Hi and welcome to my ultimate guide to needle felting.
I’m Sandy, creator, owner, designer, chief cook and bottle washer at Lincolnshire Fenn Crafts.
Since 2014 I have taught thousands of people to needle felt through my tutorials, videos, workshops and extensive range of inspiring needle felting kits. Whether you are a nervous beginner or a confident crafter, you will discover a wealth of needle felting guides and resources at your creative fingertips. Let’s craft a happy space together!
SO, WHAT DO YOU NEED TO START NEEDLE FELTING?
Not much at all as it happens and you don’t have to spend a lot of money either! It’s a budget friendly hobby that requires very little space and zero experience and all you need is:
1 FELTING WOOL
2 FELTING NEEDLE
3 FELTING MAT
4 GOOD TUTORIALS
Wool tops or carded wool are both great to needle felt with. Avoid Merino wool tops and go for a coarser wool like Jacob, Shetland or Romney.
CLICK HERE FOR MY ULTIMATE WOOL GUIDE AND QUICK LOOK, HANDY CHART
Just one or two standard felting needles will get you started. I like to use a 38 star as a good all-rounder.
Ignore all the fancy needle felting creations you see online and start with a simple needle felting project or tutorial. It is so important to allow yourself to be a beginner and build up to those fancy creations you have been drooling over.
When it comes to needle felting enthusiasm goes a long, long way! It’s all you need to get started; you don’t need to be artistic, just enthusiastic. Allow yourself to be a beginner and you will pick up the needle felting basics in no time. You may prefer to start with a needle felting kit , especially if you don’t have any equipment. It is a budget friendly way to get started and allows you to see if you enjoy this fabulous craft without ending up with lots of equipment.
Helping you create perfectly shaped, firm needle felted projects that a more experienced needle felter would be proud of!
Your ears have pricked up now, haven’t they? Well, I have used ALL the needle felting tools over the years and I still end up using just a handful on a regular basis. However, a few years ago I discovered the magic of the humble BBQ skewer and it changed the way I needle felted?
Now, to some of you this will be old news but to many, especially those new to needle felting, it will become a revelation! A needle felting epiphany of sorts, and you will wonder how you ever managed without it, even though it was sat in your kitchen draw the whole time. Even better, total cost, only a few pence or cents, assuming you bought them as a multi-pack.
The BBQ skewer is, to needle felters what string is to farmers and, once discovered, you will use it as your go to felting tool. It will give you the confidence to try new styles that you may be finding tricky with your current technique. You can also use any wool, be it carded or wool tops.
For instance, the legs , head and body of this fabulous hare (link for tutorial below) have all been made around a BBQ skewer, and not a wire in sight! And, believe me, those legs are long! Wherever possible I like to work without wire so this works well for me. Even when I use wire for animals it is usually just for the legs, and maybe the neck. That said, if you are working much bigger then you will find using wires really helps form and stability.
What this magical wooden stick allows you to do is to create perfect symmetry for your legs in super fast time. They end up really firm so no floppy, saggy legs (not a good look) and no need for wire. Making firm, perfectly shaped heads is a dream and lengthening and tapering the body shape is a breeze.
From hedgehog noses to Christmas trees, gnomes, mushrooms, cactus, bumble bees and bunnies… the list of things you can create is endless, and even the snail shell was made around the skewer. Mind boggled yet?
Now go and dig out your BBQ skewers and have some needle felting fun. If you can’t find them they will probably be at the bottom of your kitchen drawer, covered in a sticky substance of unknown origin 🤢
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Join me for my live workshops and felt alongside me whilst asking me all your needle felting questions, or anything else for that matter as I am always up for a chat over crafts and a cuppa. Details below. Hope you can make it. If not the replays are below.
Join me for 90 minutes of fully festive creative respite. It’s a completely free workshop so if you have your own wool stash then come and join me. It will be a fabulous evening and a great way to get in the festive mood. Why not make a night of it and get the whole family involved. Or, grab a glass of something special and have a Skype craft party. However you do it, I will be there answering your questions and showing you all my favourite felting moves.
FAIRY LIVE WORKSHOP REPLAY
You will need:
Pipe cleaners/Wool tops; white and whatever you have in your wool stash/Felting needle/Felting mat or soft base to work on
SNOWMAN LIVE WORKSHOP REPLAY
Bring wool, felting needles, your favourite tipple and create a cute, super easy needle felted snowman to add to your Christmas decor. Click HERE for Instagramnotifications You will need: Any core wool/White carded wool (wool tops can also be used/Orange for carrot nose/Black or dark brown for details/Bright felting wool for scarf and hat/Felting needle/Felting mat, or soft surface to work on.
