How to felt with a needle (There is also 'wet' felting, not explained here)
Basically, all you do is stab away...but, a few points:
# The needleis very sharp and if you are not careful you will stab your fingers. (Actually, you will stab yourself, it pretty much comes with the territory…). Store it safely. Keep band aids handy. # It is not suitable for small children (somehow that should be obvious, but this is California…)
# The end point of the needle is fragile enough to break off if you punch it down and then bend in another direction. If you need something to push the wool around with, it is helpful tokeep a thick sewing needle nearby for that. It is also good to have little embroidery scissors handy, and toothpicks to roll wool unto when you make animal legs.
You need the foam as a surface to punch your needle into. Lift up your project from the foam now and then, or it tends to get stuck and woven into the foam. Any foam does not work, some break of little pieces. There also is now some brush like things to put your wool on top, I haven't tried that.
To make creations bendable, you can felt around pipe cleaners. For added stiffness you can use steel wire, but it has to be anchored into the wool by loops, or else it might just slip out.
For creations that are top-heavy or generally wobbly, I've taken to put a glass marble inside the bottom to help stability.
The technique is simple, you just keep poking and punching, jab and stab:
All you do, is make a shape with your 'fluffy' wool, and then keep shaping it as you punch down with your needle. The needle will interlock the wool fibers (which have like "scales" that the barbed needle will catch on to) and "knit" it together. It is good to "attack" the wool from different angles to bind up the fibers. You can take different pieces of wool and attach them to each other, just by meshing together the fibers. You want to keep it loose and 'fluffy' as long as you are shaping your piece, and when you are sure of where you are going, you can define it more and more, just by the amount of punching you do. Some sculptures might need some reinforcement. You can make a 'skeleton' of pipe cleaners or wire and do your punching on top. (The needle tends to go to the side of the thin wire when you punch down, and does not break)
One easy project to do is to take a cookie cutter shapeand fill it up with wool and then just punch it together. Lift it up from the surface now and then, punch the backside. Put in a ribbon and you have an ornament for your Christmas tree.
To make four-legged animals, you shape the different parts loosely and then connect them before you compact the wool too much.
When the basic shape is made, you can go on to putting on details. Pull out a couple of threads and punch down as a line for a mouth. Make a tiny ball and put that on as a nose or ears. Be a bit careful, because when you use different colors you might pull up underlying colors with your needle.
The web contains a lot of information, there are YouTube videos and my small local library has 4 or 5 books on the subject (Look at catalogue # 746.0463). Here are two titles:
# Wool pets – making 20 Figures with Wool Roving and a Barbed Needle – by Laurie Sharp (2008). This book has a resource page at the end.
# Beginner's guide to Needle Felting – by Susanna Wallis (2008)
I bought my first needles at a JoAnne's Superstore, where they also have a little bit of wool (expensive though, 3.99/ 0.7 ounce, which is like two compressed handfuls).
Needles come in different gauges. The all-around is the 38 gauge triangular point, there are also coarser (36 gauge) and finer (40 gauge), and there can be different numbers of notches on the end, and star- or triangular shaped points. You can also buy holders that can fit several needles for more efficient punching.
I've color coded my needles by dipping the top in paint.
red= triangular, 38 gauge, allround
blue= triangular, 40 gauge, fine work
green= triangular, 36 gauge for quick felting
orange= star shape, 38 gauge for quick felting
Tip: ideal cover for felting needles are the mini straw coffee stirers at coffee shops!
More needle info from paradisefiber.net:
FELTING NEEDLE GUIDELINES
A. Needle gauge.
There are different sized needles for different projects. The 32 gauge is for needling hair onto vinyl dolls and for needling coarse fiber such as Karakul. (I call this the coarse needle.) The 36 gauge needles are used for needling medium fleece such as Romney or Cotswold. (I call this a medium needle.) There are also 40 and even finer gauge needles. The higher the number with wire (as with thread), the finer the diameter. So 40 is smaller than 36. I use the 40 for needling very fine fibers and for needling fine pre-felts onto silk cloth backgrounds. (I call this needle the extra-fine needle.) I use the 38 for merino fibers and call it a fine needle. I like this needle for needling merino pre-felts onto a cotton cloth ground. The coarser needles are good for preliminary work, doing the deep penetration necessary to â€œroughâ€ in a sculpture for instance. The finer needles are better for detail work done when the felt is already partially hardened by the coarser blades. You do not need to penetrate deeply into the felt surface to add details and the finer gauge leaves less of a hole. B. Blade style.
While there are several blade styles, there are two blade styles that most needle felters use. The most common is the triangular blade. This blade is shaped like a leather needle, with three sharp edges. The notches are along these sharp edges. The other type of blade is the star blade. This one has four edges and is shaped somewhat like a star. There are more notches since there are more than 3 edges. This needle is good for helping to attach fine fiber to cloth. It is also good for detail work.
C. Notch placement and depth.
On some needles available to us, the notches are placed about 1/8 inch away (3.2 mm) from the point and on others, the notches are placed about 3/8 inch away from the point. If the notches are closer to the point, you wonâ€™t have to push down with as much effort to start getting the fibers to tangle.
I have to promote etsy.com. It's a world wide arts/craft place that sells finished products (like I do) and also vintage items, but more importantly, If you are reading this here, it sells SUPPLIES You can find everything there: needles, wool, foam, kits.....
At Dharma Trading (dharmatrading.com) in San Rafael you can get supplies and buy wool. I got my dyes from them and they have efficient, cheap and fast shipping. Before getting my Romney wool, I bought wool from Weir Crafts (http://www.weirdollsandcrafts.com)
My wool comes from Romney sheep in a vineyard in Sonoma. It was 'raw' fleece that I have washed (there is both dirt and lanolin to get out) by soaking in hot soapy water for an hour, and repeating until clean), dyed (with acid dye that you cook on the stove) and combed by hand. To get the wool whiter I had to soak it in hydrogen peroxide. It takes a lot of time, but the process makes you "bond' with your wool. My sheep seem to have roamed around a lot and their wool was full of mainly 'foxtails' (a very clever seed that can dig into everything, even pets, as my family has experienced through vet bills), but also a variety of burrs and other pieces of the great outdoors. There might still remain some bits and pieces in the wool and you will have to try and pick it out (sometimes I use tweezers).
When you buy wool commercially it will come in 'rovings'. It is nicely combed wool, very smooth and even, without short parts and totally clean. There is superfine wool, like Merino, which is actually a bit too fine for felting. I bought some 'Corridale' when I started out. It is also quite fine compared to my Romney. Well, if you get into it, you'll find out what you like best.
There arewool combs (seems to cost around $ 120 on the web), I made some from steel combs (Afro style, with long sharp points) from a beauty supply store, taping two together for $ 5. An Australian wool book recommended dog grooming combs. Combs are good for the cleaning process, getting bits and pieces out, and also generally for 'fluffing up" the wool.
Well, that should get you started, so have fun, because it is!