Beginning Felting

I’m going to come straight out and say this – you’re not going to meet many other felters in real life.  That’s not to say you won’t occasionally meet someone in the industry at a craft show here or a fibre market there, and maybe you’ll come across the odd felting class, but the chances are you are going to be the only felter you know.

And that really makes learning to felt a pain in the… Well, you know.
The good news is that learning to felt online is totally workable. There are fantastic tutorials available on YouTube and Pinterest, wonderful felting groups on Facebook and many felting sites that will take you through everything you need to know.  This is one of them.

What is Felting?

Needle felting (sometimes referred to as dry felting or 3D felting) is a method of sculpting 3D figures out of wool fibres that have been washed, brushed and possibly dyed (but not spun into yarn).  Some felters ‘flat felt’ – i.e. They use similar techniques to create a flat painting-like piece of artwork. Please note that this website will not look into flat felting as this is a different discipline, and not one I do myself.
When fleece is brushed the fibres all become separated out into individual strands.  Felting needles (which are actually repurposed industrial felting needles) have tiny barbs running down their lengths, and when these needles are stabbed into the wool it meshes the fibres together so that they slowly become matted and solid. As you continue these fibres will become felted, albeit thicker, more solid and more shaped than most felt you will have come across before. By working with different fibres in different colours you can build up a 3D model, just like sculpting, only instead of whittling a creation out of one large block of material you slowly build one, making each part separately before felting these individual components together (sometimes with the help of a regular needle and thread) and then by covering the core shape of your model with top colours – well, if you want to, that is.
And that’s it.

Is felting for me?

Felting is a fantastic art form that can be enjoyed by many people, is truly addictive and immensely satisfying.  However, it may not be suitable for everyone.
  • The fibres do shed and may be an irritation to those who suffer from allergies, or even excema.
  • Even if you use finger guards you will stab yourself on a regular basis, and you will bleed, so if you have any health issues where this might be a problem you may find that needle felting is not suitable for you.
  • The act of felting involves intensive, repetitive movement of the hands and a very firm grip on the needle.  Whilst needle holders can help minimise strain the act of felting can put strain on the hands, wrists, arms, shoulders and back, and can aggravate pre-existing conditions such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, RSI etc.  That being said, I am a long-time sufferer of fibromyalgia and I still felt so it is possible, albeit seriously not recommended during a flare-up!  However, I have found carding my own fibres to be impossible for longer than two minutes as it will actually provoke a flare-up.
  • You don’t need much space to felt but you do need a lot of storage space for fibres!
  • Felting is not really suitable for children.  It’s up to the parent to decide when their child might be old enough to take up needle-felting, but I certainly won’t be letting my son do it until he’s at least 12.
  • I’m going to say a 4-letter-word here: moth(s).  There are several species of house moths that are attracted to natural fibres and will much though any they can find, and every felter lives in fear of these little critters.  A few moths does not an infestation make, and there are ways to get rid of them, but if you are currently experiencing a moth infestation it might not be the best time to start felting – wait until you are certain they have been gone for several months before even thinking about felting, especially if you plan on gifting or selling your work, and look into ways of moth-proofing your home and equipment against future infestations.

What sorts of things can I create?

Literally anything you want to.  There are literally no limits – if you can imagine it you can make it.  That’s not to say everything will be easy, but needle felting offers great potential for challenge and creativity, and there is something extremely satisfying about approaching it in different ways to figure out how to achieve the effect that you want.

OK Mrs Flippity, I don’t want to read through pages of instructions – I want to dive right in!  Can’t you just tell me what I need to know?

Ok, I feel you!  And diving right in is one of the best ways to learn, so if that’s what you want to do then do it!  It’s pretty much what I did, and the articles and guides on this site are designed to dip in and out of whenever you need to brush up on some knowledge.  But I do strongly recommend you take a quick peek at the following pages before you plunge right in, just so you have a rough idea of what to keep in mind:
Felting Equipment – Y’know, there’s nothing more frustrating that having to stop before you’ve even started because you haven’t got the right stuff.
Felting Needles – Quite simply, different needles have different strengths, and it’s worth knowing the differences so you don’t fall into the trap of using one type for absolutely everything.
Core Wools – Using core wools makes life so much easier, but not every fibre is suitable for felting purposes. This guide will talk you through which wools might work best for you, and how easy they are to felt with.
Types of Fibres – This will help you learn the differences between the types of fibres available to you and what they can be used for.
Felting Terminology – Can’t tell your noil from your rolags? Then this guide is for you.
Creating a core wool ball – This tutorial will guide you through making one of the most essential shapes that you’ll make again and again, and once you master that you can adapt it for your own needs.
This tutorial of Barry the Bat – You don’t have to make Barry, but this shows you what a project will look like from start to finish.

And just have fun!  Learn your own style and your own methods. Make mistakes and learn from them! Try new things and, most importantly, love your own work. And if you need any help, just drop me a comment.

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