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What is Needle Felting?

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From fluff to form...

Felt is probably the oldest fabric known to human history. Wool wants to naturally felt, and its fibres, through agitation do just that, matting into a wad. There are numerous myths and speculations around the exact date of the first human made felt, but as it occurs so naturally, it is difficult to be sure.

When wool is looked at under a microscope, you can see it has a scaly texture. This texture helps the fibres cling together when water, friction, pressure or heat is applied. 

Therefore, felting can be done in two ways. Using water and soap, and lots of rubbing; or dry, with a needle or machine. 

Wet felting is traditionally employed for creating larger pieces, such as rugs, throws, or yurt sides. The appropriately primed wool is laid in an overlapping sheet and manipulated with water, soap and oil until the fibres have come together and shrunk in size. 

Dry, or Needle felting uses no moisture or pressure, but uses a special barbed needle which pulls the fibres together. Machines in the fabric industry are made of large plates covered with barbed needle which repeatedly clamp down on combed wool. The barbs pull individual fibres through the layers of wool, weaving them together, to create large felt sheets. 

Using a single needle, the same principle can be applied to a ball of combed wool to firm up and shrink to create 3D objects. By using the needle with precision, the felter can make detailed sculptures of anything their heart desires. 

Needle Felting a Rabbit on wire armature Video:

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Needle felting is a slow craft which takes soft, un-spun wool and uses a special barbed needle. By using thousands of small careful stabs, the wool is encouraged into a desired shape. 

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