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Needle Felting: An Introduction to the Art and Craft of Making Wool Felt with Needles

Updated on November 5, 2015

Needle Felting Instructions, Tips, and More!

If you're looking for information about the precise and rewarding craft known as needle felting, you've come to the right place!

This page will show you all about this meticulous art form and get you well on your way to creating your own needle felted creations. Whether you're an experienced needle felter looking for some new ideas or supplies,, or someone completely new to needle felting,, you're sure to find something worthwhile here.

I began needle felting a couple of years ago after I met a new friend at a craft fair and saw what she was doing. Like most people who come across needle felting, my first question was, "whoa that looks so cool! What are you doing??"

It wasn't long after that moment that I was sending away for my own needle felting starter kit and staying up all hours of the night poking away at little mounds of wool turning them into new creations (and trying not to stab my finger too many times!)

What is Needle Felting?

Needle felting refers to the process of making wool felt by means of poking the fibers thousands of times with one or more barbed needles.

Animal fibers like wool from sheep or rabbits are unique from synthetic fibers in that their fibers can be agitated by the tiny barbs on a needle, which then forces them to tangle and bond together, basically creating tons of tiny knots and tangles which, after much repeated agitation, thickens more and more to form a solid fiber known as felt! It's really quite incredible to watch it come together.

Technically, you could felt with many different types of animal fur, but the most common is sheep's wool. Needle felting can reduce a big handful of wool roving (the term for the soft fluffy wool you get before it's spun into yarn or felted) into a small, tightly felted piece of art, from a needle felted animal figurine to a decorative felt brooch, beads for jewelry, small wool felted bowls, you name it!

Some artisans take their felting a step further and use a technique called 'wet felting' to further bond fibers once a design has been started. This involves washing the wool in hot water to make the fibers bond even more closely and tightly to create a more hardy product. (Ever wonder why your wool sweaters shrink in the wash? They're not actually shrinking, they're felting!)

Needle Felting, Step By Step

Here is a brief set of step by step instructions to help you get started with needle felting. We'll start by just making a small needle felted ball to help you get the hang of it. So grab your materials and let's get started!

Materials

  • Wool roving in your choice of color(s)

  • Optional: Wool Carding Brushes. (in a pinch, wire pet brushes work really well, actually!)

  • A barbed needle or multi-needle handle

  • A thick sponge, piece of florist foam or other foam to place under your work in progress

  • Band-aids, just in case!

  • For future projects, you may want some wire for an armature or wool batting for a basic shape, if creating a sculpture.

Instructions for Needle Felting a small ball or felted marble

Wool roving often comes rolled up almost like a piece of batting. If your wool is like this, take a long strip of it 1-2" wide and about a foot long. If your wool is more of a ball or wad rather than a roll, tear off a chunk about the size of a golf ball.

Roll your wool tightly into a more compact shape. If you have a strip, roll it like a cinnamon roll, but continuing to tuck the sides under as you go so it forms more of a ball shape. If you have a ball, try to flatten it and fold it in on itself to make your wool mass more compact. The more firm you can compress your wool before you start poking with the needle, the less time it will take for your needle felted sculpture to thicken and hold itself together.

Now, the careful, repetitive but satisfying part, start poking! Laying your squished-together wool on top of your foam, begin piercing your wool with your needle as many times as your hand can do before getting tired.

How deep to poke the needle into the wool - You want to feel your needle going through your wool and into the sponge or foam, but not so far that you risk going through it into the hard surface below (or your leg, if you're doing it on your lap. Ouch!!). Be sure to rotate as you go, turning your sculpture all around so you get all sides. This also prevents it from fusing to your foam. If you poke through it into the foam too many times in one place, it will begin embedding your wool fibers into the foam!

How quickly to poke the needle while needle felting - Different people go at different paces. Some go super fast and others are more careful and slow. For your first time, don't rush it. It can be easy to feel impatient and want to see results, but you don't want to miss and jab your finger (I have done this many a time. It is quite painful!).

As your needle felted sculpture takes shape - Continue poking your ball, rotating frequently to poke at different sides so you get an even shape all the way around. See how it's coming together and you feel more resistance under your needle? Eventually, you will no longer need to poke all the way through into your foam, and you won't want to at risk of breaking your needle. Technically you could continue for longer and longer until your felt is so thick you can't poke through it!

Finishing your needle felted marble - If your marble isn't completely round, don't be hard on yourself! It's your first try to this is very exciting. You can always wrap more of your wool around it to even it out and continue poking with your needle felting needle to bond the new fibers into the surface. You may also want to get creative and make your marble really look more like a marble by taking another color and adding 'swirls'. You can do this by taking small wisps of another color of wool roving, wrapping them around your marble and poking with your needle to bond them but not completely embed them.

Tada! Congratulations! You have just made your first needle felted project! Addictive, isn't it?

As with all arts and crafts, it's always nice to have someone show you how it's done. I've included some great tutorial videos I found on the Web below to guide you on your way to needle felting mania! :)

Needle Felting Videos to Help You Learn How to Needle Felt

There are tons of needle felting tutorials out there on YouTube! I've included some great starter needle felting videos here to give you a taste for the fun you can have while needle felting. I hope they help you get excited about giving needle felting a try!

Needle Felting Kits - Starter Kits for Needle Felting

I have a really nice needle felting kit from Weir Crafts (included below, though I'm not sure why its price says $7.95. It's actually $59.95) that comes with a whole bunch of colors, an assortment of needles, even an instruction sheet and a bag of wool batting.

