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!

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Felting Needles: Sorting and Storage

Pincushion for Felting Needles

I have had a hard time with my past few needle felting projects.  I couldn’t locate the correct size felting needle easily.  I had ordered four packs of different size needles and through use I eventually destroyed the flimsy paper containers that they arrived in.  In needle felting, you start with a large felting needle to really get it going and then you size down as you work, in order to get the most finished product.  And yet, my needles were all mixed up in the bottom of my container; making these last few projects very inefficiently produced.  “Is this the right needle, poke, poke, nope!”, I couldn’t take it anymore.

Felt Panda Bear

Felt Toys

I have seen color coded felting needles online but I had perfectly fine needles if only I could identify the size!  So I began my mission to identify and sort my 20 or so needles.  First, I grabbed two needles and poked them into a previously created felt ball(don’t use a super dense ball you will not notice the differences as well).  I noticed which of the two needles did the most damage to the ball.  I set the one with the most damage at the top of my foam pad and the one that did the least towards the bottom.  For the second two needles I compared them the same way, and then compared them with the first two needles.  Obviously, if they similarly dented the felt ball, I set them side by side.  Eventually, I had 6 rows of different size needles.  I double checked to see if the triangle ones and star-shaped ones were altogether, this is easily done by sight with a strong enough light and perhaps a magnifying glass.  Finally, my needles were sorted; but I couldn’t put them back into their paper containers and I was afraid they would become lost or broke in the bottom of a plastic container.  So now, I had a new challenge.

Sorting Felting Needles
Which felting needle is which?

Solution? I decided to create a pincushion for my felting needles.  I’ve seen people do this for straight pins and I thought this was my best option.  So I grabbed a small felted ball(I have a stash to help me jumpstart some projects) and I used some scrap wool to make it a little larger.  Then I split it into six sections, and felted a different color on each one; I didn’t felt it super dense, so that the needles could still do a little push into it for better storage purposes.  Now I had a vivid wheel to place my felting needles on; the last step was adding a small dot to a section and a large dot in the section right next to it.  I started by placing my largest needles on the big dot and worked my way around the pincushion until I was placing the smallest diameter needles on the tiny dot.  It was a success.  It reminds me of a “circus clown” or a “beach ball”, but it’s highly functional.  I can tell what needle is what.  Now I have to place it on a super high shelf away from little eyes and hands.  Success!  Now my next toy should be much easier to create!

This is where I store and sort my felting needles.