The most important tool for needle felting is the needle. A felting needle is very sharp and has tiny barbs. You can use a single needle or a multi- needle tool, which has several needles attached to a handle. A multi-needle tool lets you cover more area at a faster rate. The handle also makes it easier to hold and work with.
Since needle felting involves punching sharp needles up and down repeatedly, you need something to protect your work surface from harm.
Foam is a common protector choice. Make sure the foam is very dense. The size of the foam block will vary. Replace the foam when it begins to deteriorate from repeated punching.
Another option is a brush mat, which is like an inverted scrub brush.
Many different types of fabric work as the base fabric—just make sure that the needles can easily pass through. Good fabric choices include all types of wool, some knits, sweaters, denim (not stretch denim), lightweight fabrics, fleece, burlap and upholstery fabric. It's always a good idea to test the fabric before beginning a project.
As for what to felt into the base fabric, there are also several choices. Wool is the first choice for felting because its structure is perfect for melding with other fibers. Wool is available as fabric, yarn and roving. Other fabrics and fibers that work well include silk, mohair, organdy, organza and netting. Again, always test before diving into the actual project.
There are lots of options for needle-felting designs. You can freehand draw a design. If you're not an artist, trace around a cookie cutter, use a supplied design (such as the one on page 51), or use a stencil.
Felting needles are very sharp and the barbs make them more dangerous. Watch your fingers while felting. Always store needles in a protective sleeve when not in use, and keep them away from children.
A needle-felting machine is a slightly more pricey option than hand-held needles. There are machines designed just for felting, and there are sewing machines that have attachments/adapter kits for felting. Felting on a machine is similar to free-motion quilting—the machine doesn't feed the fabric through as it does in regular sewing. You control the motion of the fabric. There's no thread in the machine, just multiple needles that punch the fabric.
You can spend anywhere from a few hundred dollars to more than $1,000 for a felting machine. For more information, check out the following Web sites to see what these companies offer: babylock.com, berninausa.com, brothersews.com, feltcrafts.com, husqvarnaviking.com, janome.com, nancysnotions.com, pfaffusa.com
Needle FeltingUse a pair of tweezers or a double-pointed needle to move and hold fibers in place while felting. Your fingers will thank you.
1. Draw the design on the base fabric.
2. Position yarn, fiber or fabric over the drawn design (a).
3. Take a few stabs into the fiber to baste it in place. Stab straight up and down; go only deep enough for the barbs to pass through the fabric. Stabbing too deeply forces fiber into the work surface (i.e. the foam or brush mat).
4. Don't move the fibers with the needle—it might break. Use a pair of tweezers or a double-pointed needle to move fibers.
5. After basting the design and checking its placement, repeatedly punch the fibers into the fabric base using a straight up-and-down motion (b). Hold the multi-needle firmly. Push down and pull up in a repetitive motion using a consistent speed to cover the area you’re felting. Continue until the fiber is secured to the base layer.
A Position fiver over design. B Punch fivers using an up-an-down motion.
RESOURCES | "Felted Florals" by Barbara Crawford. Sew News February ’07. | Indygo Junction's Needle Felting: 25 Stylish Projects for Home & Fashion by Amy Barickman. C&T Publishing. 2006. | Needle Felting by Hand or Machine by Linda Turner Griepentrog and Pauline Wilde Richards. Krause Publications. 2007.
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