Needle Felting 101

I’ve been sharing a lot of needle felting projects on my Instagram account lately. In turn I’ve gotten a lot of questions about needle felting. What exactly is needle felting? What are the best supplies? Where is the best place to get wool roving? How do you get it all to come together? So I thought I should make a post with all my favorite supplies and tips and tricks of needle felting.

I want to preface this post by saying I’m not an expert on needle felting. Just a mom who loves to craft.

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What is Needle Felting?

Needle felting is the art of sculpting wool. By using special sharp needles with notches on the sides to poke repeatedly into wool roving to condense the fibers into a desired form.

Supplies

There are very few supplies you’ll need for needle felting. Wool roving, felting needles, a felting mat, and you may want needle holders for more comfort. You can also you finger guards or small tongs to help protect fingers from pokes. I’ll share links to all my favorite supplies throughout the post.

Wool Roving

Wool roving comes in many various types. The most common varieties are coarse and fine wool. I typically use a coarse wool to create the base of 3D shapes and animals. I like to use this white as a core for larger 3D projects. I use a finer, softer wool to add colors and detail to projects.

Some other terms to describe wool are batts, core wool, and tops. Batts are washed and carded (brushed) wool sheets with fibers in all directions. Core wool is a coarse wool that is naturally colored and a bit cheaper than dyed wools. This wool is perfect for cores of larger objects. Tops are washed and carded smoothly with all fibers going in the same direction.

I love this galvanized divided organizer to store all of our wool roving by color. Or if you need something that takes up less space I would recommend a coiled rope basket. A regular woven basket will catch fibers easily.

If you’re just starting out with needle felting, I would recommend getting a pack of various colored wool roving. I like this rainbow pack from Amazon. There is also an earth tones perfect for animals and a pastel pack. As well as various other colors. This brand is also found at Michael’s.

I recently got this nature color pack from Hobby Lobby. The colors are so pretty in person! They also have other color packs too. If you just need one or two colors, the Artiste brand is only $1.79 per color.

I’ve gotten several colors from Benzie Design. Their wool roving is so nice and soft! And there are many beautiful colors.

I’ve recently been buying this merino wool roving from Amazon. It is very soft. I recommend this type for finishing details and adding color on top of pieces.

Blending Colors

Sometimes you might not be able to find a particular color for certain projects. The good news is you can mix colors together. The easiest way to combine colors is using a carder. A carder is two wooden brushes with stainless steel pins. Lay down the colors of roving you want to combine on one carder. Then use the other carder to brush over the carder with the wool repeatedly until it is well blended. The more you brush, the better blended the colors become. You can also use a dog brush as a carder!

Needles

Felting needles come in various shapes and sizes. The numbers refer to the wire gauge and the shapes refer to the arrangement of notches on the needle.

Green: size 40 Spiral, Blue: size 38 Star, Orange: size 36 Star

I love this set of needles from Amazon. (Pictured above) It comes with 5 of each size needle. I love that they are colored coded. I have a hard time distinguishing between needles if they get mixed up. So these take out the guesswork.

Sizes

The smaller the number the better for creating large objects with coarser wool. Size 36 needles are used for felting large objects and to quickly create shape.

Size 38 is good to use for adding colors and details while finishing objects. If using a finer wool, the puncture marks may be visible.

Sizes 40 is perfect for using on finer wools and for finishing details without puncture marks.

Shapes

The most common felting needle shapes are triangular and star shapes.

The triangular needle has a triangular cross section with three edges and three notches on each side.

The star needle has a star shaped cross section with four edges and two notches on each side.

The spiral needle has a twisted/ spiral shaft. This give less resistance when felting. It is good for finishing details.

A crown shaped needle has two notches just on the tip. This needle is also good for finishing surface details.

Needle Holders

You don’t need needle holders for needle felting, but I have found it’s a lot more comfortable to use them. We have two different types of holders. One is a single needle holder and the other is a multi needle holder. The multi needle holder is for quick felting and felting larger objects. I got both holders from this set on Amazon. The set also includes 3 sizes of needles.

