Complete Guide To Needle Felting Wool And How To Use It

Whilst I can’t call this a definitive guide to felting wool, it is based on my years of experience, using a huge range of wool and techniques and is quite extensive; you can find out more about me and my handmade business on the ABOUT page. I have put a lot of my time and knowledge into creating it and hope it answers most of your questions, making your needle felting journey a little easier. Also, at the bottom of this post you will find my list of useful links and tutorials on this blog, plus a few recommended books. In addition to that (I know , I’m spoiling you) I have created a needle felting wool guide in table form which you won’t want to miss. If there is something you want to ask please feel free to leave a comment or email me at: info@lincolnshirefenncrafts.com

It’s All About The Wool

Not all needle felting wool is created equal and for anyone new to needle felting it can be frustratingly confusing. However, all you need is one or two good needle felting wools in your craft box to create a multitude of wonderful needle felting projects. This guide will take away all the painful confusion so you can get started instead of ruminating for hours over which wool is best for needle felting. I have kept it simple and tried to answer the most frequently asked questions. At the bottom of the post you will find my easy guide to wool and my personal favourites. You will see a lot of British wool on the list because, well I live in Britain so it makes sense to use what we have around us. If any shops or books are mentioned it is because I love their products and I highly recommend them. I am not affiliated to them in any way.

Let’s get stuck in!

Did you know?

Worldwide, it is estimated there are 1000 distinct sheep breeds and around 60 of those are in Britain alone, more than anywhere else in the world. No wonder it’s confusing! Read about the history of British wool HERE

Herdwick sheep on the Cumbrian Fells

Can all wool be needle felted?

Short answer is no but most wool can be wet felted, or incorporated into wet felting. You will find my handy guide to needle felting wool at the bottom of this page.

Hands up if you’re confused about core wool?

Core wool means different things to different people and that is where most of the confusion lies. Put simply, it just means what you use for the centre or bulk of your project and it can be any medium/coarse wool. If your top layer is going to be a different colour or you are using a fine wool; Merino Corriedale or similar. Core wool can be used to needle felt your basic shape and then covered with dyed wool. However, for many projects, it isn’t necessary and if I am making a hare or a sheep then the whole thing will be made from natural Jacob, Shetland or Swaledale tops which is coarse and felts really easily. I will then add a few finishing touches and detail with a different colour wool, un-dyed where possible as I like the earthy, natural finish. Where a different core wool is really useful is when you are creating life sized animals, or using a more expensive dyed wool as your top colour for birds, realistic animals, Christmas baubles, fruit, dragons, Easter eggs, gnome hats etc. These types of projects would be much easier to needle felt with a core of coarse wool and then covered with a top layer of bright Shetland, Corriedale or Merino.

Do I need Core Wool?

Short answer is no. Core just means the inside of your project and, because most of my critters are small (usually no bigger than 15-20cm), I just use the same wool inside and out. It’s much less of a faff and it stops the wool, from the different colour core, poking through the top layer. My preference is natural, medium to coarse wool top (sometimes called roving) for most of my animal projects and needle felting kits and I usually encourage new felters to do the same, especially if they are going for a firm shape. For example, if I am making a grey hare or grey sheep then I will use my grey Jacob wool top (or similar) throughout only adding different wool for surface detail and contrast. Core wool is best used for realistic dogs, cats or other animals; for finer top coat of Corriedale or Merino where a different colour or blend of colours is required. Also, larger pieces such as life size hares or other animals would be more cost effective with a cheap core wool to build the bulk of your project. Shetland carded batts are a good option or a loose core. Visit tutorial HERE or watch the short VIDEO TUTORIAL

Brown woodland hare created using Shetland Moorit wool top; no core. White Jacob top and carded batt used for surface details and whiskers.
Sheep body using just grey Jacob wool top; no core.

Core wool for stuffing and wrapping

There is actually another type of core wool that is that is used almost like a toy stuffing, made up of shorter, lumpy wool fibres. It is perfect for soft sculpture and bigger rounder shapes and is ideal for wrapping wool batting around to create pumpkins, garden bases , mushroom tops, bee hives and all manner of soft sculpture where you want a particular look. They can be created in no time, are super simple and really effective. It can also be used for spinning and wrapping around a wire frame, although carded slivers may work better for some armature projects.

Visit tutorial HERE or watch the short VIDEO TUTORIAL

Create a simple, soft shape from core wool (takes less than 5 minutes) and wrap the carded batt around it.

‘Shroom houses with a soft core garden base and roof. House is natural white Jacob top which needed to be much firmer.

WATCH VIDEO TUTORIAL; working with soft core wool.

Life size Snowshoe Hare has a soft core of Shetland carded wool batts.

What is best, wool top or carded wool?

There is no right or wrong answer and it all depends on the wool you are using , what you are making and personal preference. The biggest problem is that a lot of people start their needle felting journey with Merino wool which is just not suitable. It’s is too fine, doesn’t felt easily and makes the whole project hard work – more on Merino below – then, thinking that all wool tops are the same they will change to carded wool (also great for needle felting), or give up on needle felting altogether, which makes me very sad.

Wool tops (AKA roving)

A coarse wool top ( sometimes called roving) is a joy to work with, felts up quickly and easily and is really cost effective. I use it for almost all of my needle felted animals and in the majority of my needle felting kits. I have been doing this for nearly seven years and have yet to find anything better for my needs. My HANDY GUIDE TO WOOL TOPS is further down the page.

Grey Jacob and Shetland Moorit both give a beautiful earthy, natural finish to needle felted animals and no need for a separate core wool.

