Monday, January 10, 2011

Starting With Needle Felting

Somewhere you may have seen some cute little needle felted figure and thought to yourself: “I can do that!” Yes, you can!! Needle felting is fun and it is easy for even a beginner to have very successful results!

Needle felting is the process of using the barbs on the needles to force fibers together so that they can felt. The more you poke the fibers with the needles the denser and more firmly felted the fibers will become. Easy!!

So where do you start and what do you need?
The basic tools and materials you will need are felting needles, fiber and a work surface

• Felting needles are a unique tool that comes in different sizes and with different numbers of barbs. For a beginner, the most useful of available needles would be the #38 star needle. While most felting needles have triangular tips with barbs on the three edges, star needles have four edges. The more edges and barbs the faster the felting!
The #38 star is not the perfect needle for all needle felting tasks, but it is by far one of the most useful and all you really need to begin needle felting.

• There are so many types of fiber available for felting that it really would take a long time to discuss them all. I’m sure you don’t wish to endure the confusion of all that information, so let’s stick to the basics and discuss the most commonly used fiber for felting: wool. Even with wool there is a great deal of variety. Every breed of sheep produces wool that has unique characteristics and I’m sure I could confuse you just detailing all those varieties, but that really is more than a beginner needs to know. The two most commonly used wool fibers used for needle felting are Merino and Corriedale. These are named for the sheep breeds. Merino is extremely fine and soft to the touch. It is my preferred fiber. Merino fiber when needle felted produces a very smooth surface. Merino requires more effort to needle felt than does Corriedale. Corriedale is not as fine as Merino, but it felts beautifully. For the beginning needle felter, Corriedale is a wonderful choice! Both Merino and Corriedale are available in a lot of colors!

• You must have a work surface, something that will allow you to thrust your needles through the fiber and not hit your table or, worse, your hand. Most beginning needle felters use a thick, dense foam pad for their first work surface. Such pads are readily available at fabric and craft stores and will certainly do the job needed. If you really enjoy needle felting and plan on doing more, it is worthwhile to invest in a Clover Brush Mat.

Other tools and materials that you may find useful are:
• Scissors – while you rarely actually cut the fiber that you needle felt, when finishing a piece, scissors can trim those flyaway fibers that just never seemed to felt down.
• Needle and thread – these can be used to define a mouth, secure beads for eyes, create divisions in paws to give the look of toes.
• Beads – to be used as eyes or embellishments.
• Chenille sticks can be used for beginning projects to make legs strong enough to support the weight of the figure. If you continue with needle felting and like using an armature, you should eventually switch from chenille sticks to stainless steel or aluminum wire.
• Long straight pins are useful for pinning portions of your felted creature together so that you can firmly felt the pieces together.

With these tools and materials you can create just about anything!! While beginning needle felting is not particularly difficult there is a lot to be learned about controlling the density of your fiber and using the needles to best results. I have numerous crafting classes available now for beginners, intermediates and advanced students and will be adding more! Every one of my craft tutorials will teach you skills that you will be able to use in whatever project you decide to make! Come join me and learn this exciting, versatile and fun craft! Watch my craft video on making basic shapes on YouTube:

Harlan is an artist, instructor and the author of “Needle Felting – to the Point”. She lives in the woods of Michigan with her husband Jack and son Jackson and their menagerie of cats and dogs.


  1. Great post, Margie! I love your books... and your classes on CraftEdu are very cool !

  2. I started needle felting 4 or 5 years ago on New Years Eve. My daughter and I purchased one little book and kit on to make a teddy bear. We loved it and have learned more and more with each piece we make. My last pieces were Shetland Sheepdogs like the ones I owned. I was so happy with the way they turned out. I even used some of their beautiful white hair for the tails and collar of some of the dog feltings. I love felting and I feel like it is magic the way the balls of wool roving turn into your works of art.