I love these wooden needle storage containers from Hobby Lobby. (Pictured above) I’ve labeled the size and shape of the needles on the bottoms of each container with a pencil and added a small dot with the corresponding colored marker.

Felting Mat

There are a variety of felting mats you can use. We started out using a foam mat. I really liked it at first, but after a few years I noticed tiny pieces of the foam would break off into our felting projects.

For Christmas this year I got my girls wool felting mats. I love the feel of these mats and there are so many beautiful colors to choose from. I loved them so much I got myself one. We have the small size but there is also a larger size available.

You can also use a brush mat. I’ve never used these before. It seems like it wouldn’t get roving fibers stuck into it like the foam and wool mats do. My only concern would be accidentally sticking the needle in too far to the wood and the needle breaking. But that may not even be an issue though. I would love to try one someday!

Finger Guards

Finger guards are a great way to protect fingers from pokes! I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve accidentally pricked my fingers with the needles. But these finger guards have helped so much! I would love to find a smaller size for my girls though. These are just a tad too big. They end up just using the index and middle finger guards on their thumb and index finger.

Tongs

Tongs are perfect for holding the roving while needle felting. They keep hands a good distance away from the needles so no chance for finger pricks. Depending on what kind of tongs you use, you may not be able to hold larger felted projects. I got these bamboo tongs from Amazon.

Needle Felting Books

I’m always asked for recommendations on needle felting books. So I checked out all the needle felting books available at my library. I wanted to be able to give my personal recommendations.

Books for Beginners

My number one recommendation for beginners would be Needle Felting for Beginners: How To Sculpt With Wool. This covers all the basics on needle felting while also being very detailed. There is a variety of needle felting projects perfect for beginners included as well.

My recommendation for kids would be My First Needle Felting Book. This book is suggested for ages 7 and up. Younger children may be able to follow depending on their understanding and abilities. I like this book because it explains needle felting very simply for children. It gives illustrated examples of various techniques in an easy to understand way. The book includes 30 different animal projects in 3 different levels. Level 1 projects are simple and quick, using 1 or 2 colors and simple shaping. Level 2 projects have more detailed shapes with multiple colors. Level 3 projects are a bit more time consuming with detailed patterns and several colors.

Complete Felted Guide Book

If you want a complete exhaustive guide on all things felting, including wet felting, The Complete Photo Guide to Felting is a wonderful book. This book is much larger than the other books. It is extremely, thoroughly detailed. After looking through this book I’ve learned so many new things about felting myself! But I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this book to someone just starting out with needle felting though. It can bit a tad overwhelming. If you’re very familiar with felting and want to learn more, then this is the book for you.

Needle Felted Project Idea Books

My girls and I are always looking for new patterns and ideas for felting projects. Here are some project idea books that are easy to follow.

Lovable Felted Animals: Enchanting Mascots, Pets, and Accessories – This book gives step by step photo instructions on how to make each project. I like this book because not only does it have cute animals, but also fun projects like pen covers, magnets, and brooches. We’re always looking for new ways to make handicraft gifts. Now we’ve got some great ideas for birthdays and Christmas gifts!

Little Needle-Felted Animals: 30 Cute and Easy-to-Make Friends – If you want to make more cartoon-like, cute animals this book has the most adorable patterns. It has an overview of needle felting, supplies needed, and step by step instructions for each project.

Sweet Needle Felts: 25 Projects to Wear, Give, and Hug – I picked this book out at the library solely because of the adorable project on the cover. You may recognize the bunny I’ve been working on from my Instagram stories. Now do you see why I had to get this book? This book has a basic overview of needle felting, supplies, and variety of projects. A lot of the projects I had never thought of making before! There aren’t many copies available on Amazon, but I would suggest checking your local library for a copy.

Painting with Wool: Sixteen Artful Projects to Needle Felt – This book has completely different needle felting projects than the other books. Most of them are 2 dimensional created on fabric or felt sheets. There is a basic overview of needle felting, supplies, and techniques. It doesn’t go into too much detail though. This is a great book if you’re wanting more variety of projects instead of just 3D animals and shapes. The projects are divided into beginner, intermediate, and advanced projects. Some of the included projects are tote bags, sunglasses case, pillows, wall art, patches, wall hangings, and more.

