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Topic: Tutorial: Basic needle-felting overview  (Read 52465 times)
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GraceOblivious
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« on: September 01, 2005 01:54:22 AM »

Needling for Newbies - a  tutorial for craftsters goofy enough to use wicked sharp barbed needles to create soft lovely felted stuff

Needle felting is relatively easy and many people can achieve a nice product.  There is a risk of injury to self or others as the needles are long, barbed and extremely sharp.  Plus the needle is jabbed into the work near holding fingers.

It is extremely important to identify a quiet work space where one can focus and remain attentive while felting.  Being bashed with a ball, bumped by someone roughhousing, or having a young child or pet grab the needle can lead to disaster.

***note to youngest craftsters***  You are welcome here as long as you use responsible judgment in the use  of felting needles, if you are allowed to use a steam iron without supervision,  can handle a sewing needle without loosing it on the floor, are good about putting away tools you most likely can manage a felting needle.  You know your parents, follow their guidelines and ask/share what you are doing with them. 

First step - Identify a safe work area and storage area.

Second step - gather supplies - felting needles, wool fiber, foam cushion/pillow for work surface


stop here if you like it brief , and commence poking the wool
- if you want details - lots of details continue reading :-)

Felting needles - to start one will do but two is grand



  look for

38 gauge -- the workhorse -- bigger of the two (needles get smaller in diameter as the number gets bigger)

40 gauge -- the finisher -- takes forever to make a project with this fine needle, however it leaves a smoother surface- so great to use at the end to finish the project

WARNING********Store felting needles with care and out of reach of young children.  The needles are loooong, barbed and extremely sharp - will really tear flesh.   Kind of like a multi fanged fish hook without the bend.  My preference is to store felting needles with the tip covered or with the tip stuck  in a wool ball  in a closed box or canister.

Felting needles are fairly brittle.  Needles break easily if twisted when poking into the felting piece or if hit on a solid object -like the table top.  Hence the foam work top. 

Some people find the skinny needle tops difficult to hold and make handles out of corks.  Personally, I use them as is when single needling.  For large jobs one can buy multi-needle  handles.  Mine is a nice turned wood one that holds 5 needles at a time for large projects (got it from Mielkes). 




Wool fiber for felting

Wool Batt and or wool roving



white is batt     red is romney roving     purple is merino superwash    blue is romney roving rolled in a ball (this is how it  is sold)  the red and purple have been pulled off into working lenghts.

Wool batt is lightly processed fleece - it has been washed and carded.  It is  rolled off the carding drum and packaged.  (Batts come in huge big rolls - are mostly used inside quilts and comforters, also for inside of futons, and for wet and dry felt making).

Usually wool batt felts really well, fairly quick,  and gives a firm tight felt

On the other hand it often has a  dull appearance and  the surface will frequently show obvious poke holes -- pitted appearance

Batt is a good filler - for center of 3D item and good mixer with other fibers.


Roving - the next step up the fiber chain.  Roving develops from a lengthy  carding  process; the drum keeps circling until the fibers  run straight  and lay in large wrist thick strands on the carding drum.   Roving is easier to handle and dye than batt, so you will find it in many colors.  Roving is used to spin yarn - so if you know a spinner find out where they get their roving or see if you can get some odds and ends of roving from them.

There are good felting rovings and poor felting rovings.  So ask  about the roving before buying. 

I often get romney roving from Mielke Fiber Art Farms.  These felt firmly with medium level of effort, they work fairly fast with the workhorse needle (38) and will look best if surface is finished with the smaller size  needle (40) especially if a smooth surface appearance is desired. 

For beginners avoid superwash roving -
I know because this is what is available in my town - I was so excited roving was locally available- alas- It turns out it has been treated with a process called superwash to make it washable and keep it from shrinking.  The spinners like it, because they can spin it easily and then when they knit things, the item can  be laundered easily with no shrinking.  However, the superwash calms down the natural scales on the shafts and those scales are what make the wool fiber felt well.

