Learn to make needle felted wool
dolls and animals with Felt Alive Needle Felting Workshops!
Guide To Needle Felting & Supplies
For Answers to Your 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
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,
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,
Talpai and the needles soon
made their way across the big pond to
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
2007. 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
to be more user friendly. My
Felt Alive Color-Coded 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
The Needle Felters Workshop.
Birgitte Krag Hansen in Kenny Lake, Alaska -
2007 sharing the magic with lucky me!
And here I am with an armful of my Felt
Alive needle felted crew in Oct. 2010
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
Needle Felting Supplies!
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
really all you need but learning specific techniques is quite helpful
and can save you lots of time and frustration. I teach
people all around the world through my fun and comprehensive
Felt Alive Video Workshops.
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
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.
ALIVE NEEDLE FELTING SUPPLIES For
Felt Alive Needle Felting Workshops & FUN Needle
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 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 gauges of needles apart easily.
In my quest to find the perfect felting needles, I found
needles color-coded with paint 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 coating the L
shaped ends in colored rubber. It solved my problems! They were so
wonderful we decided to start manufacturing our
Alive Color-Coded Felting Needles.
We have now expanded our lineup to include double point needles and quad
Felt Alive Color-Coded Felting
Needles are color coded to accompany Felt Alive Video Workshops. It makes learning to needle felt so much
easier when you know you are using the right needle for the task at
Felting needle selection and use is typically a
personal preference. I stick with what I think felts
the types of fiber I felt with best. I felt with wool
batting that is slightly coarse and crimpy and use only
three different sizes of needles .
To learn even more about
felting needles, check out my blog post -
Felt Alive Needle Felting TIps The Use and Care
of Felting Needles.
Handy Dandy Guide to Felt Alive's
Color Coded Felting Needles!
40 Gauge Triangle Blade Felting Needle
For general felting. If I had to pick
just one gauge of needle use, the 40t would be it. It pierces into
projects easily and seems to grab the perfect amount of fiber
with each jab. It also gives me fine control when sculpting the
The double point yellow is my ABSOLUTE
favorite needle felting tool for getting projects started - as the felt
firms up and I start feeling a bit of resistance, I switch to the single
point 40t. The yellow quad point is great for starting out large
flat projects but it does take a little more effort to pierce into the
Felt Alive Super-Duper 40t Felting Needles are
Red 38 star
38 Gauge Star
Blade Felting Needle
For finish and surface felting - works
especially well for finishing the surface of coarse, hairy wool. This is
a star shaped blade rather than the typical triangle shaped blade.
There are more barbs and the barbs start closer to the tip than most other
needles. This makes it a good choice for surface details like eyes
and for finishing the piece and taming down the fuzzies.
Felt Alive Super-Duper 38star Felting
Needles are available in
& quad point
Blue - 40
star 40 Gauge 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. It is a dream for surface design. We offer this gauge in single, double
& quad point needles.
The blue quad is my personal favorite of
our quad point needles. For flat work, nothing beats the speed and
ease that this tool offers.
Felt Alive Color-Coded 38star Felting
Needles are available in
& quad point
36 Gauge Triangle Blade Felting Needle
deep, fast felting and attaching parts. This is a coarse needle
and more durable than the others. 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.
It's the needle I let kids use when they want to try their hand at
needle felting. It's not quite as sharp and holds up to a bit of
Alive Color-Coded 36t Felting Needles are available in
single point only
TRY FELT ALIVE COLOR-CODED FELTING NEEDLES TODAY!!
What kind of wool do I need for needle felting?
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.
You can needle felt with nearly
any type of fiber but for creating lifelike needle felted sculptures, I
have found just a select few that work well for me. My Felt Alive
dolls bend, move and flex without the use of wire armatures. To
achieve that, I
need wool that offers special qualities to my finished dolls are well-felted, flexible and durable.
As much as I love needle felting, I love seeing progress fairly quickly.
Wool that felts fast is a quality that is essential for this
impatient girl and you can find all of my favorites in my online store
Here is the basic lingo that I had to learn once I
started needle felting.
Raw Fleece - unwashed, right off the animal
- it's not quite ready for needle felting. (Pee-yew!!)
Scoured Fleece -
Once the dirtiest sections of the fleece have been discarded, raw
fleece is scoured to remove lanolin
(oil) and dirt but with the lock structure intact. Sculpting
with scoured fleece is very difficult.
I RECOMMEND USING
SCOURED FLEECE FOR DOLL 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.
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 - 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
- Wool fabric that is
not fully felted. Typically made on a needle loom (a machine
that uses lots of felting needles,) prefelt is different than
typical felt fabric in that loose fibers remain so that it can be
finished by hand felting methods such as wet felting or needle
- The end product of all of this! Whether it is a felt garment
made using traditional wet felting techniques, a gorgeous Nunu
Felted (fiber felted with woven fabric) scarf or a needle felted
doll, what you have in the end is Felt !!
