I love needle felting, I always prefer it over wet felting. But it took me some time and practice to make felt balls with needle felting.
I thought it might be a good idea to write a little how-to and pass on my tips and tricks.
First of all, don’t think you will ever stop to stab your fingers. It improves with practice, but depending on your level of tiredness or the amount of distraction you’re under, it will always happen.
If you happen to have a very bad day or are a beginner, think of protecting your finger with a band-aid. I found it helps a lot and doesn’t bother to much with the handling.
There are many different kinds of needles available. I think they are pretty self-explanatory, ranging from fine to coarse, but there are also reverse-needles, which pull out a bit of the wool again, allowing you to make a very fine hair like appearance.
One of the tricks that I thought of the other day is to mark the needles with color.
I put them into assigned places on the mat, like: this needle should always be here, I know this is the place for the fine needle. But then one is distracted and it’s not possible to see the differences easily in all of them.
So I bought some nail polish and color marked them. Actually I only need to mark one kind, as I seldom use more than two needles on one project, but always use the medium ones.
So if those are color marked I can always tell which ones are which.
Most important, probably, is to always stab straight down. If you don’t do that the needle will bend and break more easily.
First take the amount of wool you want to use. If you want to make many in size similar objects, this is the time to separate the wool into similar little heaps.
Now comes a very important step: tear the wool apart! Dont use it like it is. Break it up into small strands and lay the strands in different directions.
This will make the end product more evenly shaped.
Then start with the coarser on of your two needles.
Especially while making balls or smaller object you need to work gently. It seems to be a contradiction to talk about needle felting (which is a forceful stabbing motion) and gentleness.
But you need to be gentle, because you need to stay INSIDE the object with your needle. Dont let the needle go outside. Otherwise the strands of the wool wont fusion as well as you want them.
VERY IMPORTANT: just stab two or three times in one place, continuously move the object, roll the ball, to get it to be nice and round.
When you are done, take the smaller needle and continue felting.
When you are finished the result is firm. But also there are still strands of wool sticking out. You can either cut them off with a scissors or *magic trick* : roll them gently between your palms, the heat will fuse the remaining strands. You can even add some water, but just the smallest amount, your palms should just be barely wet!
Last, but not least, don’t go overboard with the needle felting of balls. If they are too tight you will have difficulties to bead them, because the needle with the thread will barely pass through.