Guide to Felting Needles.
Sizes and Types of Needles.
Dry needle felting uses special barbed/notched needles which were originally used in the industrial felting industry from the 1800s to make flat pieces of felt using a large machine. This is the reason that felting needles have a bent over top, as it holds the needle in the machine. The needles have a narrower (working) tip of about an inch long which has notches cut into it which are commonly referred to as barbs. These notches catch the scales of the wool fibres, and mats them together, creating felt. The more you stab, the more matting occurs, and the firmer the felt becomes.
There are different sizes of needles for felting and there are also different shapes.
The number gauge of the needles relates to the width of the needle. The higher the number (confusingly), the thinner the needle. Needles range from 32 (wider) to 42 (thinner). The thinner the needles, the smaller the hole. Lower numbered needles are better for starting a project as the barbs/notches will draw in more wool, whereas higher numbered needles are better for finer detailed work. Saying that, I tend to stick to a 40 needle for most things and encourage you to try out different needles for your various projects to experiment what works best for you.
There are also three types of needles – Triangle, Star and Twisted.
Triangle - this is the most usual shape and are often a bit cheaper.
Star – this shape has four working edges and therefore engage more fibres.
Twisted / Spiral (Triangle) – this shape includes barbs over a wider area as the shaft is slightly twisted, engaging more fibres meaning it works quicker but also leaves a less pronounced hole.
Reverse – there is also a reverse needle which has the notches cut at the opposite angle and so will pull out threads as you use it – this is useful for blending colours or for making fur look more realistic.
This illustration helps to visualise the different types:
The range of felting needles available can be confusing and daunting for beginners. Here is a brief guide to explain the different types of needles available for dry felting.