I have an interest in almost every craft medium out there. I see something done and my curiosity takes over and, in the blink of an eye, I have bought everything the craft stores offer and watched every tutorial on the internet on that subject. I do not know when the needle felting seed was planted, but it grew and grew. Since then I have made tiny flowers, doll hair, beads, small sculptures and, once, large turtle sculpture. I have embellished clothes, gotten creative with knitted hats, and found ways to use my felting technique to attach clothing to my dolls. It is a very flexible medium and fiddling about with things makes it more fun. I have learned a great deal about it from books and websites, but I learned so much more when I just put the books away and got started.
Needle felting is a dry felting method. You may know about wet felting already. Most people know about it on accident. You toss your wool sweater in the washing machine and, when you take it out to move the laundry to the dryer, your sweater will now fit a small toddler. This is because the wool fibers have fused via wet felting. I won’t be covering that process right now. We will be focusing on Needle Felting, a dry and very portable craft technique that is quick to learn and fun to do. I have chosen a few videos from YouTube that illustrate felting. There are hundreds more out there and I urge you to go on your own searches and find them. Some instructors in the videos have their own way of doing things. It is great to know how different crafters approach a medium so that you can find the best and most comfortable way for yourself.
THERE ARE A FEW KEY POINTS THAT EVERYONE HAS TO FOLLOW WITH NEEDLEFELTING:
DO be careful of the needle. They are very sharp and will hurt if you get poked with one. They are triangular and barbed so they pack a bit more of a punch than a standard sewing needle. (*A handful of crafters say to let a felting needle booboo bleed before bandaging it.)
DO use a foam pad or under your project to protect your needles. They will break if they hit a table top. The foam pad will also help to protect your person from the above mentioned puncture wounds.
DO NOT wiggle the needle once inserted into your project. They can and will break if not removed at the same angle they were inserted. Stabbing in and out at the same angle, up and down, is an easy thing to learn, but practice is necessary.
SOME VIDEOS TO SHOW YOU THE PROCESS:
How to needle felt: A general explanation. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PTBirUlvPNo
A bit of information for someone already familiar with the technique. This video has a great deal of sites mentioned. This is great to show you the possibilities of needle felting.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E8fMtHwIt4w&feature=related
This is a preview for a 10 hour DVD series to teach needle felting soft sculpture. I have never watched this video series, only the youtube video itself. I want to share this to, again, show the possibilities of needle felting. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OdJnOF5kORw&feature=related
SO NOW THAT YOU ARE INTERESTED, LETS DISCUSS WHAT YOU NEED:
(picture from http://www.etsy.com/blog/en/2008/how-to-making-a-needlefelted-turkey/)
Size 38 felting needle (different sizes are available, but this is the most universal size)
Loose wool roving
(Such a simple list.)
WHERE TO BUY:
Always check your local art supply, fabric and yarn stores for felting supplies. Sometimes you can find great things at small shops. Never hurts to ask.
*Artopia, 316 Main St, Johnson City, TN, 423-282-1861 has a few already felted items in a kit. Felted beads and baubles to get the feel of what can be done with felted wool.
*Yarntiques, 410 East Watauga Ave, Johnson City, TN, 423-232-2933 has a great selection of yarn. I spoke with the owner, Candice, who does not carry specific needle felting supplies, but she has a vast knowledge of yarns.
*Some big box craft stores carry wool and supplies for felting. Call your local stores and ask.
*This site carries, in addition to a great many other fiber arts tools and materials, a selection of felting materials. http://www.mielkesfarm.com/Products/felting.htm
*CR’s Crafts is a great site. I found some needle felting items here. http://www.crscraft.com/products/productList.asp?cat=crafts&sub=Needle+Felting&L1=3&L2=16&L3=0&L4=&L5=
*Living Felt http://feltingsupplies.livingfelt.com/
*The Felted Ewe http://www.thefeltedewe.com/
*An all things felt blog that is really neat http://americanfeltandcraft.wordpress.com/
There are so many sites that I cannot possibly list them all here. If you are curious, go to Google and enter “needle felt supplies” as a search. Wow. At the time this article was written 1,270,000 hits.
*Thrift Stores are great resources for material. Discarded yarn, old needlework kits and donated sweaters are all fantastic finds. (I like to carry my single needle with me when I hit sales at thrift stores. You can check feltability (is that a word?) of fabrics of sweaters by holding the sleeve out flat and felting (by stabbing the barbed needle through the flat sleeve being sure to WATCH YOUR FINGERS!!!) the sleeve to itself. If the fibers begin to mesh the sleeve together after a few stabs, then you have a great piece to play with. If they do not fuse, then leave that sweater on the hanger and keep moving. BE SURE TO PULL APART THE SLEEVE WHEN YOU ARE FINISHED AND LEAVE NO MARK ON THE CLOTHING. If you do leave a mark, buy it. Be honest. Only try this on items you plan to buy. If someone sees you, explain to them what you are doing and buy the sweater. Sharp objects make some people nervous and who knows what they might think you are doing. If there are tags in the sweaters, you can just look at the material type and then there is no need to test. I find alot of sweaters that have had the tags removed, this is why I experiment. I buy a lot of sweaters.)
SOME ADDITIONAL ITEMS THAT MAY BE USEFUL AS YOU LEARN MORE ABOUT FELTING:
Additional needle sizes for different projects. Size 32 for course materials, size 40 for fine detail.
A multiple needle holder. These are not necessary but crafters choose to use them when felting large flat surfaces. Multiple needles make the project felt faster. I do not use them since the majority of my projects are 3D animals and people. But I know crafters who swear by their Clover needle tool.
Wool yarn and bulky yarns are great for felting lines onto projects.
You can also needle felt cotton batting, some fleeces, some different cloth materials.
Cookie cutters (to make shapes, such as the flower petals shown in the video)
Embroidery floss and needles to add embellishment
Beads, sequins and sewing supplies to sew on to projects
THE BASIC INSTRUCTIONS FOR NEEDLE FELTING FLAT SURFACES (See videos first)
1 ) Choose a base fabric. Draw on a design lightly with a pencil.
2 ) Place your base fabric on your foam pad. Pin it in place with a few stick pins from your sewing supply kit.
3 ) Take some of you loose wool and pull it apart. Try to line up the loose fibers.
4 ) Place the fibers on your drawn on base fabric. Create a sandwich of one thin layer of fibers horizontal and one thin layer vertical. Do a few quick up and down punches with your felting needle to hold it in place.
5.) Now you are ready to punch it repeatedly up and down to make your design permanent.
Stop once the design is embedded in the base fabric, but before it gets punched down so far it appears muddled with the base fabric!
**It is a good idea to felt in lines or borders then go back and fill in. If you are using a cookie cutter to create a shape, placing it on the fabric would be done before step 3.
Needle felting is an interesting art form and the possibilities are endless. I hope you will take the time to try it out and find it as fun as I do.