What wool should I choose for felting?

Have you wondered if you should use Merino wool?  If you have done any needle felting at all, or you are looking to start you will be wondering what breed of wool to use.  I was lucky when I was just beginning I had a flock of sheep with wool that worked perfectly for needle felting.  Romney wool has been my favorite for years and what I use in 95% of my sculptures.  I have been asked many times what my favorite wool breed is to use when felting.  I would always say Romney, but didn’t feel qualified to honestly answer that question without trying out different types of wool.

In 2015 I began needle felting through the sheep breeds, making a certain breed of sheep out of it’s own wool.  I also began hosting a Felt-Along on Facebook so we can all felt together and discuss our thoughts on the wool we have chosen for that felt along.  I have learned a lot about the different breeds as well as their wool as we go.  I have been posting what I have learned here on my website for each of the wool breeds I have used, giving my opinion based on my experience felting with the wool.  Keep in mind fleeces can vary greatly within the same breed depending on their health and care.  I try to keep this in mind as I give my opinions.

I felted a sheep using Merino wool and want to share with you what I found.

Merino Sheep

First lets talk about where and how the breed began. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, Spanish royalty began importing rams from the Beni-Merines (members of a Berber tribe centered in the area of present day Morocco) to cross with their best sheep. the Spanish ewes, when bred to the African rams, yielded fine-wool sheep, they were named Merinos after the African tribe. Merino now accounts for about 50 percent of the world’s sheep population.

Merino Wool

Merino is in what is generally considered the fine range of wools, and it can all be used for next to the skin wear, although the softness levels vary noticeably; the span from the finest Merino wools to the coarsest is wider than the range of most other breeds, running from about 11.5 microns to perhaps 26 microns at the upper end. There are ultrafine Merinos, strong Merinos and every step in between.

Merinos grow large quantities of dense, fine wool with regular crimp patterns.  Compared to other breeds Merino’s have a large number of wool follicles in the skin which is the reason for the high density.

White Merino wool is what you will find most readily available. You will have to look a lot harder for natural black, gray and moorit Merino.

I have never purchased raw Merino wool but I am told that it can be very difficult to remove all of the grease when washing it.

I found most of my facts from The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook so if you want to learn even more you will want to get your hands on this book.

Felting with Merino

If you have done any needle felting at all I am quite sure you have used Merino wool. It is a very popular choice among needle felters because of it’s soft fine texture. 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.

My experiences with needle felting with Merino go back several years. Many needle felting friends told me that they used Merino exclusively in there felting or covered what they called their core wool with Merino. My first time felting with Merino left me quite frustrated and I soon learned why you would use it just for covering your sculpture.

Merino is amazingly soft and lovely but it’s superfine fibers can be difficult to felt down. It seems to take several extra stabs of the felting needle to get each section felted without any flyaways. 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. Even after getting it as solid as possible it still moves as it is still spongy and portions can become misshapen looking. 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. Because it is so fine it is harder but not impossible to conceal any lines left by adding more wool.

In my past articles I had been making a realistic sheep sculpture of the breed using the breeds wool. I have a lot going on here at Bear Creek Felting and find myself extremely busy, so I decided to make an easy sheep this time, I still used Merino wool but didn’t have to make delicate legs and detailed face.

I have to share my favorite use of Merino wool. Merino wet felts amazingly well. It doesn’t take long at all to get a smooth soft finish when wet felting. I use Merino wool when combining wet felting and needle felting in all of my sculptures. (Learn how to combine needle felting and wet felting in the Bear Creek Needle Felting Academy)

I will be giving Merino Wool a score of 8 on a scale of 1-10.

Pros

  • It’s super soft
  • it felts well
  • It is the best for wet felting
  • easy to find

Cons

  • It has wispy flyaway fibers that are hard to felt down
  • It is still squishy and spongy when solidly felted
  • Because it is so fine it is harder to conceal lines

These of course are strictly my opinions please share your thoughts on needle felting with Merino below in the comments. If you are interested in learning more about felting and working with me check out the Bear Creek Needle Felting Academy.

Check out my other articles in this series – Needle Felting through the sheep breeds.

  • Icelandic - 6
  • Jacob - 3
  • Blue Faced Leicester - 6
  • Corriedale - 7
  • Southdown - 7
  • Shetland - 6
  • Merino - 8
  • Gotland - 6