Hares made from Grey Jacob top and Shetland Moorit top

Carded wool and carded slivers

Carded wool is also great for needle felting and carded slivers (long legths) are ideal for working around a wire frame where the finished project tends to be much softer. Carded wool sheets (batting) are also perfect for wrapping around a core base to create lovely soft sculpture like the fox and mouse shown below, pumpkins, gnomes and larger life size pieces. However, I don’t use full wire frames very much and favour wool tops for most of my projects. The fox and mouse below were both created using a wire frame (armature) using carded batting sheets. Mouse is grey Jacob batting and fox is my own blend of Corriedale batting and wool top.

Pumpkins made using a lumpy core wool and covered with carded batting sheets. Traditional and Winter Wonderland Pumpkin needle felting kits are on the WEBSITE

Video tutorial

It’s only nine minutes long and explains the different types of wool (including core wool) and how I like to use them.

What is the difference between wool tops and carded wool?

Same wool, different processes. Wool tops are made in long lengths (usually around the thickness of your wrist), quite dense with the fibres brushed in the same direction. Carded wool fibres are much shorter and brushed in lots of different directions, resulting in a much loftier wool. Click HERE for the wool shop.

Is Merino any good for needle felting?

Not for three dimensional projects or anything with a lot of bulk that needs to be firmly felted. Merino is a beautiful wool, when used for the right application – especially wet felting, top coats, long animal fur and pictures – but I have lost count of new felters that have contacted me asking why their needle felting project isn’t felting properly or is full of needle marks and is taking an age to shape. I can almost guarantee that they are using Merino or have started with a needle felting kit that uses Merino. It saddens me when this happens because it is really disheartening to start a new craft, often with much trepidation, and not be able to complete it. It stops many new would be crafters in their tracks because they think their lack of know how is to blame. Such a confidence shaker and definitely a case of ‘It’s not you it’s the wool’ and I am at a bit of a loss as to why Merino is used in many needle felting kits?

Ethical Merino

I am often asked about Merino and the practice of mulesing. My advice is to check that any Merino you purchase is from a country that doesn’t practice sheep mulesing; a horrible and painful practice used to control fly strike. The fly species that harms sheep only exists in Australia and New Zealand so Merino from non-mulesed sheep is easy to get hold of. Notably South America, South Africa and Spain. My rule is if a supplier doesn’t know where their Merino is from then I don’t buy from them.

Curly wool/locks

Curly locks can be used for almost any project, to add texture and interest. Teesdale and Wensleydale are really popular and come in a raft of colours. You can also make your own out of knitting yarn and I have created a short video HERE on how to create your own. I must admit I am a bit of a curly locks hoarder and I like to open the drawers and just admire my stash; I know I’m not the only one who does this… There are lots of fabulous lock sellers online and I have popped a few of my faves below. Or, why not make your own with simple wool yarn. Click HERE for video tutorial.

Pre-Felt

If you want to create needle felted (or wet felted) pictures then pre-felt is the perfect base. Pre-felt is partially felted sheets of wool which are lightly carded and felted. It is stretchy and pliable and makes a great base for wet felted and needle felted pictures, allowing you to lay out and layer all your fibres on the top before wet felting or needle felting. You can make your own by wet felting a couple of layers of wool top or carded wool but is is also available to purchase online. My favourite is natural Shetland pre-felt which I add to my picture needle felting kits and use for my own projects. You can find it in my wool shop.

Needle felted onto 25cm pre-felt
Simple needle felted picture on Shetland pre-felt

The possibilities for needle felted pictures are endless. I have added pearl beads and French knots to this one, called ‘Asleep Under The Cherry Tree’.

Angora and Alpaca

Too fine for bulky needle felting but, like Merino, good for blending with a coarser wool for different textures, wet felting and top coats.

What’s the best wool for long animal fur

Anything that works, including Merino. My Herdwick sheep, naturally have a long coat of Herdwick but for dogs and cats Merino and Corriedale is good. I spray mine with hairspray to keep everything in place. Some say it can discolour white wool, over time, but I have never found it to be an issue. CLICK FOR TUTORIAL

Long coat created using Herdwick wool

Sustainable and ethical wool

It makes sense, wherever possible, to buy local or from the country you are in. The carbon foot print is reduced, you are supporting your community and the economy, and traceability is much easier. Much of our wool is from animals that are used for their wool and meat but that doesn’t mean that they are not cared for and, for the overwhelming majority of farmers, animal welfare is a top priority. We do live in an imperfect world so there will always be rotten apples in the barrel. All my wool suppliers are British, family run businesses (some large some small) and I have never had a question on traceability or ethical farming go unanswered.

Where does British wool fit into ethical and sustainable?

Quote from the British Wool website at: https://www.britishwool.org.uk/

In global terms, UK sheep farms are small, having on average approximately 350 sheep.  UK sheep are raised naturally outdoors on pasture.  As a result, the scale and method of UK lamb production is such that it is not considered an ‘intensive’ farming activity by animal welfare campaigning bodies.

Sheep are required to be shorn of their wool once a year for their own comfort and health.  Hence, wool is a naturally occurring by-product.  Every year British Wool puts over 800 people in all parts of the UK through our two day shearing training courses that are tailored to their existing level of experience and skill.  It goes without saying that shearing in accordance with best practice industry standards ensures that the process is stress free for the animal (as well as maximising the value of producers’ wool). Please visit our Shearing pages for further information.

For further information, please email mail@britishwool.org.uk or telephone 01274 688666.

