Saturday, November 27, 2010

Needle Felting Tutorial

Last weekend I participated in our church's Super Saturday...see previous post.  I have had a lot of feedback and interest expressed to get together to do some more needlefelting and I love that.  Yesterday, my Peanut was home sick so we did some felting together.  Side note:  I have read a lot online about how needle felting is not a craft for children because the needles are so sharp; I also know that in some Montesorri schools this is taught to young children.  I say to use your best judgement.  I personally feel that my children are responsible enough (they are 7 and 9....I first showed them this in 2007 so they would have been 4 and 6).  I supervise when they are working with the needles, especially early on.  They had been sewing with needles when they were 4 so I guess I just didn't have any qualms about handing them another type of needle.  I do demonstrate for them how the needles should be handled and they know that if they try to poke each other then they are done for the day.  They may have stabbed themselves by accident but never have they aimed at each other.  Okay, that being said, here is Peanut demonstrating for you how we needlefelt our ornaments....

Tools needed:
felting needles (these are special needles with barbs that catch the wool fibres)
foam block (I started on a large sponge but they are hard to find now.  On Saturday, I used blocks cut from Upholstery pads that I purchased at Walmart.)  The block protects your needles and your worksurface.
Fleece to felt:  I love to work with Merino, Polworth, Corriedale

Step 1:

Select a cookie cutter shape to use as a template and place on your foam block.

 Step 2:

Prepare your fleece for felting.  Here she is separating the fibres.  If you find that they don't separate easily then move your hands further apart and try again.  It may be that your fleece has a longer staple (length of the fibre). 

 Step 3:

Place the fibres over the cookie cutter.  To get better coverage, lay the fibres so that they crisscross each other.  You do not need a lot a fibre to work with.  If you find, while you are felting that there are some thin spots you can easily add some more.

 Step 4:

Start felting!  I believe that here Peanut is using a 38 triangle.  Typically, I use a set that is colour coded.  For Merino, I use the cream needle.  When I am working with a cookie cutter template, I start by working around the outside edge and working into the middle.  I find this gives me a nicer edge and a bit of a  puff in the middle.  If I were working on fabric, I would start in the centre and work out to the edge as the felting process causes some shrinkage.  To felt, make stabbing motions with the needle...the needle does not need to disappear completely into the you get more confident you will find that you will be able to stab quicker. 

 Step 5:

When the felted piece starts looking rather smooth, carefully remove your template and then gently remove the felted piece from the block.  You will feel some resistance because you have been essentially felting the piece to your block.

 Step 6:

Flip over your felted piece and stuff it back into your template.  I find it works better to put it into the template before placing it on the pad.  If you just place the cutter over the felted piece, on the pad, then some of the edges don't get felted...they just get squashed and here you might end up with something that looks more like a zucchini rather than a stocking.  You may have to flip your piece a few times before it is fully felted.

 Step 7:  Safety Tip....

Do not look at your mother when she asks you a question while you are felting.  Remember, the needles are sharp and even a little poke can draw blood.  The template is a great way to learn while protecting little fingers but accidents still happen.  Good news:  She lived and is still an active in felting world!

Step 8:

The felted stocking.  To tell if the stocking is finished give it some gentle tugs.  If it is holding together then your piece is felted.  It also depends on how firm you would like the finished piece to be.  If it feels pretty flimsy then felt it some more adding some more fleece if needed.  You can stop here or you can embellish however you would like.  If the edges look a little rough you can go around with your needle.  I usually tuck the flyaways in with my fingers to create a finished edge then gently felt them in.

Step 9:

Peanut decided that she would like a white cuff on her stocking so she has added some white merino to the top to felt.  She is now deciding if she would like to add some beads or sequins to finish her stocking or perhaps do a blanket stitch around the outside.

I will post the finished piece once she decided what she wants to do (and once my camera is home again...right now it is out videotaping Rosie at dance.)

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I always love to hear what you think about what I am working on. Tell me about what you are working on or have been inspired to start (...or pull out to finish).