WELCOME TO THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF NEEDLE FELTING!
Hi my name is Claire - please let me take your hand and guide you along your way to discovering this wonderful, therapeutic and truly magical craft :)
I have written this guide remembering what it was like trying to learn about needle felting when I first discovered it ten years ago watching Kirstie Allsopp making a cute little robin on one of her first Christmas crafts programme
Please know there is never, ever such a thing as a 'stupid' question so never hesitate to contact me via the contact page of this website with any question you may have and I will do my very best to help. My business is my passion so I am often available during 'out of office' times :)
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!
Ten years ago I googled 'needle felting wool' and a beautiful set of rainbow coloured wool popped up on a well known selling site - I clicked and bought only to discover it was poor quality merino top/roving 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 five different types of carded needle felting wool ALL TRIED AND TESTED by firstly myself and then my students in my beginner's workshops:-
NATURAL CARDED SLIVER is wool from different sheep that is lovely to needle felt with. These come in completely natural colours just as they come off the sheep! (CARDED = wool that has been brushed so the fibres lay in all different directions making it much easier to needle felt. SLIVER = the wool is processed into long rope-like pieces making it easier to work with :)
DYED CARDED CORRIEDALE SLIVER I use this in in all my beginner's workshops and kits as it is perfect for making shapes and comes in lovely colours including lots of perfect animal shades
CARDED NEW ZEALAND 'MAORI' used for a smooth top coat to your 3d makes and especially for needle felted pictures (for realistic pictures/portraits you need lots of different shades of colour in small quantities) this lovely soft wool has quite short fibres so is perfect for shallow felting. It comes in a range of 79 different shades and is also lovely to use as a fine top coat on your 3d makes (it is a little finer than the Carded Corriedale) (DHG = The Dyeing House Gallery of Tuscany that produce amazingly harmonious and subtle colours)
CARDED 'MAORI'/BERGSCHAF MELANGE (MELANGE = mixed blend of colour) this is a combination of the finer New Zealand 'maori' and the more coarse Bergschaf wool - very similar to the carded Corriedale. It has some lovely colour mixes and is a lovely texture
CARDED EXTRA FINE MERINO the finest of all the wools we stock and is perfect for adding very fine detail to both 3d shapes and especially to 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 and print a handy leaflet I wrote to help explain and demystify it all :)
I also sell a range of wool tops (sometimes called roving), fleecewool and locks which I shall talk about later but I'm guessing you may be EAGER TO GET STARTED NEEDLE FELTING! :)
NEEDLE FELTING STARTER SET contains EVERYTHING you need to start. I have priced this as reasonably as I possibly can whilst making sure you have the right quality wool, tools and one of my compostable ECO felting mats to get you off to the best start. The book has a great introduction and contains lots of lovely projects suitable for complete beginners. PLUS when you purchase my starter set and create a customer account you will get FREE SET OF VIDEO DEMOS SHOWING YOU HOW TO USE EACH TOOL automatically transferred into your 'My Downloadable Files' section of your clairescraftscreate customer account
THE WORKSHOP COLLECTION contains 20 of the most popular colours - add this to your Starter Set and you have pretty much every colour you will need to keep you going for quite a while :)
WORKSHOPS IN A BOX You may prefer to start with an online VIDEO TUTORIAL workshop? You can learn from the comfort of your own home with my 'Workshops in a Box'! They include high quality detailed online video tutorials that you can stop and start so you can work in your own time, all materials as used in the tutorials plus the correct size felting needles. I will be forever adding to these to offer you a fantastic opportunity to learn from some of the BEST FIBRE ARTISTS IN THE WORLD:-
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)
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
- Wear protectors on the fingers you are holding your work with at least at the beginning
- Keep children under very close supervision AT ALL TIMES
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 - it's that SIMPLE!
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!
I remember when I first started worrying if I was using the correct gauge needle and how do I know which size to use? THERE ARE NO RULES it is 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. Experiment and use the needle that feels right at each stage.
My starter toolkit contain a basic set of COARSE, MEDIUM AND FINE needles - in general you will start with the coarse needle to start bringing the wool fibres together but not always; start with the needle that feels 'right' ie easy to insert but at the same time you can see it 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 gauges (GAUGE = THICKNESS).
As a shape forms you will find the coarse needle will be more difficult to insert, will start making big 'dents' in the wool distorting the shape - this is the time to CHANGE DOWN TO A FINER NEEDLE.
Once your 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.
