I’ve been felting for a couple of years now, and figured out what I like to work with or not; I narrowed it down to a couple of tools, so I thought I would share with you my own setup!
Here are my essential tools:
- A felting mat,
- Two felting pens,
- A specific set of needles,
- And of course, some wool!
That’s all there is to it :) I love needle felting for that too, you don’t need lots of space or materials, although if you like to use many colours you might need some space to store your wool. So, here we go! You will also find a list of useful links at the end of the post, as well as the places I bought all of my supplies (in the UK of course).
This is basically a piece of dense foam that you punch with your needles to avoid punching your fingers (or your pretty table) instead :) It has to be thick enough so you don’t pierce it through with your needles, and dense enough to last a while without putting tiny bits of foam into your sculptures (you cannot use styrofoam for example, it will get your work all dirty). You still have to replace it from time to time; I have seen more durable alternatives but haven’t tried them yet.
The felting needles are the most important; they are special needles with some barbs that push the fiber from the outside in. They can become blunt with time, or bend, or break, and you will have to change them if they do. They come in many types and sizes, and it is difficult to know at first which ones to choose for a specific job, but I personnaly like to use those four different types:
- gauge 36, triangle: for starting out a project, or building very large shapes
- gauge 38, star: for most of the shaping work, or attaching parts together
- gauge 40, triangle: to get into detail, fine shaping or working on small areas
- gauge 40, spiral: to get a smooth surface finish
I just switch between those needles when I feel that they are either too slow for the job (too small), or that I’m having trouble to stab in the felt (too big).
I keep my needles in those small, labelled containers so that I can take them away with me without mixing them up or having an accident.
This is my latest discovery; I had tried other kind of needle holders before, but either they were not really ergonomic, or the needles were too far away from each other to do a good quick job. I loved this one so much I just had to buy two of them to be able to switch quickly between two gauges without having to change the needles so much. This is the Clover pen-style felting tool, by the way; it’s really cool, you can put one, two or three needles at once in the cap depending on your need (speed, accuracy, detailing…); I found that now that I use them and that I pay attention to the different needle gauges, I get the job done much quicker.
(the pen is VERY pink though, I colour-coded the tip but I’m thinking about using spray paint to make them look a bit more to my liking)
I like to use two types of wool prep: either some merino combed top (on the left, longer fibers arranged in the same direction), or some carded wool batts (on the right, shorter fibers, all mixed up).
I used to dislike using combed top because I found the fibers were too long, difficult to handle and too slow to felt because thinner; I’m now changing my mind and I tend to use it a bit more than the carded wool.
This is why I would recommend to the beginners some carded wool with thicker, short fibers; it’s faster to felt and easier to handle. It has a rougher feel to it when the piece is finished (depends what you prefer, I personnally like it). Merino is good if you are a bit more patient, it is also easier to find in a greater variety of awesome colours.
Oh, and If you don’t find the colours you like, you might want to get into dyeing your own wool, which looks super fun :)
Well, hope this was useful to you; if you want to get into felting, I suggest you buy a simple kit with a mat, some needles and a couple colours to mess with to decide if you like it. But anyways, there is very little to spend in this craft, so go for it and have fun!