We all get comfortable with our tools and supplies when we lose ourselves in a hobby or craft. Needle felting is no different – we gravitate to the same needle sizes and wool time and time again because we are confident with the results we will get. We take on new creatures but want to predict how the materials will behave in our hands.
If you are not sure what you have been using in your felting it’s time you started paying attention and purchasing wool that is labeled because there are a lot of variations in how the different breeds felt. You may be missing out on the breeds of wool that will make you love needle felting even more. So I want to challenge you to try new materials by giving you a bit of an overview of what to expect when you work with each of these types of wool.
Gotland sheep have beautiful, lustrous long curly fiber in a wide range of grays. The curly wool is super shiny and soft and their pelts are prized worldwide. While limited to their natural shades of gray, Gotland is available in roving and curly locks which both give your sculpture to a shiny look, much like the sheep itself. It is harder to work with than many, as it does not easily grab the smooth fiber making it a bit frustrating to needle felt. Give it a try when you want a shiny gray finish.
Merino wool is a very popular choice among needle felters because of it’s soft fine texture. Merino is amazingly soft and lovely but its superfine fibers can be difficult to felt down. The most frustrating thing for me though is the fact that after a considerable amount of time felting it is still spongy and never seems to get solid. My suggestion would be (if you want that soft texture and the soft look it gives) to use Merino on the outside of your already felted sculpture. It can still be difficult in my opinion to get it felted down without flyaways and get good coverage.
The most amazing thing I have found in my research of Shetland Sheep wool is the variation in colors. I knew you could find a variety of beautiful natural colors within the breed but didn’t realize just how many different colors they are known for! There are also three fleece types yet from what I have read, I believe the single coated Shetland would be the best for felting. I love the variety of natural colors available in Shetland. It is difficult to dye wool that looks natural and so it is fun to work with all of the natural Shetland colors available to achieve a natural, realistic-looking fur coat on a sculpture.
Icelandic Sheep have a dual coat, which means they have a fine, soft undercoat called thel and a longer, coarser outer coat called tog. According to the Icelandic Sheep Breeders of North America tog is a true wool and is not a kemp or guard hair. The thel is downy soft and the tog is more like mohair. The tog didn’t felt well and so I attempted to pull it out while felting. The thel, on the other hand, felts like a dream. Perhaps even better than my Romney. So in my opinion, if you can get rid of the tog first it would be amazing to felt with.
I was excited to try felting with Jacob wool and I purchased white, gray and black Jacob wool and began felting with the white. Right away I noticed it was course and the needle didn’t pull it in very well, I tried different sizes of needles and found size 36 worked the best. It was felting but taking longer than I was used to. When it came time to add some black I found that it was finer than the white, but had course hairs throughout – completely unfeltable. What I learned from this is, Jacob wool might be best purchased in person where you are able to feel the roving and check for feltablity.
Blue Faced Leicester Wool
Since we own Blue Faced Leicester sheep I have felted with it before, and I love spinning it into yarn. When comparing it to what I mainly use, Romney, the fiber is a bit smoother and the felting needle doesn’t grab it as easily and quickly. Felting the legs is never my favorite, but I couldn’t get the shape I wanted as easily. It took me longer to felt than it usually does. I used carded wool for the body and some locks from one of our BFL’s for the wool coat. I loved working with the uncarded springy locks. They are soft, lustrous and easily felted into place. They added the perfect texture I was looking for.
Corriedale sheep sport a dense, semi-lustrous medium-fine fleece. It’s especially in demand with hand spinners. Fleece colors include silver, beige, moorit, and black. Overall my experience with felting Corriedale wool was enjoyable. The fiber seemed a bit smoother and the felting needle didn’t seem to grab it as easily and quickly, so it took longer to felt and there were loose fibers that were not pulled in without extra work on my part. It took quite a bit of felting to get it to be solid, but I am happy with the end product.
I found Southdown wool to be very springy to the touch, not extremely soft and not much luster. I liked the creamy/off white color of the wool. I enjoyed felting with Southdown, it was easily grabbed by the felting needle and felted very quickly and solidly. The overall finished look of the sheep is smooth and solid which I like. Overall felting with Southdown was a pleasant experience. If you are a needle felter and someone is offering to give you their Southdown wool, I would definitely take it off their hands.
Are you ready for the next step in your needle felting adventure? The Bear Creek Needle Felting Academy offers the support and direction you need to thoroughly enjoy the process of needle felting with the right materials and tools, plus many time-saving secrets! You will be amazed by what you can create with someone right there with you every step of the way.