Needle felting is the art of using a pointed needle to mat, press and interlock woolen fibers into felted cloth. To determine the best tools to use, you must decide what type of felting you will be doing, wet or dry. In needle felting, generally the dry method is used, as the metal needles can easily become rusted and ruined if used with water. Other important considerations in choosing the best supplies include selecting the proper needle for the job; finding high-quality, sturdy wool; and choosing the proper brushes for blending colors.
When looking for the best needle felting supplies, the most important tool is the needle itself. Both hand felting needles as well as needle felting machines use a sharp, barbed blade that tangles the fibers using a repeated stabbing motion. There are some needles that are manufactured to fit in a needle felting machine and not usually intended for hand use. They typically are made of steel, with an L- shaped end; they can often be uncomfortable to hold for long periods of time, especially while trying to maintain a jabbing motion.
If you are looking for the best needle felting supplies to use for hand work versus machine work, then its a good idea to find a needle that has a cushioned, color-coded grip. The colors refer to the gauge of the needle as well as the different configurations of the barbs. There are also needle holders available that make it possible to hold and use several felting needles at once.
The next thing to look for when choosing the best needle felting supplies is the wool. There are many different varieties available, but most felters use sheep's wool. It's best to choose a sturdy, durable wool as well as one that will felt quickly without extensive amounts of jabbing. The batting form, which is sold in wide sheets, usually felts quickest by hand. If a needle felting machine is being used, wool in the roving and sliver form are also popular choices.
Another one of the best needle felting supplies is a very resilient work surface. Felting needles are very sharp and fragile, so the surface must be forgiving. A common choice for hand needle felting is a square piece of foam. A thick slab can protect the needle as well as the work surface.
Hand carders are also a good felting tool for dry needle felting. These small brushes used to blend together different colors. This usually works best with roving wool, which is wool that has been carded into long ropes.
Choosing the best needle felting supplies ultimately comes down to the preference of the individual. After understanding the basics of needle felting, its essential to explore different brands and types to decide what works best for you. Trial and error, or creating small practices pieces is the best way to decide what makes for the easiest and most efficient way to needle felt.