There are thousands of needle felting needles, & just as many (or more) techniques for just as many creative ideas to pursue.
*Remember that direction plus the strength in how you hold the needle & how much force you use when stabbing will impact the fibre differently.
Always know how far away your hand/fingers/thumb are from the needle. To avoid stabbing yourself …. believe it or not…. regular breathing will help. Workshop participants stab themselves less – when reminded to breath (when the felting gets exciting we tend to hold our breath). Remarkable but true. Paying attention helps too.
There are many ways to hold down your felted item. To secure it from “jumping around” as you needle it.
Having the other hand “participate” is very helpful: one hand stabs, the other hand rotates, rolls, pins down, flips, grips, pinches, or flips the felted item around while you work it (with out being injured along the way).
It is good to get to know your wool. This is a picture of a wool fibre under a microscope. Notice the scales are interlocked together (like a pine cone) each scale lifting at the ends, naturally designed to snag and catch on other fibres. Perfect for Felting! Amazing!
The Needle Felting needle will catch on the edges of these scales, forcing the fibre to mesh with other fibres, as the needle is punched into the wool over and over.
Felting needles initially (were not actually made for making art) were manufactured for use in making mechanical felted fabric initially needed as a buffer – vibration absorbent material that would allow the industrial ages machinery to operate with less wear & expensive repairs.
These needles were never intended to become a tool for a wool fibre arts & crafts enthusiasts to create sculptures, artful fabrics, wool paintings and so forth, yet in the 1980’s the movement in motion.
Dry Felting sculpture & 2D fibre art became a real thing that people were excited to learn about & excel at, as it is more forgiving than any other art medium.
Get to know your needles, look at them closely, run your thumb carefully along the blade to feel the notches, touch the point (carefully) to ensure it is sharp. Sometimes needles become dull after prolonged use, some last longer than others.
We can make almost anything with the right kind of needle.
For another take on the subject, visit: Article for Fly in the Fibre
Things you will need:
A safety sponge, or supportive work-surface: important for 2D & 3D needle felting. Needles specifically for needle felting & fleece, roving, sliver, batting, enough wool for a project to be completed.
Facts About the Needle: This needle is not for a sewing machine, though attachments are available. Theses distinctly different needles have purpose, each little notch at the tip of the needle is designed to create specific results when felting wool fibre.
The “notch” is important, careful when buying needle felting supplies from online distributors that do not show a close up of the needles, or can offer testimony from clients or some proof of quality.
Most commonly used is the standard “Triangle” needle, with good sharp notches on the edges of all three sides of the shaft. This triples the felting action, allows for great variety of technique to be used all the way through a project.
The “Star Needle” has 5 sides notched and is amazing for building the core of any sculpture item, however it is aggressive. When used, I switch it up after the the building has begun, and return to a “triangle needle” (the star when over-used can cause a hollow 3D item if not careful).
Remember: when stabbing in one place for overly long creates “pitting” and “dimpling”. Adjust the strength behind your stabbing, and how much of the needle goes into the wool. The very point of each needle can offer great finishing effects, bringing the surface tension into a tighter weave, even though at first it looks like nothing is happening, keep stabbing and you will see results.
Needle Felting is not a race – you can only felt as fast as you can felt, or rather – as fast as you are willing to felt. Handmade felting is not fast, more like a very slow & at times meditative process. Needle Felting by hand just takes a very long time to do. Teaching patience at the same time as offering time to relax & enjoy.
- The sharp needle means concentration key. Always know where your supportive hand is, & exactly how deeply you are stabbing. To avoid stabbing your finger – keep your eye on the needle.
- For successful felting, the depth & direction of your stab can be adjusted as you get closer to finishing. Move the item around as you work to ensure even coverage.
- Over-stabbing can create pitting, flattening, with the danger of unpleasant hardness that makes further felting difficult. The firmness has to be just right – strong enough to hold form.
- Holding the needle with a “gentle yet determined grip” will lessen the impact on your wrist – where all the power behind the stab comes from. (wing in)
- If you do stab your finger, know that the “ouch” feeling does not last long. PINCH IT! Breath deeply. Keep felting.
- Felting is relaxing & calming, it offers creativity & freedom that is easy. Handling the fibre often instills a sense of ancient-ness while making something by hand. Intuition problem & doable problem solving, decision making, using the eye to see sculpture form – to stand back & appreciate a fibre painting – all adds to the fun of felting.
- There is little “wrong” we can do – learn, be informed, practice and your hands will develop the skills.
- There are no limits to what and where this medium will go – you can make anything.
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