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The making of a Viking

 
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This was a seriously fun and educative project! Someone asked for a needle-felted replica of their husband in his Viking reenactment garb. Since my kids have been learning medieval and viking history this year for history, we got to do lots of research together as a family!

I thought I'd show pictures of the whole process, because there's a lot that goes into these little creations, and it's kind of crazy how--at the beginning--you wonder how in the world it's going to pull together into anything good!

I didn't get pictures of the whole process (I was so busy making), so its not a very good instructional. But, hopefully it'll be fun or helpful for people!




I start making one of these little guys with cotton pipe cleaners. I form the arm and figure out where the head is going. The head is just a ball of needle felted wool.

needle-felted head on a figure


Then I wrap the arms with thread. In the past, I've used embroidery floss, or rug wool... But I didn't have any that matched his head perfectly. So, I just spun out a long stand of the roving and plied it (my superior plying technique was for my husband to hold on end of the yarn and then I walked to the other end of the house and put it around the top of a chair and walked back to him, keeping it tight. Then I took it off the chair and let it ply itself. Real fancy plying there, hahaha!)

After the arms were wrapped, I formed his torso by needle-felting a bunch of roving there!

wrapping the arms with spun wool, and forming the torso with needle-felted roving
 
Nicole Alderman
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Aaaand, I kept wrapping. I formed the legs with a separate pipe cleaner, trying to make the legs the same length (for some reason, this never works out perfectly, and one leg/foot is invariably shorter than the other).

needle-felted figure progress picture
Now he looks like a zombie. Perfect!...oh wait, we want Viking, not Zombie


So, to smooth out his figure, I needle felt roving on top of what I'd wrapped. Since everything is magical wool, this works out great (have I ever mentioned that I love working with wool?)

Now I have to make his grieves on his shins. I didn't know how to make tiny grieves, so I needle felted them on! First I felted on black, and then mixed some yellows/browns/oranges to make a brass color, an needle felted that single-ply raw yarn down (I didn't do anything to finish the wool, because that would make it harder to felt down).

needle-felting grieves
 
Nicole Alderman
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The poor viking is a bit cold and naked. We best make him some clothes!

Lacking nice linen thread, I used random cotton thread I found and waxed it. First I sew the hems. It seems to work best to hem the edges first so that they don't unravel while I work on everything else. These tiny hems LOVE to unravel. So I fold over twice and sew to get that hem tucked safely inside!

sewing the tunic hems
300
sewing the pants/shorts hems


Apparently, I neglected to get pictures of sewing the sides together. Oh well! When I sew the tiny pieces together, I do a back stitch and then go over the seam with a blanket stitch. I'm terrified of these clothes unraveling (I've had that happen too many times in the past!)

Now he's dressed!

wool figure with tunic and pants
please ignore the fact that one foot is currently smaller than the other. This will get fixed with the invention of shoes!




 
Nicole Alderman
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What's a viking without his sword? I went outside and hiked up my hill and pruned out some holly for making a wreath...and also for carving his sword! Holly has nice, dense white wood. And there's no soft spot in the center of a branch, so it's great for carving tiny things. So, I took a good sized holly stick and carved the sword!

carving a tiny sword out of holly
Holly, holy sword. Dun-dun-dun. Dream of, only vikings. Dun dun dun


(please excuse the Neil Diamond parody. Ahem)

The helmet was tricky! It's metal on top, with mail below the cheeks and nose. I needle felted it over my finger tip to form it into the right shape, and then wet felted it so it's be really sturdy First I made it out of this lovely black/silver wool (thanks Judith, for sending me it!), but it ended up looking like and executioners hood. Not good! And, it wasn't cone-topped like a good viking helm should be. So, I found this silvery, shiny wool Raven had sent me (thanks Raven!) and formed the helm. That worked! The brass accents were made by blending the yellow, orange and brown rovings I had.

I like how the helmet is removable! It also has little eye-holes, but I didn't get a good picture of those...



I wasn't sure how to make his belt to be in black/white patterns. So, I pulled upon my copious years of knotting friendship bracelets, and made it out of embroidery floss. To make the buckle, I waxed some lovely copper-colored flax thread I'd just orderd from Eco Butterfly and unplied it and wove it around itself. With all the wax, it managed to form into a nice, stiff shape. Score!

little viking now has his sword and helm and belt!
 