I will be sharing some flip throughs of these books and more in my Instagram stories. I’ll be sure to save them to a needle felting books highlight so you can refer back to it anytime.

What is a Good Age to Begin?

As far as what age to begin needle felting, that all depends on your child. My girls and I were introduced to needle felting about 4 years ago. They were ages 4 and 6. We made a wool felt garland with needle felted objects on the felt sheet pieces, seen below.

This was a great first project! My girls were able to get familiar with the needle and the wool roving. We talked about what the needle does as it goes into the wool and how it all stays together. And I made sure to explain to them how sharp the needle was. I even let them feel the point to see for themselves. I also explained how fragile the needle is and how we need to be careful as we’re felting.

If you want to start needle felting with your children, I recommend reading My First Needle Felting Book together. Look through and purchase some basic supplies. Practice each technique together to get a feel for working with wool roving. Start with one of the beginner projects. I’m also including some of our favorite beginners projects at the bottom of my post.

There are also several needle felting kits that include needles, wool roving, and step by step instructions. This needle felted animals kit would be a great beginners kit. It comes with instructions on how to make 3 animals, wool roving, needles, finger guards, polystyrene cores, and felting stencils. It does not come with a felting mat though. This kit uses polystyrene cores for the animals. So you won’t be needle felting as much. You can also scan the QR code to watch a step by step video tutorial on how to make the animals.

This needle felted animals kit makes 16 small dogs and cats. It includes wool roving, needles, needle holders, felting mat, finger guards, and step by step instructions. It doesn’t include eyes though. Which is weird to me. But you can buy these eyes for this project and any animal/ people project you might do. I like this set because it comes with 3 sizes of eyes to use depending on the size of your projects.

Where to Begin

If you would like to begin needle felting, I recommend buying a beginners book and the basic supplies. This basic needle felting kit includes a wool felting mat, 3 sizes of needles, and finger guards. All that’s left to buy would be some wool roving. Any of these packs would be great for just starting out.

I don’t necessarily recommend the larger needle felting kits you may see on Amazon that have a billion colors and random needles and things. I have found the amount of wool roving you get for each color is very minimal. I’m not even quite sure what you could make with them.

Tips and Tricks

I was never really taught how to properly needle felt. I’ve just been doing trial and error over the years and watching video tutorials. I’ve tried different needles, different types of wool, and even different felting mats. I’ve finally figured out what works best for us in our needle felting journey.

The most important thing to remember about needle felting is the felting needles are very sharp and fragile. We have broken many needles over the years. It is important that you always keep the needle at a 90 degree angle in the wool roving. Needles can also get dull overtime. I like to compare a used needle with a newer one. If the used one doesn’t have a very sharp point it’s probably time to get rid of it.

The more you needle felt, the tighter your shape will become. If your object is loose and fuzzy, keep felting. You want your pieces to be somewhat firm so they stay together without risk of coming apart.

Needle felting can be a very time consuming process. Especially when making larger projects. I like to work on them a little each day. The picture below shows an example of what it looks like when you keep needle felting a little longer. I needle felted the right side 10 minutes longer than the left. The shape has gotten firmer and a bit smaller.

When making larger objects, use a white core wool for the base. Then layer with colors. This helps you not waste so many colors. You can buy white core wool in bulk. I also recommend using a multi-needle holder when making large objects. It makes the felting process much quicker.

Use a variety of needles. Use coarse needles (size 36 & 38) for fast felting larger shapes or for the inner core. Use fine needles (size 40) for details and finishing work.

If you are using a wool mat, make sure to keep it clean by removing any embedded wool fibers. This will help to avoid color transfers on other projects. Below you can see the felting mat on the left with fibers embedded. On the right the fibers removed are on the table beside the felting mat.

