Welcome to Felter Skelter, your essential guide for needle felting inspiration and ideas!
What Is Needle Felting?
Needle Felting is not difficult, it simply takes practice. There are plenty of good guides both online and in books to help you practice and learn the techniques involved. In this post we will explain what needle felting is, what tools are required as well as showcasing some artists who have used this art form.
Needle Felting is the art of creating forms out of fibres like wool by stabbing them repeatedly with barbed needles. The fibres will eventually matt together and can be shaped into a broad range of soft sculptural structures. You can needle felt by hand but there are also a range of tools that can help speed up the process.
What Tools Do I Need?
You can Needle Felt without having to buy a lot of equipment, the tools required are not complicated to use.
To get started you will need:
You can use a variety of fibres and textures depending on what you are creating, they are often called roving too. Many artists use silk fibres as well as wool to create unusual textures.
There are many styles of felting needle. A felting needle is a long needle with structures called barbs to agitate the fibres and attach them together. This needle does not have an eye for thread, it is hand held, generally with a handle to hold to make it easy to stab the fibres with.
You can’t use a regular needle for needle felting, find out what you need in our separate post Can I Use A Regular Needle For Needle Felting?
A felting surface
This is needed to avoid hand injuries. Sponges and foam pads work well, as long as they are at least an inch thick.
Needle Felting is usually done by hand, however there are tools out there to make it easier, such as this Janome Embellisher Sewing Machine, however this is really for making flat pieces which are Needle Felted together, rather than 3D items.
That is it! As you become more experienced you may research and discover new fibres and other tools you wish to try, but to begin you only need the items listed above.
What Can I Make With Needle Felt?
The list is endless. Many artists enjoy creating 3D animals and other characters. One of my students made this Penguin. As you can see, it is pretty small, however she managed to begin it and finish it within a two hour class. She had no prior Needle Felting experience.
Here are a few examples of work we have featured in our Felter Skelter columns….
Needle Felting artist Nocik works with animal taxidermy ideas and creates loads of characters. Most are framed by adding the traditional wooden wall stand; we see it as kind taxidermy…
We asked this artist what each creature is made from, is it simply all needle felting? They answered: ‘tools vary from piece to piece, but usually there is a foam armature, core wool and wool top all needle felted. I also include polymer clay horns, etc and reclaimed eyeballs salvaged from old stuffed animals. Hope this answers your question!’. So if you start to get confident needle felting, this could be you!
Check out Nocik on Instagram for more of their awesome felty creatures.
Maria Filipe Castro
She creates smaller pieces:
We asked Maria to give us some information on her work and if she had any tips too….
‘Since I began Needle Felting my main concerns were on how to create a sturdy piece with a smooth surface and how to make it in less time. The Needle Felting process is quite slow, but throughout the years, with much trial and error I have been trying to find ways to facilitate the whole process.
I like to work with wool in roving and in batt. When the wool comes in batt it’s much faster to felt and easier to conceal the needle holes, but in my personal opinion, the colors of the wool in roving look a bit more brighter.
When I’m working with wool in roving, before I apply it to the core of the piece I like to mess up the fibers and make them look a bit more like the carded batts. I find that this helps speed up a bit the process of adding wool and also make the direction of the fibers less noticeable.
The level of hardness of the base shape of the piece influences a lot when joining other parts such as arms or legs, or when defining a face. It should be firm,in a way that you can still squeesh it but still holds its shape. This makes it easier to continue to sculpt without deforming the piece.
Finally, the needle with Gauge 42 because it’s one of the tools I use the most, in various stages of the felting process, but it’s juts perfect for that final stage when you want to leave your piece with a smooth appearence with more discreet needle holes.’
You can learn more via Maria’s website and her Instagram. Plus she reveals her skills through her online lessons for example her course “Art Toy Creation: Needle Felting Technique” on her specific way of needle felting.
The Gentle Man Felter
We featured this artist a couple years back in this post which features four artists our columnist Zoe Williams who is a Needle Felting expert listed as inspirational for the colder months.
Northumbrian artist focuses on all the nature you would ever want, this Robin is rather life-like, so if you feel that this is too difficult to achieve, remember to start small and simple and seen you will gain confidence to create more complex pieces like this one!
We asked this artist if they had any tips for us…..’I don’t use too many tools to create my pieces. Bog standard felting needles, scissors, pipe cleaners (my cats fave) and a very sophisticated top of the range eye putting in tool which is blu-tac on the end of a cocktail stick…and tea, lots of tea.’
What Can Go Wrong With Needle Felting?
As a beginner you may find that you do poke yourself with the Needle Felting needle a few times. There are finger guards available, so you may wish to purchase one to avoid any injuries to your hands!
Can All Wool Be Needle Felted?
Most wools can be Needle Felted, however some are easier to use than others. As a beginner it is safer to use merino wool roving as it is smooth and easily holds together when agitated with the needle felting tool.
Where Can I Learn More?
We have over 100 posts about Needle Felting at Mr X Stitch, so that’s a great place to start. There are also a good number of needle felting books available, and we’ve reviewed some here. Check out all our Felter Skelter posts for loads more felty action!
Want some Needle Felting Inspiration?
What Technique Is This?
Needle Felting is the process of using a notched or “barbed” needle to compress layers of wool into denser felt that can be manipulated to create 3D sculptures. It is different to wet felting, which uses water to combine wool fibres, and these days there are a range of felting tools available that can enable you to make your own soft sculptures with ease!