One of the first questions people ask me when they see felted sculpture is how is it made? Usually that is quickly followed by what is needle felting? If you’re thinking about getting into needle felting and making some fiber sculptures of your own, you will need some special tools.
You can’t use a regular sewing needle for needle felting. Felting needles are specialized tools adapted from those used in industrial felting machines. They are designed to matt and lock fibers together, transforming loose wool batting or roving into felt fabric or sculptural objects.
Let’s explain a bit more about the tools so you can feel confident in your felting!
What Kind Of Needle Should I Use For Felting?
Before you can begin learning to needle felt, you will need to purchase some felting needles. Felting needles are longer than your average sewing needle, with a small bend at one end instead of an eye for threading, and they are specially designed for the purpose of making felt. You can find them at many craft and hobby stores, or sometimes in knitting and crochet shops. They are also readily available online – I buy mine on Amazon when I can’t get them locally.
Recommended Tool: Clover Felting Needles, fine weight
What Makes A Needle Felting Needle Special?
If you look closely at your felting needles, you’ll see that they aren’t smooth. They have tiny notches along the shaft. These barbs serve a unique purpose – they catch fiber and drag it along with the needle so that each punch tangles and locks it together. The barbs are a one-way design, so when you withdraw the needle, the fibers stay put. With enough pokes, you can create a solid wool fabric or object that can’t easily be torn apart.
What Types Of Felting Needles Are There?
There are a few different kinds of felting needles as well as different manufacturers. Felting needles come in different shapes (triangular, star shaped, etc) and different gauges (they may be labelled heavy/fine or they may have a number gauge similar to wire).
Which kind you use will depend on the texture of the fiber you have chosen to work with, as well as personal preference. Felting needles are generally inexpensive, so I recommend trying a variety to see what works best for you. My personal favorites are CLOVER brand triangular felting needles.
Do I Need To Buy Felting Needle Tools And Handles?
You don’t need multi-tools or handles in order to use felting needles! Tools that hold several needles at once can be helpful if you want to felt large objects or speed up some of your felting. Handles (for single needles) may make the needle more comfortable and ergonomic to hold and use. Neither of these are necessary to get started. You might find that you prefer to work without them, and that’s OK too. Although I’ve tried many tools and handles, 99% of my work is done with just plain old felting needles.
Recommended Tool: Clover Felting Needles, heavy weight
How Many Felting Needles Do I Need?
Typically you will only use one needle at a time (unless you have chosen to use a multi-tool), but felting needles are very thin and can snap easily. Even if you work carefully, occasional broken needles are inevitable. This is another reason I recommend buying a few at a time and fortunately they are often sold in packs. Work slowly and always strive to move the needle in a straight line and you will extend the life of your tools.
What Else Do I Need To Get Started With Felting?
In addition to felting needles, you will need fiber (typically wool, coarser varieties felt readily and are the best choice for beginners) and a felting mat (foam is a great and inexpensive felting surface, choose a piece thick enough that your needle won’t penetrate through). One last thing worth mentioning: felting needles are sharp! Always work on your felting surface and use short, deliberate pokes to avoid injury.
Recommended Felting Wool: Maori Wool by DHG
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