Felt is created by agitating wool fibres until they mat together to form a non-woven fabric. The fibres can be laid flat on a surface or molded around a former such as a hatshaper, cardboard or even a ball.
Most commercial felt is made in a dry process by simply tangling the fibres of almost any material. This is carried out with felting needles; each about 8cm long with a number of small tags on the needle surface to catch the fibres, driving them through the fibre mass. Commercially thousands of needles, set into a bed, are used in one machine, passed through the fibre bed many times.
These needles are available to hand felt makers to use in attaching fibres to the surface of felt, adding non-wools such as silk, applying felt designs, sculpting a surface and repairing weak felt. They can be used alone or set into a handle and used as a 'bat'. They are used on dry fibres.
A felting needle is very sharp, with tiny notches cut near the tip of the shaft. They are cut at an upward angle, so that fibres catch in the notches, and carry into the mass. When the needle is retracted, the fibres stay in place.
Needle Felting 3d Technique
- Both the angle and the depth of the 'poke' are important for shaping. The fibre goes exactly where poked; directly down from the surface carries the fibres straight down, and at an angle, they are carried sideways. Poking only a small distance works only the surface fibres. This toughens the top layer and forms a 'skin' while the interior fibres stay loose and fluffy. Deep poking (burying the needle ¾ of its length) forms deep indentations. This is the key to three dimensional felt shaping.
- Do the deep shaping first. Too much shallow work locks the surface fibres, and they are then resistant to moving. Start by deep basting using deliberate, deep pokes spaced 0.5 to 1 cm apart along the shaping line. Have a foam pillow under your work to take the end of the needle stroke. Go back over the line with deeper pokes, until it is the depth you want and stays roughly in place. Then get down to the line holding the fibres on each side with the index and middle fingers in a 'V'-shape and the needle with the other hand.
- Now start detailing. As you poke, some of the initial shaping may soften; go back over it later. It helps to rough shape the entire outline, then go back a second and third time to refine and define the shape, rather than needle a single feature from basting to finish before starting the next feature. Poke with 'angles' to give depth to a feature; for a nose, poke all around aiming at an imaginary centre. The details of this felted Santa's face and beard were created using a needle.
- After the deep basting, use a 'shorter stroke' for the refinement. Finish up with a very short poke all over to give the final 'skin'. Apply any final colour with mid-strokes to attach, followed by short strokes to push/pull it into shape along the edge and finish.
- Where stubborn fibres stick straight up, work the needle in a small circular motion around the fibres, and then poke down so that they catch in the needle's notches. If there are still fibres sticking up, trim them with scissors.
Using a Felting Needle to Embellish
- Sit at a table with a foam pad in front of you.
- Lay the item intended for embellishment across the foam pad.
- Position the embellishment (yarn, fibre or applique) and rapidly poke the needle in and out, ensuring the needle penetrates beyond the two layers and into the foam. Try to keep the needle at right angles during this process.
This tool is not suitable for children under the age of ten. If they occur, it is recommended that pricks are immediately washed and treated with antiseptic.
Felting Needle Adapter for Sewing Machines
This useful item will help to take the effort out of making your own needle felt fabric. It can also be used to easily embellish fabrics with fibres, felted objects or yarns.
It is a cost effective alternative to buying a needle felting machine, this 6 needle adapter can be used to convert any sewing machine into a needle felting machine. The hand tooled adapter includes 6 size 40 gauge needles, a piece of dense foam, an allen key and full instructions. Please note, the Needle Felting Attachment is intended for permanently converting your sewing machine into a needle felting machine
To order felting needles, a felting needle handle or a felting needle adapter, please see our range of Feltmaking Equipment