Needles, Wool, Mistakes, Advice and the One Tip - Laura Horsley (Laura Stabbystab Feltart)


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

Since having my little boy in 2019, as many other mums out there I seemed to lose some of my identity. Being a new mum, the recent pandemic, and work challenges all had an impact on my mental health so I decided I needed to do something just for me. I wanted to get a little hobby that I could do that I could pick up and put down easily but wasn’t sure what to try. I’ve always been a creative person and love art and photography, but with the little one I wasn’t sure how I could fit something in and not have things laying around the house for him to grab. After searching YouTube and Googling ‘easy to learn hobbies’ needle felting came up and before I knew it I was watching lots of tutorials online and ordered a starter kit. The first thing I made was a tiny robin bauble, I made it really small thinking smaller would be easier (lesson number 1 learned!). I find it easy to pop everything I’m using away quickly when ‘mummy duties’ need to resume, and although my fibre stash has grown considerably since I first started I’ve now made myself a little corner where I can work and have me-time. Needle felting is a great mindful hobby to have, and I find it really helps my overall sense of wellbeing.

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

I absolutely love Nicky Heard’s work, who uses a combination of fibres and other media to create absolutely stunning artwork.

I also an in awe of The Lady Moth, and I recently participated in the Sunflower Field Project making pin badges to support Ukrainian people.

In all honesty though I am a member of some excellent online groups and the breadth of talent in there, along with the support, tips and advice is absolutely invaluable. From an absolute new beginner through to the more experienced, the groups provide a real sense of community and have helped me to learn so much, so to those groups I’m forever thankful.

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

I find 3D projects the trickiest as I do struggle with proportions, but also have a bit of a battle as my mind will tell me how something should look, but I find it tricky to translate my minds eye to the physical piece. I think the hardest thing I’ve learned is that sometimes a project might take weeks or even months to make, others may take a few hours, and with some pieces the fibre seems to have its own ideas and its important not to get frustrated. Laughing at the mistakes along the way is healthy, I currently have a creepy stash of decapitated elephant heads that will now be used as core material for future projects – I decided a 2D elephant was more achievable for me!

4. What are your favourite needles to use?

Although I have quite an assortment of needles, my go-to’s are definitely a 38 Twisted Star, and 40 Spiral. I like to use a 3-needle tool for extra oomph and time-saving when making larger pieces.

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

Definitely carded wool, and I love the range that The Felt Box provides. I’m enjoying the FeltBox Maori at the moment, which I’m using for Llama legs, it would also be perfect as a skin tone, or felted flowers too.

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

“Pick up a cheap kit and give it a go, you will love it!”. I’ve tried some of the budget kits and they left me feeling really frustrated, the fibres were squeaky and hard to felt, the outcome looked nothing like the pictures and they took absolutely ages to make. The best thing to do is use a supplier like the Feltbox, order a small amount of fibre (carded is great for starting out), a few needles, and a felting surface. Maybe have a go at a basic shape for 3D (e.g. simple bumble bees) or a basic landscape if trying 2D (a small piece of linen could be used as your base) and see how you get on. If you’ve got great supplies you will likely get hooked from the first try!

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

• Thinking if you stab/poke it faster it will speed it along - If you try to rush you will likely break a needle, prick your finger, or be generally disappointed with the results. Take your time, enjoy the process.

• ‘I’ll just make something small, it will be easier to start me off’ - Going small can actually make it a lot harder, especially when starting out. Be kind to yourself and start with basic designs and shapes, then work your way to smaller or more intricate ones once you feel more confident.

• You don’t actually need a flock of sheep worth of wool in every colour possible from the start (however nice that may be!) – fibres blend really easily, so a print-out of a colour wheel can be helpful to mix your own colours by hand or using cheap dog brushes.

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

Always remember the reasons why you are interested in needle felting, and why you love needle felting. Keep coming back to this if you find a little lost in what to make or do. Don’t compare yourself to other artists, we all have our unique styles and can all learn something new. Giving yourself the freedom to explore your own creativity will make a difference to how you feel about what you do, and the outcome of what you make.

About the artist:  

Laura Horsley started an Instagram account @Laura.stabbystab.feltart which she is using to post pictures of most of her makes, the occasional nature-based photograph for future inspiration, and other needle-felted related content.