It's really great to have a variety of options so you can do all kinds of projects. The balls of wool look small, but they go such a long way!

I've included some starter kits here to get you on your way to happily needle felting and exploring the possibilities of needle felting at home (or for business! You never know, you might get really good at it and be wildly successful at art fairs!)

Colonial Needle Needle Felting Starter Kit
Colonial Needle Needle Felting Starter Kit

This little kit is a great starter to help you create your first small needle felted project and see if you like it before diving into a larger, deluxe kit!

 

Carding Wool Roving for Needle Felting

There are some really great needle felting kits out there that give you neatly rolled handfuls of wool roving all tucked into a box, ready to felt whenever you are. These also tend to be a bit more expensive because the preparation work has been done for you.

If you get more raw wool or just have a ball of wool that's looking a bit matted, you'll want to card it first to get all of the fibers going the same direction. This will give you the best wool roving to start with because all of the wool in your hand will have aligned fibers, giving you endless possibilities once you start felting, without the worry that it will already be knotting up before you've decided how you'd like to lay out your design or sculpture.

To card wool, you'll want a set of wool hand carders. These look like big slightly curved flat square hairbrushes, but they're actually specially made to card wool.

Wool Carders

Source

The carders featured here are from The Threshing Barn and you can see their curved backs and the many wires used to gently separate the wool fibers.

To card, you basically swap the wool roving back and forth between your hand carders, pulling one carder over the other in one direction until the wool is transferred, then flipping over and repeating the process with the other carder. Eventually, all of the knots and tangles will release and you'll be left with silky wool roving you can pull out of the brushes and use for needle felting! Pretty cool, huh?

As I mentioned before, pet brushes can work well in a pinch. Just make sure they're flat and have lots of wires rather than the wider, rubber-coated ones.

If you're confused, (which is totally okay!) there's a great carding video below that will show you exactly how it's done.

Needle Felting Needles, Carders, and Mats, oh my!

Here are some supplies to help you get started with needle felting. You'll want to at minimum have an assortment of needles and a mat so that you don't break your needles poking through to a hard surface, or worse, your lap!

Colonial Needle Felting Needle Tool II
Colonial Needle Felting Needle Tool II

If you're creating a larger piece or felting a 'felt picture' flat applique style against a bag or quilt, this tool is a great one to have! It bundles a bunch of needles together which makes much quicker work helping a larger area of felt to stick together.

 

Confused about carding? Watch a Wool Carding Video

I find often watching someone do something is much easier than trying to learn by explanation, so here's a video to help you learn about hand carding your wool for needle felting.!

Clover Felting Needle Refill Heavy Weight
Clover Felting Needle Refill Heavy Weight

Felting needles come in different weights and even the heaviest can break. Aside from trying to avoid stabbing your fingers (been there, done that!), you'll want to make sure that you have some spare needles on hand for the inevitable breakage that can occur if you hit a tough spot, accidently jab a bead or sequin, etc.

 

Animal Needle Felting Kits

Want to try your hand at making needle felted animals like the ones you just saw?

These animal needle felting kits give you all the materials you need to make things like a needle felted bunny, needle felted penguin, even a needle felted pony! Have fun!

Bunny Wool Needle Felting Craft Kit by WoolPets. Made in the USA.
Bunny Wool Needle Felting Craft Kit by WoolPets. Made in the USA.

Perfect for kids and adults, these little WoolPets kits give you everything in a cute little takeout-style container to complete the project on the front. This one is a bunny but they have a whole bunch of other animals to try.

 

Take a Needle Felting Poll!

What type of needle felting projects do you like the best?

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Great Needle Felting Books for Fun Needle Felting Projects

Make all kinds of needle felted animals, jewelry, accessories and more with these books loaded with needle felting projects.

I'd love to see some of your needle felting projects or hear how you're getting on with needle felting. Feel free to leave a comment below with your work, questions, or other feedback about needle felting!

Love Needle Felting? Let's hear it!

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    • ikeephouse profile image

      ikeephouse 4 years ago

      I've never tried this, but it looks like fun.

    • profile image

      baby-strollers 5 years ago

      This is all new to me. I learned something today!

    • NTxWriter profile image

      NTxWriter 5 years ago

      I've done some needle felting and really love it. Beautiful lens!

    • Missmerfaery444 profile image

      Missmerfaery444 6 years ago

      Wow! I had seen some needle felting book covers and wanted to learn more about the art, having loved all of the items I have seen made by this process. I never knew exactly how intricate it is! It is something I would love to try. This is a great introduction, thank you. Blessed!

    • Sarah LM profile image

      Sarah 6 years ago from Minnesota

      This is a great lens. I just started needle felting, and I love it! I'll have to check out some of the kits, I wish I could find a local place to buy some wool or alpaca fibers.

    • southpaw23 profile image
      Author

      southpaw23 7 years ago

      @Gamganny: Aw thank you, nyfamily5! Yeah I had never heard of it until a little over a year ago when I was selling my children's book at a craft fair. The woman who shared a table with me was poking away at a Christmas ornament and I asked her what she was doing. From then on I was briefly totally obsessed with it, and now I still have my kit and have been meaning to get back into it. It's really fascinating!

    • Gamganny profile image

      Gamganny 7 years ago

      Great craft, never heard of needle felting before.