Wool Yarn


Wool yarn will be used for details, wrapping, etc.  Felting is a great way to use up scraps and bits.  Tapestry yarn, Needle point yarn, Crewel yarn -- look for 100% wool


Foam cushion or pillow for work surface



At least 1 inch thick, 2 inches is better.  Identify a work space at a table with plenty of room for the cushion on top of the table.  Working a project in your lap - even over a cushion can be risky -  it is way too easy to poke thighs, tummy, and various tender body parts.






Resources:
Definition of carding, roving and picture of carding drum
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carding

Ayala Talpai  "The Felting Needle:  from Factory to Fantasy,  second ed 2001; published by Diligence Woodwork & Design,   ISBN # 0-9706453-0-9

Anne Einset Vickrey,  "Needle Felting: Art Techniques and Projects", published by Craft Works Pub. 2002  (www.feltcrafts.com)  ISBN 0-9619053-2-8

http://www.mielkesfarm.com/flt_ndls.htm   (info about needles, etc - an internet store) there are many others as well, this is the one I happen to use most

If you have other resources to recommend let me know and I'll add them to this list. 
« Last Edit: October 27, 2006 07:26:45 AM by Jane Doe » THIS ROCKS   Logged

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GraceOblivious
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« Reply #1 on: September 02, 2005 07:31:22 AM »

Lets start needling --- Make a needle felt ball - to store your needles or to use as a bead.



Step 3 ------  Organize your tools and fibers

Step 4 ------  Start needling


A good first project for both getting the feel of the needle, the fiber and developing your needle style is making a ball.  One with a final  size of a ping pong or golf ball, or at least a big shooter marble. 

I know, I know it isnt flat - but still it is the place to begin, you will spring on to flat and to 3D easily after making a ball.

Needle felting a Ball


Pinch a bit of fiber into a wad, needle it some,  add more fiber - I like to roll a pencil size strand around the core then wrap it with wool yarn* (- needle all around until fairly smooth ball - roll the ball between your palms to get a feel of firmness and to help round out the ball -  keep alternating fiber addition and needling until the ball is the size you desire. 

Needle pokes do not need to be hard,  and only need to go in 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch into the piece you are felting - just enough to have the barbs tangle and agitate the fibers. 

Effective needle pokes go  in and out at the same angle, no J hooks or twisty movement.  This straight needle use will give the best results and put less strain on the needle -- hence longer lasting needles and less breakage.

The fiber will felt in the direction of the poke -
if pokes are repeated in one place, a cavity or depression will develop;
if pokes are repeated up and down a line a valley or indentation along the line will occur;
random light pokes all over the surface will produce a drawing-in and overall tightening. 

If there are hills on the ball surface- poke about on the hill until it is reduced to same height as the rest of the ball surface.

*Learned basic ball with wrapped yarn in Ayala Talpu  "The Felting Needle:  from Factory to Fantasy
She suggests using the ball to store felting needles - so you have lovely cushion for the sharp ends.

OK that's it for those who want the short version (Sorry thats as short as I could get) :-)

For those who like more detail - read on

Needle felting a Ball

Step 3 - organizing - the details

Pull out your tool tray - Here is mine.


 Using this tray has helped me keep the sharps together and to put them away again.  Just in case littles or pets find their way into my studio, there are no barbed needles left out.

Lay fibers out on your foam cushion. Always separate the fibers from a larger hunk by pulling. With one hand on each side gently pull the fiber off the roll of batt  or the roving rope--- DO NOT CUT the fibers.
 




Here you see  three hunks of basic felting fiber -- my plan was to make a ball with each to get the feel of the different types of fiber.  White is generic wool batt, Red is Romney,  Purple is Merino Superwash.  If you have different types of fiber this is a good way to get a feel for them and how they felt.  Knowing that helps you choose fiber for specific projects and also knowing how each behaves under the needle can help you in making mixes.

Wool yarn scraps are at the side.


If you have wool batt - start with that as it is usually the easiest to handle.
 
