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5 Needle Felting Tips & A Free Needle Felting Pattern

Mar 6, 2009

A lot of you seemed intrigued by the idea of using needlefelting techniques to breathe new life into old wardrobe favorites! It's really easy, the tools are cheap (very!), and best of all, needlefelting, unlike, wet felting, can be done on almost any type of fabric. (Wet felting relies on the scales that are part of wool fibers to catch hold of one another during the felting process; needlefelting uses the sharp barbs on the needles to tangle and mangle the fibers enough so that they hold together in a felty-sort of way.)

Here are five tips I discovered during my first needlefelting project that will help you get started! 

Five Needlefelting Tips

1.  If your foam block or brush support won't fit inside a piece you want to needlefelt, cut several household sponges to fit and layer them so they form a thick stable "block". Stuff the sponge pieces inside the object and off you go! (This is the method I used to needlefelt parts of my Spring Birdie Booties.)

2. When using bits of yarn (or other small pieces) as appliques, use a single needle to lightly "baste" the yarn into place: Punch only once or twice at intervals, stopping to check the effect as you go. This allows you to lift the yarn and re-position it until you like how it looks. Once you like what you see, needlefelt securely into place.

3. To get a more three-dimensional effect when needlefelting appliques, put one layer of yarn or fiber down, needlefelt in place, then add more layers, one at a time, needlefelting as you go, until you get the desired effect.

4. Control the texture of your applique with the amount of punching you do. The more times you punch those needles in, the more firmly packed, and the more homogenous, the result. For example, if you are using bits of yarn and want the individual strands to show in the final result, needlefelt only enough to get the yarns to stick to the background and each other. The more you punch, the less defined the individual strands will be.

5. BE CAREFUL. Needlefelting needles are incredibly sharp. Always use a foam block or needlefelting brush block (or sponges) as a base; if you are guiding the applique into place with your fingers, punch SLOWLY and deliberately and always, always be aware of where your fingers are in relation to the needles!

Important Safety Note: On Wednesday, I mentioned that I had borrowed a set of needlefelting needles from a friend. Actually, this is not a very safe thing to do--you should never share your needles, as the risk of poking yourself and possibly spreading infection is real--these are VERY sharp tools. So please craft safely, and don't share needles.

Are you going to try needlefelting this weekend? Share your crafty adventures and projects with us!

Try Needlefelting for yourself: Free Pattern!

Needlefelted Wool Shoes 

If you are just getting started and want a little guidance, this is a really easy needlefelting project with a great end result! The pattern gives you step-by-step instructions for designing your own custom applique, and applying the fiber to the shoes with needlefelting technques. In a couple of hours or less, you can have a one-of-a-kind pair of sneakers!

Download the Needlefelted Wool Shoes Pattern for free!

 Sandi Recommends: Felt Frenzy

The wonderful needlefelted wool shoes above are an excerpt from our book Felt Frenzy: 26 Projects for All Forms of Felting, by Heather Brack and Shannon Okey.

Felt Frenzy is a great companion book to Simply Needlefelt--Felt Frenzy introduces you to all the different sorts of felting you can do, with really great instructions and fun projects. And Simply Needlefelt gives you a more in-depth look at a form of felting that can be used anywhere, anytime, with any combination of fabrics and materials. 

For a limited time we have a special offer on these two great books: Buy Simply Needlefelt, and you can get Felt Frenzy for only $5! This is a great deal, and would make a wonderful gift for yourself or a crafty friend.


Sandi Wiseheart is the founding editor of Knitting Daily. She is now the author of the popular Knitting Daily blog: What's on Sandi's Needles.



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on Mar 13, 2009 4:36 PM
Wish I could show you the rag doll head I just finished! The doll has been sitting without its head for four months, and your challenge reached me on a rainy day in Maryland. The lucky fellow now has a good head on his shoulders.
JaimeG wrote
on Mar 9, 2009 6:29 AM
I tried needlefelting with my 5 year-old son and he was definitely too young! He was a pretty enthusiastic puncher and ended up poking himself with the needles. But he has enjoyed other felting projects for kids... like making felted soaps using roving and any bar of soap. And we have made roving butterflies with his preschool class (just use colorful roving and pipecleaners).
tamcat9 wrote
on Mar 7, 2009 8:51 PM
I had several boiled wool sweaters that had some moth holes in them and after seeing the process done at a craft fair decided to cover the holes with needle felting. To date I have been asked to sell the jackets 6 times, I did trailing vines with just a circles for a rose in several colors and used several shades of green for the leaves. It was a great way to make something old and tired, new and refreshed. I'm hooked. I also got an old sweater at the Goodwill and cut out large leaf shapes, maple, oak. and did the felting for the shading in the fall leave. Then felted about 12 different ones together and made an unusual scarf. I have pictures if anyone is interested in seeing them,
LouisaL wrote
on Mar 7, 2009 7:25 AM
Sandi, As and healthcare professional who also works with needles of all types I'm so glad you mentioned not to share needles in case of an accidental exposure to piercing yourself instead of the fiber! Thank you for caring, Bridget Lopez
DonnaK@3 wrote
on Mar 7, 2009 6:15 AM
Anyone ever needle felt with young children? Am I crazy to even consider it?!
BonnieD wrote
on Mar 7, 2009 5:40 AM
I make the Cat Bordhi mobius bags with WEBS Berkshire yarn as Easter baskets. After felting them, I add large airy flowers on two sides by needle felting bits of roving and using either the same yarn or a contrasting color to make a big center "eye" for the flowers. So many people have liked them that I now sell them to friends for the cost of the yarn, to others for a little more than the cost of the yarn, or give them away as house warming, or hostess gifts. They're fun to make and look great.
rkr4cds wrote
on Mar 6, 2009 4:38 PM
If you've 'accidentally' shrunk (fulled) a wool sweater in the washing matching, go ahead and toss in into a dryer cycle too. Or purchase all wool sweaters, skirts, vests, ties and light jackets/coats from resale shops for this purpose: woven fabrics work as well as knit, though you may have to treat them a couple of times to these hot & cold/ agitation & friction cycles to full them completely. What you are aiming for is a non-raveling fabric that can be cut into shapes like slipper soles, or clothing, purse & hat embellishments - or anywhere else you'd want to needle into. Be sure to stabilize the background fabric (Sandi stuffed her slippers full, which held the fabric out smoothly and firmly) but you'll need an embroidery hoop or frame for flat fabrics: use woven fabric or a non-stretchy knit. Reinforce stretchy ones like some sweatshirts, as you'll end up with flared out sections instead of flat. Needler rkr4cds
KD Sandi wrote
on Mar 6, 2009 3:27 PM
Sure! If you look closely at the photo of my birdie slippers, I needlefelted some white wool to the bottoms to strengthen the sole and make a warmer layer between my feet and the floors. Using white wool might seem crazy, but my floors are all hardwood, and fairly clean, except for little wisps and clumps of white dog and cat fur that roll around the floors! The bottoms of my blue slippers always looked white anyways, so I figured if I covered the bottom with a warm layer of white wool, it would actually help hide the fur!
Mamawsandy wrote
on Mar 6, 2009 1:50 PM
Can I make a felted piece of knitting to make a sole for the bottom of a purchased house shoe? Sandra