Needle felting… tips and information for beginners
At my workshops i’ve had lots of requests about getting started with needle felting so as my very first blog i thought I’d explain all the basics of this craft. so in this first post I’ll cover the tools and equipment you need if you’re starting to needle felt for the first time.
Felting needles are different from regular needles of course, they have scratchy barbed tips that tangle the wool and make it more and more compact and dense with every stab. These needled come in many different sizes (gauges) with different types of tips that do different things.
The thing to always remember is that the lower the gauge size (IE 19) the THICKER the needle will be. Sizes range from a thick 19 gauge through to a very fine 46. You may find them lower or higher than this but I’ve never seen them. Usually needles in the higher numbers (thinner) work well for smoothing out surfaces, where you don’t want needle marks to show.
The ideal size and gauge that works well for me in my workshops is a 38 GAUGE STAR, this is a standard gauge and works for most felting projects. Note, like wire gauges, the smaller the gauge number the bigger the size, ie a 40 gauge is SMALLER/FINER than a 36. A felting needle has small barbs in the end that, when stabbed through wool, catch on the scales of the fibre and push them together. The more and more you stab, the more fibres matt together slowly turning the wool into solid felt.Felting needles are quite delicate and can break easily if used incorrectly. Make sure you are stabbing in and out at the same angle, not twisting or bending the needle. If the needle won’t go into the wool easily try changing to a finer needle. Some examples of needle shapes are: Triangular: barbs of 3 sides Star: barbs on 4 sides Reverse Felting Needles: the barbs on these needle go the other way, pulling the fibres out rather than pushing them in. This is useful to create a fluffy finish on a well felted piece.
- When using a Reverse Needle you should felt the piece with a normal needle first, and finish the surface with the Reverse.
- The more barbs on a needle, the quicker you felt.
- Use thinner/finer the needle gauges for softer wools and finer details.
- Make sure to buy at least 10 of the size 36 or 38 needles just in case (in most cases, the more you buy, the more economical they are).