Dyed wool

If you want to inject some colour into your projects then Shetland and Corriedale (a Merino Lincoln cross) are my favourites but there is a huge range available and lately I have been looking for natural plant dyed wool which is not an easy task. These two dyed wools are ideal for any project that needs colour, be it landscapes, brightly coloured Christmas decorations or a vibrant topcoat. You can also blend colours to create different effects using your hands or a blending brush. If you don’t have wool blending brushes, dog slicker brushes work really well. Dyed wool and bundles are available HERE

Can I use plant fibres for 3 dimensional needle felting?

You can but it’s a struggle and a chore and the result isn’t nearly as good as wool. Plant fibres, like bamboo, don’t felt well because the fibres are much smoother, whereas wool has tiny scales that interlock when rubbed, agitated or compressed with a felting needle. A few years ago I put together a test ‘vegetarian’ needle felting kit, using only plant fibres, bamboo mostly. I then sent them out to a few customers for testing and each said that it was really difficult to work with and the end result was quite poor. Although plant fibres alone may not needle felt well they are still lovely to use for many other projects, especially when mixed with wool or added to finished wool projects. Bamboo, and especially silk tops add a lovely luxurious texture, contrast and sheen to your project. I use a lot of silk in needle felted pictures, on pumpkins and gnome beards and hats.

Can I buy vegetarian wool?

You can and availability is increasing. Vegetarian wool, also called slaughter free wool, means that the when the animal dies it is not sent to slaughter and does not end up in the food chain. I love the organic, vegetarian wool from the Doulton Border Leicester flock. It is a lovely coarse British breed wool that felts beautifully. Ellie refers to them as ‘sheep that live to grow old’ and even has a seperate area for her OAP sheep. You can find her on ETSY or via her WEBSITE and she also sells the most gorgeous vegetarian knitting yarn. I use Ellie’s wool in my VEGETARIAN NEEDLE FELTING KIT

Can wool be over felted?

Definitely. The more you needle felt the more you are breaking down the wool fibres. If you over felt, by repeatedly poking the wool in the same spot for too long, the fibres will eventually break down and start to go soft. If this happens it is best to start again with fresh wool.

What do I need to start needle felting?

Only four things are needed and you are good to go;

  • Good quality wool
  • Felting needle; size 38 or 36 to start with. Both are good all rounders. European needles are the best.
  • Soft but firm felting base of either foam, wool or a hessian bag filled with rice.
  • Enthusiasm

My GUIDE TO FELTING NEEDLES can be found HERE

At a glance – My needle felting wool guide in a handy chart

This chart is so useful and if you are ever unsure whether a wool is suitable for needle felting then just look at the micron count. This is the measurement used to determine how fine or coarse the wool is. The lower the micron number the finer the wool. For example: Jacob is 33-35 microns – coarse and perfect for needle felting. Whereas Merino is 23 microns, fine and not so good. Most of my animal needle felting kits use Jacob, Shetland or Swaledale. Of course, as you become more confident, you will develop your own preferences and the best way is to try a few yourself. Here are some of the most popular (although not exclusively) in a handy chart.

My favourites are marked with *

WOOLORIGINTEXTUREMICRONGOOD FOR NEEDLE FELTING
Jacob *EnglandCoarse25-35Yes. Earthy finish
Shetland*ScotlandMedium/
Coarse
25-30Yes
Swaledale*Northern
England
Very
Coarse
36-40Yes – slightly wiry finish
HerdwickNorth West
England
Very
Coarse
36-40Yes – very wiry finish
Corriedale
(Merino and Lincoln cross)
New ZealandFine/
Medium
25-30OK – needs more work. Good for topcoats, pictures, wet felting and blending.
MerinoSpain Fine

Super Fine
23

18
No – best blended
with coarser wool. Good for topcoats, pictures, wet felting and blending.
White*
Faced Woodland
EnglandCoarse28-38Yes
MashamCoarse34-38Yes – Smooth finish. Quite slippery.
Blue Faced LeicesterFine24-28Somewhat – smooth finish. More visible needle marks.
Border* LeicesterNorthern
England
Coarse30-40Yes – smooth finish
Manx LoaghtanIsle Of
Man
Medium/
Coarse
27-33Yes
Lincoln LongwoolEnglandCoarse33-45Yes
TeeswaterEnglandCoarse30-36Yes – smooth finish
Alpaca South AmericaFine26No
GotlandSwedenMedium/
Coarse
27-35Yes
TexelNetherlandsMedium/
Coarse
26-26Yes
NorweigianNorwayCoarse28-35Yes

How do I know what wool top I am using?

If you are new to needle felting and handling wool you probably won’t be able to tell. It’s easy for me as I have been handling wool for a long time and can even name some of the sheep breeds by running the wool through my hands. If you are finding it difficult to needle felt, and it feels smooth and silky, the chances are it is a Merino or other fine wool with a low micron count.

And Finally…almost. Don’t miss the really useful stuff below!

