KEEP IT SIMPLE Here is my quick, easy guide to felting needle sizes and shapes. Size is the most important so don’t get hung up on whether it’s a star, a triangle, or a twisted needle. 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!
WHAT SIZE FELTING NEEDLE SHOULD I USE
This is one of the most common questions I get asked, along with WHAT WOOL SHOULD I USE? And it can be confusing when you first start needle felting. I prefer the simple approach and advise just one, or two sizes to start with; 38 star is a good all rounder, and 40 triangle for finishing your work. Once you are more confident with your needle felting you can try others if you want to.
WHAT ARE FELTING NEEDLES AND WHAT DO THEY LOOK LIKE?
Felting needles are specialized needles that originated from industrial felting machines. They mat and tangle wool fibres together, locking the fibres into place, allowing you to create beautifully simple needle felted shapes, or complicated sculptures.
The higher the number, the finer – and more easily broken – the needle. There is a huge range of needle sizes for different applications but I have only ever used sizes 36 to 42, and size 38 and 40 are what I use pretty much all of the time.
Tiny barbs on the end of the felting needle tangle up the wool fibres, allowing you to sculpt different shapes and pictures.
FELTING NEEDLE SHAPES
ALWAYS HAVE A GOOD ALL ROUNDER
My go to is the 38 STAR FELTING NEEDLE. You can needle felt pretty much anything with a good all round felting needle. My favourite is the 38 star felting needle as it is pretty robust but fine enough to complete most needle felting projects.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 great for getting projects started, and then swap to a 38 as your project becomes more felted.
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 a fast and 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
40 TRIANGULAR NEEDLE 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
I just love subtle and dramatic effects you can create with a reverse felting needle. 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.
The size 40 is more subtle but I used the size 32 reverse needle on my needle felted pig and the results are more dramatic. It proved excellent for pulling through the Romanov wool from the centre of the project, creating a contrast on the top coat.
I have tried this needle a few times but, to be honest, end up going back to my 40 triangle for fine surface detail. However, its first barb is closer to the tip of the needle so ideal for really delicate surface work and details where getting the smoothest finish possible is top priority. It really is, horses for courses, so if you are ready to try a different needle it is definitely worth trying it.
MY FAVOURITE FELTING NEEDLE 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, taping two needles together or using a coarser needle, such as a 36 will speed up the process.
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?
Bring on the big guns! Seven needles (5 if you use the CLOVER TOOL) 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
This is very useful if your fingers are sensitive to the thin top of the felting needle, you have mobility issues in your hands, or you are felting for long periods.
A really popular alternative to foam, 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.
© 2013 Lincolnshire Fenn Crafts