History: Felting needles have been used in the textile industry since the 1800s. In the 1990s, fiber artists came across these needles and have created ways to use them in the world of fiber.
FUN: needle felting is fun and gives you a chance to be creative without a mess. I enjoy needle felting while sitting in front of the television in the evening.
RESOURCES: just do a search on the internet for “felting needles.” Many sites will come up with photos giving examples of the many ways you can be creative with wool and felting needles. Many books are available with good instructions.
FIBER: Support your local small farms. You can find an abundance of sheep’s wool, mohair, Angora rabbit, llama, alpaca, etc from local shepherds. Contact me for suggestions. The Spiners Flock which meets in Chelsea is a great source. I have Fiber Fun bags available--small amounts of many colors. You will get much more fiber for your dollar from local producers than at a retail outlet.
THE SKY IS THE LIMIT: as to what you can do with felting needles and wool: you can make wall hangings or three-dimensional figures. You can also make wearables such as hats and scarves, but I recommend wet felting the final product--which is easy to do.
FELTING NEEDLE RULES
WARNING: These needles are sharp so be careful with them.
NEVER leave a needle laying around. If you take a break from needle felting, gently push the needle into your foam, or put it in a storage container of some sort. Mini M&M containers are ideal. Just stuff a small amount of wool in the bottom of the container to protect the needle tips.
TIPS are fragile and can break. Punch lightly.
HOW TO NEEDLE FELT A WALL HANGING
LAY a piece of pre-felted wool base on a piece of foam or an old foam pillow
DRAFT out your fiber by taking a hold of the end in your left hand and hold the roving a few inches below with your right hand. Gently pull the fibers a little, and perhaps a little more, to separate the roving without pulling it apart.
PUNCH the wool roving into the wool base with a gentle up and down motion, or at an angle. Do not punch in and then change the angle--this could break the tip
WALL HANGINGS: You can make a wall hanging with thin wisps of fiber. Or you can apply several layers of fiber to create a more three-dimensional piece of art work.
LIFT the wool base occasionally off of the foam to prevent the two from becoming attached.
THREE DIMENSIONAL FIGURES: roll or fold the roving on the foam and punch
WHEN FINISHED: you may want to go over your wall hanging or three-dimensional figure with two or three needles held together in your hand and punch the entire area to give it a firm and finished appearance.
MATERIALS needed: a piece of foam (source: JoAnn Fabrics) or an old pillow, felting needles, wool roving, and a piece of prefelted wool base if you are creating a wall hanging.
FELTING NEEDLES have small v-shaped indentations near the tips which allow the needle to punch the fiber downward but will not pull the fibers back up again.
GAUGE/SIZES: Fiber artists use a variety of needles. Size 36 are good for general use and are good for deep penetration--to initially apply the roving to wool base, or to start making a three-dimensional figure. Size 38 needles are a good multipurpose needle, with the indentations being a bit closer to the tip of the needle. Size 40 and 42 are smaller, more fragile needles where fine surface work is required and are good to use with fine fibers such as merino, or angora rabbit fiber.
To purchase different sizes of needles and to learn more about the different gauges, go to: http://www.blacksheepdesigns.com. For an explanation of the different sizes/types of needles written by one of the earliest needle felters, Linda Van Alstyne, go specifically to:
MULTI-NEEDLE HOLDERS: If you really like needle felting and want to make more wall hangings or large three-dimensional items, I recommend that you purchase a multi-needle holder. You can find a variety of them on the internet. I have a number of multi-needle holders, many of them are round ones, but my overall favorite and the one I use exclusively is the ten-needle aluminum holder from Felt Crafts (http://www.feltcrafts.com/. The ten-needle holder is item number 1004 at http://www.feltcrafts.com/needle-felting-supplies.htm.)
LEARNING: I think the best way to get started is to just sit down, relax, and get started. It is recommended that you have a photo of what you would like to make. If you punch in your roving and then want to change what you are doing, just gently pull the roving up off of the felt base and start over. Sharon Costello (www.blacksheepdesigns.com) has a wonderful video for beginners
RESOURCES: Do a search on the internet for “felting needles”--you will find all kinds of items that people have created using felting needles. There are a variety of books available with needle felting instructions.
My favorite is New Felt Using the Felting Needle by Brigitte Krag Hansen. http://www.feltmaking.dk/english/book3.php. The book can be purchased from Susan’s Fiber Shop (http://www.susansfibershop.com/felting_books.htm).