My New Improved Needle Felting Foam Pad

I’ve been spending a bit more time needle felting, now that I’ve dyed my wool and have a whole new grip of needles.  Fortunately, I have a very supportive husband and he spent the majority of his weekend helping ME with all my felting needs.  Being that Valentine’s Day is a short ways from today, I thought a little couple sharing wouldn’t be to unbearable.

Saturday, I started the day by going outside and trying to get clean shots of some of my felted creations, it was a bright shiny day and all my pictures turned out so wrong.  Turned out 400 ISO in extreme sunlight is not the best option to use on a day like this.  I returned from the photo shoot, loaded my pictures up and was disappointed.  My husband quickly put on his shoes and offered his hand at helping me.  Of course, the simplest way to fix it was to simply say lower that ISO to 200 or 100; however, he went above and beyond and came up with some cute ideas as well.

Here is my pink bird sitting amonst a thicket of bush.

A pink bird created by needle felting

And here is my bumblebee soaring through the air; it looks like magic, but I bet you can guess how we did it!
Needle Felted Bumblebee
But wait, he didn’t stop there.  During some television watching, I decided to felt a bit.  I was surrounded my children and the needles are so sharp.  I didn’t want to sit my felting needles next to me on the sofa or coffee table for fear my 2 or 5 year old would be too curious.  I suggested “if only there was a way to nestle my felting pin cushion on the corner of my foam pad”.  He popped right up and made a little indention in my foam pad to hold my pin cushion.  Fantastic, it works great!  But there was still more,  he even cleaned up the edges of my foam pad which had become tattered and torn(the work of tiny hands I’m Sure!).  He started with a bread knife, a bit of improvement; then he searched the web and the suggestion for cutting foam pads was an electric knife.  We do not have an electric knife, then “ding, ding, ding” a bell went off in my husband’s head.  Off to the garage he went, powered up his band saw and those edges were very neat and straight in no time.  Thank you Landon!

Needle Felting Materials-Foam Pad

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Needle Sizes and Testing for Density

felt hearts

Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching.  Being that my husband  showers me with gifts each Valentine’s, I can’t help but be drawn to all the hearts in shades of soft pink and purples in anticipation!  I began this felted task with a light heart and dreamily thinking of my beloved husband while pushing in and out with my sharp fantastic barbed needle in a size 36 T, but alas my swiftness and excitement were brought to an abrupt halt!

I had managed to construct 2 hearts, before the accident happened.  A larger purple heart and a smaller mint green one.  Then, while I was working on a Valentine’s puppy, my LAST 36T needle broke.  I managed to retrieve the broken end and resurrect my puppy, but now I had only the wrong sized needles for the projects at hand.  Not only, did I have to stop work on my puppy, but my bowlful of multicolored hearts that I had imagined also came to a quick stop.

felt hearts

needle felted puppy with heart
Now, that the sob story is out of the way; I will share the importance of this lesson.  The lesson is this, “needle size does matter!”.  A size 42 needle is going to get you nowhere, when you begin a new felted project a size 36 is a must to get you going efficiently; the soft mass of wool will simply take forever to felt if your needle size is too small.  By the way, with felting needles the smaller the number the larger the needle and vice versa.

To visually display this phenomenon, I will use my green heart which I began felting using a 36 size needle and a pink heart which I felted with a 38 and 40 needle.  The green heart(which I had the correct needle for the job!) is much denser than the pink heart.  You can test for denseness, using what I call the “squish test” or “pinch test”.  Simply “squish” the felted object between your fingers and see if it maintains its basic shape and when you release it, that it retakes its intended shape.  In the images below you can see that the green heart maintained its shape and that the pink heart was much more squishable.
pink hearts
green heart

pink felt heart

green felt hearts

Also I should add that not only will a larger needle(36) provide for a denser felted object, but they are much more efficient.  My green heart took 10 minutes to felt and the pink one took 45 minutes and I was still not satisfied with the outcome!

Squishiness and denseness is a matter of taste and style when it comes to your felted objects.  Perhaps, felting a sheep, you might want a softer, messier look; but with most of the objects I felt I prefer a very dense, clean look.  And I definitely think that the clean look is near impossible without the right needle.  That being said,  try your different needles and see which size you prefer for the beginning stage, like I said style and design can change your preference.  But for me, I definitely think a size 36 needle is essential in the beginning stages in order for me to get my desired outcome.  No worries, though, I have ordered 10 needles in a size 36 and they should be here very soon.  Hopefully I can finish my puppy and bowlful of hearts before the big day!

My First Etsy Sell

It has been one week since I told everyone about my Etsy shop opening and today I’m sharing my first sell with you!  My mother-in-law sold a handful of my other goodies at a craft fair last fall, but this is “my” first honest-to-goodness sell.  It feels really good to finally send off one of my felted toys to a new home.  So this morning, after the routine shower and robe,  I retrieved my clear bucket of felt toys from the closet, located the long neck blue dinosaur and unwrapped him from his protective covering.  It was time to rewrap him in a more decorative way and send him a fond farewell.  Today he will begin his trip to Caroline’s.   Here he is all wrapped up!

