One of the free style needle felted pictures that I wanted to create several years ago was a needle felted pumpkin picture using a 1 1/2" by 1 1/2" pumpkin cookie cutter that I had bought recently and using some of the wonderful roving that my sister had given me from some of her alpacas. She and her husband are the owners of Rock Garden Alpacas and Rock Garden Alpacas Fiber.
Before you consider needle felting there are a few things you really need to know.
Tips For Felting:
Needle felting is basically using a single or multiple needle tool to mesh the fibers of roving into itself to form an object or shape, mesh the roving into another piece of felted roving to create an object, or mesh the roving into a piece of wool felt to create an object or picture.
You can freely shape the roving yourself using needle felting tools or use needle felt molds or cookie cutters to shape the roving into the desired object. If using cookie cutters or molds you will need to purchase a felting needle mat that looks like a brush.
What the mat does is it allows you to place a mold or felting surface on top of it and then felt the roving by using one of the different types of felting needles and just inserting the needle in and out until the roving is felted in a manner that is pleasing to you. It provides the hardness and resistance you need to mesh the roving either by itself or to felt the roving into a small felting surface without breaking your needles.
The felting mat is good for small molds and small felting surfaces. It is not good for larger felting surfaces. If you want to felt larger areas of roving or want to do some free style felting of pictures, etc. then you need to purchase a larger 8" by 9" felting foam mat.
What I discovered about the felting foam mat is that while it is big and allows you to cover a wider felting surface it isn't any where near as hard as the felting needle mat so you tend to leave a depression in the surface if you're punching hard, have been punching for a few days, or you've used the same area over and over. If you're using this for molds and the surface has any kind of depression in it already it will affect the felting of your roving.
One of the most important things for felting is not only the quality of the roving, but the felting needles. When it comes to felting needles there are all sorts of different types - each with their own use. Here's what I discovered:
The first thing you need to understand about the felting needles is they are very, very, very sharp and can easily prick your finger drawing blood. As a result I would not recommend this as a craft for young children. If you prick your fingers the needles really HURT!
Whatever your method is be sure to be careful with the needles. They are extremely sharp and can do a lot of damage to your fingers to the point of drawing blood. Also, make sure you have plenty of replacement needles as the needle do break easily while you are roving.
The needle felting tool that looks like a big wooden knob with needles sticking out of it is a great tool for felting large surfaces, for use with the needle felting foam and for felting thick felted objects to other felting surfaces or to a any felting creations that you are backing with Nu-foam.
I found that despite the fact that you can reduce the needles down to one or two this tool wasn't as good for use with felting roving into small molds. It was just too cumbersome for me. Also, it wasn't as good for use with roving that you are trying to felt in your hands as the needles are really way too long and sharp and you can easily prick yourself. If you're going to use this tool be sure to buy plenty of replacement needles as the needles tend to break easily.
The felting needle that I prefer and which provides the most control and which you're less likely to prick yourself with is the purple or blue grip single felting needle. It's very easy to control but does require more work when felting a larger area. When felting a thick felted object to another felting surface or to a felting surface backed with Nu-foam it works the best of all the needles to achieve the result you want. Plus, this is the only type of felting needle that never broke on me.
I also like to use the pen style felting tool which can hold from one to three needles and is very easy to use and provides good control. However, the needles tend to bend or break easily with this tool especially if you're using molds for your roving. So, if you're going to use this tool be sure to buy plenty of needles.
I also like the needle punch tool for punching free style felting pictures and for felting large surfaces. It has a protective retractable cover for the needles so it is not good for use with small molds.
If someone asked me what the weakest needle felting tool was I'd say hands down the needles. They just break way too easily. And, the replacement sets only come with 4 - 6 new needles which is nowhere near enough.
If you are going to create free style needle felted pictures that you are mounting to a cushioned surface then you need to buy pre-cut: 15x17x2" Nu-foam which I use for providing backing to some of my free style needle felted pictures. The beauty of the Nu-foam is that you can felt your roving into it so that it holds and you can remove it very easily if the thickness isn't right.
As far as molds are concerned there are lots of them out there. Some specifically for needle felting which work great. However, you can also use stainless steel cookie cutters as molds for your roving and they work just as well.
If you are needle felting with a mold or cookie cutter you want to felt along the outside of the mold and work towards the center of the mold. The depth of the object is achieved based on the amount of roving you use. If the object is not as deep as you want just add more roving and felt it into the felted object you’ve already created. If you want less depth or less length just keep needle felting the roving until you achieve the desired results.
As far as the roving is concerned there are lots of people selling roving so it is plentiful. However, there's really good roving and there's crap roving that is packaged as 100% wool roving and is nothing more than dyed raw mohair. Definitely not roving. So, be careful when choosing your roving. You want roving that is free of debris, finely woven, and packaged in bulk.
Basically, felting is achieved by pushing the needle in and out of the roving at a straight angle whether it’s straight up and down or straight side to side. You keep doing this until your roving is the shape, size, or desired object you are striving for. The more you puncture the roving with the needle felting tool the more meshed the roving becomes. When to stop felting depends on your design and desired outcome.
Just remember this is an art form so there is no right or wrong way. The idea is to have fun and let your imagination run wild. As they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder or in this case, the eye of the needle felting crafter.
If you'd like to try some easy needle felting I thought it would be nice to create a Fall needle felted pumpkin patch type picture and then create a pattern so you could create one of your own. The pattern includes the tips for needle felting (written above), step-by-step instructions for completing the picture, a colored pumpkin picture instruction steps sheet so you can see what piece belongs to what step, as well as a colored pumpkin picture layout sheet that is the actual size of your needle felted pumpkin picture.
I hope you like my needle felted pumpkin picture and hope you decide to create one of your own.
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