Adding a long coat to your needle felted sheep adds serious impact as well as adding another element of realism. I have had a lot of requests asking how it’s done and the technique is so easy that even the most nervous beginner will be able to tackle this with ease. Once learned, this technique can be used for so many other animals and projects.
YOU WILL NEED:
Any medium to coarse wool top.
Standard felting needle – 36 or 38 gauge are good all rounders.
Foam pad or felting mat to support your project.
TIME TO MAKE
Adding wool top and trimming: 20 minutes
Faff time: how long is a piece of string?
For full, flowing effect use a wool top for long coats, also known as roving although this isn’t strictly accurate. Carded wool can be used but you just don’t get the same results as the fibres are much shorter and run in different directions. As I am making my favourite, the Herdwick sheep, I have used Herdwick wool top but any medium to coarse wool top will work just as well. Herdwick wool top is very coarse, and sheds a lot so is not entirely suitable for all aspects of needle felting. However, for this application it is perfect and the earthy texture is just what I am looking for.
Herdwick Sheep needle felting kits are available on the website HERE
Lets get creating! Visit the homepage HERE for full list of tutorials
1) Your ‘naked’ sheep is prepped and ready for it’s top coat. To make this sheep follow the basic shapes video tutorials HERE.
2) If your wool top is quite thick then split it down the middle before starting
3) Cut (or pull) a strip of wool approximately 10cm long, but longer if your sheep is larger than mine which is 9cm from feet to top of its back. Please note: this is one of the few times it is OK to cut wool as the cut eds will not be attached to anything. TOP TIP: Cutting wool for needle felting is generally a no no as it damages the fibres, and prevents them from felting. If you do need to cut a piece away from your needle felting project (head maybe too big or legs not firm enough) make sure you wrap it in fresh, uncut wool before re-attaching.
4) Lay your strip of wool on the bottom half of the body of your sheep.
5 & 6 ) Felt across the centre of the strip of wool to keep it in place. Make sure it is firmly attached as you don’t want it to pull away when handled.
7 & 8) Fold the top over to double the thickness
9) Felt along the top to keep it in place.
Fun Herdwick fact: Herdy’s will climb up to 3000ft to graze on the Lakeland high fells, and are fondly known as the ‘gardners’ of the Lake District.
10) Repeat this process around the sheep until you have created a ‘skirt’. Trim around the bottom of the skirt so that the legs are visible and the wool is an even length all the way round.
11 & 12) Repeat steps 1 to 10 and create a second skirt approximately 1 to 2 cm above the first.
13) Once the second skirt is complete lay a strip of wool across the sheeps back.
14) Felt down the centre of the wool strip to secure it. Repeat once or twice more until the back is covered.
15 & 16) Skip this part if your sheep doesn’t have a neck. Add much thinner strips of wool around the neck but leave the top part of the neck visible.
17 & 18) Your sheep is looking a bit wild so smooth it down with your hands.
19) Now you have flattened the wool it is looking a bit chunky so time for a trim. You can also snip into it, hairdresser style, to thin it out and give it some layers. TOP TIP: Take your time as you can’t stick it back on once you have cut it and you don’t want to end up with bald spots.
20) Give it a gentle shake to get rid of any loose wool. TOP TIP: You may want to do this outside or in a bag to avoid lots of fibres flying everywhere.
21) I quite like the wild look but, if you want to go for the more traditional then just smooth the coat down and fluff gently with the tips of your fingers. Now, depending on the sheep you have created you may just want to leave it at that. However, the Herdwick sheep sport a pretty nifty ‘buzz’ cut so continue to the next section to see how it’s done.
22) Lay a thin strip of wool across the top of the head
23) Secure by felting across the centre of the wool strip, making sure the eyes are still visible.
24) You now have something of a troll situation going on.
25) Trim quite close to the head, being careful not to snip into the ears.
26) There you have it. Your sheep in all its long coated glory, ready for even the harshest of Cumbrian winters.
I will let you into a little secret; unless you are working on big projects you really don’t need a full wire frame.
Working with a wire armature can be a little daunting, especially if you are new to needle felting and, to be honest, I find working with a full wire armature a little fiddly. I usually prefer working with a firmer shape so I tend to work more with just part armature; usually just the legs, neck or tail. It’s easy and really useful for when something needs stability or to add detail or dimension that can’t otherwise be achieved e.g the neck and legs on the flamingo, the tail and legs of the mouse and the life size ears of the Snow hare below.
