Your Guide To Needle Felting, Needle Art And Embroidery

Your Guide To Needle Felting, Needle Art And Embroidery

When we think of needles, yarn and wool, most people's brains go to popular hobbies like knitting or crocheting. But did you know that are other fun ways you can use these craft supplies to create amazing handmade art?

Needle felting and embroidery are two unique craft hobbies that use wool and needles, and thread and cloth, respectively. At Spotlight you can find everything you need to start these hobbies, but if you're unsure what they are or how to begin, then this buying guide is the one for you! Keep reading to find everything you need to know about embroidery and needle felting, including supplies, techniques and expert tips and tricks to get the most out of these crafts.

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What Is Needle Felting?

Needle felting is the art of creating three-dimensional shapes using a needle and wool roving. Needle felting uses a special felting needle that has a barbed end that, when pushed into a piece of wool roving (combed wool), will agitate the wool fibres and cause them to stick together - eventually creating the 'felt'.

Needle felting animals is the most common use of needle felting, although you can make any shape you like with the right technique. While it is not a technically difficult process, it can take time to create a more detailed needle felting piece, so don't feel the need to rush this hobby when you start it!

What Do I Need For Needle Felting?

You don't need much to start needle felting, and its components aren't expensive either!

Needle felting essentials include:

  • A felting needle: These needles come in different sizes that denote how wide the needle is. A higher number equals a finer needle! You can find three-sided, four-sided and spiral needles, as well as needles with barbs that face the other way, which are used for fluffing a finished piece. Felting needles blunt over time so they will need to be replaced occasionally. You can buy them singularly or in felting needle kits.
  • A foam block or brush mat: This will serve as the base underneath the wool as you felt, and it prevents your needle from damaging your work surface, as well as ensuring the needle doesn't break from hitting anything hard. Both foam mats and brush blocks will wear out over time, with foam blocks wearing out quicker than brush mats.
  • Some needle felting wool: The name of wool used for needle felting is wool roving, which is wool that has been washed and carefully combed out so each fibre faces the same direction. It comes in all natural colours, but you can find beautifully dyed needle felting wool roving for your more colourful creations as well.

Needle felting extras include:

  • A needle holder: These oblong tools allow you to felt with multiple needles at once, speeding up the felting process. They are also easier to hold than a single felting needle on its own and can act as storage for your felting needles. Felting needle kits will sometimes include a holder.
  • Structural wire: You can use wire to help create felting projects in complicated shapes. They are useful for acting as a 'skeleton' when needle felting animals, particularly for things like limbs, long necks or tails.
  • Finger guards: New felters may like to wear finger protectors over their thumb and index finger to prevent them from being poked by the felting needle as they manipulate the wool.

Needle Felting Must-Know Tips

Here are some needle felting techniques everyone should get their head around!

  • Tear gently: To separate pieces of wool roving, the key is to pull gently! Trying to yank your needle-felting wool apart won't work at all, so gently tease the wool apart with your fingers in order to get the pieces you want. As wool is felted it becomes much smaller, so make sure you have enough to make the sculpture you want.
  • Roll as you go: When you begin felting, always roll your piece of wool in a shape that vaguely resembles the pieces you are trying to make. This will usually be a circle, an oval or a long tube. For example, a circle could be the head of an animal, an oval for the body and then tubes for its legs. Then continue to roll the felt around as you needle it into shape. This ensures that each piece is evenly felted to the same degree of firmness.
  • Leave loose ends: If you plan on attaching two felted pieces together, make sure to leave plenty of loose wool at the ends that will be combined together. This gives you lots of wool to work with and ensures you can attach them firmly together.
  • The thicker the wool, the finer the needle: Knowing when to use the right felting needle will save you from breaking them and blunting them prematurely. Use the thicker needle when you first start felting to bring the fibres together. Once the wool has condensed, you will need to use a finer needle - not only for detailing but because a thicker needle will no longer slide through the fibres!
  • Catch loose fibres on the barbs: Finished a project and noticed a few wispy fibres poking out? Catch them on the tip of your needle and neatly poke them into your project. You'll be surprised at how easily they stick to your felting needle!

Needle Felting Extra Tips

Here are some extra tips and tricks to help you in your needle-felting journey.

  • Insert and withdraw your needle at the same angle each time. If you change the angle of the needle as it's moving in or out, you risk your needle snapping off inside your wool roving. This can be hard to get out, and is of course dangerous to leave in - so make sure to felt the same way in and out with your needle every time!
  • Use uncoloured core wool as a base. Sometimes, you may find that uncoloured needle felting wool is cheaper than dyed wool. If you want to save a little extra money, use uncoloured wool to create the main shape of your project, then wrap coloured wool around it and attach it as an outer layer to cover the base wool.
  • Remove unwanted extras with your fingers. Because we are working with a natural product, you may find specks of hay, grass, or dirt inside your wool roving. Remove these with your fingers by gently picking them out - don't use a needle, as it may break as you try to angle it underneath whatever it is you are trying to remove.
  • Store your needles securely. Leaving your needles loose in a box can cause them to scratch each other and blunt over time, plus it will be hard to know which needle is which. Store them point down in a sponge or a needle holder, and add small labels to your holder to help you place each needle in the same spot so you can tell which is which.

