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Beginner's Guide


WELCOME TO THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF NEEDLE FELTING

Here you will find guidance on where and how 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.

I will keep adding articles to this page and will post on my facebook and instagram page whenever there's a new addition.

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 very 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 googled '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 five different types of carded needle felting wool all tried and tested in my workshops and kits (the links take you to the page for wool collections but all colours are also available individually):-

Natural Carded Slivers  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 I use this in the form of slivers (rope like pieces) 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 widely used 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) 

Carded Maori/Bergschaf Melange (melange means mix) this is a combination of the finer maori and the more coarse bergschaf wool - very similar to the carded corriedale.  It has some lovely colour  mixesand 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 

Eager to get started straight away?  Our Needle Felting Starter Pack contains EVERYTHING you need to start making!  We have priced this as reasonably as we possibly can whilst making sure you have the right quality wool and tools to get you off to the best start and the book contains some lovely projects suitable for complete beginners:-

The starter kit above contains core wool plus six colours to get you started.  To add to this we have an excellent Workshop Collection which contains core wool plus 20 of our most popular colours:-

Or you may prefer to start with a kit for a specific product?  We have a fabulous FREE online video tutorial by The Lady Moth (UK based fibre artist who holds live zoom workshops from her base at Cambridge @feltingclasses) showing you how to make these exquisite blossom eggs - you can download and watch now!  The supply pack to accompany this tutorial (enough to make three eggs as below) is available to purchase here 

 FELTING NEEDLES   

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 results in shrinking ie '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 by compacting them down.

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 basic 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 gauges (thicknesses).

As a shape forms you will find the coarser needle will be more difficult to insert, will start making big 'dents' in the wool and start to distort the shape - this is the time to change 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 may not achieve 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 which 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 our 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.  We are one of Sophie's recommended suppliers.  We stock the full range of maori wools and also carded extra fine merinos - 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

 

3D FELTING

Is needle felting 3d shapes such as animals or the blossom egg as in the free tutorial above.  If you are making simple small shapes then you can achieve this by using wool all the way through. 

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:-

 

 

                                                         TOOLS

SINGLE NEEDLE HOLDER

Single wooden needle holder - many people find it more comfortable to use a single felting needle in a wooden holder.  Please see below for a little video that shows you how to use this tool 

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