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TOOLBOX: Needle Felting

TOOLBOX: Needle Felting


Simple to learn and easy to practice, needle felting uses barbed felting needles to sculpt un-spun wool fibers into three-dimensional objects. The needles have tiny grooves on the edges, so, as you move the needle in and out of the wool (jabbing), the top wool fibers tangle with the inside layers, creating a dense, matted mass (sort of like when your kid doesn't brush their hair for a week). As the needles 'push' the wool inward, fibers are bonded together, making it possible to close up edges, almost like stitching. The more you jab the wool, the tighter the fiber will get. With small strokes moving around and around the shape, you can bind shapes together to form a fiber sculpture.

While needle felting is traditionally done with roving wool, we encourage you to look into using non-animal fibres for this craft if possible. The treatment of sheep by the wool industry is extremely cruel and quite unnecessary when you consider how many amazing alternatives to sheeps wool are available these days. Bamboo fiber is one example of a plant-based fiber that has proven to work easily with great results when needle felting. 


We are choosing to sculpt three dimensional objects. For this, you will need:
Triangle felting needles
Roving wool or Vegan "wool" Roving
Foam pad


Most felted sculptures begin by creating a basic egg shape. Make sure you use short quick movements for jabbing your wool, being careful not to jab too far into the wool. Shapes are joined by binding unfinished edges together, so be sure to always leave the part of the shape that is to be attached to another fairly loose. Rotate your object often on your foam pad so the fibers don't bind to the pad itself. And be very mindful of your fingers--the needle is sharp!


TEAR a certain amount of roving wool, enough to fill the palm of your hand.

USE your fingers to fold the wool over onto itself, giving a few "jabs" with your needle as you go to hold your wool in place. 

CONTINUOUSLY bring in the extra pieces of wool that stick out of the sides, working around the ball through small jabs of your needle. 


ONCE all of the wool has been rolled together, it should form an egg-like shape. You can shape the ball further with your needle: if a section or piece sticks out too far, a few quick jabs will tighten the area and even it out. The more you jab the wool with your needle, the tighter and more matted it will get.

POKE your felting needle in and out of the wool, allowing the fibers to join until you feel the shape is being held together. Make sure to leave one end of the egg open with unfinished edges- this is how you will join shapes.

CONTINUE to needle felt the shape until all of the fibers are held down. You can continue working around your ball if you want a very tight base.

Create a Ball

By always leaving one end of  your shape un-finished or raw, you can easily attach it to another shape. The next step is making a ball. This usually serves as the head of whatever you are creating. It's up to you to decide how big or small the head is in relation to the body or 'egg' you just created. Follow the steps 1-6, making adjustments to the amount of wool you are using, and the shape you roll your ball into, tucking and jabbing as you go.



You can start to create a more definitive shape by jabbing the wool inward. Just remember, where ever you jab the needle, the more the wool will bind to itself, making it possible to create more unique shapes. It's almost like stitching with a needle and thread, but the thread isn't on the needle, it's already in the object!


CREATE different shapes: Use your fingers to mold the shape as you desire, then use your needle to 'stitch' your shape in place.

POKE the fibers of your shape as you roll the wool together to allow the desired shape to form.


Embellishments can be added by attaching different elements with unfinished edges. You can achieve very fine details this way. The trick is to leave the piece you are attaching more unfinished than you might think- this will make the bind more seamless.



ATTACH different shapes by poking the ends of the fibers together until they become intertwined.

ADDING different colored wool to the shape brings character and adds detail.

PLACE the colored wool onto the desired area of your shape and POKE your needle in and out to attach the two colors. Remember to keep part of the wool unfinished to make binding easier.

CREATING flat shapes can be completed by pulling the desired amount of wool, compressing it gently and poking the fibers into shape onto of the foam pad.

ONCE SHAPED these flatter pieces can be joined to the original three-dimensional shape again by poking the felting needle in and out to join the fibers.

ACCENTUATE your piece by poking smaller amounts of colored wool into the shape.




Additional Elements

The levels of detail in felting is endless. This is just a basic beginning of all the little elements which are possible: This is where you can really get creative with color and shape. Even if it's a tiny shape, just remember to start by creating a basic shape from rolling or folding, and then 'stitch' it together. Experiment with laying a piece of wool directly onto your object and trying different jabbing techniques: jabbing sideways will bind fibers that are next to eachother together, pulling the surface of your object together (see step 10). Jabbin downwards will pull your object inward. Shallow jabbing will only bind the fibers on the top levels keeping your shape soft, and deep jabbing will reach the inner fibers creating a more dense (but smaller) shape. You can create the desired shape by adding strips of wool where the shape uneven or in need of bulk. If there is too much bulk in a certain area, focus deep jabs around that area and the spot will even out. This is just the beginning of possiblities with needle felting. We hope this is helpful and don't forget to have fun!



Posted in: Crafts: Make It!   

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