I started needle felting a couple of years ago and let me tell you, there isn’t much that’s more relaxing for me. I had been wanting to take it up for a while but couldn’t find any of the supplies around here. Finally, Michaels put in a small needle felting section and my son in law gave me a Michaels gift card that year for Christmas, so it was like it was meant to be! It’s an easy process with quick results – although it can then lead to much more elaborate and detailed designs!
So, if you’ve ever wondered what needle felting is like, here is my Needle Felting 101 lesson. Please note – I am no felting expert and I’m sure there are crafters who know much more about it. But, I just kind of jumped right into it and am happy with what I’ve been able to accomplish. Now, to get started, you need to have some sort of base to work on. There are apparently some different types of “bases” that you can use for needle felting. Some use a very thick dense piece of foam but I purchased this item that looks like a bristle brush.
The next item you will need is a needle. These needles are specially made for needle felting as it is barbed. Those barbs are what grab onto the fibres in the wool and push them together to form a firm felted piece. Be aware of a few things about these needles. They are very sharp and although I’ve not had any problems with them, I know of a number of people who find that they break very easily and have had to replace them frequently. You can also buy a tool that essentially has several needles in one handle for faster felting.
Finally, you’re going to need some wool roving. Roving is basically wool in a closer state to what it was like on the sheep – it has been combed but not yet spun into yarn. It’s all fluffy and reminds me of clouds….or cotton candy….or big cotton balls.
In this example, I am felting the wool roving onto a piece of craft felt. To do this, I placed the craft felt on top of the “bristle brush” and then laid a little pile of roving on top of that. I wanted to create a heart shape so I made a rough outline of a heart to get started. You can use a cookie cutter to help get the basic shape of your design started but be aware that you don’t actually want the needle to come into contact with the cutter itself (remember my warning about them breaking).
Using a straight up and down motion (using the needle at an angle often results in broken needles), I simply poke through the wool roving and craft felt. Up and down, poke, poke, poke. I find it almost meditative. You can just kind of zone out or you can picture an issue in your life that’s making you crazy and take out your frustration on the roving. Your choice.
After poking for a while, here’s what the back begins to look like. You can see the fibres coming through the piece of craft felt, binding together and securing themselves on the back side of the felt. As I am felting, if I’m trying to achieve a certain shape, I lay out the roving in that shape (or as close as I can get it) before I start felting but then as I work, I continue to use my needle to gently nudge it into place.
Here’s the finished heart felted onto the piece of craft felt.
In this case, I didn’t use a backing of craft felt and simply felted the roving to itself. You can tell when it’s getting to the desired state of felting when it starts feeling firm and compact instead of fluffy. You’ll start to recognize a different feeling of resistance as your needle pokes through than the way if felt when you started.
When doing an “independent” felted piece, I will felt for a while on one side and then flip it over to the other side and felt some more. Be gentle when removing the felted piece from the bristle brush as you can disrupt some of the fibres before it’s thoroughly felted. Now you’re ready to add this to a piece of clothing or craft project or just to use it as is for an ornament or other such item.