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Felting, the process of matting woolen fibers together, is one one the oldest fiber techniques known, dating back to the 6th Century BC. In fact, prior to the invention of weaving & knitting tools, looms and spinning wheels, felting was the primary process that was used to produce cloth for everything from shoes to hats and rugs to yurts.

As technology is usually the catalyst for change, the aforementioned tools – spinning wheels, looms, etc – kept wool in its rightful place as a production material, but replaced felting overtime as the preferred production technique.

Things remained pretty static for centuries as no revolutionary techniques surfaced in the production of cloth. We need to jump ahead to the mid-1800s to see the next major shift – the production of the first commercial needle loom. This needle punching technique languished for another hundred years until the 1950s when it began to see more use as waste fiber was found to be usable, thus lowering the overall production cost.

Skip ahead to 1984 when David and Eleanor Stanwood, artists from Martha’s Vineyard, MA began using a single commercial felting needle to handcraft their creations. They taught their friend and fellow artist Ayala Talpai the technique. In turn she published The Felting Needle – from Factory to Fantasy, the very first book on the subject, and a new craft category was born.

For the past 20 years, Indygo Junction has seen this category grow and grow, producing some of the most creative and imaginative pieces in the fashion sewing and craft field. From cloth itself to cozy capes and scarves, to jewelry, toys, and artwork. As the tools have become easier to use, more and more artists and crafters take it up.

There are, essentially, three basic needle felting techniques: yarn embellishment – the application of yarn to a foundation fabric; fabric-to-fabric – the ability to applique without sewing; and fiber-to-fabric – the joining of individual fibers to a foundation fabric using stencils or freehand methods.

There isn’t enough room in a blog post to even begin to demonstrate these various techniques…that why I’ve put together some suggestions and content to help you get into this very rewarding technique.

First, Indygo Junction offers a number of patterns, books, supplies and tools to get you into Needle Felting.

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Our patterns feature felting in a variety of applications, an accent color on a felt flower, recycled menswear appliqués on a hobo bag, an overall pattern on the inset of a vest back, and felting several quadrants of a pieced wool tote.

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Our books include a wide variety of projects..from dimensional jewelry to felted wool scarves…even needle felting on denim jeans.

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We carry a wide variety of felting supplies including wool roving, hand-dyed felted wools and foundation.

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We feature many tools to make your felting fun, safe, and easy: single- and multi-needle tools, mats and molds.

Now that you’ve decided that you want to start, the question is how. Trying a technique for the first time is always daunting. This year I’ve decided to rededicate a fair amount of my time, and my associate’s time at Indygo Junction, to education – instructional videos, history lessons and downloadable PDFs. We want more people discovering their creativity; more people discovering the fulfillment they have “in their own two hands” (a favorite quote of mine from Mary Brooks Picken), and more people learning new things and growing as sewers and crafters.

To that end, we’ve produced an Indygo Junction “How To” video on Needle Felting. In it, we demonstrate each of the primary techniques to help get you started. I think you’ll find it’s a great way to get started.

Lastly, I’d like to reward one lucky commenter with a Needle Felting package containing a starter kit of tools. All you have to do is comment on a favorite needle felted item you’ve seen or owned, tell us why you think you’d like to learn to Needle Felt or share with all of us a needle felting story of your own. We’ll draw a winner approximately one week from today!

Good luck…and thank you all for letting me share a little bit of my life and loves with you.

~ Amy

Amy Barickman is the founder and owner of Indygo Junction, The Vintage Workshop and AmyBarckman.com. She is a leader in the sewing, needle arts and retail crafting industry having sold more than two-million sewing patterns and published 80 books sold throughout the world. Her recent endeavor is the book “Amy Barickman’s Vintage Notions: An Inspirational Guide to Needlework, Cooking, Sewing, Fashion and Fun”, is already on its third printing since its release in September of 2010. Other best-selling titles include: “Indygo Junction’s Button Ware” and, most recently, “Hankie Style”.