Package for Recent Sell

Thank you, Caroline, for ordering one of my felt toys.  This felted dinosaur was inspired by my eldest daughter.  When she was a little girl, she just loved the movie “Land Before Time” and that animated film made her fall in love with everything dinosaur!  At eleven, she is currently constructing her own encyclopedia book of her favorite dinosaurs.  It includes drawings of each beloved dinosaur with humans next to it for size comparison as well as neat facts.  Because every one of my felted toys is a unique original creation by, well me, almost all of them have some kind of sentiment or emotion fueling their design.  As a result, each send off will be somewhat bitter sweet, but mostly sweet.  I hope you enjoy your new long neck, Caroline!

Felt Brontosaurus

how to dye wool for needle felting

Dyeing Wool Roving or Batting Using Food Coloring

So here it goes. I’ve got a tutorial for everyone; a how to dye wool tutorial. To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t simply born with this all important knowledge. I found this information at eHow. However, I thought that adding some pictures and possible variations to the instructions might help out anyone trying to dye their own wool.  This is not the only way to dye wool; however, I prefer this method because it is a safe, non-toxic way to add colors to your felted projects.

.Dying Wool Batting.

First things first, you need some key materials:

wool batting or roving
vinegar
food coloring(Wilton’s works really well)
large bowls and cooking pots or large casserole dishes

Materials needed for dying wool

I should note that heat is required to affix the colors to your wool. I did this in two ways. The cooking pot way uses the stovetop and the casserole dishes use the oven. So decide what your preferred method of heat will be. I performed both the stovetop and oven methods, so that I could make more at once.

Okay, now we can begin the messy part. Start by pulling a large tuft of wool out, place that wool in a bowl or casserole dish.(Remember the bowl is for the stovetop method later and the casserole dish is for the oven method). Next we make our vinegar solution, the proportion is 1 quart water to 1/4 cup vinegar. Pour this solution over your wool. Make sure you pat the wool down into this solution and get it completely colored.  Once all your wool is soaking in this solution, let it set for about 2 hours. This is a process people. Be prepared to have your kitchen taken over if you are making a few colors!

covering wool with vinegar solution

Next pull out your trusty food coloring. I am making 8 different colors. Only seven are displayed, because the brown I am making a darker and lighter brown out of.

food coloring

Fill a measuring cup or glass with warm water and add some food coloring of your choice. If you want a deep color, add a lot of it. If you want a pale color, just add a bit. Then stir the food coloring until dissolved.  If using the OVEN method simply pour the warm colored water over the soaking wool.  Stir the edges ever so slightly to move the color around.   Make sure the color is covering all the wool. If the color does not cover the wool, just make up more color mix and add some more. Then place the casserole dish in the oven at 250 degrees for 1 hour.

adding color to your wool

If using the STOVETOP method, pour the excess vinegar off the soaking wool and into a pot. Then pour the warm colored water mix into the same pot. Bring the pot to a boil, and then add the wool. Let the wool heat for half an hour or so.

dying wool with food coloring

Be careful, with the food coloring. I went a little crazy and decided my hands were excellent utensils and just look what happened!

Food Coloring on Hands

After your wool has heated for the time listed above, it is time to check it. This part is fairly easy. Simply pull a little wool away from the edge of the vessel and look at the liquid in the pot/casserole dish. If the liquid is clear, the color has been completely absorbed and your wool is finished!

If it is not clear, more heat is needed. For the OVEN method, up the heat to 350 degrees and heat for 30 more minutes. For the STOVETOP  method, simply keep the pot heated for 30 more minutes. After this time, the wool will most likely not absorb any more of the color, so consider the wool finished.

In the pictures below, the purple wool is not ready and the yellow wool is.

checking the wool for color absorption

Once the wool is colored. Turn off the heat and allow it to cool in its vessel for about 20 minutes.

Then pull out your trusty strainer, pop your wool in and run cool water over it. This step is to get that vinegar smell gone, as well as to rinse off any color that didn’t take. Once the water coming out the bottom of your strainer is running clear, the wool is ready to dry. Just ring it out carefully, and place on a towel. You may have to swap the towel out after a few hours, as it gets pretty damp. Let it dry overnight, or possibly longer.

cool, rinse, and dry the colored wool

Once your wool is dry, if you notice color is coming off your wool and onto your hands(this is especially the case with black), simply rinse it again and let it dry. The black color, I dyed a few months back, took me days to get right!

Well that’s it, it is actually very easy. Your kitchen will be occupied for a while, but most of the time involved in this process is “waiting time”. So just be patient, your wool creations will be better for it! Now, I have a myriad of colors to choose from for my next projects.