Now that you are knowledgeable with felt
and fiber terminology, I'll share more about my favorites for sculptural
FELT ALIVE'S FAVORITE WOOL FOR SCULPTURAL
Wool in batting form (wide sheets) is
what I recommend
for creating 3d figures.
Batting is lofty making it easy to
handle and form into shapes. The fibers are messy -
this means that the wool will shrink from all directions as you
felt, rather than along the neatly combed lines of combed
But again, not all batting works well -
some breeds of sheep can be very coarse and hairy (great for
animals, not so much for doll making,) some breeds have very
long wool and batting made from it can be really challenging.
Alternately, batting made from very short wool can fall apart.
Some wool has more sheen than others - slippery wool is a little
trickier to work with.
I use my own brand of Felt Alive Needle
Felting Wool for all my projects. It's made from the wool
of mixed breeds of sheep raised here in the US. We offer a
lovely array of artisan-dyed colors along with
several flesh colors to make doll makers happy!
Felt Alive Needle Felting Wool
Today! in 1/2 oz and 1 oz bundles
start nearly every project out by needle felting a core structure.
Because this core structure will be completely covered, I choose to use an
inexpensive, un-dyed wool batting - otherwise known as core
wool. 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
| a side note about core wool -
there is no rule you must use it. When I do small projects
(less than 5") that don't take much wool, I don't bother using
core wool - it is faster and easier to use the dyed wool of my
choice for the bulk of the project.
Li'l Elton John's body is coming to life
with Felt Alive Core Wool Batting
Felt Alive Core Wool Batting Today! in 1 oz, 8 oz and
16 oz bundles!
How Much Wool Do I Need?
Most of my dolls are around 12" tall and weigh in
at 4-5 ounces. Usually 2 oz is of that is core wool, the rest is
the dyed wool, prefelt and hair. using core wool and dyed wool.
The little head in my hand might weigh 1/2 oz.
This little head in my hand weighs in at just over
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
My PSY caricature doll is sporting a suit made from Felt Alive
Kettle Dyed Merino Prefelt. Even his glasses are needle felted
At Felt Alive Needle Felting Supplies We
kettle dye our prefelt in small batches for fun and unique colors.
Merino wool is very fine and long - it most often can be
found prepared into roving (or long ropes) for spinning or
traditional wet felting. It is gorgeous and can be
found in a tempting array of colors. But for
sculptural needle felting, merino roving can be very
difficult to work with. The long, fine fibers
take forever to felt and the finish can be fuzzy unless you
keep felting until the piece is very solid and very hard.
Even though I don't use Merino roving for sculpting with, it
is essential that I have it on hand.
My favorite use for Merino Roving is
for hair for my dolls. It works for long or short hair
- it can be braided and even cut and styled much like real
hair! I use it for facial hair too.
important use I have for merino roving is for the fine
details that really bring my dolls to life. In very small quantities,
it can be
used nearly like paint. Colors easily blend together
in your fingertips, making it great for surface design.
For my doll making, merino roving is perfect for eye color, lips, blush and shading.
Felt Alive Needle Felting Supplies
Merino Roving in 16" lengths which is a perfect amount
for a needle felted doll.
my dolls with curly hair, nothing beats using clean, naturally
curly wool. Mohair from Angora Goats is my favorite
- long length and great sheen makes it a perfect choice.
Gotland sheep is another favorite - the long curls are similar
Felt Alive Needle Felting
Supplies carries a limited selection of
curly fleece available in 1/2 oz bundles.
What kind of work surface should I use for
needle felting on?
felting needles are sharp and fragile, it is very important
to have some type of firm, yet resilient work pad that will
hold up to all of the stabbing that goes along with needle
felting. If your surface isn't resilient enough,
you will find yourself breaking needles - if it is too
resilient, your needle will travel right through it and
likely break when it hits the table. I have
tried using a folded towel, old couch cushions, pillows,
foam garden kneelers. At most craft stores, you will
find small brush mats for needle felting. They look
like scrub brushes and are designed for flat needle felting
- such as embellishing a small design onto a sweater or
When I first started felting I
primarily used upholstery foam as my work surface.
This worked ok but I didn't find it to be dense enough.
My eyes go bonkers if my project bounces too much so now I
use a high-density foam that supports my project as I stab
away. The foam I use is much more firm than typical
upholstery foam and holds up to heavy needling.
Felt Alive Felting Pads
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
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.
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 -
Hansen's series of felting books
are really wonderful. PIXIE FELT, NEW FELT and ANIMAL
FELT are beyond fabulous. She also offers online
There are many shops that
sell starter kits with step-by-step instructions. Of
course I must give my own
Felt Alive DVD Video Tutorials
a plug. I offer many titles to choose from and made them
just like I would have wanted when I first started needle
felting; simple, fun and easy to follow! Plus
we've put together some fabulous kits to go with each workshop!
With a Kay's-Eye-View of my felting pad, you won't miss a trick.
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
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
over 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
over the years
ALIVE NEEDLE FELTING SUPPLIES For all of your needle felting needs!
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