49 Comments

  • Sher_portrait_large

    Oct 26, 2013, 08.34 PMby shereesews

    I have been playing around needle felting on 4×6 fiber postcards, to swap with a group called Post Card Mail Art on yahoo groups. I am really enjoying the process and wool fibers.

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    Apr 28, 2011, 09.31 PMby goodwink

    At a local co-op they sell needle felted children’s booties. They were adorable, and I was curious how they were made. Thanks for the video!

    Kim

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    Apr 28, 2011, 03.39 PMby megamiaki364

    I recently saw the cutest chess set, the pieces are all little felted bunnies!!! They are my inspiration to learn needle felting. http://browse.deviantart.com/artisan/textiles/fiberart/?order=5&offset=48#/d3efls2

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    Apr 28, 2011, 07.41 AMby fabricdragon

    I’ve never tried needle felting but, as I’ve seen some of the beautiful pieces that can be made with this technique, I really want to learn. I find wool too irritating to have close to my skin but I’d like to try needle felting designs to the edges of garments where they would be less likely to make contact.

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    Apr 27, 2011, 08.53 PMby bunnyflower

    This is awesome! I knew someone who had a really awesome re-cycled sweater that they turned into a cardigan, and they had needle-felted animals all over it. I have always wanted to try something like that, but never have. Exciting!

  • Missing

    Apr 27, 2011, 07.39 PMby lauraj-1

    There are so many different ways to use needle felting as an embellishment. I have a little bunny (barely 2 inches tall) needle-felted for me by a lovely lady who comes to the Kane County Toy & Doll Show (IL). She does beautiful work. I do so many other things, but this seems to portable. One of my daughters has been toying with this and tee-shirts with a small kit I purchased for her. We were watching for coupons to HobbyLobby for more tools. I already have several ideas bubbling up into my head! I have a black dress with tiny pink flowers that I could see a soft needle felted scarf with little flowers flowing over it. hmmm … I might have to find that kit ….

  • Missing

    Apr 27, 2011, 04.25 PMby quiltty

    I first encountered needle felting at a yarn market event. I was amazed at the ease and yet the wonderful finished product. I think I am most impressed with felting applied to handbags. I have just never tried this craft, but after seeing the video using the stencils and cookie cutters, I will be looking to try this soon. Thanks for sharing this information .

  • Mum_aged_17_large

    Apr 27, 2011, 02.27 PMby little-lady-lovekins

    Needle felting – I was in my local crafts gallery, talking about my new kindle to the owner. She disappeared into the back of the shop and reappeared with her own kindle – complete with needle felted cover she had made. It was an adorable sleeve jacket she had sewn up out of her own felt – it had a lovely red heart as part of the felting on the front. I was EXTREMELY envious of this marvellous cover and decided at that point I really need to try my hand at needle felting myself. Being somewhat strapped for cash just now, I am having to wait until I do some exam invigilating in May before I can afford a kit and some wool tops. I am determined my kindle will have a lovely cover eventually that I make!

  • Bee_on_the_pollen_2_large

    Apr 27, 2011, 07.25 AMby pinkflorentina

    Hi

    Has anyone managed to find the downloadable PDF’s that are referred to in this article? I’ve been on the site and can’t locate them

    many Thanks

  • Missing

    Apr 27, 2011, 05.24 AMby dianajanssen

    I’ve wanted to learn needle felting for a long time. I love making wearable art and can see combining needle felting with beading in future garments.

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    Apr 27, 2011, 01.21 AMby obriieane

    Wow, I think I just found my next crafting obsession. Thank you so much for the introduction! It would be awesome to make accessories and hair flowers and ornaments! I love the idea of learning a technique that has been around for centuries, using natural wools and yarns. Really beautiful stuff!

  • Missing

    Apr 26, 2011, 11.09 PMby verobg

    Hi!!!! beautiful technique, my question is How can you wash the finished garment? and Do you know where in Mexico are we able to buy all the material and tools needed?

