Learn how to crawl: the New York City Yarn Crawl is on through Sunday, September 25.

Like I Need Another Craft

Dear Ann,
So let me just get this out there: I’ve taken up needle felting. Hey–it’s a reason to buy roving without buying a spinning wheel. But I make no excuses. It’s fun. It’s therapeutic. Kind of like play-doh except it’s wool.
It started with a bad case of a peculiar disorder: Exchange Anxiety. I signed up for Back-Tack, which requires one to sew a lovely notions pouch or needle roll for an anonymous recipient. Since I don’t sew, I drove down to Philadelphia, where Cristina and her Pfaff talked me through the making of a sweet little Kaffe Fassett needle roll.
I love these exchanges, but I always fret that my gift is not special enough, that my skills and my taste are wanting, and that the recipient will be disappointed. I try to make up for this by enclosing non-handmade treats that would be welcome in any crafty, chocolate-eating household. My attitude is, if you like the handmade thingie, consider it a bonus. If you don’t, eat the candy, take a lavender-scented bath, and mellow out.
But then I started surfing around looking at other Back-tackers’ work, and I realized that chocolate was not going to be enough this time. I needed Additional Cuteness in my craft.
In an attempt to kick it up a notch–BAM!–I took up needle felting. The idea was to make a matching pincushion for the needle roll.
Famous Last Words: How hard could it be?
Pixel Parade
Cristina of the Gifted Hands was one step ahead of me. A while back, in one of her early needle felting forays, she tossed off this:
I know. What can one say? Did ya notice
…the shrinky-dink pins? I won’t even get into the little pottery bowl, into which the peach nestles perfectly. (Yeah. She made it. Happened to have it lying around when she was needle-felting the mini-Cezanne.)
Nobody can say I’m not ambitious. Cristina had sent me a little kit so I could experience needle felting for myself.
First I squished up a ball of plain wool, and started poking it into a more compact ball shape:
Then I flattened it out into a button and poked a round groove into the top.
Like a button:
It turns out that I was getting ahead of myself, because as soon as I started attaching the colored wool:
…the groove filled up and I had to poke it into shape again.
To outline the button, I used a trick I heard about last weekend from David at My Threaded Bliss in Nashville. David told me that you can use Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride to needle felt, because it is single-ply and very easy to untwist, being barely spun to begin with. This is very handy for details. I had been saving my Lamb’s Pride scraps, which was kind of nutty since they were such short bits as to be useless. I thought I was saving them simply because they were Purty and because I save stuff. So now I have a nice ziploc full of many colors of Lamb’s Pride, and I even have a use for them.
I used a 2-inch strand, split in two, to outline the button’s groove.
Then my needle broke. It just busted. I was picking up a wisp of fiber and trying to move it over half a millimeter to cover a tiny white spot, and the tip broke off.
So I ordered more felting needles.
So I can’t finish my Button Pincushion until I get my new felting needles. Since I was ordering, I ordered a triple-pointer. (Amazing how early into a new craft we start upgrading the equipment.)
While shopping for needles, I found some wonderful on-line tutorials on needle-felting.
1. how to needle felt a kind of scary doll
2. how to needle felt a ladybug
3. Here’s a link showing how scary the needles look and how to needle felt using scraps of homemade felt . Afterwards, you can felt your felted felt, this time with soap and water. (If you do that, though, you are a Felting Freak and there is no hope for you.)
4. But wait–there’s more! Here’s how to make a needle-felted bird ornament, parts One and Two. The people who put this information out there are so generous with their knowledge. The felted bird is amazing; no wonder it ended up on the White House Christmas Tree.
Git felting, Missy. It’s fun.
Love, Kay



  1. Kay, Kay, Kay why must you show me things like this, and make me want to rush out and attempt them myself?

  2. Kay, Kay, Kay, Kay! Huzzah for this. I’ve got my toes in, just not the whole foot. It’s good to be versatile. When you’re done making pincushions, go check out what supermaggie.com does with rowing and needles. If you don’t know her already. Which you prolly do.

  3. The last time i tried this it was a mess – but I do love Cristina’s Cezanne! Wouldn’t something in a little basket look nice? We’re still beading Martha Kid’s mag alligators and crabs here – perhaps I should put this on the craft schedule for next week? I’ll be watching! Annhb

  4. Goodness something I can do and do do if you get my drift. Watch out it is very addictive, absorbing and as anarchic as you wish to make it. I suspect I am a felting freak as I don’t knit something then felt it but ‘build it’ with roving soap and water plus help of bubble wrap rub and then the hooked needle comes into play for extra design detail etc.
    You can actually needle felt almost any material if you’re daft enough to try – I’m daft enough and still experimenting.
    Have fun but watch those fingers unless you’re into natural dyeing:0)

  5. I’m in the throes of Exchange Anxiety myself at the moment (my first Rowanette exchange). Don’t feel quite so bad now that you’ve admitted to being a fellow sufferer.
    You’re pretty generous with knowledge yourself, by the way. I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve referred to your mattress stitch page.

  6. Uuuhh, the addictiveness of a ‘new hobby’… Just wait, you’ll be adding felting wool to your stash soon enough, along with several dozen needle-felting gadgets. Been there… want a look at my growing patchwork fabric stash?
    I look forward to the pictures of the finished item.

  7. i was really excited to read your post but those dolls really freaked me out… i’m not sure i have the same level of enthusiasm as i did before… i’ve always wanted to try it though and that peach is so super cute…

  8. Blimey, I’ve never even heard of needle felting! The internet sure is a wonderful thang. Although I’m with Susan, those dolls are scary!

  9. There’s somebody making the circuit showing how to do jointed miniature teddy bears with felted roving…. But what I’m wondering about MOST is some HOLLOW bals/boxes that are felted… with a different color inside than outside….. The boxes appear to have been sliced into bottom and lid…. What sort of form could you felt ON? Especially if you weren’t going to cut it out… as for the felted globes… Suggestions anyone?

  10. I’ve take a couple of classes from Sharon Costello (the ‘scarey’ doll maker). Mega fun. In September I’m taking her vessels class and I’m so freaking excited I have to remind myself to breathe..

  11. Have you seen the new needle felting machines? They’re soooo cool. I bought an inexpensive brand one for my Christmas present to me last year.
    Check out the kind of stuff you can do with them: http://www.yaga.ru/e_offers.html
    I just had a thought, I wonder if I could make a felted psychedelic squares afghan…

  12. Stop temping me with new projects that would make me want to buy more supplies and wool. I’m trying to stick to making cotton for the summer and only falling in love with patterns that succeed in using up my stash. But this felting looks amazing and I love the sculptural aspects of it (I got my bachelors in sculpture and am working up to being able to make knitted sculptures). Thanks for all the (evil,tempting,intriguing,inticing) links.

  13. If you’re too impatient to wait for the mail, I got my needles at AC Moore (and I used my 40% off coupon from the newspaper too!). I got a set of three and a second set of three with a felting needle tool (so I could use up to 6! needles at once and felt a bigger area). Hopefully I won’t get carried away and impale anything important!

  14. Kay, you are getting all of us intrigued and getting ourselves busy embracing the new craft! Help!

  15. Cute as a…BUTTON! Love it. Thanks for the Brown Sheep tip. Since I don’t have little ends on hand, I guess I’ll have to stock up.

  16. Be careful with the 3 prong needle—–I broke one off and had to go to ER and have it cut out. Never had problem with 1 prong.

  17. wow-this is great. thanks for the links and I will add this to my “try a new craft” list, which is getting soooo long.


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