My FREE FELTING NEEDLES GUIDE explains the difference between triangular (barbs on three sides), star (barbs on four sides close to the tip) and twisted needles
A GOOD ALL ROUNDER my 38g twisted star is a good choice as you get the best of both worlds - star shape so four lots of barbs means faster felting and the twisted element means less holes left in your work!
We have produced a felting needle starter set that gives you the opportunity to explore all the different gauges. It comes complete with our handy little guide
What is the difference and what is 2d and 3d felting????
2D FELTING is felting onto a flat surface, often described as 'Painting With Wool' where you needle felt different colours of wool onto a flat surface to create a picture from your imagination or to recreate a realistic portrait from a photograph.
Needle felting realistic portraits is very popular thanks highly talented fibre artists such as Sophie Wheatley of Felt & Beautiful who runs amazing online courses specialising in creating portraits of all different breeds of dogs - the results her students achieve are simply breath-taking and I can highly recommend her courses. We are one of Sophie's recommended suppliers.
We stock the full range of maori wools and also carded extra fine merino - two types of wool widely used in picture felting. You only need very small amounts of wool for pictures - the key to getting a good realistic effect is to use lots of different shades of colour. This is why we have produced our Maori Colour Collections available in mini batts costing just £10 for 12 colours
the Ultimate Collection above contains all 79 colours in the 'maori, range giving you the complete set of colours to start you off in this amazing crafts, all colours are also available individually and the above collection is also available as a complete Painting with Wool Starter Pack complete with needles, pure wool felt sheet, high density foam pad and Dani Ive's book 'Painting with Wool' that teaches you the whole process and contains some amazing projects for you to make
if you prefer starting on a smaller scale with a kit take a look at one of our 2d Beginner's Picture Kits that contain everything you need to make your first picture - the bee picture kit above contains a sheet of 5mm thick handmade wool felt onto so is thick enough to hang as it is a wall hanging
Is needle felting 3d shapes such as animals. If you are making simple small shapes then you can achieve this by using just wool, if you are making larger pieces you may wish to use an armature (wire skeleton) as in our World of Wool kits including Romeo the Rabbit above.
Carded wool in the form of a sliver (long rope like piece) makes it easy to get off to a fast start by forming a knot which will give you a firm inner core to start building on. For all our workshops we use carded Corriedale slivers.
Watch the time-lapse video below to see how I knot the slivers to start the core of the reindeer bauble:-
3D WITH ARMATURE If you are making larger animals that need to stand up on their own an armature is often used. An armature is a ‘skeleton’ usually made from bendable wire. All of our realistic animal kits are based on an armature and have the wire with clear instructions and measurements.
Once you have formed the basic skeleton shape of your animal you then wrap wool around the wire so you have something to felt onto to build the animal up.
If you are not working from a kit the best way to get the correct proportions is to search online for a diagram of whichever animal you wish to make, print it off and bend some armature wire to match the diagram (I usually do this by placing the wire on top of the printed diagram to ensure I am starting with the correct proportions and then once it is forming a 3d shape I measure the wire to ensure they match the dimensions on the diagram.
It can be fiddly wrapping the first lot of wool around the armature but my lovely friend Janna after a lot of hard work with her dad developed ‘Fluff-Grip’ which is a sticky substance you apply in small quantities to the wire armature and the wool magically sticks and stays in place!
Once again wool ‘sliver’ comes into its own when wrapping armature as because it is in thin rope like pieces it is easier to wrap around than using batting (a thick sheet of carded wool) as shown in this picture from our fabulous Yorkshire based supplier World of Wool:-
Here is a video demo on how to use the tools in our tool kit - DOUBLE CLICK TO WATCH ON FULL SCREEN :)
THREE NEEDLE TOOL
Three needle tool - this tool is perfect for speeding up your felting when making large pieces, baubles, etc. It holds three needles so is three times as fast! You can use any size needles in it and they are easily replaced by unscrewing the tool and slotting them in. Once you have formed the bulk of your shape you will need to change back down to a single needle to sculpt the finer detail
SEVEN NEEDLE PUNCH TOOL
Seven needle punch tool - this multi needle tool is generally used for flat felting work or smoothing large areas. It contains 7 fine felting needles and makes fast work of brooches, leaves, etc! The needles are easily replaced by unscrewing the tool and slotting more in. Because fine needles are used in this tool they break more easily if used on a regular felting mat so a special brush mat is advised for this. You can buy the 7 needle punch tool and brush mat as a set here - you will find a little demonstration video in the product description
I will keep adding articles to this page and will post on my facebook and instagram page whenever there's a new addition.