Needles, Wool, Mistakes, Advice and the One Tip - Jessie Jones from Heart Felt Friends
1. How did you discover needle felting, what inspired you to have a go, and what was the first thing you made?
I love all the little felted decorations you see in the garden centres at Christmas time and fancied having a go at making some.
Having Carpal Tunnel syndrome put me off, I thought it would make things worse with my hands so I didn't try for years. It was after some physiotherapy that my hands improved and I thought right, it's time to try. I ordered a little alpaca kit from Amazon and I was hooked. Then I found a warehouse sale with every shade of wool you can imagine. That got me hooked on colours!
2. Do you have a favourite needle felting artist whose work you follow?
I am a member of a few Facebook groups that have members at all stages of their felting journey, I enjoy seeing the fun creations and people's imagination running wild.
The artist that really stands out for me is Mikaela Bartlett. As a lover of wildlife myself, her amazingly realistic sculptures really are out of this world. Such a talented lady.
I still very much enjoy the easier fun pieces that people make. Not everything has to be super duper and lifelike. It's the characters people create with wool that make it such fun!
3. Which projects do you find the trickiest and what has been the hardest thing to learn?
Tricky for me... Legs. I hate legs!
I like to make things with a wire armature. So thin legs are often a little fiddly for me and I have to take my time. The problem with my hands tends to flare up when I do the leg work as I have to grip smaller bits a little more. I am getting better at them now, it's a lot to do with technique as well.
Hardest to learn... I found it hard at first to think in 3D. What looked right one way round wasn't quite right sideways! I was forever going to my husband and asking 'Whats wrong with it? I can't work it out'. Being a great artist himself, he always pointed me in the right direction with shapes and now it's become much more natural for me.
It's also hard to ignore the bits you don't think are quite right. Try not to focus too much on a little bit that's not perfect. It often ends up being the bit that creates the character.
4. What are your favourite needles to use?
I love working with a twisted 40, and also a triangular 38. I prefer to use a higher gauge needle once I have my core shape finished. This way I don't do too much damage at once when I'm shaping details such as a face.
5. What is your favourite type of wool to work with?
For core work I either use Shetland natural white carded batts, which are a really bright white so there is no need to cover if your finished piece is mainly white. Or a South German Merino, which is a great lanolin rich wool that's perfect for wrapping armature as it's really quite sticky! It's also really nice to make detailed shapes with such as muzzles. I love the strong sheepy aroma from it too.
When it comes to adding colour, my absolute favourite is the DHG new Zealand carded Maori wool from The Felt Box. The colours are beautiful and they are also dyed in a GOTS certified dyeing house. GOTS stands for Global Organic Textile Standard. This guarantees that a product is organic and has been made without the use of hazardous chemicals at any point in the supply chain. Environmental impact of our daily lives and hobbies is very important to me. One of the reasons I love felting, it's a sustainable craft.
6. What is the worst piece of advice you keep hearing for needle felters?
Just find something you like and copy it.
No doubt you will choose something detailed and complicated, or expect your finished piece to look realistic. You probably won't start with the right wool or get the dimensions right as the wool changes shape all the time.
Start simple, and easy. Even if it feels too easy. Make a ball, make a sausage, a flat heart. Learn how the needle feels and how the wool behaves. How much you need to stab, how deep, how close you can get to your fingers!
7. What common mistakes do people make when they start out?
I'd definitely say that people don't stab enough and the finished piece is too soft. You really get detail and structure into a piece the more you stab.
Also working through the full range of needle gauge will help you get a more professional finish. Even if it seems like it's taking forever and an age to get there!
8. What is the one thing a beginner could learn today that would make a difference to their work?
The differences between the wool. Using the right type of wool for your piece makes all the difference.
What you can do with carded batt you can't do with merino tops! I actually hate working with tops!