This is just a guide to impart some of the knowledge I have gained over the last seven years but I hope it helps you in your felting journey. Just experiment and have fun because there really is no right and wrong. Many people start with a needle felting kit which usually has everything you need to complete your first project. Just try not to start with one that uses Merino as it will make the learning curve harder. All my felting kits, wool and accessories are available on the LFC website HERE

On this blog – really useful links and tutorials

Free Download

Getting Started: Do’s And Don’ts

Felting Needle Guide

Easy Tutorials

Video Tutorials

YouTube Channel

How to needle felt a firm head shape

Using wire for needle felting

Types of wool and how to use them – video tutorial

Shop

Needle Felting Kits

Needle Felting Wool

Needle Felting Accessories

Patterns

Book Recommendations

Sheep breeds

The Field Guide To Fleece – Deborah Robson and Carol Ekarius

British Sheep Breeds – Susannah Robin Parkin

Beginners

Complete Photo Guide To Felting – Ruth Lane

Little Felted Animals – Marie Noelle Horvath

Beginners Guide To Needle Felting – Susanna Wallis

Advanced

A Masterclass In Needle Felting Dogs – Cindy-Lou Thompson

Copyright Lincolnshire Fenn Crafts 2020

How to make your own curls for needle felted sheep

So you have spent hours making your fabulous needle felted sheep, only to realise you don’t have any curls to finish it. Grrrr! Not to worry, just grab a ball of wool, yarn or similar and make your own. It’s really easy and creates a whole new look for your needle felted animals; Scroll down for video tutorial.

It is also very calming and saves you sitting by the post box like this, impatiently waiting for your curly wool to arrive.

VIDEO TUTORIAL

Here is a quick video (part 2) showing you how easy it is. I have used a coarse rug yarn but any yarn with an element of wool in it will do.

Use any yarn you have in your craft box; It is easier to apply if it has some wool content. I have used a coarse rug yarn and a really soft Merino for these two gorgeous sheep.

Create beautiful texture with standard yarn

You will also find out how to add this lush, art yarn (video part 1) to your projects. I used a 40 triangle needle as it is a little easier but a standard (usually a 36 or 38 gauge) will do just fine.

Video part 1 – Art yarn application

Sheep needle felting kits using this fabulous art yarn are available on the Lincolnshire Fenn Crafts website

Happy creating. Sandy x

Sewing Eyes Onto Your Needle Felted Animal

In just five minutes and four easy steps!

Needle felted eyes look great but I also love the sparkle and shine you get from a glass bead. I always find it funny that, when some of my students have spent hours creating their needle felted animal, they say they find sewing on the eyes the hardest part. I think it is because they seem a little bit fiddly but here is a quick way of doing it, in five minutes and four easy steps.

1 Use black thread and needle and sew through the side of the face – where your eyes will sit – and repeat a few times until your thread is secure.

2 Pop your bead onto the tip of your needle and pull it through.

3 Push your needle back through to the other side and pop on your second bead.

4 Repeat the process a few times until you can pull quite firmly on your thread, and both beads are secure. Finish by sewing through the back of the head a and cut the thread.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE BEGINNERS TUTORIALS

CLICK FOR NEEDLE FELTING KITS

Shows how to sew eyes onto needle felted animals

Beads can be used for all your needle felted animals.

CLICK FOR VIDEO TUTORIALS

HAPPY FELTING!

Adding Face Details To Your Needle Felted Animals

One of the trickiest things to do when creating face details is getting the really fine lines for the mouth and nose. It’s something I always spend time on with my workshop students so they don’t feel disappointed with the finishing touches. Practice, practice practice is the answer, a firm base on which to work, and less is more when it comes to the wool. When I say less is more, think even less than that. You only need the tiniest strand of wool to create really impactful details, add in a few simple techniques and you will soon be adding those details with confidence.

Top Tip: If it doesn’t look right don’t try and rectify it. Pull the wool off and start again. I often do this and it takes much less time than trying to fix the problem. Also, preparation is key so make sure the head is firm before starting. If the head is soft and squidgy you aren’t going to get the nice straight lines you want to achieve and your sheep or animal will look like they’ve been on the sauce.

Whatever your design, this technique can be applied to your project in many different ways.

Let’s get started and, if you haven’t made your head yet just click the link for the video tutorial: HOW TO CREATE A BASIC HEAD SHAPE

1 Create an impression of the mouth – Do this by ‘drawing’ the mouth onto the face with your felting needle. ‘Draw’ a V for the nose, a line down the centre and two shallow curves each side. Go over the lines you have drawn until they are clearly visible and defined. This is where your wool is going to sit and makes it so much easier to maintain a nice, even shape.

2 Roll a very, very thin wisp of wool between your fingers to gently mat it together (not vital but it helps). If you don’t think it is thick enough you can go over it again later. However, start with too much and it ends up looking like you have drawn it on with a felt tip. Place it on the top left of the V shape you have created and gently tack it down towards the bottom of the V shape. Top Tip: Make sure the wool is at least twice the length you need as it will be pulled into the face as you felt; you can trim it later.

3 Continue back up the V shape and leave the ends loose.

4 Use another thin strand of wool (longer than you will need) to create the line down the centre. Top Tip: Keep the wool taught with your free hand. This will help create a straight, even line and avoid a drunken grin.

5 Leave all the strands loose until you have completed the mouth.

6 As before, use a very thin strand of wool and felt along the mouth. Repeat for the other side.

Top Tip: Don’t be precious over the shape of the curve as this can be teased into shape before you finish.

7 Make sure the wool is secure before trimming and shape the mouth by gently rubbing the tip of you finger on the wool – in the centre – to pull it down slightly.

8 Your head is now ready for the eyes and that’s another easy tutorial. You can watch it Here or keep scrolling for the written tutorial.

Top Tip: Sometimes the mouth can look a little off centre or lopsided. This is easily fixed by squeezing, and moving the head in your fingers – wool is still quite pliable, even when felted – until the features straighten out.

Create fabulous features for all your needle felted creations.

How to sew eyes onto your needle felted animal

Needle felted eyes look great but I also love the sparkle and shine you get from a glass bead. I always find it funny that, when some of my students have spent hours creating their needle felted animal, they say they find sewing on the eyes the hardest part. I think it is because they seem a little bit fiddly but here is a quick way of doing it, in five minutes and four easy steps.

