Needle Felting Basics
Copyright 2006-2008 by Ilona Hindt
NOT RECOMMENDED FOR CHILDREN
Felting Needles are specially designed needles that have tiny barbs on the sides near the tip. These barbs grab the fibers and pull them toward the piece packing the fibers. There are several sizes of felting needles: Coarse (#36), Medium (#38) and Fine (#42).
Using the Felting Needle – Hold the needle upright with your index finger on the bend. Use a pecking motion, repeatedly piercing in one spot to form an indentation and pack the fibers. Rotate the piece to give volume to the shape.
Needle Holders – A variety of holders are available that will allow you to use multiple needles simultaneously. These are useful to create large flat felted pieces quickly.
A Foam Block is used as an impact absorbing backing that the piece is placed on during the felting process. Felting needles can be stored in the foam block when not in use.
Types of Wool that can be used vary depending on the desired effect. Sheep’s wool is probably the most versatile being easily dyed and usually having excellent felting properties. Other fiber materials can be used including silks, cotton, man-made fibers and nearly any animal wool.
Dyeing the Wool is part of the fun. It is extremely easy and a variety of methods can be used. Obviously any fabric dye such as Rit should work by simply following the directions supplied on the box. The wool can also be dyed in a process similar to dyeing Easter eggs. Add food coloring and a splash of vinegar to very hot water and submerge the wool. The concentration will determine the intensity of the dyed color. Sugar-free Kool-Aid can be added to very hot water. Since it contains acid already there is no need to add vinegar. For skin tones, tea (no vinegar) can be used. You can also experiment with red wines, berries, beets and many other juices. After the desired color is achieved simply air-dry the wool.
Wire armatures can be used if a bendable or posable piece is desired. Form the wire (chenille) into the basic stick-figure shape of the piece. Then simply wrap small amounts of wool around and pierce with the felting needle until it is firmly attached. Continue building up the wool until the desired shape is achieved.
Making Eyes – Beads can be sewn or glued on for eyes. Felt eyes can be created by rolling up a small ball of colored wool and felting it into place. Glass doll eyes can also be used
Mixing Wool Tones – Blend wool colors by taking two or more colors and pulling fibers from each together. This is any easy way to create very complex tones.
Other Details – To form ears, noses and other protrusions create the shapes separately and then attach them by felting them onto the piece. For multicolored characters the basic shape can be one uniform color. The final color detail only needs to be added to the surface of the character. This is an easy way to create complex effects such as spots, stripes and patterns for zebras, dalmations, giraffes, etc.
BE SAFE - Felting needles can easily cause painful puncture wounds and may be dangerous. Needle Felting supplies are not recommended for children.
Additional Supplies are readily available on the internet. I do not sell any supplies or detailed instructions on how to create specific characters. My personal focus is the art of free-form needle felting. These basic guidelines are available only to introduce other potential artists to this medium.
There are no rules, so find your own style. Be imaginative and have fun!