Pinch a bit of fiber off the hunk and press it into a wad about the size of a large pea or a bit larger.


 needle it some, just to get a core and round shape started - it does not need to be real firm.



This is how I hold the single needle -

try this and try other ways too.  You want a grip that works for you.  Effective needle pokes go  in and out at the same angle, no J hooks or twisty movement.  This straight needle use will give the best results and put less strain on the needle -- hence longer lasting needles and less breakage.  For me this hold makes the needle an extension of my finger and is the way I can best get the straight in and out movement.

 add more fiber - I like to roll a pencil size strand around the core then wrap it with wool yarn* (- needle all around until the surface is fairly smooth and round -

Needle pokes do not need to be hard,  and only need to go in 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch into the piece you are felting - just enough to have the barbs tangle and agitate the fibers. 


The fiber will felt in the direction of the poke -
if pokes are repeated in one place, a cavity or depression will develop;
if pokes are repeated up and down a line a valley or indentation along the line will occur;
random light pokes all over the surface will produce a drawing-in and overall tightening. 


If there are hills on the ball surface- poke about on the hill until it is reduced to same height as the rest of the ball surface.



Roll the ball between your palms to get a feel of firmness and to help round out the ball -  (sorry no photo of this.)
Needle some more.


Keep alternating fiber addition and needling until the ball is the size you desire.  It should be firm but not rock hard.  When you squeeze it the ball should squish uniformly - not have a soft spot-  if it is too squishy or has soft areas, needle it more.  You can fill in valleys by adding a few wisps of fiber and needling it into that spot. Leave the ends of the fill fiber wispy and needle them into the ball surface around the valley, leaving most of the fiber fill in the valley - this gives a better adherence of the added bits and leaves a smoother surface.  If you roll the fiber in a little ball and just poke it into the valley it will look like an addition with demarcated edges around the fill.


Move on to another fiber type and see how it reacts to the process.  With the roving, I found it was easier to start the ball by tying a knot in the center of a pencil thin length of the roving, wrapping the edges around  the knot and needling it.  Then added more roving, wrapped it with yarn, needled, rolled in hand --- and repeated that 3 or so times. 

The red romney roving took a bit longer (more needle pokes) to become firm, but was easy to handle and manage.  To make it more decorative, on the last wrap with the yarn, swirl the yarn around the firmed ball and needle the yarn in place.  Also, if you want it to sit flat, focus needling in one area - about the size of a dime and needle until flat.  A decorated ball like this, but left in the round, would  make a nice bead for a necklace or to use on a zipper pull.  Just take a length of yarn or ribbon on a large needle and run it through the ball.

The purple merino superwash roving was a bit of a challenge.  It was slick and slippery - took lots more needling- definitely needed the knot to start.  I found that twisting the yarn and roving together helped some. 

When rolling the ball to round the shape - it flew out of my hands and I chased it about the floor numerous times.  However, it did eventually become a nice looking ball.  But much squishier and less firm and durable than the other two.  I think it would fray with use - so not a very good bead or needle holder, but pretty and would be good for use in a 3D sculpture that could just set and be admired.


*Learned basic ball with wrapped yarn in Ayala Talpai (2000)  "The Felting Needle:  from Factory to Fantasy" p 19   http://www.fiberfanatics.com/
She suggests using the ball to store felting needles - so you have a lovely cushion for the sharp ends. 

Thanks and Enjoy!!!!!
« Last Edit: December 17, 2005 02:58:02 PM by GraceOblivious » THIS ROCKS   Logged

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mayerlove
« Reply #2 on: September 02, 2005 12:01:42 PM »

i have a ball almost done using the generic white batt because i got my supplies today! thanks. i think i'm already addicted.... Wink
« Last Edit: September 02, 2005 09:33:12 PM by jm2luver21 » THIS ROCKS   Logged

