Felting Needle Guide

It’s the one thing that gets us all really confused; a gauge for this, a spiral, star, or triangle for that. What’ s the difference between a size 32 and size 38, and what on earth do I do with this reverse needle felting needle I bought???

Well, stop tearing your hair out because I am going to give you the short version and what I like to use, as my own personal preferences. I will also tell you about the felting needle tools I couldn’t live without!

Pictures of felting needles and their different uses.
Tiny barbs on the end of the felting needle tangle up the wool fibres, allowing you to sculpt different shapes and pictures.

In short, needle sizes work like this: the higher the number, the finer the needle and needle sizes range from as low as 19 up to 42. You will hear them referred to as Triangular (3 sides), Star (4 sides) and, new kid on the block, the spiral needle.

I won’t bore you with a size guide and their numerous uses as you can find them all over the internet and they are very useful if you are having trouble sleeping…

All comments welcome on what your own preferences are.

All the needles and accessories discussed are available on the Website and Etsy


You can needle felt pretty much anything with a good all round felting needle. My favourites are a 38 or 36 star as they are sturdy and less prone to breakage. Both can be used to create and finish your basic 3D needle felted project. I use 38 star needles (I like the four sides for faster felting) all the time, so naturally they are the ones I also use in my kits. However, it is down to personal preference and a 36 is just as good, although a little too heavy for my liking, for the finer finishing and facial details.

Top tip: Reduce needle marks by inserting your needle diagonally when finishing/smoothing the top layer. Rolling the body part in your hands (before attaching) is the fastest and most efficient way of smoothing your piece; your hands are just as important a tool as your needle!

Felting Needles And Accessories are available on the Website

38 star needle for basic shapes


40 triangle is ideal for much finer detail: Bends more easily so don’t be heavy handed with it.

I use this when I am finishing delicate eye and nose detail, especially if the head is quite soft and I don’t want to distort the lovely shape I have made. It is also great for reducing needle marks on the top layer. You will notice that this needle is thinner, bends more easily than the 36/38 and is much more prone to breakage if bent too much.
Top tip: Not really suitable for using to needle felt around a wire armature. Make sure you have built the shape first to avoid breaking your needle.


Barbs go in the opposite direction and pull the felted wool back out


It took me a while to get used to this one as I was expecting something more dramatic. However, now I have used it for a while I just love subtle effect it gives to an otherwise smooth finish. It all depends what wool you are using but I used mine recently to rough up the top of my moon gazing hare’s head to add character and dimension. I think it worked really well… The wool is natural Grey Jacob and you will find it in a lot of my kits; one of my favourite wools to needle felt with. I also include it in my Flamingo needle felting kit to ‘fluff’ up the body and base of the neck. Also great for use on 3 dimensional cats and dogs.
Edit: I have recently been using a size 32 reverse needle and the results are more dramatic. It proved excellent for pulling through the Romanov wool on a recent pig I made.

32 gauge reverse felting needle has been used to pull through the Romanov wool, which is sitting underneath the pink topcoat.
40 gauge reverse felting needle used for top of the head.
See how the wool at the base of the neck has been pulled back out with a 40 gauge reverse needle.

New kid on the block is the spiral needle

Not much to say on this one. I have tried this needle a few times but, to be honest, end up going back to my 38 or 40 triangle for fine surface detail. It is just personal preference but I really didn’t notice the difference? Probably best for top coat finishing as it is less likely to show needle marks due to its ‘twisted’ needle, but I find I get the same result going in diagonally with a 40 triangular. However, I have only tried one size so I guess it is just down to personal preference.

My favourite tools

None of the following are necessary but I use them all the time for certain projects and they really help speed up the felting process. Especially useful if you are now a needle felting addict (you know who you are…) and unofficial member of the Lincolnshire Fenn Crafts NFA group, ‘Needle Felters Anonymous’. Hmm, I’m thinking T-shirts and badges…

Wooden needle holder (Tulip holder): Can be bought with 3 or 4 needle holes, uses standard needles (supplied) and needles are removable and interchangeable.

My preference is the 3 needle holder (using 38 or 40 triangular or star) because it can be used for starting off your 3D shapes quickly as well as being used for flat felting e.g. big bunny or hare ears.
Top tip: If flat felting, using a coarser needle such as a 36 or 34 will speed up the process.

Felting Pen

A great tool for use with 3 needles when you are needle felting a flat piece such as ears, wings, pictures etc Can also be used with a single needle for 3 dimensional objects, if you are felting for long periods or have dexterity problems and find felting needles become uncomfortable to hold.

Supplied with size 36 needles which are a thicker needle (perfect for flat felting) but you may want to change to a higher number (38/40) for fine surface work and top layers; the higher the number the finer the needle.

All needles are replaceable and interchangeable with different sizes.

Save money: You will see these in pink (Clover tool) and blue. The blue is half the price of the pink and the difference…one is from Hong Kong and one is from China?

Multi tool/punch tool

Bring on the big guns! 7 needles (replaceable and interchangeable) with retractable guard. I can’t tell you how much I use this for flat felting ears, brooches, legs (before they are rolled and shaped), pictures etc. I use this one on my felting rice mat, it doesn’t work as well on bouncy foam, and it powers through ears, wings, legs, gnome hats, poppy/flower petals, pictures at a rate of knots!
Top tip: Ideal for teaching the kids because of the locking, retractable guard and much less prone to breakage.
Save money: Same applies as for the felting pen above

Single needle holder

I rarely use mine but it is very useful if your fingers are sensitive to the thin top of the felting needle and you are felting for long periods.

Felting rice bag

Completely biodegradable (put the whole lot in the compost when it eventually wears out) and sustainable. I use it for all of the above as well as my foam. I make my own Hessian felting mats and they are available in the shop; just add 2lbs of Basmati organic, free range rice…just kidding, any rice will do. However, it is super easy to make your own if you have an old hessian/burlap shopping bag.

Top Tip: Lay a piece of craft felt or cotton on top of your rice bag to make it last longer.

Happy creating and please watch those fingers (not Netflix) as it hurts!

Est. 2013
© 2013 Lincolnshire Fenn Crafts