When you start shopping for your needle felting supplies, you’ll be entering into a world of fiber producers, processors and artisans of many different fiber arts.
The terminology is confusing so I’ve broken it down into terms that will be useful as you shop both online and at your local venues.Remember, there are no ‘rules’ in this fun, new craft.
This guide is based on my personal experiences and preferences. A varied needle felting stash is key to creativity and I hope this guide helps you learn what you are shopping for and why you need it.
where to find your needle felting supplies
Most of us aren’t lucky enough to find the supplies we need in our local shops so online shopping it is! The good news for Needle Felters is that needle felting is a new and growing industry and it seems there are new online suppliers popping up around the world every day.
Shop at Local Craft Stores, Artisan Fairs and Fiber Shows
Once you start needle felting you will find yourself drawn into such venues. Be prepared to be overwhelmed with the variety of breeds of sheep and fiber animals! Look for artisan fiber producers that make their own batts on small hand or electric carding machines – you might find batting from breeds of sheep like Shetland and Icelandic – both tend to be hairy but felt up fast and sturdy.
Let’s begin with wool and fiber for needlelting
Wool for Needle Felting
a perfect sculpting medium
Other Search Terms:
Batts – Batt – Carded Batt – Batting – Needle Felting Wool – Core Wool – Wool Batt – Carded Fleece – Carded Wool (card, carded, carding are fiber processing terms that refer to a brushing process) – Dyed Wool
Core Wool Batting
Core wool is simply wool batting used to needle felt the core parts of your creations – the parts that will never be seen. Typically it is lesser quality wool that has not been dyed. It may have a yellowish look or have a lot of vegetable matter (grass, hay and other small barnyard bits) but none of that matters!
How Much Wool Batting Do I Need?
not all wool is called roving!
Other Search Terms: Combed Top – Top – Sliver – Wool Roving
Common Animal/Breed-Specific Roving: Merino (sheep) – Corriedale (sheep) – Mohair (angora goat) – Alpaca
How Much Roving Do I Need?
If you aren’t sculpting with roving, your needs will be minimal. It is typically sold by the ounce. For hair for my creations I use about 1/4 oz or less, on average. For surface design, or blush and shading on dolls, tiny wisps go a very long way.
Roving is available at Felt Alive Needle Felting Supplies
Curls, Prefelt and Other Fiber
Curls & Locks
Other Search Terms:
Fleece – Curly Locks – Locks – Natural Wool – Scoured Fleece – Raw Fleece (unwashed)
Common Animal/Breed-Specific Curly Locks:
Wensleydale, Cotswold, Gotland (longwool sheep breeds) – Mohair (long, lustrous curls from Angora goats) – Alpaca (fine, wavy-straight locks)
That simply means it has not been cleaned – cleaning raw wool is a smelly and laborious process best left to professionals.
How Much Curly Locks Do I Need?
Of course that really depends on what you are making – a lifesize needle felted sasquatch covered in curly locks would require pounds of curls.
Other Search Terms:
Pre-felted Wool – Prefelt Sheets – Prefelt Batt – Pre-felted Batts – Merino Prefelt – Needlepunch Wool – Needle punched Batts
Common Animal/Breed-Specific Prefelt:
How Much Prefelt Do I Need?
It really depends! I can dress a doll in a suit with a 12″ sheet of prefelt.Make sure to save your scraps for surface design.
Yarn & Other Fiber
Other Search Terms:
Handspun (or Hand Spun) Yarn, Art Yarn, Bulky Yarn, Bulk Weight Yarn, Woolen Yarn, Thick & Thin Yarn, Lockspun (or Lock Spun) Yarn
Common Animal/Breed Specific Yarn:
Wool from countless different sheep breeds (Icelandic Wool makes coarse hairy yarn, Merino Wool yarn is baby soft) – Mohair (Angora Goats – very shiny fiber often found in lockspun yarn.)
I usually only use a few yards of yarn for hair for my little 3″ Fairies and snips and scraps are so perfect for embellishing the clothes of my dolls or anything else you can imagine.
A Final Word About Wool – VM (vegetable matter)
VM? Vegetable Matter?
The presence of bits of grasses, burrs, twigs, seeds and feed particles, collectively known as ‘vm’, goes with the territory when you craft with natural animal fiber. Feeding and grazing practices are why some wool has more vm than others.The more processing the fiber goes through to remove any reminders of where our raw material comes from, the less we are able to use it for sculptural needle felting.