1 Use black thread and needle and sew through the side of the face – where your eyes will sit – and repeat a few times until your thread is secure.

2 Pop your bead onto the tip of your needle and pull it through.

3 Push your needle back through to the other side and pop on your second bead.

4 Repeat the process a few times until you can pull quite firmly on your thread, and both beads are secure. Finish by sewing through the back of the head a and cut the thread.

Free Printable – Needle Felted Mushrooms – Unlock your inner creative!

If you are ready to dip your needle felting toe into the water this super easy needle felting pattern is a great place to begin. Perfect for even the most nervous of beginners this step by step guide will have you confidently creating fabulous needle felted characters in no time. Grab your free printable below. Just click for access, no purchase or subscription necessary. 

TAKE ME TO THE FREE PRINTABLE 

If you don’t have wool or needles then a needle felting kit is the perfect way to get started. There are more than 30 to choose from on the website. All you have to do is open the box and add enthusiasm!

TAKE ME TO NEEDLE FELTING KITS

Inspiring needle felting kits for beginners and beyond

Needle Felting Video Tutorial: Sheep Ears Made Simple

A question I am often asked by new or beginner felters is how to complete the more fiddly finishing touches of a needle felting project. The small size and need for symmetry is something many struggle with when felting sheep ears, but it really doesn’t need to be a complicated process. The below video tutorial will show you all the techniques, tips, and tricks you need to create perfect sheep ears in just 15 minutes; or just 10 if you cut out the waffle.

WATCH ALL THE ‘NEEDLE FELTING FOR BEGINNERS’ VIDEO SERIES

Tiny ears are simple once armed with the right technique.

This video tutorial builds upon the written tutorial to show the entire process of creating and attaching sheep ears to your creation. If, like me, you are a visual learner and prefer to follow along with someone else, this real-time video tutorial is the one for you!

NEW VIDEO TUTORIAL

TAKE ME TO WRITTEN TUTORIAL

Create perfect ears for your needle felting projects

WATCH ALL THE ‘NEEDLE FELTING FOR BEGINNERS’ VIDEO SERIES


Little ears for mice and deer can be created using the same technique; all you change is the shape.

For needle felting kits please visit the LINCOLNSHIRE FENN CRAFTS website.

Est. 2013
© 2013 Lincolnshire Fenn Crafts

Making Needle Felted Mushrooms; using core wool

This tutorial uses the super easy, soft sculpture technique style of needle felting. Once you have tried it you will fall in love with its simplicity and versatility. If you want to go straight to the mushroom tutorial click below, if you want to learn a little more before you start then read on.

TAKE ME STRAIGHT TO MUSHROOM TUTORIAL

Types Of Needle Felting

There are so many wool options for needle felting that it can make the room spin but really, needle felting mostly falls into just three categories. Yes, there are more but these are the most commonly used, and all you need to be familiar with when you are just starting out.

1 Flat felting: Pictures, brooches and, in my case, really big bunny ears

Flat felting: Needle Felted Picture

2 Firm sculpture: I like to use the coarse British wool tops/roving for this style.

Firm felting: Needle felted hares with flat felted ears

3 Soft sculpture (it’s really squidgy): Uses wool batting sheets (wool that has been carded into short fibres) and core wool, which is essentially stuffing and is what you wrap your batting sheet around.

Soft needle felted sculpture: it’s really squidgy

Creating needle felted soft sculpture is so easy and there is no end to what you can create; pumpkins are my favourite and there’s a video for that too. All you need is some wool batting, core wool, a felting base (foam pad or hessian mat) or a needle felting kit.

What Is Core Wool?

I just want to quickly talk about core wool as it often causes confusion. Core wool, for soft sculpture, is like toy stuffing and you wrap the batting sheet around it. It is made up of uneven, short fibres and is a little bit lumpy; perfect for our project. It is usually the ‘scraps’ of wool that can’t be used for firm felting or spinning, is cheaper than wool tops/roving and is mostly white or grey.

Five minute tutorial Here’s a quick guide to making a mushroom cap with core wool at the centre. This only takes around five minutes or you can watch the video tutorial which also works alongside the, ‘Shroom With A View’ needle felting kit.

1 Scrunch the core wool firmly into the shape of a bread roll and hold the centre to keep in place. Use your felting needle in a straight in and out motion (around the sides) to secure the shape. TIP: It doesn’t matter if the shape is uneven or untidy because the whole piece will soon be covered. Continue turning and felting the whole piece for a few minutes until you have your rough shape and size; it will be really squidgy, quite loose and won’t be a perfect shape.

2 Lay your wool batting sheet on your felting pad and put your core wool in the centre. Pull the batting sheet firmly around your core wool and felt into the centre.

3 Gather the batting firmly towards the centre, so it doesn’t have any sags, and felt in place. Pull away any excess. Top Tip: Only felt in the centre as this will keep the top and sides of your mushroom free of needle marks.

4 Your finished ‘shroom cap ready for it’s spots and maybe a chimney or two.

4

Take Me To Full Mushroom Turorial

The possibilities are endless Once you have learned this quick and easy technique you will soon be making, well anything and every thing you want; enchanted gardens, pumpkins, ‘shrooms, snowmen. The list goes on and on and I am still trying to give away the mountain of pumpkins I made last year.

