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Make a needle felt barrel cactus

This project is a fantastic introduction to needle felting for beginners - using only 3 items (needle, felting mat, and wool) you can turn soft, fluffy wool into a prickly cactus!

What you'll need:

- Felting needles
- Felting wool in white, green, brown, pink, & yellow
- Felting mat to work on
- Flower-shaped cookie cutter (optional)
- Hessian fabric
- Scissors
- Glue
- Small pot (a yoghurt pot is ideal)

If you've never tried needle felting before, you might find it helpful to read our Beginner's guide to needle felting!


Step 1: Roll some white (core) wool into a large egg shape, relative to the size of your yoghurt pot (remember that needle felted items shrink as you needle them). Needle felt the wool to define the shape better - you are aiming for a barrel shape with a flattish base and a top that is wider than the base. It will still be soft and squishy at first but don’t worry. This stage takes a little time so be patient – when you start attaching the coloured wool it will firm up. A handy tip is to tape two needles together with masking tape, this way you can needle felt at twice the speed! 

Step 2: Needle felt green wool to the barrel shape. Tear off long wefts and wrap around the barrel. Keep the barrel moving on the mat to avoid attaching it – turn it as you needle. Leave some of the white core and some of the green wool unfelted at the base. This will become the soil. 

Needle felted barrel cactus

Step 3: Add some ridges to the cactus by pulling tiny, long wisps of brown wool and twisting them as you needle felt them to the barrel. It doesn’t matter if these are not all straight, the same thickness, or distance apart – your cactus will look more lifelike if it’s not perfect! 

Step 4: Make some little flowers using a floral-shaped cookie cutter, if you have one. Place the cookie cutter on the mat. Tear off some wisps of pink wool and place them inside the cutter. Needle felt the pink wool, making sure to keep the cutter in the same place on the mat. When the wool has felted a little, turn the flower over and felt the other side (keeping it inside the cutter). You might need to add more pink wool to create a thicker flower, which you can also trim for a more defined shape.

Alternatively, if you don't have a suitable cookie cutter, you could use pink felt fabric as a base for the wool, cutting out a flower shape, and felting a weft of pink wool over it on both sides, so that the fibres become attached to it. To make the centre of the flower, roll up up a little wisp of yellow wool into a ball and needle felting it in place on the flower. Attach the flowers wherever you like on the cactus. 

Step 5: Cut a strip of hessian fabric that is long enough to wrap around a small yogurt pot. Glue the hessian to the pot, tucking it in around the top.

Step 6: Fill the pot three-quarters full with core wool. Position your needle felted cactus on top and cover any exposed core with brown wool. Needle felt the brown wool into place. 

We hope you enjoy making your cactus! We'd love to see your creations - please share them with us on Facebook or Instagram!

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