Getting started in needle felting

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Welcome to the Cosy Craft Club's needle felting month! We really want to encourage you to have a go at needle felting yourself, and we'll be sharing the key things you need to know to get started. You can find all our needle felting posts in one place here.

Needle felting is a craft that has been around for many years but has massively grown in popularity recently. And it's easy to see why - you don't need a lot to get started, it's quite easy to create something from scratch and all that stabbing is really fun!

If you'd like to try needle felting for yourself, then I hope that today's post will get you on your way!

What is needle felting?

Needle felting involves pushing a felting needle into non-woven wool. The needles have special barbs at the end which grab the wool as they pass through, causing the wool strands to tangle together. The repetitive stabbing causes the wool to mat together and become a solid shape. So by poking the wool in the right places with the needle, you can create shapes and 3D sculptures. This article by Lincolnshire Fenn explains it much better than I have here!

Of all the arts and crafts techniques I have practised, needle felting is far and away my favourite. It is so versatile and all you need is wool, wire and needles, no glue, no stuffing, and no limits to what you can create! - Di from Artemis Fibre Art

Photo:  Craft Birds

Needle felting supplies

The key things you need for needle felting are wool, felting needles and a foam block.

Let’s start with wool. You cannot use knitting or crochet wool for needle felting! You want something that hasn’t been spun into strands. However, there is a wide range of wool you can use for needle felting, and it can be a little overwhelming to know where to start. This guide by Heidi Feathers and this guide by Lincolnshire Fenn give an overview of the different types and what they are used for. Many suppliers sell packs of wool for felting which will help to start you off if you're not sure exactly what you need.

I use Corriedale natural carded slivers and Cheviot carded batts for my body building, and add other carded and merino wools for the top coats of my animals. - Di from Artemis Fibre Art

Photo:  Dotty Scotty

Needle felting needles come in different sizes and shapes. Needle sizes indicate the diameter of the needle and the size of the barbs, where the larger the number, the smaller the needle and barbs. 38 gauge needles are great for most applications, and most needle felters use 36, 38, 40 or 42 gauge needles. Many needle felters recommend buying more than one needle in each size as they can break.

There are also different patterns of barbs used for different purposes. This guide by Heidi Feathers explains the differences.

You can also get multi tools (such as those made by Clover) which hold several needles at a time. These speed up the needle felting process and are useful for general shaping. 

Photo:  Feather Felts

A needle felting pad is essential as it provides a soft surface to felt onto, so that if your needle goes completely through your sculpture it won't hit a hard surface and break. Foam pads are most commonly used for this, but a biodegradable alternative is a hessian pad filled with rice which can be composted at the end of its life.

There are many other accessories you can get which may help your needle felting, such as:

  • Embroidery scissors - for neatening up sculptures

  • Craft wire or pipe cleaners for armatures - for when you want to be able to change the position of your sculpture

  • Pliers - for working with wire

  • Tacky glue - useful for adding things like eyes

  • Finger protectors - these can help if you're prone to stabbing yourself!

  • Horsehair for whiskers - you can get bundles on Amazon used by violin bow makers! (Thanks to Di from Artemis Fibre Art for the tip!)

Suppliers

Here are some of our favourite UK needle felting suppliers for all things needle felting, including wool, needles and full kits:

Also, World of Wool is a great source of wool.

I buy my core wool from a company called Baavet and get my other wool and accessories form a variety of online shops including Adelaide Walker, Fuzzie Wuzzie and Heidi Feathers. - Jo from Jo Gardiner Art

 

Getting started

There are loads of great needle felting websites out there to get you started, but our favourites are Sarafina Fiber Art and Lincolnshire Fenn.

Sarafina Fiber Art is one of the most well known sources for needle felting information, and there are tons of videos on the website to teach you how to needle felt. She has an introduction to needle felting video which is a great place to start, plus a long list of technique videos and tutorials videos to get stuck into.

On the Lincolnshire Fenn blog, some great places to start are articles on how to needle felt for beginners, easy video tutorials for creating basic body shapes and a whole host of other tutorials.

The Bear Creek Felting blog also has a number of useful posts answering frequently asked questions. They also have tutorials on the website but you have to pay for these.

If you've read through these websites and you still have questions, Needle Felting UK is a brilliant and helpful forum on Facebook. 

There are also needle felting magazines that you might be interested in, such as Needle Felt Magazine and Felt Matters.

I hope this has been really useful to point you in the right direction if you’d like to try needle felting! There’s a lot of information and links in there to explore. If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed, I would suggest that you just get the basics and have a go! A great way to make sure you’ve got what you need to get started is to buy a kit - we have a lovely fox and badger needle felting kit which you can buy!

Rachel x

P.S. A million thanks to Artemis Fibre Art, Craft Birds, Dotty Scotty, Feather Felts, Jo Gardiner Art and Lincolnshire Fenn for their input which has made this article possible.