TAKE YOUR PROJECT UP A CREATIVE NOTCH
See how using paper covered floristry wire can take a project to the next level. I have used wire only for the legs and tail on this fabulous cat; a happy accident who started life as a mouse. Because the wire is paper covered the wool sticks to it really well. No need for messy wax. For a super smooth finish just roll firmly between the palms of your hands. You can also dip the pieces in hot water before rolling firmly for an even firmer finish.
Wrapping wire is really easy and can be done quite quickly and simply, but don’t be too ambitious and decide that tiny fingers and toes are going to be your first attempt. You will almost certainly set yourself up for a fail at the first hurdle and probably run for the needle felted hills. I still avoid tiny fingers and toes – if there is another option – so don’t sweat it.
Instead, get used to wrapping wire and creating simple shapes. Most important is the wool and wire you use. Get those right and the task is so much easier, a lot more fun and negates the need for any messy wax or glue.
What wire should you use?
My favourites are floristry wire (the paper wrapped kind) or cotton covered pipe cleaners. Using either of these means the wool holds really well as you wrap it around the wire and requires little felting, thus reducing the risk of broken or bent needles and no need for messy wax.
Top Tip: I like to use the old-style cotton covered pipe cleaners. Look for the tobacconist kind as the wool sticks to these better than the chenille ones. They are also a lot cheaper than the craft ones.
Wire size/gauge – I usually opt for 0.5mm or 1mm if I’m working on something larger.
It’s all personal preference but for me it is usually wool top/roving because you can use long, continuous lengths that can be pulled really tightly around the wire, giving it a lovely smooth, neat finish. I like to use white Jacob or Shetland tops but any wool top will do.
I don’t use it unless I am wrapping tiny fingers and toes. I seem to get more on myself than the project so I avoid it if possible and find that I rarely need it anyway. That said, I know some felters who get on really well with it so it really is personal preference.
TRY THE MINI TUTORIAL BELOW!
Have a practice by following the tutorial below. This one is for creating Flamingo legs but the same method can be used for any felting project. If you are creating sheep or hares just continue to wrap your wool around the wire to build up the limbs.
Top Tip: This is where the majority of needles get bent or broken so take care and use the ‘softly softly’ approach.
1 Create the shape you want with your wire. I am using 0.5mm tape covered floristry wire, 24cm long which I have doubled over for strength and stability. There is no need for pliers with this gauge wire as it bends and twists easily.
1 Pull a thin piece of wool top/roving down the long length of your wool; it needs to be thin so it covers the wire without bulking it out.
2 Start to wrap tightly down from the top of the leg (this is to cover the wire). Tip: wrap a few times in one place at the top of the leg and rub around with your fingers to mesh the fibres together so they hold (no need for wax).
3 and 4 Wrap around the first half of the foot then pull the length of wool through the hoop.
5 Pull the loose length over the front of the foot and pull towards the back of the foot and felt gently a few times to hold it in place. Tip: I do it this way because I find it easier to cover the foot without showing any wire.
6 Continue to wrap around the foot until it is covered and felt each side.
Tip: Finish felting through the top of the foot and pull, or trim, any excess from underneath.
Your legs are now ready to attach to your creation.
Building up the legs
If you need chunkier legs, say something like mice – just continue to wrap with your wool until you are happy with the size and shape. Top Tip: always leave loose wool at the top of the wire so you can felt it to the body.
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.
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
2 Firm sculpture: I like to use the coarse British wool tops/roving for this style.
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.
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.
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
‘Shroom With A View’ needle felting kit has arrived and if you are already a fabulous Felt Club member you will have already received your mahoosive discount code! You are so worth it. I must admit I am a little bit in love with this one.
Makes one large mushroom house and garden or two smaller ones.
This is the latest addition to my garden range of needle felting kits; perfect for only the best dressed fairies and gnomes.
A beautiful enchanted garden needle felting kit to feed the imagination and add a whimsical, woodland flourish to any room.
Ideal for any skill level including absolute beginners.
Nature and nurture in one beautiful piece plus sustainable and eco friendly credentials to boot. The result is a beautiful statement piece celebrating the art of needle felting and the wonderful properties of natural fibers.
Fiver Friday If you are super fast you may get in on the fiver Friday action! This Blue Tit supply pack should keep you busy for a few hours with perfectly matched colours, wire for legs and black glass eyes. Can you believe that the fiver includes UK postage…I’m not even sure how I managed that!!! Only available until midnight tonight so don’t hang about! Discount already applied.
30% discount on all needle felting patterns Last little treat for you. until the 7th June. Instantly downloadable and printable. 15 to choose from for all abilities.
Become a VIP Felt Club Member and be spoiled with exclusive access to promotions, secret discount codes for new product launches and sneak peeks and your loyalty discount code on every purchase, forever! BECOME A VIP FELT CLUB MEMBER