Recently a number of my needle felting friends started talking about reverse/inverted barbed felting needles. The idea behind these needles is that they pull fiber OUT of an object rather than push it in and the general impression I had been given was these needles might be useful for creating fur.
Sources for these needles always seemed to be in far away places and my friends were waiting weeks for theirs to arrive. I managed to find a source here in the U.S.A. so decided that I would buy a set and see what I thought. It took less than a week for my needles to arrive so I set about setting up some tests to see what these needles could do.
In appearance, these needles are roughly the size of a #38 with only three blades (not the four blades of a typical #38star needle). On the top, the "L" portion, of the needle there is a small notch which makes it easy to identify these needles as being reverse barb rather than having to haul out your magnifying glass and examine the barbs. There were 2 barbs per blade. The first barb was suitably close to the tip, but the remaining barbs were placed along the full length of the tip.
In preparation to test the needles I firmly felted a block of core fiber which I surface covered with black Merino. This would provide suitable contrast to see the fibers pulled out by the reverse needles. Because my core fiber is different in fiber content than some of the commonly used fibers I also made blocks of Merino (pink) covered with black Merino and a block of Corriedale (dark green) covered with white core fiber.
I color coded the sides of my blocks so as I experimented and took notes I could clearly identify what experiment I did on any particular side.
On my core fiber block I worked in only a straight up and down needling method. My first test was roughly the same amount of pokes that I might do if I were furring that space with regular needles. The result was sparse. Good for a peach fuzz effect, but not sufficient for fur. The fibers did not resist a simple tug test very well.
My second test was a great many more pokes with the needle. This did result in more fibers being pulled to the surface, but still insufficient to look like fur.
My third test on the core fiber block was similar to the second test, but I trimmed one area and left another untrimmed.
The fourth test side of the core block was used as a "control". On this side I furred three small sections using core fiber, then Merino fiber and Silk fibers using regular needles. The fur covers the surface well, and withstood a simple tug test. I do have to add that when I fur with regular needles I do so at an angle, not straight up and down as I used the reverse needles on the other sides of the core block. I will return to this subject the angle of the needle a little later.
Next I created a block of pink Merino fiber and repeated the up and down poke experiments with the reverse needles. The results were similar to those of the core block. Sparse fiber being pulled out, insufficient to create the look of fur and weak against a simple tug test.
Last I created a block of Corriedale fiber. This is not a fiber I use often, but is very popular among needle felters so I felt it should be included in the tests. Unlike the previous tests, on the Corriedale block I poked at an angle (not straight up and down). The fiber pulled to the surface was still sparse and insufficient for creating fur, but it withstood a tug test better than the tests on the previous two blocks.
Using the reverse/inverted barbed needles at an angle produces results more resistant to a tug test.
It takes a lot more effort (pokes) with these reverse barbed needles to produce poorer results than if an object is furred with regular needles. Pulling fiber OUT of an object reduces its firmness - probably not significantly depending on how many pokes you do.
These needles might be useful for a transition between a non-furred area and an area furred with regular needles. The may also be useful for creating a fine peachfuzz appearance. I read somewhere that the fiber pulled out with these needles is given a slight curl. That may be true, but I see no way that the user can control the amount of curl produced. They may be useful for reducing the firmness of an object that has been felted too firmly, but I haven't actually tested that.
I personally am not very impressed with these needles. I don't see them as really useful tools. I didn't witness any results that couldn't be reproduced more easily and with better control and integrity with regular felting needles. I may do more experiments with these needles and if I learn anything new or change my opinion, I will let you know.