Learn to make needle felted wool dolls and animals with Felt Alive Needle Felting Workshops!

Felt Alive Needle Felted Art Dolls

 

 

Felt Alive's Guide To Needle Felting & Supplies

For Answers to Your Needle Felting FAQs!

      

Needle Felting? Getting Started Supplies Felting Needles Wool Felting Pads Instructions Links

Needle Felting?

What is needle felting? 

Using a single, barbed needle borrowed from commercial felting machines, wool fibers are tangled and compacted by repeatedly jabbing the needle into the fibers, forming three-dimensional felt sculptures bound only by one’s imagination.  In contrast to traditional felt making methods that use water and friction, needle felting is also known as dry felting. 

 

Sculptural Needle Felting is just  the coolest thing!  First of all the medium is wool...  Let's thank the sheep for growing such amazing fiber. I really have a hard time describing the feeling of creating with wool.  It must be the organic nature of it that appeals to me; the luster,  the smell, the feel... it really is wondrous stuff.  The quiet crunching sound that the barbed needle makes as it pokes in and out of the wool is quite soothing.  But the greatest thing of all is the moment that lustrous pile of fluff transforms into a character full of charisma and charm. 

 

The needles used for needle felting were not designed for hand crafting - they are designed for industry.  At the turn of the 20th century, machines with beds of these barbed needles were invented to tangle fibers into felt fabric.  These machines are still being used today to make industrial felt out of a wide variety of fibers.  The next time you open the trunk of your car, you will know the thick liner was made with felting needles. 

 

It wasn't until the 1980's that an innovative fiber artist, Eleanor Stanwood, considered the use of single industrial felting needles as a means to sculpt wool into 3 dimensional shapes.  The story I heard was that these needles then landed in the hands of California fiber artist, Ayala Talpai and the needles soon made their way across the big pond to Birgitte Krag Hansen in Denmark.  Birgitte had been sculpting figures out of wool using wet felting methods but the felting needle changed her approach to sculptural felting.  Ayala and Birgitte became early pioneers in the art of needle felting and have both written several books on the subject.

 

Sculptural needle felting is quickly growing in popularity and am honored to carry the torch and pass along the magic that I was lucky enough to learn from Birgitte when she traveled to Alaska to teach workshops in 2008.  Thanks Eleanor, Ayala and especially Birgitte! 

 

I love teaching, discussing, writing, sharing and obsessing about needle felting any way I can.  I have even modified the felting needle to be more user friendly.  My Felt Alive Super-Duper Felting Needles are favorite tools for needle felters all around the world!  I teach the magic of sculptural needle felting through my Felt Alive Video Tutorials - on DVD and online at  The Needle Felters Workshop

Birgitte Krag Hansen in Kenny Lake, Alaska -

Sept. 2008 sharing the magic with lucky me! 

 

 

Getting Started Needle Felting

 

What do I need to do to get started needle felting?

I wish I could say to just run down to your nearest craft and hobby store and pick up everything you need to get started with your needle felting ideas.  Unfortunately, it's not that easy.  You may find small packets of fibers and expensive felting tools that hold several needles - these are generally for flat needle felting techniques used in embellishing garments and accessories.  Even if you happen to have a fiber shop in your neighborhood, the chances of having the best wool selections for needle felting are slim.  I have found that most shops carry wool prepared for spinners and the properties of wool prepared for felting are much different.  But you will find exactly what you need on the internet, most needle felters order their supplies online.  In fact, you can now find all of my favorite wool and supplies at Felt Alive's Needle Felting Shop! 

 

It's important to have some idea of your subject matter when choosing wool.  Wool that works great for animals might not work as well for doll making.  It pays to do your research. 

 

Once you get an idea of the supplies you need, then you might consider some type of workshop or book.  Needle felting is very intuitive and can be easily learned without any instruction but books, videos and workshops are always helpful. 

 

A basic understanding of the concepts of needle felting, good supplies and a great imagination are really all you need but learning specific techniques is quite helpful and can save you lots of time and frustration.

 

 

Needle Felting Supplies

How do I choose the right wool and supplies for needle felting?

When I first discovered sculptural needle felting on the internet, I rushed down to my local fiber shop and wound up spending so much money on all kinds of wool and elaborate needle holders.  After quite a bit of frustration, I set out to find the right supplies that worked best for me.  After much research including trial and error, it has taken some doing (and some $$$) but I have finally narrowed it down to my favorites!

 

Understanding supplies for needle felting can be a bit confusing; if you ask 50 different needle felters what they use, you will get 50 different answers.  My first suggestion is to find a needle felt artist whose work you admire and find out what they use. 

 

If you enjoy my Felt Alive Wool Sculptures then continue on and you will learn all about the supplies I love to use. 

 

Visit  FELT ALIVE NEEDLE FELTING SHOP For Felt Alive Needle Felting Workshops & Professional Needle Felting Supplies

 

Let's start with Felting Needles! 

 

Felting Needle 

 

How do I choose felting needles?

