Meet the maker: The Makerss
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.
Please can you introduce yourself?
The Makerss formed with a bang 4 years ago when we (Sophie Buckley and Steffi Stern) published our first book Making Needle Felted Animals. People wanted kits to go with the book, and then needle felt supplies after buying the kits, and so we have grown organically in this way ever since! At the time Steffi had a craft shop and Sophie was running craft workshops, we decided to combine our skills and start The Makerss, putting in only £200 each! We focus on good customer service and only sell what we love.
How did you get into needle felting?
I (Sophie) had seen needle felted creations and been intrigued by the life-like animals and the fact they have no seams! Steffi had been needle felting animals and figures for her children's nature table for years and sold the materials in her shop, though hardly anyone had heard about needle felting or knew how to do it. When I first came to the shop, Steffi showed me what to do with the materials, and I decided to run a needle felt robin workshop in the run up to Christmas. Strangely people suddenly started coming into the shop wanting to make a needle felted robin, before the workshop was even advertised! We couldn't work out what had happened - it wasn't until someone said "I want to make a robin like Kirsty Allsop's!" that we understood! It had been featured on her craft show on TV! Neither of us had a TV at the time so we had completely missed that... and so began the needle felting revolution!
What do you enjoy about it?
With minimal tools and materials you can create anything from the most cute, stylised tiny little creatures to a life-sized chimp or realistic dog! Stabbing into the wool is a satisfying feeling and people find it very therapeutic, while you are needle felting all you are thinking about is that fluff-filled space in front of you and what colour you are going to use next! You can combine it with other crafts such as embroidery, wet felting, card making... It is easily portable, you don't need a lot of space (although you may find your stash grows quickly!), it can be done while sitting watching telly, it even helps people who are on a diet to forget about food!
It is such a quick to learn, inexpensive and satisfying craft, all those who see it want to have a go, and with the right tools and materials, you can get a great result! We often find people who have tried a basic kit which has unsuitable tools and wool tops (instead of the fast felting batts that we use) and they haven't enjoyed it. When we let them try our wool batts they will much prefer it and often go back to it with fresh inspiration!
What is your favourite needle felted piece that you've made?
Our only joint piece is Ginger Ninja, a larger than life chicken! She was born at one of the shows we exhibit at, using wool scraps wrapped in wadding for the insides and looked like some strange Frankenstein's monster (as they often do!), people were wondering what on earth we were making. After two days and a lot of bending of very stiff wire coat hangers for the legs, and Steffi making a very realistic face, she was made! She travels with us to every show, and is a bit of a mascot, we always put her up high so people can spot us! She is true to her name 'Ginger Ninja' as she often falls down from these high places and attacks us!
Where do you like to go for needle felting inspiration?
We are inspired by nature and by materials available to us, sometimes we want to make a creature and scour our resources to find the perfect wool, for the right colour and texture. Sometimes we see a type of wool and it just screams to be made into a certain creature -we have a new Manx Loughtan wool top which is ginger and shaggy and definitely wants to be a highland cow!
What do you need to look for when buying needle felting supplies?
Good quality wool and felting needles will ensure your time felting will be far more pleasurable. A common question is what are different types of wool suitable for: wool batts are much more suitable for 3d shaping, and wool tops can be used for flat felting (pictures etc) and surface layers - we have explanations of the different types of wool in our Free Tutorials section at our website. Beware of mulesing which is a cruel practice that is sometimes used on merino sheep, we make sure our wool is from non-mulesed sheep. Most of our dyed wool is Oeko-Tex and GOTS certified (organic and environmental certifications).
More infomation on the different types of wool can be found here: https://www.themakerss.co.uk/pages/felting-wool-an-introduction-to-batts-roving-tops-carded-combed-locks-curls
What resources would you recommend to someone starting out in needle felting?
We have our own Facebook group Every One A Maker, where you can post photos, share tips, ask questions, and of course we are always happy to help with questions by email or phone too. Maybe we are slightly biased, but we have written two great books for beginners, Making Needle Felted Animals, and Steffi's new book Making Simple Needle Felts. We run workshops at shows and at our shop in Gloucestershire, we also run needle felting retreats, we have just done our 4th retreat and have everyone from total beginners to pro needle felters attend for a weekend of fun, food and fluff! We have a craft group once a month where you can turn up with your own projects and meet like minded fluff fanatics. We have lots of free tutorials at our website, our kits have step by step photographic instructions and are written with beginners in mind.
What are your top tips for someone who is starting to learn needle felting?
Just go for it! The biggest barrier to being able to needle felt is often your own self confidence! Make some time for yourself, to sit down and just start stabbing. It is a very intuitive craft, you will soon find your way with it, there are no rules and there is always a way to fix something if it doesn't work out how you hoped. In Making Needle Felting Animals we create a 'Bloopers' section with help on all sorts of questions, and we have lots of hints and tips in the free tutorials at our website.
Be kind to yourself, it is not going to be perfect first time! Like any craft it takes practice and hard work to create a masterpiece, but the process of needle felting is very accessible and if you start with the right tools and materials you can get a good result quickly. Also - Mind your fingers! Seriously though, you are likely to draw blood at some point, it is the initiation into the world of needle felting!
What is the most common mistake you see people who are starting out with needle felting?
Using the wrong type of wool - see above! The second one is in rolling the wool up to create a 3d shape - if the wool is wrapped up tightly, and the last edges wrapped around are smoothed around the shape, you will end up with a smooth, seamless finish that firms up quickly.
What questions do you get asked most frequently about needle felting?
How do you do it? - Lots of people are still new to felting and have not seen it done before!
Isn't that quite aggressive? - The stabbing motion is actually quite calming, if you have had a hard day there is nothing better than a little needle felting to relieve stress.
Which felting needle should I use? - Kit yourself out with a set of triangular felting needles in fine, medium and coarse and a few spares because they can break occasionally. Which to use depends on the wool you are using: coarse fibres = coarser needle, finer fibres = finer needle, and what you are trying to do: fast shaping = coarser needle, fine details = finer needle. If the needle you are using doesn't feel like its doing what you want it to, try another. When you get into it there are many types of needle you may like to try such as twisted needles for faster felting, reverse needle for a fluffy effect.
If someone tried needle felting and quite enjoyed it, what would you recommend as the next steps for them?
There are 3 main types of needle felting: creating shapes just with wool (great for creating short legged animals, balls, birds, etc), shaping with wire armature (for thinner legs and long necks such as horses, and fun pose-able shapes), and flat or 2d felting (for landscape pictures, pet portraits, butterflies, even darning holes in jumpers! Try them all as you will get a good all round view of the endless possibilities of needle felting!
Why do you love to craft?
It’s the challenge of bringing an idea to life, and sharing it with other people! The initial spark of the idea, mulling it over, gathering the materials, having a go, the feeling of 'getting into it', reaching the why-did-I-decide-to-do-this! stage, and working through challenges to create a finished piece.
For us there is then the refining and remaking of the project, with step by step photos easy to follow instructions that we can then share with other people in our kits, books and tutorials. It is such a thrilling experience when we see a photo on our Facebook group, or someone comes to us with a make with one of our projects or materials used as the starting point for somebody else to enjoy letting their creativity flow, adding to, adapting and re-imagining our designs in ways we could never expect - it is these moments that feed us and keeps us going!
Wow, there are so many great needle felting tips in there! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this and learned something new. Check out The Makerss’ website and Instagram feed to learn even more about them!
All photos by The Makerss (shared with permission)