Archives for needle felting

The New Craft Craze of Felting

If you’ve never heard the term felting, then you are not alone. Despite the fact that this process has been used for thousands of years, for many people the process of hand transforming carded wool into felt is a relatively new and unknown craft. In its most basic form, felt is created by taking wool roving and repeatedly squeezing it together by hand, applied pressure, or with the use of small barbed needles. This force causes the wool fibers to tangle in millions of tiny knots that stay joined because the animal fibers are coated with microscopic scales. These tiny scales hold the fiber knots in place and create a fabric that is both tight and dense.

Felting works with any animal fiber including wool, alpaca, and cashmere roving or yarn. Plant or synthetic-based yarn or fibers don’t have tiny scales and won’t felt. Different types of fiber produce felt with different and unique qualities, so it’s important to experiment a little before you begin a large and involved felting project.


Felting as a form of art is quite popular in many of the European countries; however, it is only in the last decade that interest in working with fibers to create decorations, scarves, purses, and 3D art has begun to flourish in the U.S. Let’s examine some different methods of felting and the type of results they produce.

Nuno Felting

Nuno felting is a Japanese technique that uses hot water, soap, and a rolling process to meld loose animal fibers with sheer fabrics such as silk gauze. When mixed the silk retains its shape and stability but incorporates its original smooth texture with the added softness and rich color of the dyed fibers. You can find multiple examples of this process by searching the internet for felted silk scarves.

Flat Felting

Similar to the Nuno felting process, flat felting uses hot water and soap, but instead of binding the wool fibers to fabric, they are simply bound to each other. Different colors of fiber can be combined for an interesting marbling effect. For a thin flannel that is pliable and can be stitched together, only a couple of layers of fiber are used. For a thicker and more firm end product, more layers are piled on.

Knit Felting

Everyone knows that if you wash and dry a wool sweater, it will shrink making it unwearable, but that’s what a number of crafters are trying for. Old wool, angora and merino sweaters are being recycled for new handicraft projects by purposely shrinking and felting them in the wash. Other clever crafters knit extra-long and loose strips, and then felt the finished product in the washing machine. In both cases, these newly felted fabrics can then be sewn into bags, scarves, or other felt products.

Needle Felting

This is a dry process where chunks of fiber are repeatedly stabbed with small barbed needle tools. This method is often used when creating small felt objects such as Christmas decorations or flowers, stars, etc…

3D Felting

Like sculpting with wet clay, 3D felt sculpting involves adding various shapes of and sizes of fibers to each other and needle felting them into place. Different color accents can also be added using the same technique. Soft sculptures including animal and doll figures can be created by roughly hand shaping clumps of fiber, and then detailing them with felting needles.

What makes the process of felting both fun and satisfying is the burst of creative energy that comes from taking various textures and colors and combining them into something new and beautiful like a one of a kind scarf or doll. Not up to felting yourself? Don’t worry. There are many amazing felted products available to purchase online.


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.