It’s Sunday again, so did you guess which part of your felting supplies we were missing? If you guessed ‘felting surface’, you’re absolutely correct! Even if the piece you’re felting seems really dense, needles can still slide through it in its entirety like a knife through butter, so it’s very important to have a surface to take the stabbing instead of your hands or lap. There are several kinds of felting surfaces that you can find. Each one has their own pros and cons, so let’s take a quick look at them.
Pros: Foam blocks are some of the most common surface you can find, and often times the cheapest.
Cons: They’re very light weight, so while this is good if you’re on-the-go it’s not so good if you want your piece to stay in one place. They also break down quickly over time and are not (usually) eco-friendly, so you’ll have to throw them out and buy new ones.
Pros: Felting mats don’t tend to slide around as often and are more durable than foam blocks. They’re also very useful when doing flat felted pieces.
Cons: Over time the needles will end up splitting bristles and this will grab at your felt. If you want to make something with a smooth finish, this can be extremely frustrating.
I’ve had my canvas bag since May of 2015
This is the most damaged side, and still going strong! No tears, no rips, and no leaking filler.
Pros: These bags (canvas has worked the best for me) are incredibly durable and eco-friendly. If you ever need a new one, all you need to do is recycle the insides into a new bag. They are also sturdy and not as likely to slide around.
Cons: They’re usually more expensive whether you buy one or make your own, but they make up for this by lasting for a very long time. Unfortunately, if they’re overfilled and stiff they can break your needles.
Another pro, of course, is being able to have an adorable pattern that inspires you to work. Just look how happy this little guy is!
Last Sunday we covered one of the confusing labels on felting needles, so today we will cover the second label: shapes. Typically when you go out and find felting needles the pack will say that they are “triangle point“. This refers to the sides of the needle that you will find the barbs on. The points of the needles are circular to begin with, but will switch to flat sides that hold the barbs. So, in the case of this triangle point needle, there will be three flat, stable sides.
Triangle points are one of the most common needles you’ll find, but there are other shapes out there and each have their own benefits. Let’s take a quick look at them.
The next type you will likely find is called a “star point“. These needles have four sides instead of three, but rather than being flat these sides are concave and can break a little more easily. Despite being a bit fragile, star point needles do very well when it comes to bulk work and creating a smoother top to your piece because they’re able to cover more surface area. They’re pretty awesome!
But they’re my favorite so I might be biased.
Now, unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) needles are going to leave visible holes in your work. They do have to push into the fiber to felt it, after all. This is where “twist point” or “spiral point” needles come in! Rather than having the barbs on straight sides, these needles actually do have a twist to them. Not only do they felt quickly and create a smoother finish, but they also can create smaller, less visible holes in your work. I haven’t had the chance to try them out, personally, so here’s a photo of them in the wild on a majestic Unibaa.
The last needle that I’m going to talk about isn’t so much of a needle shape as it is an abnormality in the barbs, themselves. Usually on felting needles the barbs are facing downwards so they push the fibers together; However, there are needles called “reverse barb” or “inverted barb” that face the other way. Instead of creating a firmly felted surface, these barbs will take your felt and pull it outwards to create a more fluffy finish.
So now you’ve got your needles, your fiber, and your excitement to get started, but hold on a moment, friend! There’s still something you’re missing! What is it? Don’t worry, we’ll talk about it next Sunday.
Hello, everyone! This is Catherine, one of the employees at our lovely store, and I’m here to start making my own contributions to the blog. You can look forward to reading about topics such as needle felting, natural dyes, and more on Sundays. I’m incredibly eager to start our adventure together, so let’s jump right in!
Probably one of the most frequently asked questions I get when it comes to needle felting is in regards to the numbers that come with the needles. If you’ve looked at the packages we sell in the shop or at others online, you can usually see needle gauges labelled as 32,36,38,40, and/or 42. As a beginner, these numbers may seem confusing and don’t seem to tell you a whole lot, but paying attention to needle gauge can be crucial in order to save on time, frustration, and broken needles. Unlike knitting needles, the number given to felting needles does not tell you whether a needle is thicker or thinner than another, but rather how many barbs a needle contains. Now, this part can get a little confusing so hold on to your hats.
If a number on a felting needle is lower, so 32 and 36, this means that there are more barbs on that needle. When you have a larger amount of barbs on a needle this will start grabbing at lots of fiber and you will have less control over what is being felted. Typically these kinds of needles work wonders with getting a bulky job done on your piece, such as the general shaping of a sculpture. The way I remember this is ” less is more is less“.
If a number on a felting needle is higher, so 40 and 42, this means that there are fewer barbs on that needle. Having fewer barbs on your needles will give you more control over what’s being felted, and can be very useful when it comes to smoothing a surface and doing tiny details. It’s also going to be important to switch to a finer gauge needle when the felt becomes denser (but hopefully not over-felted). The way I remember this is ” more is less is more ” . There is also a 38 on this scale, but it is usually a middle gauge that can be good for bulk work but also fine details depending on the project.
Now, that’s all well and good, but what happens when you use a bulky gauge for fine work or a fine gauge for bulk work? Well, things can get quite frustrating, and in some cases your needles will snap. Since you want to go into fine details with precision, having a needle that can be somewhat unpredictable is going to end up covering more area than you had intended, and in some cases deeper than you had intended (which will cause issues if you want to have a nice, smooth finish). Also, if your felted piece is fairly dense and firm, using a needle like this is going to put pressure in many different areas and will snap the needle. There’s nothing quite as frustrating as losing a needle tip in the work you just poured hours and hours into! On the flip-side of that situation, if you use a fine gauge needle to try and do bulk work you’re going to end up pouring in even more hours trying to get that large mass of fiber to hold together with only a small amount of barbs.
There is an exception to this that I have come across in recent months. If you are going to do bulk work with a fiber that is already fairly dense, such as corriedale, or if you want to do flat felting with a piece of craft felt as your canvas, it works best to start with a finer gauge needle. It may take a bit more time, but trying to wedge a bulk gauge in a situation like that is going to snap it. Fortunately, it’s usually easier to dig out, but it’s very upsetting to be productive on a project only to come to a halt because you’ve run out of needles.
Needle gauge isn’t the only thing to consider when working on a piece, but that is a post for another Sunday.