I’d like to introduce you to needle felting, one of my all-time favourite hobbies. There are several different types, personally I enjoy making little 3D animals, which I will mostly focus this post on (there is some overlap in technique with 2D felting too, although I haven’t had a chance to try that out yet).
I discovered needle felting 3 years ago from a kit I received at Christmas. I’d never seen anything like it before, so I was sceptical at first (can this fluff really turn into a penguin!?!) but quickly became hooked and eager for more. So I bought myself some more wool, and continued from there!
So how does it work?
You are basically using a barbed needle to stab at wool roving – the stuff produced from wool before being spun into yarn – and eventually it binds together to form a matted shape which you can manipulate as you wish.
What tools do you need?
There are 3 main “ingredients” needed for felting:
Wool roving – the only material you’ll need for needle felting, no gluing or sewing required (Except maybe for stitching on eyes afterwards)
Felting needles – there are several different types of needles, each suited for different types of wool or purposes. I recommend starting with Fine or Standard needles, as these will cover most functions well.
Foam/sponge pad – used as a base for felting, which protects both your fingers and the surface you’re working on. It also makes the wool matt together more easily than on a hard surface.
Other materials I sometimes use are:
Seed beads – sewn on with a needle and thread for eyes
Pipe cleaners – used for giving boning to figures where structure is important (for example I’m currently making a giraffe with a pipe cleaner frame to help support the long neck).
Cocktail stick – similar to a pipe cleaner, although I use it for creating legs. Cocktail sticks can be removed before attaching; it’s just to give a stronger shape.
Scissors – just to neaten up the edges
The wool should be quite easy to pull tufts out of; the difficult bit is knowing how much you need. This comes with practice, but as a general rule it’s better to start out with less and build it up. Then, use your hands to roughly shape the wool, place it on the foam pad, and start stabbing! CAUTION: the needles are sharp, and, speaking from experience, it is very easy to accidentally stab yourself. Over time you should be able to control the needle more and reduce the risk of stabbing your fingers. Just be careful!
Tips & Tricks
For a nice round ball, tie the wool into a knot. This gives it a good starting shape, and is handy as a starting point for most 3D creations.
When joining two pieces, ensure you leave some loose ends, otherwise if the felt is too tightly matted, it won’t be to able blend as smoothly.
In order to make your colours go further, use synthetic wool (such as toy stuffing) to make the core of larger models. It’s cheaper, and can go a bit lumpy once felted up, but it’s a good alternative to the high quality stuff.
In an absolute emergency, the felted wool can be cut. Occasionally I have had to operate on my animals when their legs are too long or ears too big, but they have always made a full recovery with some extra stabbing!
I hope that this has inspired you to start felting, and that you enjoy it as much as I do.
Millie – Horsham Store