Needle felting, also known as dry felting, is a type of craft that uses felting needles to shape wool fibres into different shapes and sculptures. It originated in the 1980s, with Martha Vineyard fibre artist Eleanor Stanwood, who discovered many uses for wool fibres, including fabrics, comforters, jewellery, and accessories, while working with sheep and small farms. Her initial idea of using single needles to create three dimensional figures was taken up by Californian artist Ayala Talpai, and Denmark’s Birgette Krag Hansen, who would go on to become pioneers of the craft.
The process of needle felting primarily consists of shaping wool fibres by stabbing them with barbed needles. These needles help tangle and bind the fibres together, interlocking them until they are firm. It is a long, manual process that can take hours, depending on the size of your project, but it is simple and straightforward, and very easy open to change and correction.
Needle Felting - www.feltalive.com
The needles used in felting were initially taken from felting machines, and are not designed to be used for handcrafting. They come in various gauges and points — the most common ones are the star tip and triangle tip — and have a hard L-shaped hook at the other end. These are very sharp and very delicate instruments, so it’s important to work on the right surfaces to avoid blunting them and stabbing yourself while you work. Try working on a large sponge, a foam block, or you can purchase a needle felting mat designed for this purpose.
Needle Felting Mat - pufftique, YouTube
Tools for needle felting, especially wool fibres, are not readily available in regular craft and fabrics stores such as Spotlight or Lincraft. You may, however, be able to find felting needles and foam blocks.
Try searching up various online stores, such as Melbourne-based Fibre Fusion, which sells supplies for felting, spinning, paper making, and other textiles. They sell both fibres and needles for felting, and have online tutorials for beginners. Alternatively, Treetops Colour Harmonies sells a wide range of fibres and fabrics for all sorts of textile crafts.
Possibilities are endless when it comes to needle felting. You can make figurines, toys, jewellery, and other accessories just by shaping the wool fibres in any way you want. Why not start with a simple love heart? Here’s a handy video to help you get started:
What are some of your best needle-felting creations? Have you seen any amazing ones? Share them with us here at Classie, or on the forum!