Felting: Frequently Asked Questions

Woman using a felting needle and felting pad to needle felt a bird.

The process of forcing fibers to mesh together to form felt isn’t terribly difficult to master.

Those new to the hobby, though, often have a ton of questions as they attempt their first few felting projects. 

I know I did. 

Frequently Asked Felting Questions

Let’s get all of your felting questions answered and out of the way so that you can immerse yourself into the wonderful world of felting as soon as possible.

What’s the Difference Between Wet Felting and Needle Felting?

Although both wet felting and needle felting both make use of friction to transform loose fibers into dense felt, they are two separate techniques.

Wet felting uses hot water, soap, and manual agitation to entangle the fibers and produce felt.

Needle felting uses specially notched felting needles in a repeated, stabbing motion to interweave fibers together into felt.

Don’t miss reading  “Wet Felting Vs. Needle Felting” where I go into more detail about the two most common felting methods.

What Is Nuno Felting?

Nuno felting is similar to wet felting; however, it does not result in a dense sheet of felt. 

Nuno felting interlocks loose fibers, like wool, into a sheer, loose-weave fabric, such as silk gauze or chiffon. 

The process results in a very light, flexible fabric that is cooler to wear than felt and ideal for making apparel such as vests, dresses, and shawls. 

What Supplies Do I Need for Wet Felting?

To wet felt, you will need wool roving or other mammal fiber, hot water, soap, a sheet of bubble wrap or a bamboo sushi rolling mat and netted fabric like tulle, and a few towels to protect your work area.

What Supplies Do I Need for Needle Felting?

To needle felt, you will need wool roving or other mammal fiber, a foam needle felting pad, finger protectors, and quality felting needles.

Can You Combine Wet Felting and Needle Felting?

Wet felting and needle felting are often combined on the same project to join two separate items, add decorative elements, repair thin or damaged areas, and to cover up holes left by the needle.

Items that have been previously wet felted can be decorated or embellished by needle felting, and needle felted items can be wet felted to provide a smooth, finished appearance or to otherwise finalize a project by fulling.

You can learn more about using both felting techniques on the same project here in my article on combining wet and needle felting.

What Is Fulling?

Fulling is the last step of the wet felting process when strong agitation or heavy friction is used to further entangle the fibers together, force any remaining air out from between the fibers, and complete the shrinking process. 

Wet felting does mesh fibers together to form felt, but fulling a wet felted piece kicks things up a notch, so to speak, to result in a fully shrunken, strong, dense material.

Can You Use a Sewing Machine to Felt?

A regular sewing machine cannot be used to felt; however, some sewing machines can be converted to felting machines by adding a felting attachment that will hold multiple felting needles. 

Adding an attachment is usually a permanent change, so be sure that you are willing to forego standard sewing on your machine before making the conversion.

Alternatively, you can use a machine designed specifically for felting called an embellisher, or aptly, a felting machine.

I explain more about machine felting in this article if you’d like more information.

What’s an Embellisher?

An embellisher looks very much like a sewing machine, except for the lack of thread and bobbin apparatus. 

Instead of a regular sewing needle, embellishers have a device capable of holding multiple felting needles at once, much like a hand-held felting tool.

What Is the Best Wool for Felting?

Merino wool is most commonly used for wet felting due to its soft, fine texture, and natural crimp but can be troublesome for needle felting. 

Other wools such as Shetland, lambswool, Corriedale, Romney, and Blue Faced Leicester are good choices for either method. 

Wool blends of pure wool, like this Maori blend by Desert Breeze, can be used as well, but avoid blends that contain man-made materials like polyester.

Head on over to my article on felting wools to learn more.

Do You Have to Use Wool or Can You Use Other Fibers?

While wool is the most common fiber used for felting, any hair fibers from mammals can be used. 

Alpaca, mohair, and angora rabbit fiber will felt beautifully, though they can be harder to find.

Some fibers may take longer and require more effort to felt completely, but eventually, they should felt.

For more details on specific wools, be sure to read my article here.

Can Pet Hair Be Used for Felting?

As long as the hair comes from a mammal, it can be used for felting. This includes the family dog, cat, guinea pig, ferret, etc. 

Keep in mind that the amount of hair sourced from smaller pets will be minimal and only enough for very small felted items.

Learn more about experimenting with unusual fibers in this article.

How Do You Make Felted Shapes?

Felted shapes such as hearts, circles, and stars are best made by needle felting.

A stencil or cookie cutter is often used to contain the fibers while needle felting to produce shapes with nice, crisp borders. 

What Type of Felting Needle Should I Use?

Felting needles come in triangular (three sided), star (four sided), spiral (barbs evenly spaced on a twisted needle) and reverse (barbs face upward to pull fibers instead of push them). 

In most cases, the first three options can be used interchangeably.

Reverse needles are generally only used to create life-like fur on 3D animals, as they produce a fluffier result than standard felting needles.

The most common felting needle gauges are 32, 36, 38, 40, and 42. The smaller the number is, the thicker the needle is, and vice versa. For fine detail work, use a 40 or 42. 

For initial shaping and attaching pieces, use a 32 or 36, though be aware that they will leave visible needle holes behind (this is where wet felting after needle felting may be beneficial). 

For general work, use the most common, middle-of-the-road gauge, the 38.

Why Did My Felting Project Shrink?

Shrinking is to be expected when felting as the fibers are locked tightly together and air is forced out. 

The rate of shrinkage depends on a number of factors, such as the type of wool and the direction of the majority of the fibers.

Some fibers will reduce in size by only 20%, while others may wind up 40% smaller than the original shape. 

Try felting a small sample piece (called a swatch) before moving on to your main project so you’ll know what to expect from your particular fiber.

How Long Does Felt Take to Dry?

Drying time can be as long as a day or two, depending on how wet the item is and the amount of humidity in the air. 

To speed the process, use a dry towel to squeeze out extra moisture and place the item in direct sunlight.

Is Soap Necessary in Wet Felting?

Soap does two important jobs during wet felting. First, it modifies the pH of the wool and water to encourage the scales to open up and felt faster.

Secondly, it provides lubrication so your hands glide more easily when pressing and rubbing the fibers.

Wool will wet felt eventually when rolled in bubble wrap or a sushi mat, but soap will accelerate the process.

Can Finished Felt Be Sewn?

Felted items may be hand sewn or machine stitched.

Cotton embroidery floss and an embroidery needle are often recommended for hand stitching, though regular thread and needles should be able to handle thin felts for both hand and machine stitching.

What Is 3D Felting?

Also called sculptural felting, 3D felting involves making shapes resembling animals, people, or other objects, like snowmen, out of felt. 

Typically, the inside of the sculpture is made using inexpensive core wool, and then nicer wool is felted on the outside to decorate the object and complete the project.