There are so many options and variations when it comes down to felting surfaces. The function… to protect your work area and your needles from damage.
SPONGE OR FOAM:
A good place to start on a sponge or foam block (I’ve even used a dishwashing sponge w
hen desperate) it is probably the most common surface provided with kits, and many will have something in their house they can utilise.
I did find that sponge/foam breaks up very quickly, you can slow it down by placing a fabric on top but no matter how carefully you work, there is nothing more annoying than finding tiny bits of sponge in your work.
This works in a unique way, and although it takes a while to get used to it holds the felt in place while you work with the needle. This surface is not my ‘go to’ choice of surface.
RICE FILLED BAG.
I transferred quite quickly to a hessian “bag” filled with dry rice. This works well, and allows you to shape the bag with your fingers making little troughs or hills with the rice to help you work shapes. The fabric surface does eventually break up and the rice leaks out, which can give you some disconcerting moments when you spot a couple of rice grains on the floor out of the corner of your eye… but it is easy to repair by stitching on a fabric patch.
I now have several of these home made “bags” in different sizes using fabrics such as hessian, calico or cotton some are filled with rice and some are filled with buckwheat husk. The buckwheat husk is quite expensive but is much lighter to move around, and doesn’t attract pests (no calorific value apparently).
Here is my original “bench” I used to carry this wherever I thought I might have time to do some felting. Although it was quite heavy with all that rice in there!
HARD FELTED BLOCKS:
The latest experiment is to heavily felt some blocks from core wool, or polyfibre batting,( I haven’t tested the polyfibre as much as the core wool) then use a cover of loose weave cotton on the surface, (I just use a couple of T pins to keep the fabric in place) The cotton surface is relatively easy to remove stray fibres from and doesn’t “hole” and need parching as much as when using the rice filled bag versions.
These work well for fine flat (ish) items such as ears or feathers. I should imagine they would work well for 2D work too although I haven’t tested that theory as yet. They are also very portable, light to carry I have to admit I do love working on this surface.