If you’re like me, the term “felting” might not ring a bell when you first hear it, and you may be confused about its significance. But chances are you have seen a felted creation before and not even realized it!
Felting is the “process of separating, tangling, and relocking animal fibers found in items such as yarn or wool,” and can either be achieved through a wet technique (which we will talk about on the blog next week!) or a dry technique, which is typically done with a needle. When needle felting, t
he crafter uses a special barbed tool to repeatedly stab into the wool, pulling the fiber into itself and ultimately creating a round, firm shape. Once this firm, felted piece of wool is created, you can add more felted shapes or pieces of wool to form a sculpture!
Felting has been around since the Neolithic period, and samples of felting date back to the Bronze and Iron Ages. Felted creations were used to keep people warm and dry during a time when knitting wasn’t yet invented! Nomadic people in Central and East Asia still practice felt making, using the craft to create rugs, tents, and clothing both for themselves and for tourists, and Roman soldiers made breastplates, tunics, boots, and socks out of felt because it is a relatively speedy process that requires fewer tools than some other handwork techniques. Legend has it that Saint Clement of Metz and Saint Christopher filled their sandals with wool while fleeing persecution to protect them from blisters and that at the end of their long journey all the walking and sweat had turned the wool in their shoes to felted socks! These days felting has come back into fashion in Great Britain, Scandinavia, and the United States, and more modern designs and techniques are always being invented to adapt to current felting trends.
Felt is used in anything from cars to musical instruments to picture frames, and to create hats, jackets, decorations, pillows, and bags, but its most exciting usage is probably to create figurines and sculptures! Animals are very popular to make with dry felting because their fuzzy hair and fur is easily copied using wool. Before you start trying to create needle felted sculptures, however, you’ll need some tools. The first thing you should acquire is wool! It may be beneficial to do some research on the best type of wool for felting because there is no general consensus in the felting community on which type of wool is better, but I am confident that you will find the perfect material for your project! Next, you need a felting needle, which has sharp barbs on it that all point in the same direction in order to pull the wool into a firm, sculpted shape. Finally, you should have a foam block or a sponge on which to felt so that you don’t hurt yourself or damage your needle or the table while stabbing your wool.
Once you’ve gotten your needle felting tools, it’s all about practice! You can start by following this Handwork Studio YouTube tutorial to learn how to make a felted turkey or this YouTube tutorial to learn how to felt an owl, just in time for fall! You can also try these really cool felted spider earrings to get you in the mood for Halloween. If you want to create something more summery, you can also make a chick, a rabbit, or a koala, all out of spheres, or check out this list or this site to find more amazing step-by-step needle felting lessons. Needle felting is an incredible activity to try with your kids this summer, and not only is it fun to pass the time, but they end up with adorable figurines and sculptures at the end! If you’re not so sure about teaching your kids how to needle felt on your own, you can always send them to The Handwork Studio’s camps and classes so they can learn amazing handcraft skills, make friends, and have a wholesome, unique summer experience. If you do try out needle felting, post a picture of your creation on Instagram with the hashtag #SewMoreLove! We would love to see the fantastic things you create. Have a great week, try some needle felting, let us know how it went, and then tune in next week to learn about wet felting!