A needle felting machine is a machine which generally makes the process of needle felting easier and faster. Hand needle felting involves the use of specialized barbed needles, which are repeatedly stabbed into a piece of roving, or un-spun fleece, or even felt, which is placed on top of fabric. The base fabric is traditionally wool, but almost any fabric can be used, and the barbs on the felting needle are designed to push the roving into the woven fibers where they will stick. Depending on the project, hand felting may take hours to complete, while a needle felting machine can usually do it in half the time or less.
The machine works by creating the same motions in hand needle felting, but many are equipped to hold several felt needles at once, so the project takes much less time. It looks and operates much like a sewing machine, but a needle felting machine is set up only to use the types of needles used in felting. Some sewing machines on the market have an attachment and needle which can be used for small-scale felting, but for larger or more frequent projects, a felting machine is usually recommended.
Felting can create many designs on fabrics without the need of embroidery or other sewing. A felting machine will do away with the need of a foam block. The machine will do most of the work, but most still require the design to be made by the operator, and the operator must still move the fabric in the correct way to get the design she wants. Some industrial or higher-priced models have a programming feature, allowing a design to be chosen or loaded into the computer of the machine, eliminating most freehand work.
Learning to needle felt may be easier to learn by hand before purchasing a needle felting machine. Books and online tutorials are usually readily available, and there are often classes offered locally for hands-on training. Project ideas for beginners to felting include scarves, blankets, or hats, but many types of crafts are possible.
Care of a needle felting machine is similar to that of a sewing machine. If the machine is not used often, it may be best for individuals to put it in its box after each use. A machine used often may be left out, but should generally be cleaned every so often and possibly covered to prevent dirt from getting into the inner workings. Most machines will come with user manuals, which will have care instructions for that particular machine.