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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

  • Missing

    Apr 22, 2011, 03.26 AMby NewBSewer415

    I bought a ton of adorable needle felted ornaments for my first Christmas tree this past year. They were beyond adorable and I know that they’ll look great on my tree for years to come. I’ve always wanted to know how to do it but I can’t lie, it’s a bit intimidating.

  • Missing

    Apr 21, 2011, 09.15 PMby michellebowden

    This is the best way to inform of techniques. We learn by different methods, but usually, visual tells all, especially if the narrator/demonstrator speaks clearly and the camera relays the stages. Wonderful – interesting for children if they’re able to safely use the tool.

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    Apr 21, 2011, 06.08 PMby raylynn

    Oh, I’ve got to try this! My friend has this awesome red clutch that her aunt made for her last summer – it’s got beautiful little different colored felted flowers on it. What a great way to add a little interest to a piece. I’ve seen some great hats that could benefit from this technique too! Hmm, now you’ve got me thinking.

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    Apr 21, 2011, 04.27 PMby seedling

    I must live under a rock, because I don’t think I’ve ever heard of needle felting before this! I absolutely love the look of the free needle felting done on the collar of the coat in your pictures! What a great new creative outlet!

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    Apr 21, 2011, 11.50 AMby eerieturnip

    My most treasured needle felted item is the bolero a friend made for me to go over my wedding dress. It is a beautiful antique cream with silk wool blended through the felt, two felted flowers with pearls at their centres. So stunning and special. I would love to be able to learn to needle felt, having seen the beautiful results it produces. Such a simple and fun technique!

  • Jasmin_131_large

    Apr 21, 2011, 06.33 AMby jasmin

    Wow, Amy, I am really inspired by this video – and given we’re heading into winter in the southern hemisphere, great way to embellish the woollies I need to sew up for the season. Mind you, now I think a blanket would be fabulous too. I have a beautiful felt floor rug and scarf from Stansborough (they are nearby, and did the weaving for Lord of the Rings & Narnia) but I never thought it could be easy to do any felting. Do people use this to felt together seams for garments? That could be amazing, I’d love to try!

  • Me_large

    Apr 21, 2011, 06.22 AMby jessdunstan

    I saw some children’s jerseys on the Martha Stewart website that have felted images on and am dying to try them out.

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    Apr 21, 2011, 06.13 AMby nell

    Wow I always thought needle felting would be really hard, but that tutorial makes it seem really easy to do. I’d love to try this out. Looks like a nice relaxing activity.

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    Apr 21, 2011, 03.18 AMby runningwithscissors1

    This winter, I saw a woman in an amazing hat as I was running errands and I am sure that the flowers on it were needle felted, at least they looked like they were to me. I wasn’t able to get close enough to her to ask, otherwise I would have been chasing down in the parking lot- not cool.

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    Apr 20, 2011, 11.33 PMby detoursal

    As a kid we had three red felt Christmas stockings that had white fuzzy wool fiber at the top. I can remember the fuzzy white went through to the inside of the stocking. After watching this video I’m wondering if they were needle- felted. All I knew is that my great grandmother had made them. Unfortunately they were lost in a basement flood along with all the Christmas decorations and many childhood toys back in the 1970’s.

  • Missing

    Apr 20, 2011, 10.19 PMby Weena59

    Wow! So many possibilities-I love the flowers and leaves. I would love the opportunity to try these techniques.

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    Apr 20, 2011, 08.36 PMby RoniBarr

    My great grandmother used to make us little booties and house shoes out of felt. To this day, I still have a tiny pair of baby booties she made me. The detail is exquisite and it always puzzled me how she did it. Your video made the basics look easy and now I’m interested in learning how to needle felt. I would love the opportunity to learn and winning your competition would be a great start! :)

  • Flowers_in_a_vase_large

    Apr 20, 2011, 07.24 PMby Ramona Bates

    Would love the opportunity to love needle felting. Thanks

  • Missing

    Apr 20, 2011, 07.09 PMby suzycupcakes

    A short time after I started knitting, I was checking out a wonderful artist’s blog (www.lillicarre.com) and she had posted some pictures of some very cute and small needle-felted finger puppets to give as gifts… it made me want to make little puppets just like that, even though I didn’t know what needle-felting was really (a friend of mine described it to me as "you take the wool and just poke it " – which I couldn’t really picture). Now that I’ve gotten deeper into the Vast Universe of Crafts and discovered amazing tutorials showing what needle-felting is and all its possibilities, I can’t wait to try it myself!

  • Dscn5250_large

    Apr 20, 2011, 06.27 PMby mixtlii

    This looks so easy, it’s great! I’d love to learn how to make needle felting, I htink it’s a great way to decorate and add a unique touch to a garment… And it looks so professional!

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    Apr 20, 2011, 05.10 PMby FabricUiPhoneApp

    You can buy a needle felting machine…in fact it looks like a sewing machine but it only felts. It makes fast, fast work out of something that traditionally takes hours. That said, I’m thinking of felting by hand a ‘family of dolls’ for my 1940s dollhouse. I’d make an appropriate family too. Maybe a Tucker, the car most famously known these days by the movie by the same name….

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    Apr 20, 2011, 04.57 PMby mirela

    I needle felted a little snowman Christmas ornament, but I’m mostly interested on flowers and other decorative items for clothes and accessories. I also needle felted some thin silk pieces together no wool involved.

  • Lorenna2_large

    Apr 20, 2011, 04.44 PMby lorenna

    I first became interested in needle felting when I saw an anatomical heart that a friend of mine had created with this technique. I figured needle-felting was really hard until watching your video today. It doesn’t seem as scary anymore, and I would be so excited to learn!

  • Feisty_girl_large

    Apr 20, 2011, 04.38 PMby ashleyraine

    Last winter, I bought a needle felted purple flower hairpin from Anthropologie. I wanted it in tons of colors, but they only sold it in two. Think of all the hair flowers I could make with a needlefelting kit! I could even make a dress out of needlefelted flowers! (Heehee.) Droooool.

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