What Are Felting Needles And How To Use Them?

Quick Guide To Felting Needles

Felting needles are used for all needle felting projects, allowing you to transform loose wool fibers into simple 3 dimensional and 2 dimensional sculptures and pictures. Once you have learned the basics of needle felting you can create more intricate designs and sculptural forms. If you’re new to the world of needle felting this quick guide will walk you through the basics and how to use them effectively. For a more detailed guide read my Complete Guide To Felting Needles.

Now get ready to unlock your creativity and embark on a felting adventure! You will also find lots of useful links at the bottom of this post.

Understanding Felting Needle Sizes

Felting needles are specialized tools designed with barbed tips, which help interlock and compress the wool fibers, creating a firm and cohesive structure. They come in various sizes, usually categorized by gauge or thickness. The most common gauges are 36, 38, and 40, with lower numbers indicating thicker needles, and higher numbers indicating finer needles.

Image shows the shape and size of a felting needle

What Felting Needle Should I Start With?

Image shows text explaining what the most commonly used felting needles are

Keeping it simple is always best if you’re new to needle felting felting, and I recommend starting with a medium-sized needle. The 38 gauge is my favourite as it is a good all rounder, providing a balance between versatility and ease of use, and completes most projects from start to finish. In fact it is my go to needle for starting almost all of my needle felting projects. You may also want to have a finer needle (although not necessary when starting out) such as a size 40, for finishing touches and surface details, which will reduce visible needle marks.

Once you have a good grasp of needle felting basics you can experiment with different needle sizes to find what works best for your specific project, and personal preference. Keep in mind that some suppliers refer to them as small, medium, and large, so it’s helpful to refer to the specific gauge or needle size mentioned on the packaging or product descriptions when making your selection. I always use needles that are numbered, such as Groz Beckert felting needles, which are the best quality in the industry.

What If I Have Needles And Don’t Know The Size?

Here is my quick test to determine the size of your felting needles:

1 If your needle tip is super bendy, it will be a fine needle – probably 40 gauge – used for finishing touches and finer details; it will break easily. This needle is sometimes referred to as ‘small’.

2 If there is a slight bend at the tip but with resistance, this is usually a size 38, my favourite, and a good all-rounder; it completes most projects from start to finish. This needle is sometimes referred to as ‘medium’.

3 If it is really firm with little to no bend then it will likely be a 36 gauge which is used for starting projects and flat felting. This needle is sometimes referred to as ‘large’.

Felting Needle Holders

Whether you are using a single needle, or multiple needles at the same time, a felting needle holder can speed up the felting process significantly, as well as making needle felting for long period more comfortable. The handles are also really useful if you have any dexterity problems, allowing you to needle felt for longer. You can find out more about needle holders, and their best uses, on my Ultimate Guide To Felting Needles.

Reverse Felting needles

Reverse felting needles can add imaginative, clever and realistic effects to your projects by puling the, already felted wool back out; the barbs run in a different direction to a standard felting needle Once you have gained some needle felting confidence I would highly recommend adding one of these to your craft stash. This blog post tells you all you need to know about reverse felting needles.

Basic Needle Felting Techniques

Preparing Your Workspace:

Set up a clean and well-lit area to work in. You will need a felting mat (foam, hessian, or wool) to work on which will protect your felting needles and your work surface, as well as making it much easier to create your shapes.


Are You Brand New To Needle Felting

If you are just starting needle felting the Lincolnshire Fenn Crafts website has everything you need; from complete starter kits to tools, wool, accessories, and gifts.

How To Create A Simple Shape

1 Start by forming a basic shape, with your hands, using your chosen wool. For example, if you’re making a needle felted animal, begin with a core shape resembling the animal’s body, head, legs etc. Use your hands to shape and compact the fibers and make sure the shape is firm before you start using your felting needle.

2 Always use your felting needle in a straight line and never bend, or twist it as it likely to break.

3 Hold the shape you have created with your non felting needle hand and push the felting needle vertically into your wool with your other hand. Gently push and pull the needle in and out of the wool, avoiding bending or twisting the needle. The barbs on the needle will tangle and compact the fibers together as you work. Gradually speed up as you become used to using the needle.

Building Layers and Detailing

4 Continue adding more fibers and felting them into the base shape. Gradually build up layers and define the desired features of your project. Use finer gauge needles (higher numbers) for adding details and finishing touches.

5 Experiment with different angles of the needle to achieve the desired effects. Inserting the needle straight down will compact the fibers, while angling it will help blend colors or smooth surfaces.

Needle Felting Safety Tips

While felting needles are generally safe to use, it’s essential to keep a few precautions in mind:

  • Work slowly and mindfully, focusing on your work without distractions such as the TV
  • Keep your fingers well away from the needle’s to avoid accidental pricks
  • Use finger guards
  • Store needles safely, preferably in a container or pop in your felting mat when not in use

In A Nutshell

Felting needles are powerful tools that allow you to bring your artistic visions to life. With the basic techniques outlined in this guide, you’re now equipped to start your felting journey. Remember to practice, be patient, and let your creativity flow. Whether you’re creating cute animals, unique jewelry, or decorative objects, felting needles will help you achieve stunning results. So, dive into the world of felting and unleash your imagination!

So What’s Next?

Now you have learnt the basics you are ready to enter a whole new world of creative possibilities, and this blog is full of free tutorials, patterns and video tutorials to keep the creative juices flowing. From complete beginners to something more challenging, there is a project for everyone. Use the easy to navigate menus as your guide, join the free VIP newsletter, or join our creative Facebook community.

Image shows a needle felted pig and hedgehog. Text reads, "why reverse felting needles are so cool".