Needle felting is a craft that sounds way more complex than it actually is — and gets super cute results. What’s not to love? With just a few basic tools and a simple tutorial, you’ll be on your way to making adorably fuzzy animals, or any other felted creations you can dream up.
By the way, you don’t need to be a knitter to take up needle felting. The crafts use totally different tools and even different types of wool. But if you do already knit, think of needle felting as another fun thing you can do with wool.
What is Needle Felting?
In a nutshell, needle felting is the process of transforming wool into 3D objects using a barbed needle.
When you felt wool, you’re agitating the fibers so they bond together, creating a solid fabric. If you’ve ever felted any of your knitting projects, you’re already familiar with the process — except that you probably used a washing machine with really hot water to get the fibers to bond. Needle felting mimics that process, but instead of agitating the wool with hot water, you’re doing it with an extra-sharp needle.
What You Need
Needle felting is typically done with a kind of wool called roving, but you can also use wool in other forms, like batting. In this how-to, we’re using roving torn from a larger piece.
The needle you’ll use for felting isn’t a tapestry needle, nor is it a sewing needle. A felting needle has sharp, barbed blades designed to agitate the wool fibers.
A Felting Surface
You’ll need a special felting surface to avoid poking your fingers, legs or other body parts. Sponges and foam pads work well for needle felting. Just make sure your surface is several inches thick, like the foam block in the image above.
How to Needle Felt
Needle felting techniques vary depending on what you’re making. After you start experimenting and get the hang of it, you’ll figure out how to poke your felting needle into the wool to get different effects. For now, these basics will get you started. In this tutorial, we’re needle felting a small ball.
1. Prep Your Wool
If you’re using roving, you can just tear a piece of it off. You don’t have to cut it; the roving will pull apart on its own pretty easily.
2. Roll Your Roving Into a Ball
Make sure you tuck the ends in if you can.
3. Poke the Ball
Start by placing the ball on top of your felting surface. Then use the needle to poke the ball, going in about ¼-inch deep every time. Poke straight up and down so that your needle goes in and out of the felt easily. Keep your fingers out of the path of the needle. Felting needles are extremely sharp!
4. Keep Going Until the Wool Felts
Continue poking the ball until the fibers start to bond together and you see the felt forming. You’ll probably notice that the ball has shrunk up a little.
What To Make with Needle Felting
Animals are a popular choice with needle felters, and it’s no wonder why: the special felting needles create a fuzzy effect that looks like fur. But you don’t have to limit yourself to stand-alone animals or other items; you can also use a flat object like a scarf as a base for your felted objects.
Or try this: grab a pair of mittens and needle felt butterflies, flowers or other decorations right onto the surface. (If you’re planning to needle felt onto a hand-knit item, make sure the gauge is tight so you can have the best possible felting surface.) Or try needle felting onto a fabric cuff to add color, or needle felt a heart or another shape you like onto a plain sweater.
Good to Know: Needle felting isn’t just decorative; you can also use it for mending. Does your favorite sweater have a hole in it? Use needle felting to patch it up!
What are you waiting for? Grab your roving wool and your barbed needle, let your imagination run wild, and get your felting on!