  • Missing

    Apr 26, 2011, 11.05 PMby pgf

    I just took an introductory class at Knitter’s Fantasy in OHIO-it was great. I have seen all sorts of felted and embellished scarves, vests, jewelry,animals, etc. I always want to create things that are unique and personalized for my friends, and I think needle felting is a beautiful way to do just that.

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    Apr 26, 2011, 10.34 PMby debly

    i love flowers, i want to put them on everything!!!!!! the possibilities are endless… i have suitably updated my pressy wish list

  • Missing

    Apr 26, 2011, 10.10 PMby Christine Lawson

    I would love to begin needle felting and your video has given me the courage to start ! I’ve seen a really cute bag that I would like to have a go at.

  • Missing

    Apr 26, 2011, 09.55 PMby lalaluckypants

    I just recently started needle felting an LOVE it! It quickly can become an all-consuming passion! One of my favorite projects is to make little toys from my toddler—he loves carrying them around and hugging them as much as I like making them. He often tries to abscond with little felted dolls that I haven’t even finished yet!

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    Apr 26, 2011, 09.32 PMby Holly Berry

    I have been wanting to learn needle felting! How washable is it?

  • Missing

    Apr 26, 2011, 08.52 PMby hsnodgrass

    I have to second the first comment—seeing a felted flower in someone’s hair is so wonderful! (and much more convenient than having to go pick a real flower every time you want to feel springy)

  • Missing

    Apr 26, 2011, 08.29 PMby dragontrap

    I’m still learning the art of needle felting, and I’m actually super excited to learn how to make positional toys. But there is a wide range of uses for felting that I’m even MORE excited to try my hand at all sorts of different techniques!

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    Apr 26, 2011, 08.20 PMby missvintagegirl

    I’ve seen some adorable needle felted pin cushions!

  • Missing

    Apr 26, 2011, 07.32 PMby ferg38

    I have seen so many cool and creative needle felted things…I think it is the next sewing/crafting technique I would like to master!!

  • Missing

    Apr 26, 2011, 07.18 PMby pattij1013

    I think needle felting adds a new dimension to our sewing. Hand needle felting allows you to do 3-D projects. I have a needle felting machine, but would really like to try hand needle felting, both for it’s fun side and looks like a great take-along project.

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    Apr 26, 2011, 07.07 PMby sewshable1

    I’d like to learn needle felting because while I was reading this article I had an epiphany about dryer lint!

  • Missing

    Apr 26, 2011, 06.06 PMby dropd

    OOOOOH! I will add a garden of anemones and poppies to my new sweater! Thank you for the inspiration.

  • Naburdaprofil_large

    Apr 25, 2011, 10.56 AMby janul

    Once a friend of mine wore needle felted flower in her hair… I loved that, and would like to be able to make it, too :)

  • Clare_hodge_laurence_keane_large

    Apr 25, 2011, 12.46 AMby clareh

    I love the softness and the versatility of needle felting. I’m a dyed-in-the-wool sewer and I refuse to learn how to knit! Working with wool with felted sweaters and needle felting would allow me to personalize the slippers I’m making my Mom for Mother’s Day.

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    Apr 25, 2011, 12.17 AMby cmstephens

    My first, and so far only, needle felting project was to make a little cockatiels for my sisters for Christmas. It was a lot of fun!

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    Apr 23, 2011, 10.18 AMby Petra Vorschneider

    I would love to try needle felting! I have seen some beutifull Felted Animals and some lovely scarves with fantastic Felted Flowers

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    Apr 22, 2011, 09.53 AMby efgh

    I would love to try my hand at needle felting. I’ve seen some great jewellery made from needle felted balls and i also think it would be a great technique to use for christmas and easter decorations.

  • Orp_1769_large

    Apr 22, 2011, 03.49 AMby loyl8

    i want to make a felted ball rug. I saw one in bright colors and fell in love…one day.

    • This is a question
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