Needles, Wool, Mistakes, Advice and the One Tip - Joanne Ford from Skye Needle Felter



1. How did you discover needle felting, what inspired you to have a go and what was the first thing you made? 

In 2004, I bought a book from an online doll maker thinking it was a pattern book for miniature teddy bears for dolls but, it was a needle felting book. A few weeks later I was at a craft fair where there was a stall selling felting needles and wool, so I decided to give it a go. That started an almost 20 year obsession with needle felting, commencing with a brown teddy bear.

2. Do you have a favourite needle felting artists whose work you follow? 

Stephanie Metz, her teddy bear skulls are super unique and her work combining wool with other materials such as porcupine quills and eggshells is mesmerising.

3. Which projects do you find the trickiest and what has been the hardest thing to learn?

Realistic dogs are super hard for me. My dogs always look like they should be in a cartoon.

For me, the hardest thing to learn was finding the right wool for projects. I wasted so many hours trying to shape and blend merino wool tops.

4. What are your favourite needles to use?

Fine twisted needles, they help to get a very smooth surface

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

Carded New Zealand wool batts for blending, detailing and colour. Natural carded corriedale slivers for shaping.

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

People saying "simply stab a couple of times" like it is easy to get a shape. For an experienced felter it is but, for someone starting out it can be like alchemy.

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

1. Comparing their work to those of felter who has been needle felting for a while. I wish I had my first makes, so people could see them and not be so hard on their creations. Any making is good making.

2. Using generic starter kits with merino wool tops. Merino wool tops can be beautiful and are good for fairy hair/skirts and animal fur but, as a starter kit, when you want to make something simple, merino tops can put you off needle felting for good.  Instead go for kits using carded batts that focus on making one creation with step-by-step instructions.

3. Stabbing fingers trying to felt smaller pieces such as a bear arm. Fold a piece or card in half and hold the arm with that.

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

When making a shape such as a ball for a fairy head or tummy for a teddy bear, get a carded sliver and tie it in a knot then felt on top of it. Knots can give a quick starting foundation to your creations, a line of knots makes a good mushroom stem.

About the artist:

You can see Joanne’s work online on her Instagram and Twitter pages, @skyeneedlefelter or on her Facebook page