Felting needles have sharp, barbed blades that tangle fiber into felt with a repetitive jabbing motion.   They are quite an interesting crafting tool!  Manufactured for industry rather than crafting, they are designed specifically to fit into industrial felting machines that hold thousands of needles and not at all intended to be used by a human hand.  They are cold, hard steel with an “L” shaped end that is, frankly, quite uncomfortable to hold on to, especially while using a repetitive jabbing motion that is required for needle felting.  They come in different gauges and blade/barb configurations and can be very hard to tell the difference at a glance.   When I first started needle felting, I quickly realized I needed felting needles that had a cushioned grip and were color-coded so I could tell the different gauged needles apart easily. 


In my quest to find the perfect felting needles, I found color-coded needles and I found felting needle handles, I found elaborate holders for using many needles at once,  but I could not find just what I was looking for. I felt so smart when I thought of dipping the “L” shaped ends in colored rubber. It solved my problems!  They were so wonderful I decided to start manufacturing and selling them as Felt Alive Super-Duper Felting Needles.  We have now expanded our lineup to include double point needles and quad point needles! 
 

I have color coded my needles to accompany the instructions in all of my Video Workshops. It makes learning to needle felt so much easier when you know you are using the right needle for the task at hand.  Felting needle selection and use is typically a personal preference.  I stick with what I think felts the types of fiber I felt with.  I felt with wool batting that is slightly coarse and crimpy and use only three different sizes of needles - here is my guide for the use of my Felt Alive Super-Duper Needles!

 

Yellow – 40T Triangle Blade Felting Needle

For general felting. If I had to pick just one needle use, this would be it – it It pierces into your project easily and seems to grab the perfect amount of fiber with each jab.  It gives me fine control when sculpting the wool. This is a fine gauge needle and is very sharp and breaks easily.   We offer this gauge in single, double & quad point needles.

 

Red – 38  Star Blade Felting Needle

For finish and surface felting. This has a star shaped blade rather than the typical triangle shaped blade.  There are more barbs and the barbs start closer to the tip than the other needles.  This makes it perfect for surface details like eyes and for finishing the piece and taming down the fuzzies.  We offer this gauge in single, double & quad point needles.

 

Black – 36T  Triangle Blade Felting Needle

For deep, fast felting and attaching parts. This is a coarse needle – I don't have to worry about it breaking so when I need to attach a head to a body, this is the needle I reach for.  We offer this gauge in single point only.

 

Blue - 40 Star Blade Felting Needle - This is the newest gauge in the line-up.  With only two barbs per needle, this fine star blade needle glides into the wool without leaving big holes behind, while effectively felting even the finest of fibers.  We offer this gauge in single, double & quad point needles.

 

Visit my new  FELT ALIVE NEEDLE FELTING SHOP For Felt Alive Needle Felting Workshops & Professional Needle Felting Supplies

And Wool!

What kind of wool do I need for needle felting?

There are many, many choices out there.  Roving, Tops, Batting...from so many varieties of sheep...and you can even needle felt with other animal fibers like Alpaca.   I have found you can needle felt with nearly any type of fiber but for creating lifelike needle felted sculptures, there a select few that work well for me.  I need wool that offers special qualities to attain a well felted piece that is flexible and durable.  I also don't like to stab at the wool for hours on end so wool that felts fast with a needle is always my choice.  Fast felting is a quality that is essential for this impatient girl.    Felting is also done with Alpaca and other animal fibers - sheep wool is my fiber of choice/  

 

Wool?

  • Raw Fleece - unwashed, right off the animal

  • Scoured Fleece - Scoured to remove lanolin (oil) and dirt but with the lock structure intact. I RECOMMEND USING SCOURED FLEECE FOR HAIR

  • Batting - After being scoured, the wool is sent through a picker to remove debris and vegetable matter (vm) which breaks up the lock structure.  It is then brushed out using a method called carding.  This can be done with hand carders and the brushed fiber that comes from that is known as Rolag.  Carding can be done on small drum carders and commercially on large carding machines - the final produce resembles quilt batting.  I RECOMMEND BATTING FOR SCULPTURAL NEEDLE FELTING

  • Roving - roving is similar to batting but it's produced into long ropes, rather than wide sheets.   After scouring and picking it is brushed into long ropes - the fiber in roving remains rather messy, like batting, and should not be confused with combed top.  MOST ROVING AVAILABLE IS ACTUALLY COMBED TOP

  • Combed Top - Roving that has been combed so that all the fibers run the same direction.   It is known as Top because only the top quality, long fibers remain after the process.  This is highly desirable for spinning into yarn and wet felters love it but for needle felting it is much more difficult to work with than fibers that have been brushed but not combed.   This is a confusing term because much of the combed top you see is referred to as roving. I RECOMMEND COMBED TOP FOR HAIR 

 

 

I have found that wool in batting form (wide sheets) seems to work great for sculptural needle felting.  It is harder to find than roving (long ropes) or tops (long, combed ropes.)  The words roving, tops and even sliver are used interchangeably so prepare to be confused!  I'll stick to explaining why I choose batting. 

