Welcome to this post on starting needle-felting and what you need to know.
This is the second post in a series that gives you the facts about a craft before you commit to buying kit, or possibly even before you try it. This post aims to be a “fact file” with the answers to the most common questions.
(Please note that the prices I quote are correct at time of publishing and they are from (almost) universally available sources like Amazon. You may well be able to find cheaper versions by shopping around!)
Starting Needle-felting; what is it exactly?:
Needle-felting is a process that is used to make two and a half or three dimensional decorative objects. It involves using barbed needles to stab wool fibres again and again which causes them to lock together and the object to become denser, keeping its shape as you work. This happens because wool fibres have scales on them which lock together when they are rubbed against each other. The image below shows a merino wool fibre (top) viewed under a microscope alongside a human hair (bottom).The material produced as these scaled fibres rub together and lock is what we call felt. As you know if you have ever washed a “hand wash only” jumper in the washing machine it felts because the fibres are rubbed together by the washing process and lock together into a denser textile.
How Much Time Per Week Will Needle Felting Take Up?:
To be honest, like embroidery, starting needle felting can take as little or as much time as you want. Its sister activity wet felting takes a lot of set up and clearing up but needle felting can be done at any table and the kit takes minutes to get out and clear away. I suggest that you felt onto a surface that will not matter if it gets marked but apart from that small 3D projects can take an hour or less (Hobbycraft have some kits that make a good starting point, I particularly like the penguins). More detailed projects like the ones the amazing Mrs Plop makes take hours each to do (if not days) and require a lot of practice!
The simple needle-felted hearts that you can see in my images are done using a mould to help shape them (a bit of a cheat but it works!) and take about 15 minutes each.
However starting needle-felting should come with a health warning. It is SERIOUSLY addictive!
Do I Follow Patterns Or Do I Have To Make Up My Own Designs?:
There aren’t really “patterns” as such for needle-felting but if you search “Needle felting tutorials” on Pinterest you will find hundreds of “how to’s” for every animal and object under the sun. You can use these as your guide when starting to needle-felt.
Once you get confident you can spread your wings a bit. Knowing basic stuff like pipe cleaner “skeletons” or adding detail with a single needle will give you the confidence you need.
How Much Money Does It Take To Start Up?:
This isn’t the cheapest of crafts. You can buy a packet of felting needles for around £7.00 and use them as they are. However I find it a lot easier to mount the needles in a felting tool. I like the Pen Style Felting Tool by Clover which comes with needles and costs £8.25. I prefer the way this feels in my hand and it has better control for detail. A lot of people get on just as well with the more traditional style tool though, which is a similar price.
As an absolute minimum to start with you need a felting tool, some wool roving and either a brush style felting mat or a piece of dense foam to use as a surface to work on. Everyone has an opinion on which they prefer. A brush mat like mine can be bought for £10.63 and a piece of foam is around £5.60. Personally I prefer the foam for 3D work as it helps hold and shape the object being felted. Having said that the foam doesn’t last as long because the constant punching from the tool breaks it down.
Wool roving (also known as “Tops”) is available in loads of colours and quantities. A quick search on Amazon for “wool roving” yields around twenty pages of results with prices starting at £1.46 for a 10 gram bag.
Any additional moulds etc, are entirely up to you and the tutorial you are following.
Total cost to produce a simple first design is around £15.31 (around $21.85). This only gives you one colour of roving to work with though so you may want to factor in a few pounds for extra colours. This cost also is for the foam mat rather than the brush mat.
How Quickly Will I See Results?:
Quickly! As I mentioned before the small hearts take around 15 minutes each. The basic shape of the item you are felting emerges really quickly but the really fine detail takes time and patience (an usually use of a single, fine, needle).
What Previous Knowledge Do I Need?:
No previous knowledge needed at all. There are lots of tutorials and projects out there in cyberspace but I think some of the best are Hawthorn Handmade’s written guides to different parts of the process and their video tutorials.
The Homemakery’s introduction is also worth checking out.
How Dexterous Do I Need To Be?:
It depends on the project. The more detailed the project, the more dexterity is needed to get that detail. Although small my felted hearts take very little dexterity because there is no detail. When I tried to turn one of them into a Conversation Heart considerably more dexterity was needed to add the wording. I used a single needle and almost needed a magnifying glass (I know I’m getting old!) Even then I wasn’t entirely successful!
How Much Brain Power Does It Take?:
Not a much unless you plan to take it to a very high standard or make your own designs. It’s also very cathartic after a stressful day to spend some time stabbing something!
One word of warning though. The needles do snap if you are too rough with them. As they are fairly expensive to replace try and avoid that by paying attention to where you are putting the needles.
How Much Room Will It Take Up?:
(I’ve added this category from the last post at the suggestion of one of my readers who pointed out that she has little storage space at home and this would be a factor for her choosing a craft to try).
Needle-felting takes up a small amount of space. I can keep all my kit and materials in one box (like the one below) from Ikea that measures 27x35x20 cm.
Needle-felting is great fun and addictive but I would recommend that you try in for the first time in a class. The kit is then often provided for you to take home (either included in price or for a small extra fee). You should find it quite easy to find a local beginners class and take it. There are quite a few around and learning in a group is always less intimidating.