift it off the felting pad, work it a little further, then needle felt it directly onto the sweater foundation.
I didn’t end up shaping the wheel wells until the side pieces were actually on the car. That part gets sculpted once all the yellow wool is needle felted to the sweater.
At this point, it will look like a billowy yellow blob for a while until all the needle sculpting work is done. It’s necessary to keep the base layer fluffy as each section is ready to be worked.
Needle Felted VW Beetle Windows
The smaller pattern pieces are fiddly, but I use the same technique as the body of the car to shape the windows. First, stab around the perimeter into the felting pad.
Remove the pattern, then fold all the edges in. Lift the piece off the foam and continue felting with the needle to further solidify the shape.
Then use the negative space of the pattern. Pin the window shapes onto the car body, as shown, and tack them right in place. In this case, the pattern takes the guesswork out of placement!
Remove the pattern and finish felting the windows onto the car body completely.
Do all the windows in the same manner, tacking them at the corners to hold them onto the car, then lift the pattern off.
For the hood, use the pattern as a guide. Lay the black roving directly onto the car then build it from there. It’s helpful to have pictures, or in my case, the model car to help with elements like that.
Use the pattern again to position the headlights in the negative space. In this case you can roll a piece of wool also needle felt directly onto the body: no need to shape first as I did the windows. The pattern helps maintain the circular shape and also keeps things symmetrical.
Needle Felted VW Beetle Video
I’ll leave you with this video of the full tutorial to follow along. Visit us on YouTube for a listing of time stamps. Once there, you’ll be able to click on an individual time stamp and it will take you to the exact spot in the video so you can pick up where you left off!
Here’s a reminder of the sweater base we started with:
You can embellish as much or as little as you like. Here’s how the final needle felted VW beetle looks now after adding details like the bumpers, running board, tail lights and wheels.
Who would ever guess it all started with an upcycled sweater?
Pin Needle Felted VW Convertible
Pinning is always welcome and appreciated!
International Bloggers Club – Don’t Sweater the Small Stuff
And now onto the rest of the uber-talents participating in this IBC this month. Check out these sweater upcycle ideas:
- Meegan Makes
- Interior Frugalista
- Unique Creations by Anita
- Birdz of a Feather – that’s us!
- A Crafty Mix
Free Needle Felted VW Pattern
To gain access to the free pattern for the needle felted VW Beetle, if you’re not already an e-mail subscriber, you need to become one by filling out the form below. After you confirm your e-mail, you’ll receive a welcome message with the password (sorry but Bloglovin’ / WordPress subscribers won’t have access to the password unless subscribed through this form). We change the password periodically, so check the newsletter often. You’ll find our freebie library at Birdz on the Fly.