There are thousands of needle felting needles, & just as many (or more) techniques for just as many creative ideas to pursue.
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, the Needle Felting needle will catch on the edges of these scales, forcing the fibre to mesh with other fibres together as the needle is punched into the wool over and over.
Needle Felting Fibre Arts in 2D & 3D is relatively new creative medium, for the needles used by industrial machines to create industrial, & mechanical felted fabric were never intended to become a tool for a wool fibre enthusiasts to create artistic sculptures, artful fabrics, wool paintings and so forth.
Industrial Needle Felting looks like this:
Consumers beware: If you are seeking an online needle felting kit, and you see a tool included that looks like “pinchers” “tweezers” that are also “scissors” ask if you really need that item. In needle felting, the less you cut the wool, the more pleasing your item will be. I associate the “strange looking scissors” with the cheaply made 2 sided needle that can cause frustration during the felting process.
I recommend online ordering from reputable needle felting suppliers, or online artists creating kits who show images made with the supplies in the kit – this is a good indicator. Once you find a supplier that makes you happy, enjoy!
Get to know your needles, look at them closely, run your thumb carefully along the shaft 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, important for 2D & 3D needle felting. Needles specifically for needle felting & fleece, roving, sliver, batting, enough wool for a project to be completed.
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 that the needles supplied are actually what you are looking for.
Watch out for the generic 2 sided needle with little notches. These needles have purpose, a purpose that takes some practice to adjust to, and can be frustrating.
Best needles to use have more than two sides down the shaft. 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. Other needles that are popular, (my all time favorite) “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 initial building has begun, and return to using a “triangle needle” (the star when over-used can cause a hollow 3D item if not super careful), the star over used can also cause “pitting” and unwanted “dimpling” adjust the strength behind your stabbing, and how much of the needle goes into the wool, for if this is your only needle, it is all you have to work. “The addictive quality to felting may not let you stop just because the needle is a star.” 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 physical process. Its something we can not avoid. Needle Felting by hand just takes a very long time to do. Teaching patience at the same time as offering time to relax & enjoy.
Two general warnings I always offer workshop participants who are new to felting:
- The sharp needle causes you to keep concentration key, always know where your supportive hand is, and exactly how deeply you are stabbing. To avoid an often painful sensation from stabbing your finger – keep your eye on the needle. If you do stab your finger, know the “ouch” does not last long.
- Fibre Addiction happens, it can be serious. Once in the middle of a project, you may find it very difficult to stop. Felting is relaxing & calming, felting time offers creativity & freedom in a unique way, where inner reflection is unknowingly put through a type of happy filter. Handling the fibre often instills a sense of ancient art being remembered rather than being learned, plus very fun!