Creating Round Objects

There are a few ways to begin a round object. You can tie your wool roving into a knot to create a tighter core. Wrap the remaining roving around the knot. Then needle felt all around. Remember, the more you needle felt, the tighter the ball will become. If you notice that the ball is getting smaller than you would like, just add a bit more wool roving around the shape. You can see the steps below on how to make a ball with a knot.

To create a larger round object, cut a triangle strip of a thick wool felt sheet and roll it into a ball shape. Needle felt it together all around the shape. Then add some wool roving over the whole shape and needle felt it on.

Making Animal Limbs

If you want to make a larger animal, or one that stands up, use craft wire. Wrap the wire with wool roving and needle felt it together. You can also use pipe cleaners.

Creating a Finished Look

The more you needle felt, the tighter your shape will become. It’s a bit time consuming to work on needle felting projects. Especially if it’s a 3D shape like an animal. A lot of times my girls will stop before they’re even halfway done with projects. And then the shapes are very loose and don’t have a finished look.

Once you’ve felted a firm shape; to ensure a smooth finished project use a fabric shaver over the whole thing. This removes any additional fibers sticking out from the project. You can see the before and after of a fabric shaver on a felted ball below.

Projects for Beginners

Needle Felted Banner

A banner using a thick wool felt sheet cut into smaller rectangles and needle felted shapes is a perfect first project. We’ve made banners for Valentine’s Day, Easter, and Autumn using this method. You can watch our quick tutorial of this project on my Instagram page.

Supplies:
  • 12×12 wool felt sheet
  • Wool roving in desired colors
  • Felting needles
  • Cookie cutters in desired shapes
  • Felting mat
  • Ribbon or twine
  • Scissors
Instructions:
  • Cut the wool felt sheet into 6 pieces. Each piece will be 3×6.
  • Place the felt sheet onto a felting mat.
  • Place cookie cutter onto felt.
  • Add wool roving inside cookie cutter.
  • Needle felt inside the perimeter and all inside the cookie cutter shape.
  • Carefully remove the cookie cutter and needle felt around the perimeter of the shape to get a precise outline.
  • Repeat with as many shapes on the pieces as desired.
  • Once complete, cut some slits in the top corners.
  • Lay out the desired pattern and thread the ribbon into the slits on each piece.
Cookie Cutter Shapes

This is an easy way to begin three dimensional shapes. You can use any shape/ size cookie cutter. We like to thread them on string to create a garland. I have a few tutorials on my Instagram page of these cookie cutter shapes if you’d like to see the process in action.

Needle Felted Star Garland

Needle Felted Ornaments

Needle Felted Heart Garland

Supplies:
  • Wool roving in desired colors
  • Felting needles
  • Felting mat
  • Cookie cutters in desired shapes
Instructions:
  • Place cookie cutter onto felting mat.
  • Add wool roving into cookie cutter. I like to use a little more than what will fit inside the cookie cutter since it will be felted down to a smaller size.
  • Needle felt inside the perimeter of the cookie cutter and all around the shape.
  • Carefully flip the cookie cutter and roving over. You may need to pull some of the roving out of the mat.
  • Needle felt the other side. You can flip the shape back and forth and felt each side a few times.
  • Once the shape is mostly together, take off the cookie cutter.
  • Needle felt around the side and in any corners or points until the shape is complete.

What To Do With Finished Projects

We give most of the needle felted projects as gifts to friends and family. My girls also like to make toys for themselves.

I have recently been enjoying making little animals for my girls too. I made these little guys for them for Valentine’s Day.

I got a lot of my ideas from Pinterest. I searched cute needle felted animals. I didn’t use any patterns or instructions. I just kind of guessed how to form and sculpt the wool. Which is one of the fun things about getting familiar with needle felting and aging an understanding on how to mold the wool. Once you get the idea, you can use your creativity to make anything.

I have gotten a lot more ideas from all the needle felting books I got from the library. My daughters have made a list of all the projects they want to work on and who to give them to.

Hopefully this post was helpful! Let me know if there’s any other questions you have about needle felting. And be sure to follow me on Instagram. I’ll be sharing more needle felting tutorials in the coming weeks.

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