Get ready to grab some needle felting supplies. Needle felting is a way to make soft sculptured dolls and animals. The steps are easy. There are many different ways you can use wool to create felted projects. You can also try Nuno felting, wet felting, and even machine felting. Learning how to felt wool opens up many new craft ideas.
The Nuno Felting technique bonds wool onto a sheer fabric such as silk gauze, creating a lightweight, felted fabric. These creations are strikingly beautiful.
Wet felting, as the name suggests, uses hot water and friction to combine the wool fibers into a cloth or felted project. I have done wet felting by hand, using soap and water. One fun project to try is wrapping a bar of soap in a wool “sweater.” Simply wrap the wool batting around the bar of soap and rub and scrub in a bucket of warm water for a few minutes. The longer you rub, the better the felting. Change out the water if it gets cold and when the soap cover is completely felted tight, rinse under cool water until the soap is rinsed out. Now you have soap covered by its own “sweater” washcloth! For larger items, you can use a washing machine that lets you turn off the spin cycle.
Needle felting for sculptures is different. No water is necessary and the projects can be large or very small. Often an inexpensive core grade of wool is used to start the sculpture. Colored bits of roving are needle felted onto the core shape and sculpted with fine fiber needles. The dyed roving is used almost like paint, to create a lifelike sculpted figure. Each part of the figure is created by repeated stabbing into the shape with the felting needles. Pulling the loose fiber into the desired shape as you go, brings the figure to life.
Needle Felting Supplies
Small amounts of various colored roving or batting
Felting needles- Felting needles are extremely sharp and have sharp tiny barbs on the shaft that are hard to see. The barbs help pull the wool fibers together and create the felt. I recommend having a course work #36 a medium #38 and a fine #40 as a beginning selection.
Finger protectors designed for needle felting
Small embroidery scissors
Pointed stick to hold the creation and keep fingers out of the way
Doll making needles for fine holding
Felting pad, high-density foam pad
If you are raising sheep for wool, needle felting is a good craft to learn. You can use the small pieces of fleece that are too short to spin but can be carded into a batt.
How to Felt Wool Using Needle Felting Technique
Once you have your needle felting supplies gathered, find a comfortable space to sit. This isn’t a good craft to do on your lap. It’s easy to lose track of the needle and stab yourself! Work on a tray or table so that you are protected. I use the finger guards because, well, I have stabbed myself! And it always happens when you don’t have the guards on. Murphy’s Law of Needle Felting.
Take a small bit of fiber batting. I like to use the core fiber to get started on the body of my sculpture.
At this point, I am going to tell you that the animal I started out to make, is not what animal I ended up making. This often happens when I am free-form sculpting. As it turned out with this project, the core fiber was the right color for my sculpture so I did not have to cover the core fiber. There are kits and plenty of videos available if you want to be more precise. Can you guess at this point what I was going to end up making?
In the above picture, you can see the form is still rather fuzzy. This is controlled with a fine felting needle, such as a #40. I wait to do the final polishing until I have my creation almost finished.
At this point, I was sure I was making a duck. I wasn’t going for the realistic figure but saw it taking on a more comical look. The next steps were to create the different features of a duckling. Tufts of more core fiber were added to create wing shapes, bill, tail and finally the webbed feet.
At the end, two small bits of black fiber were added for eyes. Then I continued to sculpt and shape with a fine needle to clean it up a little. I think he is quite cute!
My little needle felted duckling stands about 3 inches tall and is approximately 4 inches long.
What Can I Make with Needle Felting Supplies?
Needle felting is a great method to use for making Christmas tree ornaments, package tie-ons, small dolls for children, decorative pieces and of course, just for fun! Needle felting is relaxing and lets your creativity come through. Try making a three-dimensional painting using needle felting supplies and sculpting. If you are raising sheep for wool or meat, use the wool from your animals to try needle felting. You might even be able to turn your art into a business. Small craft business ideas include selling supplies for needle felting, and kits that include material to make a sculpture. Teaching a class in needle felting is fun too, and will bring you in contact with other wool craftspeople from your area. Do you have needle felting supplies? Tell us about your needle felting projects in the comments below.