I get contacted often by crafty people looking to get started needle felting but are limited to a shoestring budget. Needle felting is a fun and affordable craft and I'm happy to help! The advice I offer is mainly for sculptural or 3 dimensional needle felting - not so much for needle felting on an actual shoelace although it certainly can be done!
A really cool thing about sculptural needle felting is that it doesn't take much of an initial investment to get started. A felting pad and a few felting needles are the only tools you need - and then all you'll need is wool. You will find that with all of that poking to do, time is the biggest investment you’ll make in needle felting. Using quality wool and supplies definitely speeds things up and a lesson or two to learn the basics helps too.
Small creations (less than 5" or so) really don’t take much fiber – usually less than an ounce. If you plan on needle felting on a tight budget, keep your projects small. But even larger pieces don't require much fiber; my Felt Alive needle felted dolls are around 12” and typically weigh about 3-4 ounces. You can expect to pay anywhere from $1.50 - $5 per ounce for wool for needle felting. Not bad! But not all wool works great for needle felting so it's important to know what you are buying.
|The box said Steel WOOL so I had to try.|
If the barbs on the felting needles can grab it, it can be felted. I have experimented with all kinds of stuff - even steel wool can be needle felted if you don't mind the sound of nails on a chalkboard.
I prefer wool for needle felting. But not just wool straight off the sheep - I need clean wool that has been scoured, picked and prepared into wool batting. (It's quite laborious and unless you plan to go through a whole lot of fiber, I really don't recommend purchasing raw fleece to save money.)
While there are many breeds of sheep, certain types of wool felt faster or finish better - but that's another discussion altogether. Generally, if the fiber can be carded (brushed) into lofty batting, it will work for sculptural needle felting.
"Batting??? But I thought I needed roving - what's the difference?" I hear it all the time so let me explain:
Roving comes prepared in long ropes or strands. It is more readily available than wool batting as it's very popular for spinning into yarn. Most roving has been combed so the fiber all runs the same direction. The shorter fibers have all been combed out, leaving only the longest fibers.
Merino Roving / Combed Top - note the combed fiber structure
In the yarn-spinning world, combed roving is known as top or tops. Merino roving is the most widely available, you'll likely see Corriedale roving as well. It all comes in delicious array of colors that I couldn't resist when I first got started needle felting. I soon learned that combed wool wasn't the easiest to needle felt with and wound up having to spend more money on wool that was easier and faster to sculpt with my felting needles. Combed roving is GREAT to use for hair for needle felted dolls, dogs and other hairy creatures.
Wool Batting is prepared into lofty sheets much like quilt battingWhen you hear the term batting or batts, just think of quilt batting. The large sheets of fluff used to line a quilt or a comforter. And yes, comforters filled with wool batting (rather than polyfill) are divine. ...but I digress. It's the messy structure of the fiber in batting that makes for a great sculpting medium.
When needle felting with batting, the messy fibers tangle and shrink in all directions. With roving, the orderly fibers shrink along the lines of the combing, leaving lines and grooves in the surface of your work. Needle felting with combed roving tends to take longer than with batting and it will be more likely to show visible holes left by the needles. While many, many needle felters use roving because of the availability and the scrumptious colors, I save my roving for hair for my creations and stick with batting for sculpting.
Wool batting closeup - note the messy fiber structure.
And those tiny packets of roving you find at craft stores - those are packaged for small embellishments (like on the shoelaces) and are very cost-prohibitive to use for sculpting.
Finding quality supplies for sculptural needle felting in your area can be challenging. Most needle felters have to shop online. At Felt Alive Needle Felting Supplies we strive to offer wool batting and supplies that are affordable and really do work great for needle felting.
Here are my recommendations for needle felting on a tight budget with Felt Alive Needle Felting Supplies.
|Plain, undyed wool batting - used for the core of projects|
|Felt Alive Needle Felting Wool Batting|
|Felt Alive Detail Kit|
foam felting pad is your work surface and can be used over and over again. I have found that covering your pad with an inexpensive piece of felt from the craft store extends the life of the pad. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your foam felting pads - FELT ALIVE NEEDLE FELTING TIPS - Foam Felting Pads
|Felt Alive Super-Duper Felting Needles|
FELT ALIVE NEEDLE FELTING TIPS - The Use & Care of Felting Needles
Things like curly wool for hair or merino prefelt or double and quad point felting needles are specialty items and can make things a little costlier but if you stick to the basics, needle felting is a very affordable craft.
|Felt Alive Needle Felting Wool and Supplies|
If you are a crafter on a shoestring budget I hope you decide to give needle felting a try. And yes, you can even needle felt on an actual shoestring! (It's kind of a fun idea if I do say so myself.)
Happy Felting and thanks for visiting my blog!