What is Needlefelting?

Needle felting is a fun fiber-art. I enjoy making whimsical figures using books for ideas and inspiration. You can also make soft art, "painting" your fiber onto a felt backing for a lovely landscape or whatever you'd like to paint.

Pictured here are some gnomes and my miniature sheep -- only a little over an inch tall! My favorite are fiber critters; it's alot of fun to make a sheep, bunny, or llama and to needle felt sheep locks, raw angora, or llama fiber onto the surface of the critter.

The Bellwether offers a Needlefelting Project Bag with everything you need to get started.

Some tips on needle felting: I found nothing beat having a book that covered the range of techniques for opening up my mind to the possibilities. That said, there are plenty of websites out there with ideas, FAQs, instructions, and links of their own:
The Feltmaker's list FAQ covers wet and needle felting
Chart of Felting Wools
Felting Needles and Their Uses
Gnome Sweet Gnome's FAQ
Mielke's Farm's Needlefelted Lady-bug
Susan Puffpaf's Needlefelted Teddy bear
Sharon Costello's Needlefelted Doll
Pat Spark's Gallery: lovely felted pictures

When needle felting, be sure to keep your fingers out of the way. You may be tempted to hold the item you are felting -- it is far less painful to "pin" it down with some straight pins and then felt it without your fingers in the target zone!

Felting needles are fragile, so avoid felting onto a hard work surface. If the needle hits a hard surface, it can snap very easily. Be sure to find both pieces if this happens.

For thin or flat items, be sure to lift them off of your foam work surface fairly often. Otherwise, you may find you have entangled the foam into your felt. If you have, you can prize up the item with some attached foam and then brush off the foam. I'd recommend changing to the other side of your foam if this happens -- once the surface is broken, it is no longer a flat working area. I usually felt both sides of a small piece, and so will pick it up from the foam and work on the other side.

The longer you "needle" your item, the harder the felt will be. Usually within a few minutes, it is sticking together. If you keep going for 20 minutes, it will shrink considerably and be a very hard felt.

If you are making a sculpture, use a fairly large needle (20 or 32 gauge) and stab deeply into the middle of the loose fiber to get a solid center. Once the center has solidified, change to a finer needle and stab closer to the surface.

For attaching limbs or two felt pieces to each other, in addition to enduring that at least one of the pieces has loose, unfelted fiber at the attachment point, I will put some unfelted wool between the two items or wrap it around the joining point. I also will start with a larger-gauge needle and stab into the center of the join. Joins gain strength the longer you are willing to needle them.

A fun way to make a 1 or 2 needle handled felting needle is with polymer clay. Make an oval shape around the top 1/2 to 1 inch of the felting needle or pair. Follow the clay package directions for hardening.

If you are felting 3 dimensional shapes, you can get a jump-start with wet-felted spheres and cylinders. I save my scrap roving and fiber; when I have enough or need more filler pieces, I take Goodwill panty hose and stuff it. I put knots in the hose to separate Fiber balls and tubes from each other; then, I run it through the washer and the dryer. After leaving one in by mistake, I've learned not to "wash" these with a regular load -- the fiber can leak out of the hose a little bit. A quick wipe of the washer when the felting load is done cleans it up for regular use.

So, give needlefelting a try -- there are many fun ways to use it to make ornaments, tools (pincushions!), and to embellish knit, fabric, or other items.

Found a good needlefelting resource on-line? Please post a link to it in the comments on this blog entry -- Thanks!

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