Felting Needles

Dry felting equipment
Wool and dry felting needles (thimble for size reference)

Amazing little tools, felting needles, so many different ones. I thought you might like a little information on them.

Sizes

Sizes are catalogued by different gauges, lower the number the thicker the needle and  higher the number the smaller and finer the needle.

Heavy gauge needle, you can see the barbs on this one clearly

The ones I’ve tried are 32 (for heavy fibres,)  to 46 (for fine fibres). They also come in different shapes; triangle, star, crown, spirals, reverse barb (and there has chance to be others I’ve not encountered as yet but no doubt I will discover more.

When deciding which gauge to use think the lower the number, the courser the wool, higher the number the finer the wool.

My favourites, the workhorses 38 triangle, 38 star, 38 spiral star. The fine workers 40 triangle, 40 spiral (leaves less holes than the previous) 42 and 46 for extra fine details with wool such as merino.

Sprial or twisted needles

Of course it’s important to understand that if you start your projects with a very fine needles, it’s going to take forever to felt, when starting with your project start with your largest needle then progressively work down to the finer ones.

Handling the needles and learning the way they interact with the wool is also important. So many starting out talk about how they break needle after needle, (some breakages are inevitable) but many can be avoided, and eventually you will start to recognise the warning signs that the needle is nearing breaking point or wearing down.

Thoughts

I remember visiting a large craft fair near me and someone was “demonstrating” needle felting. The sense of panic that almost overwhelmed me as I watched as she stabbed at the wool raising her needle high and bringing it down repeatedly with such violence, it took all of my strength not to call out “please NO not like that” … I had to look away, and just as I turned there was a shrill “ow owwww”. Oh dear!

Felting needles are such fragile but dangerous creatures. I know there are so many videos out there (video is usually speeded up) showing someone going at their project as though they had a motor in their hand. But gently pushing the needle into the wool repeatedly is the way forward, not trying to beat the wool into submission. You will get faster at pushing the needle.

However there has been times I must admit when I have been stressed, angry, etc I have been a little too ‘enthusiastic, taking my bad mood out on the project and the result a broken needle.  At best you can still see the broken tip and you can retrieve it. It may be embedded deep in your beautiful project which your going to have to spend ages digging that tip out or abandoning the project declaring it as being now unsafe for handling.  At worst its stuck painfully in your finger or its pinged off hiding itself somewhere, just waiting for an unsuspecting foot, arm or bum to find it (very painful far worse than a sewing needle)I’ve spent too many hours in the beginning, searching for needle tips with magnets, torches and vacuums miserable, stressful job….

Techniques:

The important technique to note is whatever angle you need to push the needle into the wool take it out at the same angle, no wiggling. You will begin to notice that if the needle is beginning to ‘stress’ it starts to bend slightly, that is a needle that is about to break not necessarily straight away but it will go. I always abandon bent needles, I’ve spent too many hours in the beginning, searching for needle tips with magnets, torches and vacuums miserable, stressful job….

You should hold the needle gently, there is no need for a death grip, this will only make your fingers and joints hurt … so soft grip.

Use the full range of the barbs on the needle when starting to felt these can perhaps be up to 2cms on the shaft, use all of them, it helps the wool felt faster and more deeply. The very fine needles only have barbs on their tips  and are used at the later stages tucking in and smoothing the surface fibres.

For smoothing the surface when near completion gently use the needle at a shallow angle, 45 degrees or less.. just remember whatever angle you insert the needle take it out at exactly the same angle.

PS it’s not good to try and needlefelt  whilst watching TV or if your tired, your fingers will not forgive you.

Needle Holders :

Felting needle holders, some are very useful of course an addict will have loads! I’ve bought them, made them discarded many (thrown some against a wall in frustration) but my favourites are here

left to right – clover needle holder, adapted pen, clover punch (5 needles) and a prym holder & needles.

Suppliers:

There are so many suppliers out there, and I have once resorted to buying from a none wool felt supplier (someone on eBay from China), it even arrived bent and it was in a protective case!!!! I will not be doing that again.

There is a link to some of the UK suppliers I use on the resources page .. I have bought different types from each supplier over the years (not that I use loads of needles) but as an addict I can bear to think I might run out of one of them…Oh dear I’ve just admitted I’m a felting addict

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