Saturday, February 5, 2011

Beginner's Guide to Needlefelting - Needlefelting Tutorial

I covered wet felting a while ago, and wanted to share some info on another form as well--needle felting. I love this craft because it is almost instant gratification--no waiting for a piece to dry, or guessing how it will turn out after you shrink it!

Make a pretty pin or embellishment as you learn.

What is Needle felting?
Needle felting is the art of manipulating wool fibers into a shape, an embellishment, or a three dimensional piece. Unlike traditional felting, which requires the use of soap and hot water, needle felting uses barbed needles and friction to achieve a felted finish.
Needle felting can be used to decorate a base form, like a scarf or handbag, to make a fully formed object, or to make 3 dimensional beads, balls or figures. Needle felting is an inexpensive and portable hobby, and the basic techniques are quick and easy to master.

Use wool roving in different colors for your needlefelting projects

Wool roving: You will need to use 100% wool roving as your fiber. Wool has a tendency to cling to itself, or “felt” when agitated or manipulated. Felted wool is dense and thick, and will retain its shape.
Wool roving is a length of wool that has been washed, combed and carded into a thick rope that is ready for spinning or crafting. Roving is thick and fluffy, with a cotton-candy like appearance. Roving comes in a wide variety of colors and thicknesses, and can be purchased in small amounts or sampler packs for needle felting. You can even dye your own with Kool-aid if you need a specific color.

Needle felting requires a felting needle—a long needle that is barbed like a fishhook and extremely sharp. Felting needles need to be handled with care to avoid injury. The simplest needles look like a nail with a very pointed tip.
While there are many styles of felting needles available, from complex, multi needle pieces to needles with designer handles, you should choose a simple single needle for your first attempts. A single needle lets you have a lot of control over your work, and will help you avoid injury while you are learning the basics.

Upholstery foam:  A good quality block of upholstery foam will make a great needle felting work surface that will last through many projects. Upholstery foam should be at least 1 ½” thick, and preferably more than 2”. You will be punching the needle through your wool roving and into the foam, and you will not want to damage the surface you are working on.  Choosing a good quality piece of upholstery foam will make your project go much more smoothly. Try to find foam that is dense and heavy for its size, and make sure it is labeled “upholstery foam”, regular padding or batting won’t work for needle felting.
Have a few pieces of foam on hand in various sizes. A 6x6” square is perfect for felting small pieces, and is great for a beginner. For larger pieces or more advanced projects, select a slightly larger foam piece—12”x 12” is ideal for most large projects.


For your first needle felting project, make a simple shape. Decide what shape you wish to make, and use a water soluble or temporary marker to draw the shape directly onto the foam. If you prefer, you can make a simple paper pattern and place on top of the foam.

"Round" is the easiest shape to start with!
Add the wool:
Pull off a piece of wool roving (you should never cut roving—simply pull gently to separate). Lay the roving on top of the foam, following your pattern. The piece shown at right will become a circle, so the roving is laid out in a rough circular shape.
Start felting:
Begin jabbing the wool roving with the felting needle. You will punch through the roving, and into the foam. The entire barbed tip of the needle should go through the roving and into the foam.  This will cause the wool roving fibers to lock together, and form your felted shape.
Jab repeatedly and quickly through the roving and into the foam.

Be careful not to jab your fingers—the needle is sharp!
                                (ask me how I know)

The roving fibers will mat together, and become a dense single piece. Remove the shape from the foam to see if there are any areas you need to go over again. If you do, simply place it back on the foam and continue jabbing until you are satisfied. Flip it over and jab from the back as well, to be sure it is fully felted  Once you have felted a simple shape, you can embellish it with a second color:

Use different colors to add decorative elements
Add embellishments:
You can embellish your felted piece (or many other surfaces), by adding designs and borders. Use the same techniques outlined above to add designs to your shape.

Here a simple heart has been added (you can use an air-dry or water soluble marker to draw a pattern directly on the felted base). Use contrasting colors of roving so your design will stand out.

To add a border, tear off a long, thin piece of roving, and use the needle to felt it around the edges of the piece.The border here is brown.

Whatever embellishment you choose, the layers of fibers will become permanently bonded, so be certain of your design before starting.

Finishing and caring for your work:
No special finishing is required. When you are happy with the look of your felted piece, simply lift it from the foam. Finished pieces can be made into jewelry, ornaments, or used to embellish larger pieces.
Your finished felted wool pieces will be durable and long lasting, and will not require any special care to maintain their appearance.
You may add more details to your piece at any time.
Finished? Just pull it off the foam!

Note: Someone on Ravelry was kind enough to snap these photos for me, but I can't find her name! If it was you, let me know so I can give you the credit you deserve for the great pix! 


  1. I bought needles a while ago but didn't have any roving and never took it any further than that. Actually, I'm not even sure where the needles are. Hmmm. Maybe I should go find them!

  2. Try it --it is a ton of fun and instant gratification if you make a small project!

  3. This is a fabulous tutorial - thanks! Needle felting is on my (always growing) list of crafty things to learn.

  4. This technique is one to learn! I recently was working on a piece and needed a particular color of roving. Being late at night and really wanting to finish the project, I went through my stash of 100% wool and found a perfect color to compliment the project. Took my husband's mustache comb (no mustache...never uses it!) and combed it out and it worked just great! For me...if there is a will.......there is a way to find Roving! :)

    1. The women in my life have been known to use lint from the dryer.

  5. How do you make the 3D objects? This sounds fun for making tiny plushies!

  6. I just found your great blog, following a workshop I attended yesterday - I made a sheep. Love it is a great craft, so satisfying. Have ordered wool and needles and can't wait for them to arrive x

  7. I've made a few 3D creatures, and embellished a few articles of clothing, but I can always use more tips and ideas.

  8. I have a long haired grey and white cat and comb him regularly, his fur is so soft and long I am sure I could make a 3D of him and place the grey parts where his grey areas are and the white parts where his white areas are. Do you think real fur would work ? Wool is real fur too just a tad courser.

    1. Yes it would work, just felt in in with the wool you are using. Some pet hair is easy to felt and some is more difficult, It is trial and error x

  9. I feel i must contradict your teaching. Your needle should never go into your foam. The foam is there purely to protect should your needle go down that far so it does not hit the hard surface of the needle or your knee. You have totally misguided everyone that has read your blog. You are felting the wool, not the foam. Simply turn your wool over to reach the other side.