Needles, Wool, Mistakes, Advice and the One Tip - Anita Hotchkiss from Anita’s Fibre Art

1. What are your favourite needles to use?

There are different sizes of needles (36, 38, 40, 42) and types (triangle, star, spiral) designed for different purposes. For the start of the project I like to use a more aggressive needle; 38 triangle but my recent favourite is 38 spiral. The spirals are more aggressive, meaning they tangle up more wool at a time but do not leave as many holes. Then I will move onto a 40 or 42 triangle for the details. Also to help felt a larger area quicker I will use a multi-needle tool such as those by Clover.

2. What is your favourite type of wool to work with?

For needle felting I use short fiber batts or wool top over a longer staple fiber that is in rovings. I do use Merino cross batts. I use a cross because Merino by itself is very soft and fine making it difficult to felt with a needle. I have heard many people like to use Romney fibers. The main issue is the length and coarseness of the fiber, shorter and a little coarse is better for needle felting, however, longer fibers can be cut into smaller pieces that will tangle together better.

3. What is the worst piece of  advice you keep hearing for needle felters?

Understanding terminology is so important. People are often told to buy wool roving. They don’t understand that roving are longer fibers combed to be all straight going in one direction. This is not the best for needle felting…great for wet felting! It is more difficult to get the fibers to felt together with the needle. They get frustrated and don’t understand why it’s not going well. In order to use these types of fibers they need to be pre-tangled or cut into smaller pieces before needle felting.

4. What common mistakes do people make when they start out?

a). While it is a relatively easy craft, it still takes time…a lot of time! You need to poke those fibers longer than you think to get a really nice strong piece that will hold together. Most people are in a hurry to get it done and don’t needle the piece long enough to get a good smooth look.

b). How they stab the fibers. There is a tendency to drive the needle into the foam pad. The barbs are only at the most tip of the needle. Stabbing too deep repeatedly will actually felt the piece to the foam pad. When you try to pull it up, parts of the foam may become embedded into the back of your piece (if doing a flat felting). Short stabs just under the surface are all you need in most cases (If making a 3-D object this would be different).

c). Understanding if the project is not going well, the problem is not them but it may be they are using the wrong needle for what they are trying to achieve, or they are using the wrong fibers.

d). Often felters will try to needle too much wool at one time. It needs to be put down in layers. It will take less time to felt and have a better look overall.

e). Lastly, which probably should have been first, understanding your tools and supplies. People buy kits that have everything provided in it for them. However, it may not be clear how to use all the supplies provided effectively.

5. What is the one thing a beginner could learn today that would  make a difference to their work?

Sorry…I have two!

Take your time and needle your project WAY more than you think you need to.

Spend some time reading about needle felting and understanding the different tools and supplies (lots of internet sources!).

About the artist:

Anita is a fiber artist, teacher and owner of Anita Hotchkiss-Fiber Art Designs. As a young child her aunt taught her to knit, crochet, & embroider. When she learned to felt, spin & dye fiber she found her passion! She has been selling and teaching 2-D & 3-D needle-felting for over several decades. Her latest works are felted wool paintings. As a speaker, she enjoy sharing her knowledge of wool and felting. Recently, she expanded to the internet with a blog and Etsy store. She received several awards for her unique needle felting and quilt designs from local county fairs & festivals. She received second place in a knitting design contest for Decadent Fibers with “Ribbon Candy Shawl”. Her wool applique patterns have been published by Quilt She also self-published many patterns on wool applique. She is a certified Master Dyer of the Redding Method; a new and dynamic process of dyeing protein fibers. To connect with her and to see her works, you can visit (her new site is not quite ready and this is her blog. It has links to all other places where her works are. People can feel free to join her blog and she will be sending a note there when her new site is ready!