Needle Felting – wool
THE BEAUTY OF NEEDLE FELTING IS IN ITS SIMPLICITY. YOU ONLY NEED BASIC EQUIPMENT AND A SMALL AREA TO WORK ON.
Today were exploring the wool needed for needle felting, or rather we’re exploring all the wool available… for a beginner as I said above you only need basic equipment. There is so many different types and forms of wool, not to go into all the different breeds of sheep you can get wool from! But there’s one special type of wool which is brilliant for needle felting and really makes it easier if you’re a beginner! (Don’t forget you can purchase a kit of materials from me… click here!)
First we need to talk about sheep!!
There are so many different breeds of sheep and their wool has varying properties…
- Long or short fibre length
- Thin or thick fibres
- Fine or coarse fibres
The main 3 types to be aware of are Merino, Shetland and Corriedale. Merino is fine, soft and long fibre length making it hard to needle felt. Whereas Shetland and Corriedale are coarser, thick and short fibres making it easier to needle felt. This can be a bit frustrating as a beginner, because you have to sacrifice some softness over a successful looking project! All the types of wool I talk about below can be purchased in these 3 breeds of sheep.
Your best wool for needle felting as a beginner is a carded Shetland batt then progress to a carded Merino batt for more softness!
Wool Top – commercial
Wool processing mills make wool top, a semi-processed product from raw wool. The process requires that the wool be scoured (washed) and combed and sorted. The longer fibres resulting from the process are called tops, and are in a form ready for spinning. Fibre is combed in such a way resulting in all the fibres to be parallel, this makes it much harder to needle felt being smooth, soft and slippy, especially Merino, therefore takes lots of stabbing to create a smooth result, so only for the more experienced felter!
A roving is a long and narrow bundle of fibre which has been pulled through a carding machine which combs and aligns the fibres to some degree. Roving is pulled off the machine in ropes around 2-3in thick. Though the fibres are fairly aligned, this form of wool still retains the wool’s natural crimp, making it an excellent choice for needle felting.
Hand Dyed Wool Top
Take some natural wool top, hand dye it and you end up with similar qualities to wool roving or even carded wool. The dying process adds air between each wool strand and the act of heating up the wool and washing it within the dyeing process can slightly felt the wool. The result is a wool top that is a lot easier to manage when it comes to needle felting and is a joy to work with!
Carded Wool Batts
Carded Wool which is a process of brushing the wool fibres to organise them which creates a web of fibres that can be put flat into batting or rolled into rovings (a long and narrow bundle of fibre)
Batting (also known as batts) has both been pulled through commercial carding machines which comb and align the fibres to some degree. With batting, the wool comes off the machine in thin sheets which are layered to form thicker fluffy sheets. The layering results in a textured wool where the fibres are no longer aligned, making it perfect for needle felting as it felts up very quickly.
Hand Carded Wool Batts
A hand carded wool batt has different properties to a commercial hand carded batt. Using a hand drum carder fibre artists can create batts at home, creating beautiful bundles of mixed fibres. As the fibres used are often from wool top or roving they are pulled through the drum carder once or twice, this isn’t enough to mesh the fibres together in different directions. The result is a layer of loose fibres going in the same direction… difficult to needle felt, especially for a beginner.
Within each of these types of wool you get wool from different breeds of sheep, these have varying qualities and can also change the result of your needle felting and the difficulty level when using it.
A value wool for creating the basis of a 3D needle project. Perfect for making animals and larger projects. It’s a mixture of wool from different breeds of sheep and will contain a variety of fibre lengths.