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What is needle felting?

Are you new to this amazing form of art?

So was I back in 2013, but we all need to start somewhere. Once I started I just couldn’t stop and no doubt you will feel the same way too as it is very addictive.

You have probably seen some of my needle felted animals in my Gallery but what is it that I do to get from a piece of wool to a detailed sculpted animal?

Here I will show you the basics..

Have you ever had a woollen jumper? … loved it, worn it ..and then oh dear..washed it in too hot a wash and failed to read the washing instructions properly? or maybe you have heard of others doing that…Well that happened to me when I went to uni and didn’t have my mum to show me how it should be done!. My new favourite jumper shrunk to about a 5th of the size it started out as!!. Lets just say my teddy bear (I know I took a teddy to uni!) had his very own jumper which fit him perfectly… sadly though it would never reshape back to my size..

Needle felting felting is not putting wools in the machine or adding soapy water (although there is a technique known as ‘wet felting’ which does just this!) but the concept of how wool fibres latch on to each other and don’t want to let go is what I am trying to demonstrate here.

With needle felting you use a single barbed needle or several at the same time to cause the wool to felt..

First of all you choose your wools. These are some of the delicious coloured merino wools I used to make a fox.

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You pull off a piece (pull sections with hands far apart rather than too close).

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Roll or fold your wool tightly to form the shape you need. Here I am forming a spherical shape to demonstrate. You can take the wool off of the foam pad (used here to ensure I don’t stab myself) and roll in a ball in your hands too if you like – just like a piece of play dough as the ‘squishing’ action helps bind it into the shape you need as well.

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Then using your barbed needle you stab away at the wool hundreds of times in various directions, turning as you go (avoiding your fingers as the needle is extremely sharp) and as you do the wool fibres hug each other tight and don’t let go 🙂

Make sure the needle exit at the same angle as it entered so not to bend to bend or break it. start off slow at first until you get used to it and you will speed up in no time.

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The more you stab (which is quite therapeutic by the way after a hard day at work) the firmer and more compact the wool becomes so you can sculpt shapes. 2013-07-29 14.22.13

It is like modelling clay but with wool and a needle. Instead of moulding an area with your fingers you work it with a needle.

What I love is that there is no sewing involved (all the facial features such as eyes and noses can be needle felted too!) you just stab wool into shapes and add shapes to other shapes… and hey presto!! you have an animal.

There is of course a lot more to it than this. If you take a look at my Tutorials, tips and ideas page you will find further techniques.

Some animals can be made by simply needle felting basic body parts and felting them together.

For some you could felt the wool onto a wire armature to give the animal more structure and poseability (is that a word?). For example for the fox, cat, dog and donkey I  wrapped the wool tightly around wire which I had first prepared (after looking at photos of skeletal structures) and used my needle to fix the wool in place, firm up and blend in loose edges. Then I added more wool shapes to build up anatomy parts onto the base structure.

Here I have just started to give the fox his shape before adding his head and fuller tail and torso.

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I tend to start off with core wool (usually corriedale batts) using my thicker needles to get started. Then for adding layers of realistic looking fur and to get the colours I love I use a blend of soft merino wool roving. Thinner sized needles are used for needle felting the details especially for the face and ears. I use no beads or buttons for eyes and noses…. just beautiful 100% wool!!

Did you find this tutorial helpful? What would you like to learn about next? Please leave comments. Why not post a photo of your own creations?

For more tutorials please visit my Tutorials, tips and ideas page.

Don’t ever miss out on my latest tutorials! Insert your email address and click the ‘Follow’ button on the right hand panel to receive notifications of when the next post is up..:-)

Don’t have time to make one but would love a one of a kind needle felted animal by Fit to be loved for yourself or for that special someone? Visit my Etsy shop today to see my latest creations. Or like my facebook page to see what I am making next.

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4 responses »

  1. You stated that with needle felting you use a single barbed needle or several at the same time to cause the wool to felt. My wife has been wanting to start knitting or crafting and doesn’t know what process to start with. Are there different types of wool that you can use for this process? http://feltloom.com/product-line.html

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  2. Amanda Marriott

    Good start. Well done :-):-)

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    • I have psoriatic arthritis and I was wondering if this might be a little to much stress on my fingers. Does the stab cause any pain over time to your joints? Thank you

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      • Amanda Adebisi

        Hi Angie, so sorry to hear you suffer from arthritis. I am no doctor so can’t really comment on how you will find it. I personally haven’t found it affects my hands or fingers but sometimes it’s my shoulders that suffer if I don’t take long enough breaks. Maybe see how you get on with it. Also you can buy the addiquick needle felting machine if you need to do lots of felting. Not tried it but it has good reviews from lots of felters out there.

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