For example; you won’t find much vm in merino roving because along with all the barnyard bits, the shorter fibers have all been removed during the combing process. We need some of those shorter fibers because they are what make the wool tangle and felt up fast.
VM in the wool doesn’t mean the wool is dirty – if the wool has been scoured in hot water baths, the vm has also been scoured and it’s just not a problem for me when I’m needle felting. Most bits either get buried in my projects or pop out as I’m felting.
You hear me talk a lot about felting needles in the videos. Because they are sharp and fragile, you’ll also learn how to safely use them.
This needle guide will help you understand them so you can shop for the tools you need with confidence.
Felting needles are made of steel with a barbed blade and an ‘L’ shaped end. They are manufactured for to fit into industrial felting machines for manufacturing non-woven materials. The blade end is the sharp part of the needle and the edges of the blades have the tiny barbs that do all of that tangling-into-felt business. Felting Needles come in a couple of standard lengths (between 3-4″ long) and many different shank size (gauge) and blade/barb configurations.Gauge – the most common gauges of felting needles used for needle felting are 36 gauge (coarse) 38 gauge (medium) 40 gauge (fine) . The heavier the gauge, the more difficult it is to pierce into your felting projects.
More About the Sharp End of the Needles!
Triangle Blade ‘t’ Felting Needles
Triangle or ‘t’ blades are the most common blade type you will see. The working blade has three barbed edges.Common ‘t’ blade felting needles:40 t – For all purpose felting of most wool batting, a 40t felting needle is a great choice that is readily available from most suppliers. It’s my favorite gauge for speedy, efficient felting of most types of fiber. It is a fine gauge needle that glides into wool with very little effort while the barbs do a great job grabbing and tangling the fiber.36 t – A coarse felting needle that works for heavy-duty jobs like attaching needle felted parts together. It is a great choice for attaching hair deeply into your project and for needle felting through heavy fabric.42 t – A very fine needle with shallower barb depth. This gentle felter is perfect for finishing your projects or for adding delicate details to eyes or for shading. The fine gauge and shallow barbs leave much smaller holes behind and doesn’t felt down your project quickly, making it perfect for surface design and finishing.
Star Blade ‘star’ Felting Needles:
The working blade of a star needle has four barbed edges. With more blade edges and more barbs, some needle felters prefer star blade needles for speed and durability over triangle blade needles. I find they don’t glide through the wool as easily as the triangle blades, making me work a little harder. They are bit sturdier and don’t seem to leave as large of holes behind as the triangle blade needle due to their shallower barb depth, Star needles help fill in needle holes left from the triangle blade felting process.Common Star Blade Felting Needles:The most common is the 38 star – While some needle felters prefer a 38 star felting needle for their all-purpose felting, I find the extra blades and barbs make it superb for finishing the surface of hairy or coarse wool.A 40 star has a short working blade that is much less flexible than most other needles I’ve tried. I think it is perfect for beginner needle felters or for those who tend to break a lot of needles. It is my ‘go to’ needle when needle felting with kids.
There are also specialty felting needles that are rather new to the needle felting scene –
Reverse Barb Felting Needles – the barbs don’t snag the fiber when it pierces into the wool, instead they grab the fiber when the needle is pulled out, pulling loose fiber to the surface. Fun for playing with layers of colors and for surface design.
Twist or Spiral Blade Felting Needles. I’ve found these to be useful, much like a star blade, for surface design and finishing because they tend to fill in visible holes left from all-purpose felting.
Words of FELTING NEEDLE Wisdom
Felting needles are sharp and this guide to felting needles wouldn’t be complete if it didn’t include this reminder – Needle Felting is NOT a Blood Sport – I know that sounds bad but PLEASE trust me when I say that just because the needles can pierce into your skin, doesn’t mean they should.
Other Supplies for Your Needle Felting Fun
Other Search Terms:
Felting Foam, Foam Pad, Felting Mat, Felting Surface, Needle Felting Block, Foam BlockFelting Pad is a groovy term for my felting studio 🙂 but, for this guide we’ll talk about a work surface you do all of your felting on.As you pierce in and out of your wool, your needle will inevitably glide through your project and into your felting pad. The needles should easily glide in to your pad but they shouldn’t pierce all the way through. Repeated jabs with the barbed needle break most surfaces down over time so it’s important to find something resilient.
Brush Mats – found in major craft stores. These are for embellishing small needle felted designs onto bags and garments using punch-style needle felting tools.