Supplies If you don’t have any wool or needles then they can all be found on the website, alongside the ‘Shroom With A View and Honey Pot Cottage needle felting kits. TAKE ME TO WEBSITE

TAKE ME TO PUMPKIN TUTORIAL

Click for hedgehog tutorial

If you are brand new to needle felting then pop over to the essential blog post for beginners: THE DO’S AND DON’TS OF NEEDLE FELTING

Happy creating x

Est. 2013
© 2013 Lincolnshire Fenn Crafts

Needle Felting For Beginners|Cute Animal Faces

I love creating new needle felting video tutorials for you all, and anything that gives you the confidence to try this amazing craft is a win win for me. You can felt along with or without a a Lincolnshire Fenn Crafts Needle Felting Kit and all you need is a cuppa, felting needle, mat and your wool stash. My videos are perfect for even the most nervous of beginners and this one shows how to create really simple, but super cute, details for your animal faces, in just ten minutes! I’m not kidding, it really is only ten minutes.

‘KEEP IT SIMPLE’ is my mantra and the video tutorials on this blog and YouTube are designed to do just that. They are the building blocks of needle felting; a perfect beginners introduction on how to get it right from the very start.

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As well as standalone video tutorials they also perfectly compliment my range of needle felting kits; if you have purchased a kit then you can happily needle felt along with each tutorial as you work through the different stages of your project.

I hope these short videos will help you build confidence as you needle felt along with me, workshop style. It’s such a wonderfully addictive craft. No sewing, wires or tricky patterns and all you need is enthusiasm.

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Brand new to needle felting? Dos And Don’ts For Beginners

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The Lincolnshire Fenn Crafts Sheep

Est. 2013
© 2013 Lincolnshire Fenn Crafts

needle felted sheep picture

How To Needle Felt A Picture

All photographs and finished pictures are Lincolnshire Fenn Crafts originals so please make sure to credit my pictures as inspiration should you decide to use them as reference for your own picture. This also applies to all social media and blog pages. Copies of my picture must not be sold! However I am happy for them to be gifted as long as full credit is given. All copyright laws apply.

I have had lots of requests to put together a quick guide to get you started on needle felting a 2D/3D picture so, using my own pictures as inspiration, here it is. It is suitable for all abilities (including complete beginners) and you can work at your own level and at your own pace. If this is your first time needle felting then please watch my beginner video tutorials to familiarise yourself with basic techniques:

HOW TO NEEDLE FELT

BASIC SHAPE VIDEO TUTORIAL

If you are new to needle felting, or don’t have many colours, I have put together a picture pack containing a carefully chosen wool selection, natural pre-felt and natural effect fibres that can be used for needle felting and wet felting. I will be focusing on needle felting but you can adapt to suit whatever project you are working on.

Shop Picture Needle Felting Kit

Preparation and planning is really important. I find using a photograph of a landscape, animal, woodland scene etc for reference/inspiration really helpful. It can be the roughest of guides or very specific to the photograph or image you have in mind. You may have a particular animal you want to incorporate into the picture which is also a great starting point; anything goes.

For this guide I am creating fields as the backdrop with a 2 D wooden gate, Herdwick Sheep and pebble wall in the foreground. It is called, ‘Watching Me, Watching Ewe.’ I know, cheese on toast right… but it was too good an opportunity not to. You should hear my pirate jokes. I save those for special occasions, usually workshops.  #sorrynotsorry to anyone who has been at the receiving end of them…

Enough pre-amble, lets get started.


 

1 – Using a piece of *pre-felt for the back of your picture take a marker or chalk to, very roughly, draw out your idea on to the pre-felt: ZERO DRAWING SKILLS REQUIRED. This way you can ensure that you can fit in all the elements you want to use.

* I always use pure Shetland but any 100% wool felt is OK. Size of the pre-felt I used for this picture is approx 20cm square. A 30cm square is included in the picture pack.

2 – I am making a *Herdwick picture with a landscape backdrop and stone wall to get lots of 2D elements in there. It’s quite a small picture; 20cm square to fit into some lovely shadow boxes I have. Also, starting with a smaller picture means there is less white space to fill which can be a little daunting and it takes less time.

*All photographs and finished pictures are Lincolnshire Fenn Crafts originals so please make sure to credit my pictures as inspiration should you decide to use them as reference for your own picture. All copyright laws apply.

Instructional diagram on needle felting herdwick sheep

3 – Mark your colours and objects so you know where your wool and 2D elements are going to sit. Keep it as simple as possible and remember these are just your guide lines.

4 – Time to get out your wool and needles. I am using a star 36/38 needles (good all rounders) and a punch tool (7 needles) to speed up the process.

5 – I felted the landscape first but you can start wherever you want depending on your picture style. I will be felting on my 2D elements later and adding embellishment. Lay your colour on, or between the lines, you have drawn, and use your needle to gently felt into place. It doesn’t have to be firmly felted but should stay in position.

I have used a mix of coarse wool tops and some semi carded wool tops that I had a lot of.

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6 – Continue to gently needle felt your selected colours until the back ground is full.

7 – If you are happy with the layout then go ahead and felt the whole background more firmly (but not too flat), peeling it off your mat at intervals so it doesn’t stick. If you are doing a lot of flat felting then I recommend a rice filled hessian or strong cotton felting pad and a punch tool. Trust me, you will thank me later for cutting your felting time by three quarters.

Don’t worry if you have covered up some of your lines; remember they were just a guide.

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You can also blend colours either by hand or using blending brushes (glorified dog brushes). For this picture I used a blend of Shetland blue top, light blue silk fibre and light grey Swaledale top for the sky.

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8 – I wanted a distinct line separating the fields and used very thin strips of dark brown Jacob wool top to achieve this. Felt the lines quite firmly into the pre-felt which will push it down and give a little more depth.

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Time to create some 2D elements.

