So You Want to Needle-Felt
Yay! I’m so happy you want to learn this art form. You’re going to love it! The soft textures, the repetitive motion that‘s almost meditative, the way the fibers blend together under your fingertips, all immediately captivated me. But it hasn't come without its set backs! I’m going to share my face-palm cringe-worthy moments with you in hopes you’ll find the joy in needle-felting without any added frustration.
My first experience needle-felting was at a workshop and I was so enamored by the pile of colorful fiber on the table in front of me, and so excited to get to work, that I picked up my needle and some wool and promptly stabbed myself. Yes, it hurts. And yes, you’ll probably stab yourself at some point, too. Or break a needle! No, you’ll definitely break a needle, maybe several! I have broken all five needles in my multi-needle tool at once. So here are my best tips to avoid the above and start your felting journey off on the right foot!
Take your time.
We are not going for maximum stabs per second, here. A multi-needle tool will speed up the process. Or after you feel comfortable holding your needle, you can hold two at once to punch in your wool. But be deliberate. Punching fast could cause you to stab yourself as you’re holding down the fiber. It could also cause you to punch too close to the edge of your foam or needle-felting mat, bend the needle, and break it. So be the tortoise and take your time.
Use a light touch.
Look closely at your barbed needle. Turn it slowly in the light. See those little grooves? Those are the barbs, and they are going to entangle the fibers of the wool with the fibers of your felt or fabric background to create your felted picture. They don’t go very far up the needle, so you don’t need to punch it in deeply. Hold it vertically, use a light, gentle touch and you’ll get the same results as if you used your full force. Without all the violence!
Only use what you need.
One thing I love about wool as an art medium is that I can tell exactly how much I need, and nothing goes to waste. By setting the wool down on your picture before punching it in, you can tell if it’s enough to get your desired effect. Maybe you need it a little thicker to cover the background color completely, or maybe you want a thin layer to blend colors. You can tear off more, or put some back easily. I save all my extra bits that are too tiny or mixed up to put back with the original color. When I need a perfect blend, or a tiny bit of a color, I can go to my “extras” pile and find it. My frugal self appreciates this craft immensely. Added bonus for its sustainability!
I hope these tips help you feel a little more confident and ready to dive into needle-felting! Shoot me an e-mail any time with questions. I sincerely hope you find as much joy and satisfaction as I do in creating art from the simple, natural material of wool, and enjoy discovering its versatility for yourself!