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corduroy cat
« Reply #3 on: September 02, 2005 04:40:32 PM »

nice tutorial! you should add the word 'tutorial' in the subject line of this thread so people can find it easier! Wink
i have only been felting for about 5 months, but i'm addicted and trying to learn all i can. i started out by trying to wet felt beads based on the tutorial here on craftster, then saw what the needlers were doing and decided to try my hand at that. i'm much more confident with the needle felting than i was with the wet method. i dig making little creatures and such cause i can't sew them. Smiley
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jelly
« Reply #4 on: September 05, 2005 12:10:49 PM »

Just wanted to say thanks for the tutorials!  I haven't started needle felting yet, but plan on it soon.  I live next door to a sheep farm, so I might  be going on a midnight raid soon to shave me a sheep!!  Smiley

J
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« Reply #5 on: November 07, 2005 09:35:27 AM »

Hello everybody! I'm pretty new to craftster but I'm already addicted.  Grin

I do have a couple of felting questions and it might be a bit silly. I did my first felted piece yesterday and I was wondering when you know to stop poking it! I just kept going and going and going...

2. Is it normal to have tiny little fly away fibres that you can only see if you squint and hold it up close? Or should it be fairly smooth?

3. Does it matter how you arrange the roving before you start jabbing at it? If you just want to make a uniform bunch?

Thanks! I appreciate your opinions!
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« Reply #6 on: November 07, 2005 09:42:05 AM »

bookmarking this. I really can't afford to take up another craft but what the heck!
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« Reply #7 on: November 07, 2005 10:04:43 AM »

Hello everybody! I'm pretty new to craftster but I'm already addicted.  Grin

I do have a couple of felting questions and it might be a bit silly.

Thanks! I appreciate your opinions!

Welcome, we love new felters and also love to see your work.

Quote
I did my first felted piece yesterday and I was wondering when you know to stop poking it! I just kept going and going and going..
this is the neat thing....... it is done when YOU decide it is done.  You may want a soft piece that is light and airy and only gently felted, you may want a firm, dense, heavy piece.  If you look at a variety of needle felted pieces by a variety of people you will see this "artistic license" in play.  Oh, you can also do both in one piece, perhaps a lion face - the face may be dense and firm, the mane may be light to wispy.

Quote
2. Is it normal to have tiny little fly away fibres that you can only see if you squint and hold it up close? Or should it be fairly smooth?
Usually needle felt has a bit of a hairy surface-  depends on the fiber - how thick, how long, amount of scales on the shaft. degree of crimp or wavyness.  If you have to hold it up close to see them, I'd guess you made a dense firm piece.  Sometimes going to a smaller needle for finishing will give a  smoother piece,  Some fiber shows needle pokes or looks pockmarked - if you don't want that go to a size 40 needle to finish the surface. 

Quote
3. Does it matter how you arrange the roving before you start jabbing at it? If you just want to make a uniform bunch?

Again it can vary with the fiber as well as whether you use batt or roving.  The layering so fibers cross helps to get a more uniform felt for a flat piece.  The top layer will often show direction of fiber so again depends on what you want the piece to look like.  Try something with it done each way and see what you like.

The key, at least to me, is figuring out what you want from the piece; and then working the piece to that performance level.  I often do a small project to get the feel of particular fleece/fiber before deciding how to approach a larger project.  Sometimes, this tells me to try different fiber or to blend fibers to get the desired result. 

Hope that helps.
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infeatheredeyes
« Reply #8 on: December 28, 2005 05:33:51 PM »

alright, i've found myself a new hobby...
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« Reply #9 on: December 28, 2005 07:41:46 PM »

Welcome, infeatheredeyes!  We will be starting a needle feltalong in Jan so gather your supplies and join the fun.
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« Reply #10 on: July 05, 2006 01:12:09 PM »

grace, this is an awesome tute!
i just felted my first soap!!!  dont tell tho' its for a swap!  will post pics after she recieves!

i think i found a new crafty past time...(like i need another one!!!!)
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« Reply #11 on: July 06, 2006 08:34:00 AM »

Taloola, thank you so much!
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avsceriline
« Reply #12 on: July 06, 2006 11:32:59 AM »

I second the sentiments of the fabulous tatoola...