9 – Wall

I have used lots of muted colours to create the pebbled wall appearance. Avoid all ‘flat’ colours by blending different colour wool by hand; if using the landscape box some colours will not need blending as they will already have texture and different shades. A soft palette works really well for this style of picture e.g purple blended with white, dark grey blended with white or light grey

Make your stones by rolling your wool into a very rough ball shape (this is not the shape you will end up with but will create dimension) and felting all over with your needle. Keep the wool moving as it firms up and don’t try to make it even; have you ever seen even shapes on a dry stone wall… Make quite a few different shapes and sizes; mine are  approx 1.5cm to 2.5cm then place them on your picture in the walled area to see how many more you will actually need.

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Once done stitch or glue them into position; I’m not a purist and whichever you choose is fine. Clearly, using glue is so much faster and a strong fabric glue will do just fine as long as you give it a little time to dry. Using glue also allows you to move your pebbles about before the glue dries; you will be ready for a cuppa at this stage anyway.

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10 – Time to make the Herdwick sheep head (or whichever animal you have chosen).

Please follow the link to the video tutorial: How to needle felt a head shape  You will want to flatten the back of the head so it sits nicely on your picture. You can then needle felt your eyes or use beads (included in the picture pack).

11- Start with a small length of white wool (approx 2g) and roll into a rough oval shape felting (stabbing gently with your needle) and tucking in the ends as you go.  Gently felt until it holds its shape and turning as you felt. Continue to felt until you have achieved a rough egg/oval shape. Now flatten the back of the head by needle felting until it sits flat on the picture but don’t attach it yet; it’s ears are missing.

12 – Ears: For the ears take a pinch of white wool. Lay it on your pad and draw a rough circle with your felting needle and fold the wool around the line you have drawn, felting it into the centre. Turn over (to prevent from sticking) and repeat a few times, leaving one end loose (to attach to the head) and felt until flat, smooth and slightly firm. Repeat for other ear. Attach the loose end of each ear to the side of the head and felt or sew into position so it is peeping over the wall.

13 – Gently felt on very thin wisps (even thinner than that) onto the face to create the nose and mouth. N.B. Easiest way is to roll very thin wisps of wool between your fingers before felting to the face. Alternatively, you can sew on using black or dark grey thread.

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14 – Add your gate by rolling and felting your brown wool into short lengths and overlapping for effect before gently felting into position. You may reposition a few times before you are happy with it.

15 – Add your wool for the body of your animal but don’t felt it flat and keep it quite loose as this will create dimension. I have used loose curly grey locks.

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16- Now add your foreground details. I have used greens and some locks for a grassy feel but be as creative as you wish. You could add flowers, butterflies, bees etc.

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17 – Finishing touches make all the difference and as you can see I have used french knots (easy and absolutely no need to be perfect). YouTube French Knot Tutorial. Curly locks also add more interest and dimension.

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There you have it. Super easy 2D picture tutorial.

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I have done a few pictures which are so worth the time they take. Here are a few more ideas for inspiration.

‘Asleep Under The Cherry Tree’ A gift for my daughter.

Again, I have used French Knots as well as beads for interest and detail.

 

 


 

‘Midnight At The Northern Lights’ 

Midnight is the name of my hare in the picture and inspiration came from my dream of visiting the  Northern Lights.

 

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You can also use wet felted pictures as a base and then add  two dimensional effects using needle felting. Free motion embroidery works really well on wet felted backgrounds. Below is a very unfinished picture waiting for me to decide what to do next. I have needle felted onto Shetland pre-felt then wet felted the whole scene incorporating locks and silk fibres.

There are lots of YouTube videos showing wet felting techniques: Wet Felting Tutorial

 

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So there you have it. The possibilities are endless and I hope this guide has inspired you to try something new. Happy creating!

If you would like a picture pack then please click on the link below for the website. You can also find my favourite selection of needle felting accessories and tools.

Shop website wool bundle

Shop Etsy wool bundle

 

 

Est. 2013
© 2013 Lincolnshire Fenn Crafts

needle felted herdwick sheep

Herdwick Sheep And Winnie The Pooh

Herdwick three ways. My favourite sheep. Natural, sustainable and completely biodegradable; what more do you want from a craft…

Have a fabulous week everyone and always remember that crafts are the perfect, instant respite when the stresses and strains of daily life start to get on top of you. So, today is officially my ‘Crafts As Therapy’ Monday. Failing that, just read a few Winnie The Pooh quotes; if that doesn’t work then we are all doomed and should stay in bed for the rest of our lives…

“I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” —Winnie-the-Pooh

Use the basic shapes video or tutorial to make the head and body then be as creative as you like. Sheep are the easiest way to start needle felting and you don’t even need to add the legs: BASIC SHAPE VIDEO 

If you fancy something more seasonal then the NEEDLE FELTED PUMPKIN VIDEO is perfect!

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Needle Felted Nordic Gnome Tutorial

Video tutorial for this project is on the Lincolnshire Fenn Crafts YouTube channel.

Skill level: Complete beginners – no crafting experience necessary

Time to make: Approximately 30 minutes

You will need:

15g any colour wool top/roving for the body

5g Wool top/roving or carded wool for the hat, in your choice of colour

Pinch of light colour for the nose

2g Wool top/roving, or curly wool for the beard, in your choice of colour

Enthusiasm

If you don’t have any supplies then the Gnome needle felting kit is available on the website.

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Nordic and Scandinavian style decor is so popular and I just love it. What I especially love are the charming Nordic gnomes. You may also see them referred to as Nisse, Tomte and Tonttu. Our house is full of them and they are super easy so here’s a tutorial for you.

