Needles, Wool, Mistakes, Advice and the One Tip - Tracy Bolton from Mrs Bee Felts

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

I've always been a crafty person and love trying new things, so 8 years ago when a friend of mine asked me if I'd ever heard of needle felting (which I hadn't !) I immediately started to investigate! I was completely astounded by what I saw and set about ordering needles, wool, etc. to have a go at this amazing craft for myself. The first thing I made was meant to be an owl but was more of a ball with eyes!

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

I have a fascination for nature so any needle felters who take their inspiration from nature always catch my attention. I particularly love the work of Siobhan Perry and The Woven Wild. There are so many others too, so much incredible talent and skill out there. I follow so many artists on Instagram, it's a great way to get in touch with other artists to ask for advice and just to celebrate each other's work. I also like to follow people who specialise in dogs, as I do make dogs myself it's always good to see how others work. This way I can keep improving on my own skills and techniques. Sharon from WoolyPaws is incredible at what she does, I'm often in awe of her beautiful creations.

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

I always find making people's pets for them the hardest. It comes with a lot of pressure to get them to look like the animal it's supposed to be. Our pets are so precious to us I know they need to be just right. It's also taken me a long time, lots of practice, and lots of frustration to make paws! There are a few techniques and it's just a matter of finding which works best for you.

4. What are your favourite needles to use?

My favourite needle to use is a 40 gauge twisted. It's always on my work pad and it's one I go back to time after time. Once the initial shaping has been done, usually with 36 triangular and 40 triangular, the twisted needle is great for really firming, tidying, and adding small detail. You just have to take a little extra care as they are thinner and not as strong as other needles, I go through quite a lot of them!

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

I find most carded wools easy to work with, and the Felt Box have a great range of colours. I also love any natural carded fleece such as Ryeland and Moorit, the colours are beautiful and they felt like a dream! I like using Wensleydale curls too they are a lot of fun and so naturally gorgeous, perfect for curly pooches or Santa beards!

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

I can't say I hear much bad advice but using something random for the core I'd say is not good. I'm all about the wool all the way through no matter the size of the piece. I also feel people become hung up on having to make a wire armature for everything, this is not the case. If the animal is standing it will probably need an armature for support, but I have made many a sitting creature without. I would say experiment and find techniques that suit you best, everyone has their own way of doing things, there really isn't a right or wrong way.

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

I will answer this question with the first mistake I made! I ordered lots of lovely fibres, beautiful colours, all long fibres, wool tops, and roving! Not the right wool for starting my needle felting sculptures! Also, lots of people start out by purchasing a cheap supermarket kit. Often the needles and the wool are poor quality and this makes the felting process difficult and often puts people off persuing the craft further.

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

Take your time with the core work. I used to rush it being all eager to start using the colour, thinking I could cover any odd bits or mistakes with the colour, but it actually makes mistakes stand out more! Take your time moulding and sculpting using a good quality core wool that felts nice and easy. I use either Perendale or Norweigan natural cream carded wool batts both from The Felt Box for my core wool. Build up gradually and when you get to the detail, use small pieces of wool (It's easier to build up slowly than having to remove parts!) The more time and care taken over the core will mean your colour will go on like a dream and you will see your sculpture come to life!

About the artist:  

The best place to see her work and connect with her is mainly on Instagram (@mrsbeefelts) and she also has a Facebook Page (Mrs Bee Felts).  A direct message on Instagram or on Messenger through Facebook to contact her. She doesn't only take orders and commissions through there, she is also happy to talk needle felting with anyone! So if you need advice, a bit of help, or any other information, she is more than happy to be contacted!