DIY Wool Felted Reindeer Sweater

What would Reindeer Week be without a gorgeous, hand felted sweater? I’ve been thinking about needle felting designs onto to sweaters ever since last year when I saw this fabulous elbow-patch tutorial. An animal like this is much too large to use a cookie cutter as the outline, so I tried another method and it worked out great!

Animal motifs are so on trend right now. It seems like everywhere you look there is a fox, shark, zebra, or jackalope adorning a pullover. Adding your very own reindeer to a sweater is a perfect way to join the fun! I don’t know about where you live, but where I live it’s Reindeer-Sweater Weather!

To make one, you’ll need a basic crew-neck sweater with a plain front (I made my own using the new Megan Nielsen Briar pattern–it’s the best!), wool roving, a piece of foam, a needle felting tool, and a piece of thin tracing paper.

Find a reindeer silhouette that you like and trace it onto your tracing paper. I found a small one online, zoomed in, and used the computer as a light table to make the tracing easier. Orient the image on the front of the sweater, pin in place, and trace around it with a sharpie.

The marker will bleed through the thin paper and leave the pattern outline on the sweater. Make sure it’s not bleeding all the way through to the back. If you notice it does, slip some paper in between.

Lay the sweater with the pattern over the foam. Mine foam is small, so I work in sections.

Peel off a tuft of fibers from the roving and lay them on top of the design.

Use the needle tool to punch the roving into the sweater. The tiny barbs on the roving needles will begin to weave the roving into the front of the sweater, interlocking the fibers. As you punch the needles through the roving, it will get smaller and tighter. Use the needles to carefully guide the roving within the lines of the reindeer pattern.

Once a small section looks pretty tight and formed, add another tuft of roving and continue the design. Work up all four legs and onto the deer body.

If parts of the felting look patchy, add a little bit of roving and punch repeatedly with the needles. It will continue to tighten into a smoother design.

Turn the sweater inside out to see how the roving is being felted right into the material. It’s awesome.

The antlers are thin, so you’ll use a slightly different technique. Remove one needle from the tool, and twist a small length of roving into a fine rope. Lay it down along one of the traced antlers. Use the single needle to punch it into place. If your end is a little long, cut it off and felt the raw ends into the sweater.

Continue using the fine rope technique until all of the details of the antlers are felted into the design.

Replace the needle in the tool, and go over the entire design a few times, securing down loose roving and tightening the design. You’re finished! Needle felting this whole reindeer took me about two hours, even with stopping to take all of the photos. It’s a perfect project for nap-time, a craft night, or the new episode of your favorite series!

*note: wash cold and lay flat to dry to avoid shrinking and distortion of the wool.

Now don your creation and wait as the compliments roll in! The first day I wore this sweater, I was stopped in the lobby of a building by a girl who declared “That is the cutest sweater I have ever seen!” I am so happy with how this one came together, and hope you give it a go! This would make a really awesome handmade gift, of course you’ll have to make one for yourself, too. My mind is racing with all of the possibilities for needle felted sweater designs!

This tutorial wraps up the DIY portion of Reindeer Week. Tomorrow I’ll be sharing a round-up of some of my favorite reindeer projects from around the web. If you have seen a really great one, or made one yourself, email me today so I can include it!


  1. Sunny
    Posted December 7, 2012 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    Your sweater is adorable! You’ve made this project look easy and manageable. Way to go!

    • Miranda
      Posted December 7, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

      I’m so glad! I hope you give it a go and love it!


  2. Georgine
    Posted December 7, 2012 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    Is the sweater wool? May I ask where you found the fabric?

    • Miranda
      Posted December 7, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

      No, though it may be a wool/nylon blend. It was in the red tag section at JoAnn’s! It’s a really great light-weight sweater knit with a pretty drape and a really soft hand. I wish I’d have bought more!

      • Georgine
        Posted December 7, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

        Thank you for the information. I can check. I love the pattern. It really is a fantastic sweater.

  3. Posted December 7, 2012 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    i never thought i would love a reindeer sweater… but i have to agree: cutest sweater ever!

  4. Posted December 7, 2012 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    that is so great! i’m so impressed and you look so cute in the pics. 🙂

    • Miranda
      Posted December 7, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

      Thank you Anna! It was fun to make, too!

  5. Posted December 7, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Permalink


  6. Holly
    Posted December 7, 2012 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

    Very cute! Not sure where you come up with all these ideas but this one was spot on. Love it!

  7. Posted December 7, 2012 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

    I LOVE IT!! I’m also loving that Briar pattern!

    • Miranda
      Posted December 8, 2012 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

      You probably need to get a Briar…it’s the best.

  8. Posted December 8, 2012 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    CUUUUUUUTE! Love this!!

  9. Lizzy
    Posted December 8, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    I have never seen this before, it is very pretty! I wish I could do one.

  10. Posted December 11, 2012 at 2:22 am | Permalink

    I love the reindeer sweater. I’m amazed by the fact that you made the sweater it is on too! Where did you find such a nice quality knit fabric??

  11. Posted December 31, 2012 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    Ok, I think I found my new hobby. this is so cool!

    • Miranda
      Posted January 1, 2013 at 11:39 pm | Permalink

      watch out, it’s addictive!!

  12. bonnie
    Posted August 16, 2013 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

    I have been struggling in my head to use needlefleting to do a feather design over an orange circle on a sweater……Is there any experienced thoughts you can share with me? How does it wash, does the needlefelting shrink? How is it staying on? I’ve done a few small needlefelting projects, but not that they will need washing. Thanks, if you can help.


    • Miranda
      Posted September 3, 2013 at 11:40 pm | Permalink

      Hi there, sorry for the delay. The wool felting does shrink a bit when washed/dried. I found after the first wash I could stretch it back out okay, and then I began hand-washing to help keep the shape. Good luck!

  13. Mel
    Posted November 29, 2013 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

    How much wool roving did it take?

    • Miranda
      Posted December 19, 2013 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

      I think it was less than one package from JoAnn. I’m not sure what the standard package size is?

  14. Patricia Balanger
    Posted December 5, 2014 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    Very beautifl. How can we clean this sweater?

  15. francoise
    Posted February 11, 2015 at 4:15 am | Permalink

    Hi, nice… do you know if it is ok every type of textile as a base to do this?

    • Miranda
      Posted February 11, 2015 at 8:16 am | Permalink

      I think it works best with wool, but I used a cotton/poly blend for this top and it worked well. Once the wool is felted on, the garment becomes hand-wash/air-dry.

  16. francoise
    Posted February 11, 2015 at 8:38 am | Permalink


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