Sticks don’t actually felt anything but they definitely assist in the process. I use them for several different techniques as you’ll see in the videos and I find them an essential tool in my everyday needle felting.
I use paper sticks which are lollipop sticks for candy making. and are easily found in most craft stores and kitchen stores. You can use wooden or bamboo skewers but beware of the slivers – they can snag your wool and your fingers. available at Felt Alive Needle Felting Supplies
Felting Needle ‘Pin’ cushion
Traditional pincushions aren’t the safest place to keep your needles. The fragile blade can break off in the cushion if something should brush up against the needles. I use a plastic mug stuffed with wool that I needle felted to compress.
I call mine a Happy Cup because my needles stay safe and happy when at rest. You’ll see in the videos the walls of the cup protect them from most outside forces.
I’ve never sewn a stitch to create any of my needle felted projects yet I always have a sewing needle nearby. I use a strong, sharp one that is long and sturdy for pulling, poking, stretching and manipulating the wool as I sculpt. It’s tempting for most new needle felters to use their fragile felting needles for these tasks – you’ll learn in the videos just what I mean!
Small, sharp embroidery scissors are the handiest thing for trimming away fuzzies and wayward fibers from the surface of your finished needle felted creations. Besides that, I rarely use scissors to cut wool – as you’ll learn in the videos, it’s always better to pull your wool apart when you are preparing it for felting Cut ends of fiber are very resistant to needle felting and can make the surface of your project stubbly.
Stashing, Storing and Cleaning
Storing Your Wool Stash
Needle felters tend to be creative when storing and managing all those fluffy bits of fiber. From mason jars to hanging shoe organizers, plastic totes and zip-lock bags, I have tried so many ways to keep it all together but it usually winds up stuffed into a laundry basket.
Wool stays fluffier if you store it where it can breathe and it is much more convenient for those inspired moments if you don’t have to go digging through bins and bags. My favorite solutions have been hanging shoe and closet organizers and re-purposed water jugs like you see in the photo.
If you are worried about wool moths, keep raw wool away from your clean wool stash and you shouldn’t have a problem. But to be safe, you can always tuck cedar or lavender sachets in your wool stash as natural moth repellent.
Needle Felting Tips
The main things you need are a comfortable chair, a sturdy table and good lighting. Most needle felters start out at their kitchen tables but eventually find a dedicated a space for their needle felting.
If you use a foam felting pad, a piece of rubber shelf liner under it will help keep it from slipping around on your table. You’ll see in the videos that I use a plastic cup stuffed with wool as a pincushion for my felting needles and I keep a pair of embroidery scissors handy at all times.
Animals have a thing for wool so keep that in mind if you have pets. If something terrible happens, know that you are not the first one to lose a work-in-progress to a curious pet. I could write a book from the stories I’ve heard.
Caring for Your Finished Work
I have to laugh when I get asked how to care for needle felties. If you have seen videos of my dolls in action as they roll through the dirt and fly through the air you will see that I am NOT the person to ask about this.
Wool is very resilient to dirt and my rough treatment doesn’t bother my dolls much. After I pick off the twigs and leaves, they are happy on display around my home and studio. I try to keep them out of direct sunlight to keep the colors from fading. If they get dusty, I take them outside and shake them off. If your creations are handled a lot, the wool will get fuzzy – it might even pill up like a sweater. You can do needle felting maintenance anytime – a little surface felting will make them look as good as new again. If you plan to store them away, wrap them loosely in tissue paper and seal them in a bag or box in a dark, dry place.The needle felting projects in the videos (and needle felted items in general) are not recommended as toys for kids.
Photographing Your Felties
I struggled with photographing my work when I first got started. Since then, picture-taking has become one of my favorite things about needle felting. My felties seem to come to life when the camera comes out. I am not a photography expert so I can only offer you a few things I’ve learned.
- Taking photos of your creations outdoors is much better than indoors.
- Bright sunlight or using a flash highlights every single wayward fiber.
- Fuzzy things are hard to focus on – even auto-focus struggles. Take many shots to make sure you get at least one focused shot.
- You always see something that needs improving when you look at project photos – the cool thing about needle felting is that you can easily go back and keep felting.
- Take your creations out and about with you. Photograph them in unexpected places or teach them how to photobomb your selfies.
- Mostly – have fun with them. Sharing photos is a great way to show your friends and family the fun you are having with your new craft love!