What is Needle Felting?

needle felting
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Earlier this week I published my first post in a couple of years. I did not expect the kind and encouraging comments and questions I received from some of you – thank you so much! One of the most common questions was about the non-coloring activities I have dabbled in while I was gone. Today, I’ll focus on needle felting.

How Does Needle Felting Work?

Needle Felting Cat
My frist needle felting project

Wool fibers have scales which, when rubbed against each other, “knit” together to create felt. In needle felting you punch barbed needles into the wool fibers to tangle them together.    As you punch the felting needle up and down, the barbs on the needles catch the scales of the wool and entangle them into place.

If you have wool dryer balls, these are felted wool, although created on an industrial scale.

Felting Needles and Wool Roving

The process of punching the wool with the needle is surprisingly calming and meditative, just like coloring.

What Supplies Do You Need?

Besides the roving and needles, you also need a base (usually foam) and I highly recommend finger “gloves” to protect yourself from needle jabs. Most kits that I have bought have included the basics: roving, felting needles, finger gloves, a base and simple instructions (more on that later). Some also include eyes, fishing line (for whiskers), needle & thread, small snips and even glue sticks for attaching whiskers, etc.

Warning: Felting needles are very sharp and should not be used by children or anyone with a visual handicap. It only takes one jab to draw blood from your finger. Always keep your eye on the needle when it’s moving!  

The first needle felting project kit I bought (below) included a silicone form, which made shaping much easier for an absolute beginner.

felting kit
Needle Felting Kit Contents

Once you’ve gotten the knack of needle felting, you can move on to sourcing your supplies individually, which is a bit less expensive than the kits, and you’ll have a good idea of what features you prefer. For example, I LOVE the white base that came in the cat kit above. I found that the roving stuck to other coarser foam bases.

And you will not have any trouble finding inspiration! The selection of felting books that have been published is growing every day. I find the best have patterns or templates as well as detailed instructions.

How Do You Learn to Needle Felt?

All of the kits I have used did come with instructions. But for the most part, they tell what pieces to do and when, as opposed to how to do needle felting. For example, one set of instructions had a step instructing me to make an ear, but it did not tell me how to do that!

Therefore, I highly recommend watching a few videos before even purchasing supplies or a kit. You will find many good ones on YouTube, but here are a couple of my faves:

This video, from Hawthorn Handmade, gives some of the basics. (Hawthorn’s website sells kits and supplies, but right now they only ship within the UK.)

As well, some kit manufacturers do have videos available specific to their projects, including Artec360 Craft. You can find their videos here, and their kits and supplies here.

What Can you Create?

Needle Felting Cats

With most kits and books you will create animals, from super-realistic to adorably cute. You can also needle felt plants, insects, pillow covers and frameable still-lives and landscapes. Besides the cat (above), I have made a set of kitten brooches (left) and a pair of tiny Japanese dolls.

Here are some other types of needle felting kits to get your creative juices flowing!

Have you recently tried needle felting, or any other non-coloring craft? Tell us about your experience in the comments section below, or even share it with us on our Facebook page!

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