Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Needle Felting: Love at First Poke

Wool roving, foam and felting needles 
I’ve experimented with many materials and forms of art and crafts over the years.  I’ve dabbled in ceramics, polymer clay, crochet, beading, tie-dye, and quilting, among other things.  I’ve painted everything from canvas and paper, to wood, walls, furniture, denim and even leather shoes and handbags.  But I’d never taken to anything so quickly or so passionately as I did to needle felting.  In her fabulously fun and instructive book, I Felt Awesome, Moxie warned me that needle felting was addictive, but it was already too late for me.  Oh man, it was literally love at first poke, and I’ve been felting almost every day since. 

Given that most people I know look at me like I have three heads when I mention “needle felting,” a brief explanation seems in order.  Needle felting is the process of taking loose wool fibers, usually roving or batting (basically cleaned unspun wool hairs, either combed or uncombed), which have been dyed in a wonderful array of brilliant, rich colors, and poking them repeatedly (we’re talking a lot of poking) with special barbed needles until the fibers become enmeshed and matted together into one seamless non-woven fabric.   I then create designs by adding little wisps of different colored fibers, almost like I’m painting with wool.  Only it’s even better, because the result is something soft, fuzzy, and functional. I absolutely love it!

My new sleeve
I myself only discovered needle felting thanks to Martha Stewart.  I happened to spot a blurb in Living magazine about how to needle felt cute little patches over holes in wool sweaters.  Well, this caught my attention because I’d been hanging on to a cashmere sweater with a couple of holes.  So I innocently ordered a pack of wool roving and a felting needle over the internet.  Two days later, I needle felted a simple design over the holes in my sweater, and -- boom -- I was hooked!  Over the next two weeks, I read a slew of books on felting and magically acquired several different kinds of needles and nearly fifty different colors of wool.  It was like I was possessed! 
Zazzy Peacock iphone and camera cases
Those first two weeks, I broke two needles and went through at least one band-aid a day.  I’m happy to say I haven’t broken a needle since, and I hardly ever break the skin anymore.  I can still be heard yelping, “Ow!” on a fairly regular basis, however.  (Did I mention that these needles are really, really sharp and barbed?)

Anyway, I’ve spent many, many happy hours since then honing my felting skills and refining my process.   Now I needle felt my pieces – poking them countless times with various needles, do some wet felting  (which –over-simplication alert – involves rubbing and/or rolling the felt in hot soapy water) to further tighten the fibers, and then needle felt some more – until I’m satisfied that the piece is firm and well-felted.

And you can only imagine how many colors of wool I have to work with now!  The best part is that I keep coming up with ideas for different things I can make, and new designs and color combinations to try.  The possibilities seem endless, and I’m so excited to see my artistic visions come to their fuzzy felted fruition.  Well, back to felting!

Have you tried any new crafts lately?  Are you tempted to try needle felting?

All Zazzy Peacock Studios designs and images shown are  © Jill Newman 2012.  All rights are reserved.


  1. Thanks for following my blog Rae Rae Handmades. I love seeing your felting. I am actually going to be trying this next week at a local Alpaca yarn shop! I love finding new friends through these blogs! I'll be following you.

  2. Thanks, Jen! You are going to love needle felting. Don't say you weren't warned. ;-) I'd love to hear what you think of it. Enjoy!

  3. I came across a tutorial and am sooooo curious about needle felting. I also have a cashmere sweater that has a few holes, and I wasn't sure if I could needle felt on it. So glad I came across your blog because it looks like needle felting might indeed be the answer! :)