Needle Felting
Don't Get Your Hands Wet!

Needle felting - stargazer lily So you want to find out about needle felting? Well, you're in the right place. It's really a fun craft - inexpensive too, AND you don't get your hands wet until after you've finished the design.

As the title says, you do it with needles. Sharp ones...with barbs on! So be very careful not to poke yourself, as they HURT! Yes - I speak from experience!

The barbs on the needles work to mesh or tangle together the fibers both on the way in and out.

You can also needle felt dimensional projects. What I mean is, you can make 3D figures from fiber too, just by rolling up fibers and poking the felting needle through in different directions. But, this doesn't really apply to purse making, so we'll leave it there.

Felting needles come mainly in 3 sizes - 36, 38 and 40 gauge, though you can get other sizes from more specialist stores. 36 is the thickest, and leaves the largest holes or indentations.

As the needle number gets bigger the actual needle size gets smaller. I like to use a 38 gauge for most of the design, then finish up with the 40 gauge all over to smooth out the surface.

What do you need to get started? I'll tell you right now!

  • a base fabric (wool felt, a felted wool item, jeans, denim jacket, fleece jacket)
  • some foam to protect your work surface and your needles (preferably a dense/firm foam like that used in packaging computer equipment, or just a polystyrene foam block)
  • felting needles (various sizes available at craft stores or online)
  • wool fiber (corriedale, merino or mohair work well)
  • imagination, and an ability to look closely at pictures or photographs and translate what you see into fiber, or just the nerve to try something new

I like to say that needle felting is just like painting with fiber. I guess what I'm trying to say is that you do need some kind of artistic ability to do well with this craft, but give it a try. You never could be your perfect medium!

As you see above, it's not like you need to spend an arm and a leg to give it a try, but I loved it so much, I just had to jump in with both feet and get hold of plenty of colors, just in case.

Basically - all you need to do is...

  • choose a design - try just a basic shape first
  • lay your base fabric onto your foam block
  • pull off a small amount of fiber - always pull - never cut as cutting leaves a blunt edge and it is harder to blend in
  • form your fiber into a rough shape and lay it onto your base fabric
  • holding the fiber on your fabric, being careful not to poke your fingers, begin poking your needle vertically through your fiber and your base fabric (this can take some time to work the shape fully)
  • layer fiber on top to achieve the color and depth you want - you can also layer different colors to add shading/depth your design (if you don't have too much fiber on and you don't like how it looks, at this stage you can pull it off and start over)
  • when your design is complete - turn it over and on the back...
    • spray lightly with a mixture of cool water and a little Ivory or glycerine based soap
    • gently rub back of design to help mesh fibers
    • rinse out soap mixture with cool water and squeeze out excess moisture
    • place in mesh laundry bag or pillowcase and tumble dry LOW

After that, your needle felted design will be ready for use or wear. Try embellishing with beads or buttons, even ribbons or embroidery for a one of a kind project.

Needle felting lends it self perfectly to creating bags, as you can work any design that takes your fancy. Take your inspiration from nature, architecture, kids, food, animals, anything that interests you.

Take time to explore the art of needle felting - you just might love it!

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