 

 

Core Wool Batting.  Great For Needle Felting!Elton John Doll coming to life using Felt Alive Core Wool BattingBatting is loftier than wool and less organized.  Pulling wool off a sheet of batting and preparing it to form into the desired shape is much easier with lofty batting.  I start nearly every project out by needle felting a core structure.  Because this structure will be completely covered, I choose to use an inexpensive, un-dyed wool batting.  The batting I love is almost spongy and has no long, hairy fibers.    It tears from the batt easily yet holds together while forming it into shapes for needle felting.  I sell my favorite Core Wool in my shop.   

 

 

Once the core structure is complete, I cover this with dyed wool batting

 

 

 

For Doll Making, my Felt Alive Flesh Tones are perfect for the skin layer - and the variety of colors I offer in my Felt Alive Needle Felting Wool makes for fun creations. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Merino Prefelt!

 

I get asked so often about prefelt.  I use it for clothes for my needle felted dolls.  It is felt fabric that hasn't been fully felted - enough loose fibers remain that allows it to be needle felted right to my dolls, but leaving the appearance that the clothes can be removed.  It is a very fun product to use and I dye it here at Felt Alive in a great variety of colors.

 

 

 

My PSY doll is sporting a suit made from Felt Alive Kettle Dyed Merino Prefelt.  Even his glasses are needle felted from prefelt. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whisps of Merino Roving for Needle Felting Eyes, Teeth and ShadingFor needle felting, Combed Merino Top (also called Roving) in very small quantities can be used nearly like paint and is great for surface design.  I use it for eye color, lips, blush and shading.   

 

I offer a brand new product just for these details - it's called Felt Alive Doll Maker Detail kit and includes bright white batting for teeth and eyes - strips of hand painted merino roving offering amazing colors for lips, eyes, blush shading.   It even includes 4 felting sticks and one of my 40star finishing needles that felts fine fiber like merino without leaving visible holes. 

 

 

 

 

 

Most of my needle felted dolls beg for hair.  For straight hair, Merino Roving is my favorite.  For curly locks, I love hand-dyed Cotswold Locks. 

 

 

 

Visit  FELT ALIVE NEEDLE FELTING SHOP For Felt Alive Needle Felting Workshops & Professional Needle Felting Supplies

 

Foam Needle Felting Pads

 

What kind of foam should I use for needle felting on?

When I first started felting I used upholstery foam.  This worked ok but I didn't find it to be dense enough.  I now use a high-density charcoal gray foam pad.  It is much more firm than upholstery foam and holds up to heavy needling.   We cut our foam and pass the savings on to you - our full-size pads are only $4.00 ea

 

 

 

Other Needle Felting Supplies

What other supplies do I need for needle felting?

I find it essential to have some type of thin stick (for making fingers, lips, wrinkles etc.)  Bamboo skewers work great but I prefer lollipop sticks that I purchase at my local kitchen supply shop in the candy making section.  I keep several sizes on near my felting pad at all times.  I offer them bundled in 4 different sizes HERE

 

A sewing needle is also an essential tool.  BUT NOT FOR SEWING!  I use a 3" long needle to pull and manipulate the sculpted wool. 

 

Small, sharp embroidery scissors are also very handy to have around.  Mine have a slight curve that makes trimming fuzzies very easy. 

 

Needle Felting Instruction

How do I learn to to needle felt?

Needle Felting is very intuitive once you get your hands on some good wool and supplies but you may feel that instruction is helpful.  Needle felting books are a great place to start - Birgitte Krag Hansen's series of felting books are really wonderful.  PIXIE FELT, NEW FELT  and ANIMAL FELT are beyond fabulous.   She also offers online video lessons.   

There are many shops that sell starter kits with step-by-step tutorials.  Of course I must give my own Felt Alive Video Tutorials a plug.  I offer several titles and made them just like I would have wanted when I first started needle felting.  And all of my DVD workshops are available as online video workshops - instant access after purchase - no waiting for the mail. 

If you can't decide which workshop to watch, you can enjoy unlimited access to all of my workshops at my new subscription site - The Needle Felters Workshop - and enjoy 20% savings on all of your wool and supplies in my shop during your two year membership. 

And Don't Forget YouTube!  YouTube is a great way to see how all kinds of artists practice their craft.  I started making videos and sharing them on YouTube not long after I started needle felting and have been viewed nearly 1 million times. I'm happy to say that both my needle felting skills and my video making skills have improved greatly yet the information contained in my early videos is still quite helpful.

Here is a playlist of some of my technique demo videos I've shared on my feltalive YouTube channel

 

Hover over the video to select and view from all 10 videos in this playlist.

 

 

Online Needle Felting Resources

 

Felt Alive Needle Felting Supplies

Specializing in Wool, Supplies and Instructions for Sculptural Needle Felting

 

A History of Felting Fibers

A great resource with lots of information about fiber and felting.  This link was shared with me by two school girls researching felt making.  Thanks Danielle and Sara! 

Home

Gallery

Bio

Shop

 FAQ

Contact

FELT ALIVE WOOL SCULPTURES

© 2007 - 2010

Felt Alive Wool Sculptures

all rights reserved