Needle Felting FAQs

What is core wool?

Core wool refers to the needle felting wool that makes up the bulk of your project, or the centre if you choose to layer another colour over the top. Core wool should be a type that felts easily and is nice and coarse, while more delicate wools like merino are best for top layers.

What is a felting needle?

A felting needle is a long (roughly 8 to 10cm) metal needle. It has a bent top that allows it to fit into needle holders or tools, and a very sharp, barbed body. These barbs are in the shape of little arrows and are what catch and felt the wool together. Buy them in felting needle kits, or on their own, to create your felting needle collection.

Can I over-felt my wool?

It is possible to over-felt your wool, although it takes a long time to do it! Because needle felting breaks down the fibres of the wool, too much felting in the same spot will eventually break down the wool and it will become brittle. You'll know you're at this point when you scrape your fingernail along the wool and it flakes off in little chunks.

Find quality needle felting kits, wool and needles in our wool roving and fleeting accessories category.

Needle Felting

What Is Embroidery?

Embroidery is used to decorate a fabric, canvas or similar material with yarn or thread using a needle. Embroidery can be done by hand or using a machine and can be used to create details on art like a tapestry or quilt, or on clothing like hats, shoes, jackets, pants, shirts and dresses. While a thread is what is used the most, you can also add accessories like sequins, beads and buttons using embroidery techniques.

What is cross-stitching?

Cross-stitching is a type of hand embroidery that involves creating x-shaped stitches on a piece of even-weave fabric. Evenweave fabric is a material where the warp and the weft are the same size, and threads that are stitched through it during cross-stitching are also always the same size. This allows you to create stitches that are precisely the same length, which in turn can be used to create technically perfect cross-stitched images.

Cross-stitching is often done on aida cloth, a mesh-like fabric that is stiff enough that an embroidery hoop is not needed to be used. You can choose to purchase cross-stitch kits, which will come with everything you need to make a single cross-stitch or buy your supplies separately to make your own unique design. You can also find cross-stitch patterns available, so you don't have to freehand your design. Try out our cross-stitch kits if you are a beginner, or an expert looking to have some fun!

What Do I Need For Embroidery?

To start embroidery, you will need the following supplies:

  • Embroidery threads: These come in many different types, such as embroidery floss (a thread made up of six strands), silk thread (luxurious and soft), rayon thread (smooth and shiny), metallic thread (perfect for accents and highlights) and pearl/perle cotton thread (textured and twisted). DMC threads (which stands for dyed multi-coloured) are the most popular type of embroidery thread as they come in a huge range of colours, so you can always find a DMC thread to suit your cross-stitch vision.
  • Embroidery material: You can choose plain fabric for this, although many embroidery kits come with fabric that has a coloured guide or outline for you to follow. Common embroidery materials include linen, cotton, felt and denim, although thicker fabrics are harder to embroider on.
  • Embroidery needles: These needles will have a large eye, so you can pass floss with multiple strands through it, as well as a strong, sharp-tipped point so it can go through thicker fabrics without breaking. Have a few different sizes on hand to suit your thread types, in case you snap one. Avoid very large needles, as they can leave a visible hole in your fabric.
  • Embroidery hoops: These wooden, metal or plastic hoops come in different sizes and are used to keep your hand embroidery material taut and steady as you work. They can also be used to display finished embroidery pieces.
  • Craft or fabric scissors: You'll need these to cut your embroidery threads, as well as trim the excess fabric around your embroidery hoop and snip out any stitches made in error. Cutting out mistakes is even easier with a dedicated seam ripper!

Embroidery extras include:

  • A needle storage device: The last thing you want is to lose an embroidery needle, as they are hard to see and very painful to step on! Keep them safe in a magnetic needle box when not in use, and make use of a magnetic needle minder while you embroider.
  • Some fabric marking pens: These can be used to indicate a design you'd like to embroider on fabric before you begin. Look for water-erasable pens, so you can clean away the markings when you're done with your project.
  • A floss organiser: You'll find you accumulate a lot of embroidery floss over time, so keep all your colours neat and tidy in an organiser. You can even find floss bobbins to wind individual colours around!
  • A craft lamp: Having the right lighting for such a delicate craft means you can safely work without straining your eyes, as well as ensuring you can make your stitches exactly where you want to.

You can often find everything you need to make a specific embroidery pattern in an embroidery kit! Otherwise, browse our embroidery and needlecraft selection online to find all the embroidery materials you need.

