Felting is considered the oldest of all the textile or fiber arts. It is still a way of life in Central Asia and used to produce tents (yurts), clothing and rugs. Felt is used industrially for many applications including musical instruments, home construction, clothing and even cars. Needle felting as an art form is relatively new compared to the actual textile of felt.
Elanor Stanwood used a needle punching machine to create felted scarves and her husband David explored the idea of using a single felting needle from the machine to create smaller felted objects. David went on to teach the needle felting technique to many of his friends including Alaya Talpai. Alaya was a fiber artist who took to the needle felting method and went on to write the first book on the craft, The Felting Needle – From Factory to Fantasy.
Needle felting is a method of felting without the use of water, which is used in most other felting applications. The technique employs a barbed or notched needle to tangle the individual fibers together to form images and shapes. The most important needle felting supplies are the needles themselves, felting needles can be used one at a time or in a group utilizing a handle/holder. Single needles are used for details while groups of needles create broader base shapes. You can create both 2D and 3D pieces with wool felting.
In order to create 3D sculptures you will roll your wool up to form 3D shapes and felt around the entirety of the 3D object instead of just one flat side. You will need a foam or sponge surface to work on whether or not you are working flat or three dimensionally. This will protect your table, lap, other work surface from the sharp needles. Needle felting is both additive and subtractive sculpture. You take away from the volume of your sculpture as you poke the needle into the wool and add to the volume when you add new colors or shapes of wool to your piece. The more you poke into your needle felting project the denser your wool will become, creating a more solid sculpture. The great thing about needle felting is that it is super versatile, you can really create any image you would paint on canvas or sculpt with clay with wool.
Needle felting is a great way to create realistic wool animal sculptures. Because the felted wool looks so much like animal fur texture, it’s easy to make some hyper realistic figurines. You can create a wire armature of the animal, then felt around that to make a more sturdy animal. Our World of Wool Felting Kits are a great way to get into this craft!
Needle felting only requires a small number of supplies to get you started. Felting needles are important, they come in a variety of sizes for different levels of detail work. You may want to look into getting a handle in order to hold multiple needles at once. It is very important to have a felting surface to work on. A felting surface can be a thick soft material like sponge or foam. This will protect your table or lap from the sharp pointy felting needles. Then last but not least, the fun park, all the colorful wool! We suggest using fine or medium-fine wool for needle felting.
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