Needle Felting. A Tutorial!
Crochet is the bane of my existence as a knitter. While seaming, fair isle and other difficult techniques are no problem for me, crochet makes me want to leap off tall buildings.
For example, I once spent two frustrating hours attempting to crochet a swirl design on a pre-felted bag. Numerous expletives and crochet hooks flew through the air. In the end, I decided that the bag looked perfectly fine as it was, simple and boring.
Many weeks later, I started to hear about needle felting. It was the perfect solution because I was able to embellish the bag that I’d already felted.
In order to needle felt, you’ll need:A felted piece of wool, fully dried (a bag you felted, or a pair of felted slippers)A felting needle100 % wool (not superwash) yarn and/or rovingA piece of Styrofoam
The important thing to realize about felting needles is that they aren’t smooth like the knitting and sewing needles we’re used to. Felting needles are extremely sharp and down the sides, they have little tiny barbs. Jabbing the needle quickly into the wool creates the felt. The friction and heat join the fibers. It’s also important to realize that this process is done without any water. In fact, using wet fibers will cause the felting needle to rust.
Here is a step-by-step process:
1. Prepare the felting surface. Place the Styrofoam under your already felted base piece. (Using a piece of Styrofoam gives the needle something other than your thigh to sink into.) Begin to lay out your design. Realize as you plan your design that since felting causes wool to shrink, your design will pull in a little and you’ll need more fiber to cover the area you’d like to fill. This is especially true if you are using yarn to make lines.
Spread the roving for a transparent effect. Roll it between your hands for a solid, chunky shape. Manipulate it in a way that works for the look you are seeking.
2. Prepare your felting needle according to the package’s directions. My felting needles stick out from a little knob, but yours may be different. If you are going to be felting a large area, and your tools allow it, use more than one felting needle. If you are doing a smaller area, with more detail, use only one at a time for the most control. You’ll probably need to switch from many needles to only one as you need to be more precise.
3. This is the fun and dangerous part. Quickly and repeatedly jab the felting needles into your design, being extremely careful not to poke your fingers, thumbs or any other body parts. You’ll want to make quick, precise jabs that go up and down. You don’t have to sink the entire needle – an inch or so will do just fine. Avoid going in at an angle, or twisting your hand because doing so could stress the needle and possibly cause it to bend. (This might be a good time to pretend you are taking revenge on the the professor who doesn’t know a good paper when it hits her in the head. Go ahead, grit your teeth, mutter angry words.)
Work in one area at a time and as you become satisfied with how felted it is, move to a different section
5. To get a cleaner, less fuzzy edge, get the piece mostly felted, avoiding the very edges. Then, use your fingers to pull the edge fibers toward the center, creating a bit of a fold. Hold your fingers and the fibers in place while you felt just the edges.
6. If you felt some areas more than others, you’ll create a three dimensional appearance. You can also use your felting needle to focus on creating a line to make a clear definition of where an edge should be.
7. To felt a string of yarn, use the same general technique. Just lay the yarn down, and then felt it in the same up and down motions. Just know that when you needle felt yarn, it especially pulls in as it shrinks.
Continue until you are satisfied with how everything looks. Marvel at your brilliance, skill and newfound optimism. Call the piece “complete.”
About what I used in the photos:
My rovings were from Prairie Winds Farm, Lakeville, Indiana. The yarn that I used to write the word “Love” is Knit Picks, Wool of the Andes in Cherry Blossom. The base piece is also KP Wool of the Andes in Hyacinth. My needle felting tool is from the Colonial Needle Co. Fiber Trends also supplies felting needles, as do many others. If your LYS doesn’t carry felting needles or roving, try a local spinning and weaving shop. (And my Styrofoam is from a mini-fridge.)