Felt Alive Needle Felting Tips!
Let’s face it, felting needles are sharp and must be used with caution. Poking yourself and breaking your sharp, fragile felting needles are both inevitable when needle felting but they should be rare occurrences. It is important to learn the basics on the use and care of felting needles. Once you break your felting needle, there is no way to fix it or keep using it – it’s done. I’ll be the first to admit that when I first got started needle felting, I broke so many needles but even worse, my fingertips felt pincushions. I quickly realized that if I was going to continue on with this addictive craft I was going to have to figure out what was going wrong.
Here are a few tips and tricks that have helped me save my needles and my fingers.
- Work Area Set up your work area on a sturdy table with good lighting. Curling up on the couch with a bunch of wool and sharp felting needles is fraught with danger.
- Work Surface You’ll need some sort of a felting pad to work on on. While it’s tempting to hold your project in your hand while needle felting, it inevitably leads to injury and needle breakage. I like dense poly foam to absorb the jabs of the felting needles while keeping my project stable and bounce-free. I avoid foam like styrofoam (messy) or thick upholstery foam which makes for a bouncy work surface which leads to needle breakage and accidents. Also, focusing on a project that bounces with each jab makes for bleary, weary eyes.
- Grip The tighter you grip your needle, the worse it will be if you miss your mark. Hold your needle just a lightly as you can. As the wool begins to felt and the surface gets dense, you will find yourself gripping tighter to pierce your needle into the wool. Switching to a finer gauge needle is the solution here. Also, hammering away at your project swinging your whole forearm is a recipe for disaster. I always rest the hand I use to hold my needle on the edge of my felting pad with the relaxed jabbing motion coming from my wrist and fingers, not my elbow.
- Speed / Depth With so many needle pokes to turn wool into felt, it is natural to think faster is better. It’s not always the case. Going fast is ok as long as you take really shallow jabs, only piercing the first 1/8″ of your felting needle blade into your project. You lose control with fast, deep jabs and the faster you go, the more needles you break and the more it hurts when you miss your mark.
- Control The fragile blade end of the needle is the working part. If you see it bending and flexing as you work, you should adjust your methods so the needle glides in and out of your project with as little strain as possible. If you feel resistance as you work – if you feel the needle is getting difficult to pierce into your project – it’s very important to change to a finer gauge needle that glides in easier, saving you from fatigue, injury and needle breakage.
- Angle I find it very effective to change the angle of the needle as I’m jabbing. The wool seems to felt faster that way. I always make sure to pull the needle back the same way it went in as it’s very easy to break off the tip of the needle in my project.
- Density There are no rules about how tight or densely felted you should make your projects. I’ve seen everything from barely felted wool art to wool sculptures that are so densely felted they feel more like clay sculptures than wool sculptures. There are no rules but the firmer you make your needle felted projects, the likelier it is that you will break more needles.
- Relax. Worrying about stabbing yourself makes you tense. I can’t stress this enough. Needle felting is a calm, relaxing experience, but a needle jab or the dreaded ‘snap’ of a needle breaking is the best way to interrupt that.
I hope these tips help you with The Use and Care of Felting Needles!
Watch me needle felt a basic shape out of Core Wool using my Yellow 40t Felt Alive Felting Needle
Watch all of my videos to learn how to work with the needles for a relaxing and safe needle felting experience!
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