What is needle felting? Simply put its the process of creating pictures or 3d shapes with wool using a barbed needle. For pictures the barbed needle pushes the fibres through the fabric holding it in place, for 3d felting the barbs on the needle tangles the fibres allowing you to create solid pieces. Just using wool fibre a special barbed needle and a sponge allows for so much creativity.
A number of years ago I discovered the craft of Needle Felting and immediately I was hooked, unfortunately back then it was difficult to source materials as it was a relatively new craft. Perhaps this was actually a blessing in disguise, it meant that I tried numerous different fabrics, needles and fibres before I discovered what I liked best to work with. Until earlier this year I was purchasing all my fibres, mainly Merino wool and feeling guilty that I was not using Irish wool. Finally I got my act together and have sorted that little issue out too.
We farm the most beautiful old Irish breed of Roscommon sheep, a breed that produces a large fleece of soft white wool, while it will never be as soft as Merino wool it certainly lends itself perfectly to needle felting. So instead of ordering wool that was not Irish I ordered dyes and created my own palette of coloured wool, colours that represent the Irish landscape.
The colour palette that we created seems to suit the Irish landscape, maybe its because the wool is truly Irish or maybe its because I am constantly examining my surroundings, our many shades of green, the way the sky reflects in the water, how faraway hills are not necessarily green. When I was creating the colours the brown was mixed with the yellow and green, green was mixed with grey etc, Irish landscapes don’t come pre mixed, the heather on our hills is many shades.
Now I did say at the start that anyone can make a needle felted picture, and yes its very true. In our workshops people who have never experience this craft have went home with amazing picture, yes I am there to help but I believe in letting everyone find their own creative streak. This picture was created by Éabha today, she is a student who just completed her Junior Cert and enjoys being creative. She never tried needle felting before but sat down beside me as I made the seascape and just asked how to achieve the different elements of her picture . The one word that I probably used most all afternoon was blend, you must blend colours together to create each part of the picture, the sky is two shades of blue, white, yellow, salmon and a hint of magenta.
From loose wool fibre to finished piece, here is what you do. First you need to decide on the picture that you want to create. Then you start by laying the fabric down on a thick sponge, a car sponge will suffice. Next you start with the sky or background by blending the colours together and laying them down on the fabric. Then the fun part, you take the needle and push the fibre into the fabric. You need to be careful with the needle, you must push it vertically into the piece, they are an industrial needle and will break if you flex them. When you are happy with the sky or background you can move towards the foreground, select the colours, blend them well together and again felt them into place, the good thing about this craft is you can pick the wool out if you are not happy with how it looks, remember, don’t use the needle to lift the fibre out, use your fingers or a broken needle.
Finally you get to add the detail, the flowers, stone walls or the small boat, this is what makes the picture stand out. Its the depth that you can create when using wool that makes this material so wonderful to work with. If you would like to try this craft for yourself we will be adding kits to our website, everything you need, wool fibre, fabric and needles will be included, we wont include a sponge as this would dramatically increase postage costs. We will also do a live felting demo on Facebook to help get you started. I hope you will love needle felting as much as I do.