Fantastic tute! I've learned myself (thanks to the generosity of batgirl in the ongoing wish swaps), and now I'm usiung your tutorial to teach my mom! I think the student might surpass the teacher, though...  Wink

Great job!
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« Reply #13 on: July 07, 2006 05:19:43 AM »

grace you should write a book! Wink
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« Reply #14 on: December 11, 2006 01:31:58 PM »

Thanks SO much for this tutorial...I just made a bead and I love it!  You've SAVED me for Christmas presents.  Smiley  I'm on to my next project and then I'll post pic's. 
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kellymrocket
« Reply #15 on: June 03, 2007 04:58:28 PM »

Is there some other, cheaper surface I can use to needle felt?  I can't find large pieces of foam where I live and the brush-thing used in olden days looks creepy.  Please advise.
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« Reply #16 on: June 04, 2007 09:34:28 AM »

Is there some other, cheaper surface I can use to needle felt?  I can't find large pieces of foam where I live and the brush-thing used in olden days looks creepy.  Please advise.

You just need something to protect your surface and your needles from breaking.  What is nice about the foam is that the needles don't stick to it and it protects your legs or your tables and the needles. 

I'm not sure what you're making but you could also use finger protecters ( a leather glove) and hold up the felt while poking and you wouldn't need anything at all.  If you get anything in the mail with foam in it, that foam is fine too.   Just NO natural fibers or the needles will felt those too.  You might be making a bigger deal out of the foam than it really is...I got EVERYTHING for $20.00 and I'm still using the original roving I got with that so it doesn't have to be expensive.
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« Reply #17 on: June 04, 2007 10:06:11 AM »

Great ideas Kikigirl.  An old pillow - especially a foam pillow or a foam pillow form also works.  Look in thrift shops too, once found a nice sheet of 1inch foam several yards long for a couple of dollars.

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enakitty
« Reply #18 on: January 22, 2008 05:22:57 PM »

oh my gosh!
thank you!
i just got a little needle felting kit in the mail as i've been wanting to try it for ages

this info seems so thorough and easy to follow!
smooches!
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Madelynnnn
« Reply #19 on: October 13, 2009 01:02:11 PM »

I just joined craftster and I had always wondered abut felting so I searched for it and found this. You have inspired me! This is an amazing tute. After reading it I went out and bought felting needles.  I had left over roving from trying my hand at spinning which I am now revisting. I followed this tute and made the "needle cushion". It was so much fun for me and I only poked myself once! haha I found my local fiber store and I am stopping in there tomorrow to pick up some colorful roving...I am so excited to try different things! Thanks again!  Cheesy
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« Reply #20 on: October 18, 2009 05:19:15 AM »

Oh wow, had almost forgotten about this.  Have been MIA for some time.  Just now getting back and catching up.

Madelynnnn, so glad you found this and found it inspiring.  Hope you too continue to enjoy needle felting.  It has taken me many places and led to many things.
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« Reply #21 on: October 27, 2009 01:08:16 AM »

Hi Grace!
Good to see you around  Smiley
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Len
« Reply #22 on: December 05, 2010 11:03:41 AM »

Thank you! Your tutorial is great!
After stabbing my fingers an embarrassing number of times, I finally got to make a ball! Well, almost. It's still sort of mushy but it definitely looks like a ball.  Grin Grin Grin
I'll keep trying! Grin
Thanks again  
« Last Edit: December 05, 2010 11:09:10 AM by Len » THIS ROCKS   Logged
Holy_Sock
« Reply #23 on: January 26, 2011 07:53:46 PM »

Thanks very much for this tutorial - I'm almost done making my acorn needle holder (my ball evolved as my projects usually do Tongue) I'll be posting it soon <3
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« Reply #24 on: May 16, 2011 10:23:08 PM »

This is such a wonderful tutorial! I just found a shop in my town that carries supplies, and depending on price, and if i do my homework tonight, I'm totally starting my ball tomorrow. This is such a fascinating art.
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