June 07, 2009

Needle Felting Goodness

One of the amazing areas at Maker Faire was the Needle Felting Playground, a section of the Craft: booth. It was a cozy little area set up with real furniture, like this comfy green couch.

The Needle Felting Playground at Maker Faire

Now, I *think* that couch actually belongs to the lovely lady on the left, one Brookelynn Morris. She is one of the authors of Feltique, an inspiring book that covers the gamut of felt. I had heard of this book before going to the faire, and I wanted the book, but had no idea I would be meeting one of the authors. I'm sort of oblivious that way.

So all weekend there were swarms of people stabbing away at little pieces of wool, making amazing things, while receiving helpful instruction by Brookelynn and Moxie of madebymoxie (whom, sadly, I didn't officially meet; hasn't stopped me from including her in my recent crafty dreams though. seriously you guys, my brain is a crazy place). You can see Brookelynn's photos of the pieces people made on her Flickr site.

Needle Felting 101 with Brookelynn Morris

These ladies also gave how to sessions, and I was able to catch Brookelynn's. Craft: did this wonderful thing where they gave away free goodies at the end of every demo (seriously, the amount of free stuff I snagged at Maker Faire is mind boggling!). So at the end, Brookelynn gave away little needle felting kits with everything needed to make the bauble earrings from her book. Lucky me, I won one!

This is probably my third needle felting kit, and I've been experimenting with the process for probably a year or so now. I feel like I have just enough experience to know what tools I do and don't like, so I'm going to share my findings with you.

  1. Needles break. Easily. They're jerks like that. In fact, the one that came with my kit broke sometime between me inspecting the kit in the hotel, and taking it out to play with on the drive home. Beyond that, I do not currently have any preferences as to brand, gauge or anything of that nature.
  2. You can use a single needle all on its own if you want. It's probably really good for doing intricate things like this, which I currently have no talent for. Otherwise, I find the single needle to be slow, and I am more likely to break them and/or stab myself this way.
  3. You can also get these little wooden things, which speed up the process. I like that they're wooden and have multiple needles. I don't like the way you have to hold them, or the fact that I still stab myself with them.
  4. What I really really love are Clover's tools. This one is great for mashing things together super fast, especially when those things are flat pieces you're connecting. It holds several needles and has a cover that protects you and the barbs from each other. The cover slides out of the way as you use the tool, but can be locked in place when the tool is not in use.
  5. But the one that makes me happiest is this little baby. I love that I can hold it like a pen. It has three needles in it, which can be replaced if they break, and are close enough together that you have a lot of control over the design still. Both the pen-like design and the close-placed needles make this a good option for sculpting. It also comes with a cap that keeps you from stabbing yourself when you're not currently using it. (Things always manage to end up underneath me when I'm on the couch, which means ouch! if those needles aren't covered. They are SHARP.) You can find this little guy lots of places, both online and in craft stores.
Working Platforms
  1. The first kit I bought came with this block of what feels like upholstery foam. The idea is that you want something to lay the felt on that is soft enough not to break the needle, and thick enough to keep you lap or desk from getting stabbed. Having experienced better things, I have decided I hate this foam. Little pieces of wool stick to it. Cat hair sticks to it. And it's ugly. And it gets dirty. Everything just sticks to it. I hate it. Oh, and I hear it's bad for the environment. So that too. I believe most kits you buy will come with this foam. Boo!
  2. The second thing I bought was the Clover needle felting mat. It's not bad. It uses bristles instead of foam. I have no trouble with cat hair or dirt, though I couldn't tell you its relationship to the environment. It's really nice to use with Clover's chunkier tool mentioned above.
  3. As happy as I was to discover Clover's mat, I was even happier after using the foam that came with my Feltique kit. Wow. This thing is great. Nothing gets stuck to it, it's clean, and it's good for the environment. I love it. You can get these from madebymoxie.
So there you have it. A year's worth of "research" into needle felting. It's pretty easy to get started, as Brookelynn's flickr set illustrates. There's just something about wool that makes my soul happy, and I'm really excited to start incorporating it into my jewelry designs after reading Feltique.

Which reminds me. I finished my kit today!

Please excuse the Winston hair! It's everywhere...
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Monica said...

I have no idea what you are talking about, but I loved this post anyway! Cute earring!

kimberlina said...

hahahahaa! "I have decided I hate this foam. Little pieces of wool stick to it. Cat hair sticks to it. And it's ugly. And it gets dirty. Everything just sticks to it. I hate it"

:) you're so lucky that you keep winning all this shit! *jealous* i need to get my effing ass in GEAR. the good is that i doing stuff, just not crafting stuff. mostly photography and website stuff. so we'll see where i am in a few months. oof!

and what is UP with fucking cat hair? that shit gets all over. the other day my eye felt funny and i knew i had a cat hair in my eye. i checked in the mirror and yep, little tiny fragile cat hair sticking out. so i grabbed it and WTF - the part that was in my eye was 3/4ths longer than the part that was sticking out! it was totally whack.

the end.