Normally, whenever needles and wool come up in the same sentence, knitting is the first thing that comes to mind. I carry around knitting in my purse. There is an untold number of slightly finished project sitting around my house. Don’t even get me started about yarn. It’s safe to say that I have knitting on the brain. So, at 2013’s first fiber guild meeting, I was presently surprised to learn about a different crafty combination of needles and wool - needle felting.
To needle felt, you really only need 3 things: a foam pad, wool roving, and a needle. It’s that simple but you can’t use just any needle. The necessary needle definitely isn’t a knitting needle or sewing needle but a thin piece of metal with barbs and a sharp point at one end. Once you have a small ball of roving and the foam pad to work on, just start stabbing. It’s vicious. It’s cathartic. It’s occasionally a bloody experience if you spear one of your fingers. When the original ball is compacted, add more fiber, keep stabbing, and slowly sculpt the wool to it’s final shape. Then you can add color, embellishments, and numerous details.
I got to experiment with needle felting by making a heart shaped pincushion. Other guild members made hearts that looked sculpted and delicate. My heart looks like one of those chalky, valentine candies that I eat every year because they are inescapable. I’m tempted to add some sort of abbreviated and completely inappropriate message.
Repeatedly stabbing a defenseless ball of wool was pretty fun. Plus, I only pricked my fingers a few times and didn’t draw any blood. It was really interesting to watch wool transform from something soft and fluffy to compact and solid. The finished heart is still soft and definitely wooly but very different from the cushy yarn I’m used to working with. FYI, sculpting wool is definitely harder than it looks. The felting process is easy but requires patience, an eye for detail, and practice. It’s not that different from knitting after all.
When I left the meeting, I knew I had fun but wasn’t sure if I wanted to try needle felting again. The heart’s been on on my desk and I keep coming up with all these things I could make. Cool, geeky things. Plus, I’ve got lots of roving leftover from finished skeins of handspun. Looks like I’ll be getting some felting needles soon.