I attended a recent arts and crafts faire near our home where there were a lot of local ladies selling their home made crafts. I had my little framed art doodles and I was happy to sell a couple. Across the aisle from me was a young mom, Tracy Whitney, who had a table full of the most charming little objects.
I got curious so we talked, and she told me all about her craft. Later, I went to her house, and, there at the breakfast counter, we went into detail. Only a few people are probably thinking about Christmas at this time of year, but if you’ve got your thinking cap on and you’re thinking ahead with it, needle felting is the perfect craft for when you have a minute here or there. Tracy does her crafting whenever she gets a break from her three young children. And they make great Christmas gifts. Not the kids. The needle felted creations. Whoops!
There’s a little bit of a learning curve with needle felting, but it’s not much, and it doesn’t take a lot of equipment to begin. This is why it’s such a good craft for someone who has little children, who can’t afford expensive equipment and needs to put the work down when they’re interrupted a lot.
Tracy was kind enough to share with me her inside tips. She said it takes three basic tools to begin needle felting: a felting pad, felting needles, and wool. Different types of wool have different quality fiber. Tracy likes alpaca because it is soft. The softness makes it a titch more difficult to work with, but she feels that the end result makes it worthwhile. For you newbies, merino wool is an easy one to begin with, for example.
The most difficult part is knowing which felting needle to use and which direction to poke. Experimentation will quickly tell you if you're on the right track. Fair warning: The absolute worst part is poking yourself with the needle! The needles have tiny little barbs on them to make the wool adhere to itself. They’re not ordinary smooth needles, so if you poke yourself you have to pull out the tiny little barbs. Yikes! I was thinking some kind of medieval torture device so to allay my fears, she let me feel the barbs. Gently. I am happy to report they’re almost imperceptible. But I believe her and will take it on faith that it hurts to be poked. Luckily there are steps you can take to avoid this. Tracy uses special homemade thimbles made with many layers deep of band aids over the usual thimble.
A pumpkin is a good starter project. Making one will give you a feel for how it works and then you can move on to more complicated projects.
Pull off a length of wool and make your base.
Start building by rolling up the wool into a rough ball.
Start poking rolling as you go until you've hooked all the loose ends.
Roll it in your hand for more compactness if necessary.
Make the stem.
Poke the stem into your pumpkin body.
Poke in for more details like spines.
Here's your little pumpkin. "Though she be but little, she is fierce!" (Sorry, I couldn't stop myself from quoting Shakespeare. There are so few opportunities.)
– You can make your own noses to save money.
– Store wools separately. If they touch each other, they’ll start blending and you’ll lose color integrity.
– Try to avoid bending the needle while you’re poking. The needles are not super-rugged and can break if over-bent.
– Keep your hands as soft as you can. This may be tough for us country gals who are used to digging in the dirt and helping out with chores. Unfortunately, rough hands can catch the fibers and make your felting a bit harder. So keep that bottle of hand lotion nearby. Tracy gifted me with a lotion ball that she made herself. Another great craft for another time!
You can see more of Tracy Whitney's work on Etsy and at Felt to Life on Facebook.