Embroidery Techniques

There are many types of embroidery stitches out there for you to learn! Some of the handiest embroidery stitches to know include:

  • The back stitch: This common stitch creates a line of stitches that are great for making outlines, and is called a back stitch because you stitch backwards from the direction your back stitch line is going. Begin by bringing the needle up through the back of your fabric slightly in front of where the stitching will begin. Make a single stitch backward to where the stitching should start by inserting the needle from front to back. Bring the needle up a short distance from the first stitch on the line in the direction you're sewing. This will be the start of your next stitch. Continue stitching in the same way, spacing each of your stitches at regular intervals, until you reach the end of your line.
  • The running stitch: This stitch creates a dashed line and is probably the first stitch many beginners will learn. Start bringing the needle up through the fabric from the back to the front. Decide how long you want your stitch length or be, then bring the needle back down through the fabric at this point. Bring the needle back up through the fabric using the same stitch length and continue until you have finished your line. You can alter this stitch by changing the length of every other stitch or making a running stitch underneath it with opposing stitches for a brick-like look.
  • The straight stitch: This basic stitch is used for creating decorative lines and adding a textured look to your embroidery. You simply bring the needle up through your fabric and then back down to create a line as long as you want! Be aware that longer straight stitches run the risk of catching on other clothes or even on objects like furniture, which can then cause your other stitches to pucker.
  • The satin stitch: This flat stitch is used to fill an area with solid colour, and it is technically a series of straight stitches all next to each other. It's an easy and effective way to fill space on your embroidery hoop!
  • The French knot: This tricky stitch creates a pretty little knot in your embroidery that can be used to symbolise eyes, flower buds or just to create some interesting texture. Start by bringing your needle up through the fabric near where you want the knot to be placed. Then wrap your thread around the body of the needle. Once for a small knot and twice for a bigger one. Holding the floss tightly, point the needle next to where it will go back down into your fabric. Push it in, and as you do keep the thread you are holding taut! Pull the needle through from underneath the fabric and the thread should pull through your knot until it finishes in a small, neat bud.

Having these types of embroidery stitches under your belt will allow you to create many beautiful embroidery designs. But there are many more advanced types of embroidery stitches out there, so make sure to continue growing your embroidery skills by learning new types of embroidery stitches as you master old ones.

Embroidery Tips And Tricks

  • Pre-wash and press your embroidery material. Ironing your fabric will give you a nice, smooth surface to work on and ensures you won't create uneven stitches due to a crease in the fabric. Washing your fabric ensures any shrinkage is out of the way, so if you need to wash your finished piece to get rid of any water-soluble lines you don't need to worry about your embroidery piece shrinking or warping.
  • Don't display finished work in the sun. UV rays can cause both your embroidery threads and your fabric to discolour, so if you want to display your finished hand embroidery, be sure it is out of the sun, or protected by UV-resistant glass.
  • Fold your floss when threading through a needle. Threading a needle is hard for a beginner, and a good tip to keep in mind is to fold your floss strand and then try to pass that through the eye of the needle, rather than trying to get the fraying ends through.
  • Avoid stitching on certain fabrics. Materials with a very loose or tight weave, synthetic fabrics, stretchy materials or very thin fabrics will make it hard to embroider the way you want, as they can slip easily, stretch too much or make it difficult to get your needle through.

Embroidery FAQs

How to remove embroidery stitches

The best way to remove embroidery stitches will depend on the quality of the embroidery you are trying to remove. A good all-rounder tool to have is a seam ripper, although you can also find electronic 'seam erasers' that work much like a hair trimmer that will clip the threads loose from the fabric. Seam rippers work best for hand embroidery, like small designs on clothing or mistakes in an art piece, while seam erasers are more useful for machine-embroidered pieces like logos on hats and shoes.

You can also use small, sharp scissors to remove embroidery stitches, but be careful when using these not to pierce your embroidery fabric as you work.

What is aida cloth?

Aida cloth is an even-weave fabric with a mesh-like appearance. This mesh makes it ideal for cross-stitching, and its stiffness means you can cross-stitch without the use of an embroidery hoop. Aida cloth is made from cotton and has a clear amount of holes per inch - 16 count Aida will have 16 holes per square inch, for example. The lower the count, the larger and easier to see the holes in the Aida cloth will be. Many cross-stitch kits or even embroidery kits will come with Aida cloth included as the fabric of choice.

How to use an embroidery hoop

Take apart your embroidery hoop so both hoops are separate and open the larger hoop using whichever mechanism it has on the edge. Place your embroidery cloth over the smaller hoop, with the section you intend to embroider right in the centre. Then take the larger hoop and place it over the smaller hoop, with your embroidery cloth sandwiched in between both hoops. Pull the fabric tight so it is nice and taut over the smaller hoop, then tighten the larger hoop until it is sitting snugly against the smaller hoop and your embroidery fabric is in place. Pull the edges of the fabric again to smoothen out any wrinkles.

Make sure to browse our needle art tools and accessories for many handy helpers that will make your needle art journey so much smoother.


Find Everything You Need For Felting, Embroidery And Needle Art At Spotlight

You can find everything you need for these amazing needlework hobbies at Spotlight. Shop online, safely pay and we'll deliver your order straight to your front door. Or visit your nearest Spotlight store and our knowledgeable team will help you find the right needle felting, embroidery or other needle art supplies you need.

Practice your cross-stitch skills with our tree and geometric cross-stitch projects, or check out our needlework projects page for heaps of weaving, needlework and cross-stitch patterns.




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