Needle felting is a highly versatile and therapeutic craft that feels a little bit like magic - using just your needles, wool, and a foam pad you can turn soft fluffy wool into incredible animals, flowers, and even mythical creatures! When you first begin needle felting you will find that a medium-gauge needle will enable you to create a wide array of shapes, but as you become a more experienced felter you might wish to use more specialised needles to achieve new textures and finer details in your work.
What are felting needles?
Needle felting uses a long, thin needle which has a series of notches at its tip. As you poke the needle into and out of the wool, these notches tangle the fibres of the wool together. You can also use reverse felting needles, whose notches face the opposite direction from normal felting needles, and pull the fibres of the wool apart as you remove them from the wool, creating a fluffy texture.
How do I use felting needles?
The top of the needle, which is called the crank, is L-shaped, with the rest of the needle tapering down to a fine tip, which is very sharp, so please use your needles with caution! Try to make sure that you insert and remove the needle from the wool at the same angle, and do not twist or bend them as you felt to avoid breaking them.
You can use a single needle on its own for finer details, or tape two or three needles together to achieve a quicker result over a larger area. Alternatively, we love to use this ‘Pen Style’ Needle Felting Tool!
Can felting needles go blunt?
Felting needles will become blunt with use. With practice you will begin to ‘feel’ when you need to change them, but as a general rule, when your stabbing no longer results in your wool become smaller and denser, it’s time to change needles!
How should I dispose of blunt needles?
We like to keep our blunt needles, and use them to hold wool in place or manoeuvre it as we felt. If you are unable to recycle your needles, wrap a little tape around the end before you dispose of them.
Help! My needle’s broken - what do I do?
You might find it helpful to keep a magnet to hand in your craft supplies, as it could help you to find the tip of your needle if it does break off as you felt!
Why do felting needles have numbers, and which size should I use?
The numbers used to describe felting needles refer to their gauge: the higher the number, the thinner the needle is. The lower the number, the heavier the gauge of the needle, and the thicker it is.
Higher gauge needles, which have a lower number, will felt more quickly, but are not suitable for small or delicate items, as they will leave ‘stab holes’ in the work. Gauge 32 would be classed as a ‘heavy’ gauge needle. A medium gauge needle, such as a 36 or 38, is a good size for general felting. Fine gauge needles, such as 40, are good for fine work and finishing off.
What about barbs?
As well as their gauge number, felting needles also have different numbers of barbs. The more barbs a needle has, the more quickly it will felt, but the less accurate and finely-detailed its finish will be.
Finally, felting needles also have different shapes of shaft.
Triangular needles have a triangular cross-section, which is the most common shape, and are good all-rounders!
Twisted needles have a slightly twisted shaft, which spreads their barbs over a wider area. This means that they felt quickly without leaving too noticeable a hole behind.
Cross Star needles usually have four working edges, which again means that they have more notches in their surface, and felt quickly without leaving behind too prominent a hole.
Reverse Barb needles have barbs which face the opposite direction to normal felting needles, and pull fibres apart as you remove them from the wool, creating a fluffy finish!
Help! Which needle should I use?
Read on for an overview of the felting needles we offer, which are all top quality felting needles made in Germany by Groz-Beckert, a needle manufacturing specialist. All of these needles are colour-coded, with a painted crank, to help you identify them among your felting supplies!
Triangular 38 Gauge Needles (Mustard) with 6 barbs, are great 'all-round' medium gauge needles, suitable for most felting projects.
Triangular 40 Gauge Needles (Purple), with 6 barbs, are fine gauge needles, suitable for detailed work and finishing.
Twisted 36 Gauge Needles (Red) with 9 barbs, have a twisted, triangular cross-sectional working area. Due to this and the greater number of barbs, these needles work faster and leave less visible holes.
Twisted 38 Gauge needles (Yellow) have 6 barbs. The triangular cross-sectional working area of these needles has been twisted, which we find works faster and leaves less visible holes.
Twisted 40 Gauge Needles (Blue) with 6 barbs, have a fine gauge, and a twisted cross-sectional working area, making them ideal for fine and finishing work.
Cross Star 36 Gauge Needles (Green), with 8 barbs, are medium gauge needles, useful for quickly building up the main body of a project. These cross-star needles have a greater number of sides and barbs than triangular needle, so they felt faster.
Cross Star 38 Gauge Needles (Black) with 8 barbs, are a medium gauge - finer than a 36 gauge, but still useful for quickly for building up the main body of a project.
Reverse Barb 32 Gauge Needles (Lime) with 9 barbs, are heavy-gauge needles which have the barbs pointing the opposite direction to regular felting needles. This means they pull the fibres outwards instead of pushing and felting them inwards. They are typically used for making a furry or fluffy effect.
Reverse Barb 40 Gauge Needles (Orange) with 6 barbs, are fine-gauge needles which also have the barbs pointing the opposite direction to regular felting needles. This means they pull the fibres outwards instead of pushing and felting them inwards, and are also used to create a furry or fluffy effect.