No more confusion?
It’s the one thing that gets us needle felters confused when we first start this fabulous craft. A gauge for this, a 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!
WHAT DO THE SIZES MEAN?
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
- Reverse needle
- Twisted needle
WHAT FELTING NEEDLES SHOULD I START WITH?
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. The 38 star is a good all rounder, and a 40 triangle for finishing your work; more details on those below. Once you are more confident with your needle felting you can start to introduce others into your felting stash.
The 38 star is my favourite as it will complete most needle felting projects from start to finish. TOP TIP! Always have a spare felting needle in case one breaks as you can’t just nip to the Co-op for a new one.
HOW DO FELTING NEEDLES WORK?
Wool is full of tiny scales that run up and down its length, and they just love to tangle together with each other. Felting needles have tiny barbs which allow you to do this ‘tangling’ by hand, whilst creating almost any shape and detail you can imagine.
HAVE YOU JUST STARTED NEEDLE FELTING?
All the needles, tools, and starter kits discussed on this post are available on the Lincolnshire Fenn Crafts Website and Etsy Shop.
GOOD ALL ROUNDERS – SIZE 38 AND 36
Suitable for most needle felting projects, and less prone to breakage
A 38 or a 36 star (or triangle) can be used to start, shape, and build up any three dimensional needle felting project, or flat felted picture. I use 38 star needles (I like the four sides for faster felting) all the time, and they are the ones I also use in many of my needle felting kits. A 38 star felting needle will complete most projects from start to finish; a 36 gauge is too robust for finer 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!
WHAT TO USE FORBFINER DETAILS?
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! Be careful when using it around a wire armature to avoid breakage
REVERSE FELTING NEEDLE
Barbs go in the opposite direction and pull the felted wool back out. There is also a great blog post dedicated to this fabulous needle felting tool
It took me a while to get used to this one, but now I wouldn’t be without it, and 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 hares 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 wool’s 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 3D cats and dogs, perfect for hedgehog spikes, and adding detail and dimension to my fox head.
TWISTED FELTING NEEDLE
The first barb on a twisted needle is slightly closer to the tip of the needle than the 38 and 40 triangular, reducing the penetration required to start tangling the fibres together. It is just personal preference but if you are just starting needle felting I would recommend starting with a 38 star and 40 felting needle; you can try other sizes once the needle felting addiction has taken hold…
WHAT ARE MY FAVOURITE NEEDLE FELTING 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 – UP TO 3 NEEDLES
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) as 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, try starting with a coarser gauge needle, such as a size 36, which will speed up the process.
NEEDLE FELTING PEN
Does pretty much the same as the wooden needle holder (above) but also works really well on wool batts and the hessian felting mats filled with rice. 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 – Use for fast flat felting
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 hessian felting mat (it doesn’t work as well on bouncy foam), and it powers through ears, wings, legs, gnome hats, poppy/flower petals, and 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.
FELTING NEEDLE HOLDER
This is very useful if your fingers are sensitive to the thin top of the felting needle, you have dexterity problems, or you are felting for long periods.
SAFETY! Needles are sharp and I always advise using a finger guard when starting, especially for work where your fingers need to be close to the needle. On the plus side, it doesn’t hurt for long 😉
HESSIAN MAT FILLED WITH RICE
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 2/3lbs of Basmati organic, free range rice…just kidding, any rice will do.
WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT NEEDLE FELTING?
Here are some useful guides and tutorials:
- GUIDE TO NEEDLE FELTING WOOL
- 5 THINGS YOU NEED TO START NEEDLE FELTING
- BEGINNERS TUTORIALS
- FREE NEEDLE FELTING PATTERN
Happy creating and please watch those fingers, not Netflix, as it hurts!
© 2013 Lincolnshire Fenn Crafts