felting needles 101

9 Jun

The felting needle, so small, yet so powerful. When I first started felting I had no idea what needles I should be buying and what size I should be using. Gauge 36,38,40,42? Then pick triangle or star!? I read books and watched videos, but everyone seemed to have their favorites. I now know I love 38 star. I feel it’s the most versatile  and it works best for me.

The felting needle is very thin and very sharp. The needle breaks very easily. If you start bending in the slightest it will snap off. This happens easier with the smaller gauges. You can buy needle holders for you needles to help with grip or if you need to use more than one at a time.

Also, If you felt like me and you like to hold your project, you will poke yourself. I am better at it now with minimal finger pokes, but when I started, my thumb and index finger were covered with stabs marks. You can buy finger protectors from a felting site or a quilters thimble from your local sewing store.

The follwoing excerpt is from wizpick.com. It explains the anatomy of the felting needle. Wizpick has many many different needles to choose from. Unfourtunely, you can’t buy them from their website, you have to find a retailer. It is great to look at the diversity of all the needles though.

Felting Needle Characteristics

Felting needles are made from carbon steel and are either 3 or 3 ½ inches long. The L-shaped hook fits into industrial equipment or in our case is the end we hold; the sharp point at the other end facilitates penetration. The “working zone” (about one third of the needle) is typically triangular in cross section, having three edges with a series of barbs cut into one or more of these edges. These barbs catch and move the fibers as the needle is repeatedly jabbed into a fiber mass. The number, spacing, depth and angle of the barbs (and the needle gauge) dictate how the needle works, and hence what it is best used for.

Barb number:

The total number of barbs per needle influences the speed of the felting process; fewer barbs allow for more precision.

Star needles have a high number of barbs, but are designed to penetrate firm felt easily, working fast and resulting in more tensile strength

Working edge:

Most felting needles are triangular with three working edges, except Star needles which are a new innovation with four edges.

You will find that needles with only one or two working edges will penetrate denser felt more easily. A needle on which the barbs are situated on one edge in a row right behind each other will move fiber reliably and can also be used sideways, parallel to the surface of the felting project

Barb spacing and form:

Needles on which the barbs are spiraled evenly up the working blade will accomplish an even needling effect over more depth. To produce a smooth felted surface the barbs should be situated close to the tip of the needle.

Deeper barbs and more barb angle will transport more fiber but also be more aggressive.


The gauge (diameter) of the working zone for wool needles ranges from 32 (coarse) to 42 (super fine). In general, start your project with a coarser needle and work to a finer needle for finishing. Choose thicker needles to felt coarse fibers and finer needles when working with finer fibers. Wizpick offers a range of 16 different needles. Even Merino wools will easily embrace sculptural detail. Silk can be needle felted although it is quite a challenge to retain the attractive properties of the silk, especially the luster.

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