Nicole Alderman
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Next up his his shield. I'm wishing I'd taken process pictures. Up until this point, I'd used entirely natural materials for the construction. I was stumped when it came to the shield. I tried needle-felting one, and that failed. So, I mixed up some wood glue/cornstarch mixture and glued a bunch of circular papers together. They all had holes cut in the middle for the metal cone that goes in the shield. The cone was made with heavy duty aluminum foil folded over 4 times and hammered with with pencil eraser into a nice smooth-ish cone. I left a circle of aluminum foil around the cone, and stuck it on the shield and put another circular/donut paper on top to hold it down. I then glued aluminum foil on the back of the shield.

To get the hand hold put on, I carved a stick of holly and sewed it onto the shield with waxed flax thread (from Eco Butterfly). This gave me a place to sew on the shoulder strap, too! I basically just made it like a basket handle, wrapping my thread over itself on direction, and then doing it again and again.

For the tiny little pouch, I needle felted it around my finger, then wet felt it tighter, then needle felted it more to the shape I wanted. Then needle felted on the design on top. Then sewed the little stitches on, and used that same thread to make the handle/loop so the pouch could go on the belt. It was fun making such a tiny pouch!

I'm currently felting the shoes (they're now both the same size, hurrah!)

front view
view of the viking from the back


I'm still trying to figure out how to make the shoes. I made little flaps like turn shoes have, but I'm not sure if they get tried down or buttoned down....

 
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This is amazing!  I am always astounded by people who can make tiny crafts look good.  I would be crushing the entire enterprise into a ball and throwing it across the room if I tried stuff like that.  

I also gotta say it's a good thing that voodoo dolls don't seem to do what popular legend suggests.  If they did, everybody would be terrified of your effigy-making prowess!
 
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This is a great project, Nicole.

I am a descendant of Vikings and I heartily approve.
John S
PDX OR
 
Nicole Alderman
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Dan Boone wrote:This is amazing!  I am always astounded by people who can make tiny crafts look good.  I would be crushing the entire enterprise into a ball and throwing it across the room if I tried stuff like that.  

I also gotta say it's a good thing that voodoo dolls don't seem to do what popular legend suggests.  If they did, everybody would be terrified of your effigy-making prowess!



Thank you! I must admit, it was a bit weird the first time I made a mini-Paul figure. Stabbing him over and over again was a bit disconcerting!

John Suavecito wrote: This is a great project, Nicole.

I am a descendant of Vikings and I heartily approve.



Thank you! My mom's side of the family is Swedish, so I've always been interested in Vikings and medieval Scandinavians (and, well, all medieval history. One day I'd love to join the SCA!). I have no idea if any of my ancestors were vikings, though! (I think the farthest my mom was able to chart our family was back to a Prestor in the 1300's, if I remember right...).
 
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I just meant that I'm Norwegian.  I can't go back anywhere near that far to actually verify it.  If you look at where the family lived, though, near a bay, it's hard to imagine that I didn't have a lot of Viking ancestors.  All of the younger brothers, without land............

John S
PDX OR
 
Nicole Alderman
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And now he has a "face" (I don't like doing eyes/mouth--they always look creepy to me!)



I still have to figure out how to make the turnshoe toggles. Gotta do some research there!

natural viking figure


 
Nicole Alderman
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I think I kind of managed the shoes! I'm pretty sure they didn't sew around the edges of leather back then, but I couldn't think of any other way to show that it had the little toggle-strap-things.

tiny medieval turnshoes

 
Nicole Alderman
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I think I managed to make faux wood!

First I colored paper to look like wood (three different colored pencils, and using the woodgrain of my desk to rub woodgrain onto the "wood")

drawing fake wood grain


Then, I cut the wood in strips (making sure to color the edges of the strips) and then using my nail to imprint where to cut, then cutting it out. To glue it down, I mixed woodglue and cocoa powder (the cocoa powder does a great job of coloring the glue!)

wood glue, cheap cocoa powder, and strips of paper

Then I put the colored woodglue down and slide the paper strips carefully into place!

woodglue and strips of paper on shield

Then, to make it more wood-like, I used my nail to imprint woodgrain. This was easy because the glue was thick, and applied onto alluminum foil, so it was easy to make nice little imprints

I have fancy, expensive tools...like my fingernails!


Shield is done!

tiny shield for figurines

And, here's the viking with his refurbished, more realistic, shield!



 
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Did you serve in the military, Nicole? Then you could be a crafty veteran!

John S
PDX OR
 
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Nicole Alderman wrote:

Thank you! I must admit, it was a bit weird the first time I made a mini-Paul figure. Stabbing him over and over again was a bit disconcerting!



acupuncture?  
 
Nicole Alderman
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The poor viking had one LOOOOONG journey via the post office to finally make it to his new home. But, he finally made it...just 3 weeks after Christmas. What a crazy year!
 
Put a gun against his head, pulled my trigger, now he's dead, that tiny ad sure bled
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