Welcome to the wonderful world of needle felting! Here you will find guidance on where on earth to start! I have years of knowledge and experience from teaching needle felting to complete beginners, attending advanced masterclasses and finding the perfect wool to use.
In this beginner's guide I have set out lots of info, explanations of terminology, when and where to use different types of wool and tools, video demonstrations etc, etc with accompanying pdf downloads for you to printout and keep.
Please know there is never, ever such a thing as a 'stupid' question so please don't hesitate to contact me via the contact page of this website with any question you may have and I will do my best to help :) Happy felting Claire x
TERMINOLOGY & DIFFERENT TYPES OF WOOL
There is an overwhelming choice of felting wool available online and it can be very easy to buy the wrong type! When I first started I typed in 'needle felting wool' and a beautiful set of rainbow coloured wool popped up - I clicked and bought only to discover it was poor quality merino which was totally unsuitable for needle felting into 3d shapes. Even today some needle felting kits contain this very same merino wool and I have no idea why!
I sell three different brands of carded needle felting wool:-
Natural Carded Slivers (World of Wool) wool from different sheep that is lovely to needle felt with. These come in completely natural colours just as they come off the sheep!
Dyed Carded Corriedale Sliver (World of Wool) we use this in all my beginner's workshops and kits as it is perfect for making shapes and comes in lovely colours including woodland animal range.
DHG Carded (Dyeing House Gallery of Italy) Maori, Bergschaf and Carded Extra Fine Merino ranges:-
The DHG carded 'maori' range has 79 subtle harmonious colours and is slightly finer and shorter fibres than our carded Corriedale - this is lovely to use as a top coat of your 3d shapes but also is the perfect wool to use for needle felted 2d pictures and portraits.
The DHG carded bergschaf/maori range is similar to our carded corriedale but offers some different colours with a nice blend and texture to it.
The DHG carded extra fine merino is the finest of all the wools we stock and these are perfect for very fine detail on both 3d shapes and for picture/portraits.
You will learn the terminology over time and it will eventually become second nature but I remember how confused I was when I first started - it was like a different language! CLICK HERE to download the article I wrote to help explain and demystify it all!
I also sell a range of wool tops (roving), fleecewool and locks
Above is a medium size 38G triangular felting needle
G = gauge (ie thickness) triangular = three sides of barbs (little nicks in the steel that catch and entwine the wool fibres together)
In the 1980's an artist in the US decided to take one single needle from an industrial felting machine and try to sculpt some unspun wool with it hence the craft of needle felting was born.
The needles have little nicks cut into the shaft (barbs) that catch the fibres of the wool and mesh them together, the more you stab, the more fibres the barbs will pick up and entangle, the more dense the wool will become. This is felting the wool - just as it would if you put a pure wool jumper into a hot wash! The barbs in the needles have a similar effect as the hot water does on the fibres.
The needles are quite brittle so it is important you pull the needle out at the same angle as which it went in. If you stab then pull out at a different angle then the needle will snap. They are also extremely sharp!
These are the rules I ask all my workshop students to follow:-
- If you look away from your work STOP felting
- Keep your work on the felting pad, don't be tempted to hold your work in your hand whilst felting with the other
- Wear protectors on the fingers you are holding your work with
- Keep older children under very close supervision (not really suitable for children under the age of 6-7 although this very much depends on the child's attention span and dexterity)
I remember worrying if I was using the correct gauge needle and how do I know which size to use when I first started. The answer is that it is to some extent down to personal preference as well as the kind of wool you are using and the stage you are at with the piece you are working on.
Some of our beginner's kits and our toolkit contain a set of course, medium and fine needles - the coarse needles will be slightly thicker and longer than the others and generally you will start with this to start bringing the wool fibres together to begin to form a shape. Some felting wool may require you to start with a medium needle rather than coarse; start with the needle that feels 'right' ie easy to insert but at the same time you can see if is actually doing something after a few stabs! These three needles are perfect to start you off with and will give you the opportunity to try out three different thicknesses
As a shape forms you will find the coarse needle will be more difficult to insert, will start making big 'dents' in the wool and start to distort the shape and this is when I recommend changing down to a finer needle. Certainly as soon as you are feeling some kind of resistance to the needle you generally need to change to a finer gauge so as not to break your needle.
Starting off with a fine or medium needle will not do a lot as the needle will be too fine to catch the fibres but once the shape has begun to form then changing to a finer needle will actually be quicker as the needle will get inbetween the more tightly packed fibres.
CLICK HERE to download my Felting Needles Guide
NEEDLE FELTING TOOLS - full guide coming soon