Felting Tips
Here's your chance to get some free project
advice!  Just click on  
"Contact Me" and describe
your needle felting question or problem.  I'll
answer your question in a private email and also
share the answers here on this page, so other
felters can pick up a few tips as well.  Anything is
fair game, from suggestions on how to engineer a
project to what types of wool to use.
About Needling:

1.  Felting needles are brittle and can easily break when bent.  Always poke and pull the
needle at the same angle.   Never twist or bend your needle while felting.  If you should
ever break a needle be sure to locate the tip that has broken off - they are very sharp and
could lead to an injury if left lodged in your piece or lying on the ground.  


About Buying Wool:

1.  Most wool that is available commercially, either on-line or in local spinning/yarn
shops are meant for folks who like to spin wool into yarn, with the idea of the final
product being something you can knit and, probably, wear as a garment.  Thus, most
available wool is of a VERY soft, silky sheep breed known as Merino.  Merino wool works
great for spinning, and even for wet felting.  But for needle felting a coarser, scratchier
wool actually works best.  The barbs on the felting needle need a lot of scales on the
individual fiber strands in order to have something to grab, and entangle.  Which is how
you can get your wool sculpted, shaped and hardened.

The wool I sell in my shop (Sage Dream Design.com) is a favorite sheep breed called
Romney.  It's coarseness lends itself to quick felting.  Of course, I wouldn't want to wear a
sweater made of it but then again, I have no plans to needle felt sweaters!

2.  If you are buying on-line and can't feel the wool for yourself, you can always ask the
seller to describe the wool to you by comparing it to Merino or Romney, or asking if it's
soft enough to wear as a sweater.

3.  I do use a wool commonly referred to as Corriedale for a lot of my fine detailing work.  
But it tends to show the needle holes and so I reserve it for small areas.


About Buying Needles and Tools:

1.  You could likely live your whole life using just a 38 triangle felting needle and be
perfectly happy, if you've got a nice, coarse wool.

2.  If you've got some silkier, finer wool, like Corriedale or Merino, then it would behoove
you to have a finer gauge needle, as in a 40 triangle size.  Using the finer tipped needle
will cause your piece to felt more quickly (the needle barbs are spaced closer to the tip of
the needle than on a 38 gauge) and the size of your needle hole will be much smaller.  
Meaning, you won't have unsightly, gaping needle holes in your project!

3.  If you love to work on miniature sized pieces, like tiny teddies, for instance.  Then you
don't need anything other than a single felting needle -- maybe one 38 triangle and one
40 triangle.  

4.  If you want to work on larger scale items, say beyond 4-inch diameter or height, then
tools can make a big difference in the speed at which you can work.  A 2-needle tool works
great for smaller areas, and a 6-needle tool is great for larger areas.  I use a 2-needle tool
for shaping my dolls and the bark on my trees.  I use a 6-needle tool for making my
playscape bottoms and things like giant mushrooms, caves and tree trunks.

5.  If you're a very part-time hobbyist or a beginner who isn't sure what you want to
make, then the purchase of tools can be an unnecessary expense.  You can do quite a lot
with just a single needle.  It just takes more time and patience.

Individual needle sets and 2 tool sizes are available on the "Supplies" page of Sage
Dream Design.com.


About Handling Wool:

1.  As a general rule, do not cut wool with scissors – cut wool is difficult to felt.  To
separate out pieces of wool to use simply grasp a strip or section of wool between your two
hands and gently pull apart.  If the wool is not separating easily than slide your hands
further apart and pull.

2.  Most purchased wool (and all wool bought from Sage Dream Design.com) has been
combed (“carded”) by a machine that makes a lot of the fibers run in one direction,
creating a grain.  To separate the wool, pull it apart widthwise, not lengthwise, along the
grain.

3.  Do not fold or twist the wool as you lay it out on your work surface or as you wrap a
wire armature. Folding and twisting make it difficult to create a smooth, even felted
surface and twisting, in particular, makes the wool much more difficult to felt.  Wool will
always felt more easily and quickly if you think in terms of “opening” up the fibers to
expose as much surface area as possible.  

4.  Wool grows AND shrinks while being needle felted.  You are starting work with fluffy,
airy wool.  As you poke it with the needles you start to compress all these fibers, thereby
making your fluff into something more dense and compact.  But at the same time
compressing these fibers tends to cause a “pancake batter” effect – your piece will start to
lengthen and flow outward.  Flattening and lengthening seem to go hand in hand.  Thus,
if you are working on a mat or with a pattern you want to leave a little bit of room for
your piece to expand/lengthen while also remembering that your piece will flatten and
not be as thick once you start the felting.

5.  Overfelting.  Don’t let this happen to you!  Any time you need to attach two felted
pieces of wool together they need to have some fluff of fiber available to felt.  Wool fiber
has tiny scales all over its surface.  The entanglement of these scales by the barbed
felting needle is what causes your wool to felt together.  If you felt the pieces too
thoroughly they will be unable to join together since all of the scales of the wool fiber will
already be entangled with each other, leaving insufficient scales available for the joining
process.  If you ever have difficulty attaching overly felted pieces together, try sticking a
bit of fluffy, unfelted wool in between the two pieces to give them something to grab on to,
sort of like a wool “glue.”

6.  Doneness.  How do you know when you've needle something long enough?  Well, that
depends on the purpose/function of the finished piece.  If it is going to be a child's toy,
especially a young child, then you want your finished piece to be very firmly felted.  
Rubbing your hand across the surface of the piece you should not be able to move or
disturb any of the fibers.  And, ideally, you shouldn't be able to leave an indentation if
you press on the piece with your thumb.  Of course, this is in a perfect world of a LOT of
time spent poking (which is how I do my toys).  You can still get your finished piece to
stand up to child's play if you work it less than perfect, but the closer to really firm you
get the better it will be for durability.

If your finished piece is meant to be a striking wall hanging for your living room than
you don't need to poke it as thoroughly as you would something that is going to be
handled regularly.  Poke the piece enough that your fibers don't easily move around and
enough that you like the look of the surface area (i.e. really fuzzy and fluffy or really
smooth and tight) and you'll probably be happy forever with your piece.
Sage Dream Design
 

1.  Felting needles are not merely long, rusty-looking sewing
force at which they are used can create an injury far greater
than that with the usual use of a sewing needle.  GREAT
CARE should be used by people of ALL ages while needle
felting.  While children (even the very young) certainly
possess the motor skills to use a felting needle, they lack the
consciousness to always keep the needle away from their free
hand to avoid being poked or stabbed as they work.  

2.  Keep your fingers out of harm’s way.  When felting
ALWAYS place your work on a foam board or other similar
work surface and poke toward the board, never toward the
free hand that is holding the piece steady.  DO NOT hold your
work in the air and attempt to felt that way.  This will lead to
stabbing yourself.