I am going to do my tutorial in a few instalments as there are a lot of photos and I think it will be easier if I break the steps up for you.
What is needle felting???
Simply put Needle felting is colouring in or drawing with wool. Wool is amazing and it is a real joy to discover what can be accomplished with this natural fibre. We know from my machine felting tutorial that wool, hot water and a lot of friction will change the shape and density of a wool item.
Needle felting can be used to achieve the same effect. As it is quite labour intensive it is usually used for smaller creations but is not unusual for some artists to get really carried away with the practice.
Be warned.... It can be very addictive!
Needle felting like it is described uses a VERY SHARP barbed needle to push the wool fibres together into a matt. If you keep pushing the needle into the wool sculpture or picture repeatedly you will compress the fibres and matt them together just like the hot water and friction does with machine felting, however Needle felting gives you much more control over the outcome of the shape you are felting or drawing.
The needles used for felting are quite long and sharp so you will need something to create a resistance behind your creation. High density foam is usually used to start with but you can purchase blocks of bristles from craft shops which have the same effect. I prefer the foam because that is what I have always used. I usually just use a small rectangular block, about 15cm x 6cm x 5cm. Using a small block allows you to manoeuvre the block around instead of continually having to move the wool which makes it a bit easier in the beginning stages.
High Density foam block and Felting Needles in 3 sizes.
40g = Extra Fine, 38g = Fine, and 36g = Medium
This photo shows the barbs at the end of the needle. The barbs face all the same direction and help push the wool onto itself. When the needle is pushed down the wool is compacted together and when the needle is pulled back up it comes away clean and doesn't bring any wool with it.
That is the simple principle of Needle Felting, just keep up that repetition using gradually smaller and smaller gauges of needle size and you will create felt!
I have here some washed fleece that was gifted to me by a friend so I am using a small slicker brush to tease the fibres a little and remove any foreign matter from the fleece You can use any roving or tops that is available commercially or you can like me start with the raw product. It just needs to be clean.
This photo shows the fleece before and after I have 'carded' (brushed out the knots) it. If you are doing your own its a good idea to do more than you will need for your project because there is nothing worse than having to go back to this step once you are on a creative roll.
Carding my fleece with the small slicker brush. I only needed a small amount for this project so I only used the small brush. Usually I would use my large carders for a much quicker job.
I have used my un-dyed fleece for the basic foundation of my project and it is a good idea to do this if you do a lot of felting and you have the fleece as it can become expensive when you use the commercial roving or tops in large quantities.
DON'T THESE LOOK GORGEOUS THOUGH!!!
These are the colours I am using for my project. There are a multitude available and you will only be limited by your imagination :-)
Beautiful soft merino and some mixed roving amongst that. The white is baby alpaca....SO SOFT!! Mmmmmmmm......
Part 2 (coming soon) will show you how to start Needle Felting!
All supplies can be bought online thru Etsy or just Google Needle felting supplies and you will find lots of choices.