Needle Felting

Jill Gully shows how to create all sorts of felt, and fiber art in her article.

An example from Jill Gully on using fibers to create felted
fiber art, from Quilting Arts Magazine Winter 2001.

Felt comes from a simple process that can be achieved in any kitchen. In the felting process, natural fibers (usually wool) are agitated causing them to come together to produce something wondrous: real felt.

If you’re ready to learn more about the basics of felting, be sure you check out the article “Fantastic Felt” by Jill Gully from Quilting Arts Magazine Winter 2001. Jill covers not only design, but water felting, fulling, making laminated felt, and needle felting.

What is needle felting?

Needle felting specifically fuses an additional layer of fiber onto a base fiber or felted fabric. This can be done by hand with a needle felting brush or piece of foam and felting needle(s), or using a needle felting machine. In both cases, the fabrics/fibers are layered one on top of the other, and the needle punctures through them continuously and quickly until they are fused together.

Needle felting is a very different process from felting with water. It was first developed in an industrial setting and then neatly appropriated by textile artists who have found the felt needle to be a useful tool. The advantage to needle felting is that (in contrast to wet felting methods) it is possible to create very controlled designs and three-dimensional shapes.

A beautiful needle felted piece by Claire Waguespack Fenton

Machine needle felted piece by Claire Waguespack Fenton.

Sound like fun? Here are a few articles you can check out for more techniques, information, and projects:

For machine needle felting using yarns and novelty fabrics, “Getting Wild & Wooly” by Claire Waguespack Fenton is a must see. From Quilting Arts Magazine August/September 2007.

Follow Jane Lafazio’s technique for “Needle-Felted & Hand-Stitched Fiber Art,” including tips on working in a series, in Quilting Arts Magazine June/July 2010.

Try your hand at using needle felting to collage elements together in “Needle-Felted Foundations for Stitch” by Janet A. Lasher in Quilting Arts Magazine December 2009/January 2010.

Tips for Needle Felting – Which Side Do You Punch?

An example of combining felting, stitching and embellishment by Sara Lechner.

A felted piece by Sara Lechner from the article in
Quilting Arts Magazine December 2007/January 2008.

Punching causes the fibers to migrate through the base fabric. If you punch on the top they migrate to the back. The side you punch into shows the holes of the needle and isn’t as attractive as the opposite side. This happens if you are punching an entire surface. Based on the design you want, you’ll approach felting in different ways, for example:

  • For a more subtle watercolor effect you must punch the fibers from the back.
  • If you want the details to show more, punch a piece of wool knitting yarn from the front of the piece.
  • For a piece that won’t be handled, such as a wall hanging, it is only necessary to punch from one side. Choose the more favorable side for the effect you wish to achieve.
  • For a piece that is going to be subject to use, such as a wearable, punch three times (front-back-front or back-front-back).

Excerpt from “Combining Needle Felting, Machine Stitching, and Embellishment” by Sara Lechner from Quilting Arts Magazine December/January 2008.