What is Needle Felting?
Needle felting starts with these supplies:
- Felting Needles
- A cushion or pad to work on
This is all that is needed to make amazing creations with the art of needle felting.
The wool fiber is surrounded by flat, overlapping scales. When processed, the fibers are mixed in their orientation and the scale edges may point in opposite directions. Therefore, the orientation of the fiber and subsequently the direction of the scale edges are random. When wool is subjected to agitation such as felting – the edges on the scales come in contact with each other, and do not allow the wool fiber to slide back, “locking” the fiber into position. It is not just one or two fibers that are locking together, but literally hundreds of fibers that come in contact with each other and lock into this position – causing the wool to felt.
The Felting Needles
The felting needles are a special kind of needle that have tiny barbs on the end. The barbs are going in one direction and when the needle is stabbed into the wool the barbs pull the wool in, but not back out again causing the wool fibers to tangle and their scales to lock together and felt.
The Felting Cushion
The pillow or cushion is used as a surface to work on. When you stab the needle into the wool it needs to have something to go into instead of the table or your leg.
Needle felting is begun by rolling up a small amount of wool and stabbing it with the needle. When the wool is stabbed with the felting needle it pulls the wool into itself. By stabbing the wool with the needle over and over while turning the wool it continues to pull wool into itself and the wool, with its tiny scales, locks together. Continued stabbing and turning results in a firm round shape. Once there is a basic shape to start with wool is added where it is needed to form a sculpture.
This is the basic’s of needle felting, for more details and answers to your felting questions please scroll down the page.
Felted 3D Sculpture
These pictures show the steps that I take in making a sculpture out of wool. I start out with a basic shape and add wool to make the main body. I look at pictures of animals to get an idea of the proportions. I use wire in the legs to make them more stable. It can be tricky felting around wire and so this is probably my least favorite part. (new wireless techniques are taught in the Academy) Sometimes I start by making the head, but other times I make the head last. When I am happy with the shape of the animal I make sure that it is felted smooth and very firmly. It is important for it to be firm when adding spots. The spots are last and they take awhile, but are fun to watch the progress. A project like this takes several days to complete.
I use many different types of wool in my needle felting. The wool that I use the most is Romney. This is primarily because we raise Romney sheep but I am convinced it is one of the best. I have tried other wool and always come back to my Romney. Romney felts very firmly so that you can have a very solid piece when you are finished. Other wools stay somewhat squishy no matter how much they are felted. With Romney there are no loose, flyaway hairs sticking out all over when you are finished. It felts very smooth. I like Merino wool for it’s softness and use it primarily for flat felting. I like Wensleydale for it’s shiny curls. I haven’t used all the types of wool but I have found some favorites. My sheep course which is accessable through the Needle Felting Academy membership includes many different types of wool in the kit, to help you find your favorites right away. In 2016 I started felting through the sheep breeds where I share my experiences and thoughts on felting with all different types of wool.
Some of my projects and kits include some wet felting techniques. Wet felting is similar to needle felting only hot soapy water is used instead of needles. Most of my flat felted pieces of sculptures are wet felted. This makes them smooth and easy to use, just like a piece of felt fabric in a store. When wet felting the wool fiber is laid out flat and rubbed using your fingers and hot soapy water. This helps the wool to tangle up and lock together. After much careful rubbing there is a nice flat piece of felt that can be cut into any shape and added to your 3D sculpture. My kits and Needle Felting Academy include detailed instructions, pictures and videos on how to do this technique as well as personal guidance if needed.
What is roving?
Roving is wool that has been washed and run through a carding machine. When carded the wool fiber is all going in the same direction. Carding is like combing in that it is taking the fiber that is in small locks and combing it all smoothly together. The carded wool comes out in a long “roving” of wool that is easy to spin into yarn. It is also fluffy and easier to felt with as well. Below is a picture of hand painted roving.
For more information on carding and how our wool is processed in our very own mill check out this video.
A short video of a needle felting work in progress.
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