What Tools & Materials Do I Need to Start Needle Felting?
by Zee Kesler
Felting Tools & Materials List for Felting
The right tools are materials are an important first step in your new felting hobby!
There are so many felting tools out there. To start, don't worry about having everything out there, just focus on the basics: needles, wool and a felting surface.
Firstly, What is Felting?
Needle felting involves using a sharp barbed needle to sculpt and shape wool roving into 3D shapes like animals, landscapes, food, or even masks or clothing. Many people we’ve taught to felt at workshops at schools, libraries and event comment on how easy and stress relieving it is! A little stabbing can really get the stress out; hence why teachers seem to love felting so much!
About Wool: Scales
Pictured above is a selection of fibres under a microscope. As you can see, the fibres on the left there have more lines; these lines are called 'scales'. As you look to the right of the image, you'll see the fibres are sleeker and have less scales. When we felt, we want to choose a fibre with more scales, because the scales get caught on the felting needle(in the case of needle felting), or get agitated and get caught on other fibres (in the case of wet felting). This causes the fibres to tangle and matte, which makes the wool become more dense. By using a felting needle, you can control the shape of the wool as it mattes and becomes more dense, so it becomes a sushi roll, a mask, or a spider for example!
Felting needles are used for needle felting and come in many gauges; typically a felter would use a range of 32-40g needles Which gauge you use depends on the type of wool you are felting. Common types of felting needles include triangular, star, spiral and reverse. You definitely do not need all these types of felting needles to start felting.
At the Magic Trout Imaginarium we sell 36-40g g needles because they are great for beginners; they felt fast for instant results. A 36 g needle will work for some details, but if you find yourself becoming an expert(which can happen very quickly) and you are doing custom work for customers, many people will graduate to trying out different types of needles or use multi needle tools.
How Do Felting Needles Work?
Felting needles are long metal needles about 3” long with a 90 degree hook on one end and very small barbs near the opposite pointed end. Since felting needles were originally created for industrial felting machines, the hook is used to insert the needle into the machine. The barbs on the pointed end are designed to catch on the scales of the wool to tangle and pull in wool fibres as the needle stabs in (in the cases of reversed needles, when you pull out as well). This direct stabbing and tangling causes the wool to start to become sculpted into 3D shapes.
Wool refers to the fibres that grow on a sheep, goat, alpaca or similar animal that doesn’t shed. Animals like sheep, are shaved regularly for health reasons, so the use of wool in textiles started as a natural way to maintain the health of the animal while making use of waste for crafts, clothing, batting and insulation.
In needle felting, it is best to use wool that catches easily on felting needles. One common type of wool used are Corriedale wool(which we sell in our shop) but other coarse wools will work well for needle felting as well as wet felting.
Merino wool also works well for wet felting if you want to make clothing because it is a bit less scratchy on the skin than Corriedale wool.
A good felting surface is and important materials you'll need to start felting. There are many options for needle felting blocks. It all depends on how much money you want to spend, and how often you will be using it. It also matters how much you care about the environment.
Announcing our newest product! These reusable felting bags use natural fibres in their creation: jute! To use it as your felting surface, just fill it with 4-5 cups of dried lentils, soy beans, chick peas, rice or similar. Save the earth while creating curious creations!
Ready to Start Felting?
Learn more about why wool is so awesome.