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Get the Basics Right When Needle Felting

  • The right needle
  • Establishing a foundation
  • Working with an armature
  • Using layers
  • Creating a foundation

Needle felting is the fastest-growing fibre art today. Many people are discovering this wonderful medium, working with wool fibre to create sculptures of all sorts: animals, flowers, figures, to name a few. Once you’ve tried it, you’ll realise just how satisfying it is.


Getting started is easy. All you need is a felting needle, some wool fibre and a foam pad to use as your work surface. The foam pad acts to protect your table or lap from the sharp point of the needle and also works as a surface to help manipulate the fibre: adding tension when rolling a new layer into place on a 3-D shape.

Felting needles come in all sizes. For needle felting, those I recommend are the 36, 38, and 40 needles. Remember: the higher the number, the finer the needle. The other aspect of felting needles is their shape. Needles come in a triangle and star-shaped blades. Which to choose? Triangle blades are those used for most general work. You can do most needle felting projects with a 36 triangle needle. They cover large areas quickly and work well in multi-needle holders.

Star-shaped needles have four sides at the tip and are used for finer, detailed work. If a fibre is not attaching well with a triangle tip, a star tip will do the trick. The star needle works for details such as veins on a leaf or eyelids on a face. The needle leaves less of a hole than the triangle blades.

One more thing to remember about needles is that only the tip does the work, so driving more than the tip into the fibre will not give you any better results. I have seen students working too hard, punching the needle into a project when a lighter hand would work the same magic, and tire your wrist less.

One thing I have learned about needle felting is that more is not better. What I mean is, you can take a large wad of fibre and begin poking the needle into it and it will felt, but you’ll have more control over the end result if you build up a shape in finer layers. Establish a firm foundation and add layers from there.

Let’s use an example: Say you want to make a head. Begin with a long fine strip of fibre. It should be somewhat see through. Fold it once or twice, and then begin rolling it into an egg shape for the head. Drag the fibre towards you across the foam pad, which adds a little drag and tension to the wool, so the layers adhere to each other tightly. As you roll, stop and work with the needle to start the felting process. Once the strip is rolled up, felt it and add the next layer, rolling and dragging it as before.

If you are creating a flower shape, layout a fine layer of fibre in one direction and criss-cross it with the next layer in the opposite direction. Felt a little and begin establishing the shape, then add another fine layer, and so on.

The same rules apply when working with an armature. Once the armature is prepared, begin wrapping fine strips of fibre around one section at a time, building the figure up from the inside. A firm foundation will give a much better basis to build detail into the figure later.

Now you understand the keys to successful felting. I hope you’ll get hooked as I did and enjoy this hobby for years to come.