If you have never needle felted before or are an experienced felter this is a wonderful way to start and get you in the festive mood. It’s simple and relaxing and so much fun to make.

This is just one style to get you started but there are so many variations that soon, like me, you will be tripping over them. So grab a cuppa, mince pie and some festive cheer and get creating.

1 – Hat: Make this first so the body fits the hat; much easier than trying to fit the hat to the body! You can go as small or tall as you like but this hat, when completed, is approx 20cm. The triangle template measurements are approx; base 10cm (slightly curved) and sides 12cm .

Layer your hat wool on your felting mat and pop your hat template on top of your wool, leaving a few extra centimetres of wool around each side. Top tip: Your wool shouldn’t be too thick but make sure you can’t see the felting mat through it

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Make sure you can’t see through the wool

2 – ‘Draw’ a line around the triangle with your needle to create a very rough outline

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‘Draw’ around the template

3 – Remove template and draw around the line a couple more times. This will be your fold line.

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Make sure your line is visible

4 – Fold in the sides one at a time and start to felt to create a triangle; it will be a very rough shape to start with but you will tidy this up as the wool becomes more felted so stop fiddling with it!

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Stop at the fold line

5 – Gently fold and felt each side until you have this rough shape; keep the excess at the top of your triangle because this is going to create your lovely pointy hat shape.

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Repeat for all three sides

6 – Gently pull away from the base you are using, turn and repeat. Tip; any felting base will do (foam, rice bag etc), whatever your preference.

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Keep turning regularly so it doesn’t stick to the base

7 – Keep repeating the process until it starts to firm up.

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Continue felting until it holds its shape

8 – Time to tidy up the shape; use your finger to fold in the sides that need straightening (doesn’t have to be perfect). Be slow and careful so as not to stab your finger; you can use a finger guard but I find they just annoy me. However, I have lots of customers who get on with them just fine.

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Be careful, the needle is sharp

9 – Your approx finished triangle which should be soft but firm and holds its shape.

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Your finished hat shape; it doesn’t have to be perfect

10 – Fold in half and felt along the side to mesh the fibres together. Keep turning and repeating until the hat is now firmly felted along the side so it doesn’t pull apart when you gently pull it.

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Fold in half and felt along the seam
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11 – Open up the base of the hat and tidy up the line by folding in any rough edges and felting. Keep turning and felting until you are happy with the shape at the base of your Tomte hat.

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12 – Roll just the top 2/3 cm of your hat between the palm of your hands to firm up the top and point. This improves the look as well as allowing you to tip the point over to the side at a jaunty angle.

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Roll the tip in the palm of your hands to create a pointy hat
Use any colours you want for the hat

Basic Body Shape

Body shapes don’t get much easier than this. Don’t be too precious about needle marks and dimples because most of this will be covered by its big beard.

1 – Roll your wool (I have used natural white Shetland) into a basic barrel shape. It will do this automatically as you start to roll. Start with less than you need and build it up.

Most important! Do not start to felt with your needle until you have rolled at least half of it really tightly; trust me, this will save you a lot of felting time and applies to all body shapes made this way!

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2 – Start stabbing all over with your needle (mind your fingers) as you continue to roll and remember to keep it tight. Tip: Check to see if your hat sits on top and if the body is too small add some more wool and felt again. If it’s too big then continue to felt where the hat will sit to reduce the size.

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3 – Continue to turn and felt until you have a more even and neater shape. You may end up with a narrower end which is fine because you will pop the hat onto this. Pay particular attention to the base which needs to be flat for stability. Tip; you can also press on the base once felted as the wool is pretty malleable.

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4 – Flatten the base until it sits without wobbling.

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5 – Pop on your hat and felt, gently, all around the edge until it is felted securely onto the body making sure the hat seam is at the back.

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6 – Make the nose by rolling a pinch of white or flesh coloured wool in your hands just to rough it up. Place on your mat and continue to felt with your needle, turning all the time. Now place back into the palm of your hands and roll vigorously until really firm and smooth. Tip; you may have to do this a couple of times to get it right as it is very easy to add too much wool and have a huge nose if you have never needle felted before. Less is always more when it comes to needle felting.

7 – Place the nose on its side, just under the front of the hat and felt the end into the body.

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9 – As you do this the nose will naturally rise into its correct position. Continue to felt around the base until it is firmly attached. The base of the hat should be sat just above the nose.

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10 – Decide what type of beard you are going to have. I have used grey Jacob but use whatever colour you wish. Curly locks also look really great.

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11 – If using a straight wool pull off a small section and fold in half and start by felting it onto the body just under the nose. Don’t worry about it being longer than the body because you will trim it to size (or not) once it is attached.

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12 – Continue to felt along the fold and attach it up the side of the nose and along the hat line. Tip; you can push the wool under the hat line with your needle (don’t bend it or  you may break the needle) for a neater finish.

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13 – Now trim your beard to your desired shape and style. I like mine quite ‘raggy’ so once I have got the length I then snip into the sides.

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There you have it. One fabulous Tomte Christmas gnome! You can crease the hat or keep it straight. I like both. Told you it was easy!

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Try different wool and add some fabulous locks for a different look. For the gnomes below I have used a lush teal batting with green silk fibres for the hat, and plant dyed, hand spun locks for the beard. The gnome on the right has a beard of grey Masham shot through with white silk.

But why would you stop there when the variations and colours are endless!

Gnome needle felting kits are also available on the Lincolnshire Fenn Crafts website.

CLICK FOR GNOME NEEDLE FELTING KIT