Gift Guide for Needle Felters
With my birthday (not just mine, it's my blog's birthday too!) being on Monday, and then Mother's Day in a week, I realized that I somehow managed to get through an entire year of writing blog posts without a single gift guide for needle felters! And, by that I mean a gift guide you as a needle felter can pass on to someone as sort of a *wink *wink *nudge *nudge - so if you're reading this right now and know someone who is obsessed, I mean passionate, about needle felting, save this for reference the next time you're drawing a blank on ideas. None of these links are affiliate links, these are entirely my personal and honest opinion.
These items are really quite inexpensive, so you can mix and match to create a gift basket and buy as little or as much as you like to meet your gift budget needs.
If you're curious what these are and how they work, this guide should help with that! That being said, a lot of suppliers sell sampler packs, so you don't have to worry too much about getting the right ones. If you DO want to get some, spiral and star are the more popular style of needle, and 36, 38, 40 are the most commonly used sizes. There's also a 42 which is for finishing when using fine wool. If you're putting together a gift basket for a beginner needle felter, I would stick to 38g and 40g (both of which I sell in my shop).
Another thing I would suggest would be a felting tool. Your standard-issue felting needles do not come with a grip, so if you're buying them without grips a tool can come in handy! A popular one is the clover pen, which looks like a pink pen that holds three needles. I've also seen some really neat aluminum holders as well as wooden. I've also had my eye on these from Etsy - aren't they beautiful?
If you're buying for a needle felter, s/he likely already has foam, which is what needle felters use to support their work and protect their needles. There are several types that felters might choose to use (I have a guide for that too), but I can guarantee that if it can never hurt to have a back-up because foam does degrade over time with use. I myself have several different kinds, including a giant one for felting large wool paintings, small 4x4 that I carry in my travel felting kit, plus several extra on hand in case I'm teaching a class or felting with friends. I even have several different styles, including the common charcoal foam, thick soy foams, and a rice-filled burlap pad (which some felters like to use for 3D work, not so much for 2D work). My personal suggestion would be the biggest foam pad you can get from LivingFelt.
One thing that not all needle felters have but I think should have is a fiber blender of some sort. Personally I use two of the largest dog brushes I could find (mine are the JW brand with comfy handles), but some suppliers also sell blenders of their own. They're like tiny hand carders. When you're blending colors you don't necessarily need to blend a ton of it, so hand carders can be a bit overkill.
Fiber Blender supplier: WeirCrafts
You can never have too much wool. There's really no two ways about it. That is also why the selection can be truly overwhelming. There are so many types and color options, it can be really confusing to someone new to needle felting or buying for a needle felter. That's okay, I'll help you out. Needle felters often prefer to work with coarser wool because they felt a lot faster. Some people are able to needle felt finer wool but it takes a lot longer to do and can be quite frustrating and expensive. Also, while needle felters will often use roving as well, most prefer to use batting. Roving is more popular with wet felters and spinners. While shopping for wool, you may come across something called core wool. This is typically not dyed and is what felters use for the inside of their 3D sculpture because it's cheaper. They'll then go and cover that core with a dyed wool to give it color and detail. The only time this isn't the case is when felting tiny objects, because the savings would be negligible and it's just more work.
No, I'm not talking about those things that you put on containers to keep other people out of it - these are carefully washed and dyed locks of wool or fiber from other animals that have not been carded to keep the beautiful curls intact. They are a great way to add texture to a wool painting or to use as hair on 3D sculptures. Or use it to make curly trees (the example is a winter tree, but you can get locks in all different colors). One amazing felting artist who uses locks in pretty much everything she makes is the Felting Farmer Lady, who is also an Etsy seller and supplier of locks. Here's a list of a few suppliers, but a quick search on Etsy for "curly locks" will get you more sources.
You might find other things listed when you look at needle felting suppliers. Though I personally have never found myself needing them, I know many people who recommend the finger guards. Stabbing myself with a felting needle feels like a right of passage, something that I think every single needle felter has done at least once. However, if you know the recipient is accident prone, they could come in handy. LivingFelt sells these.
If the person you're thinking of likes to make needle felted sculptures, armature wire is also another great addition. You'll find several kinds, the standard armature wire, cloth-wrapped (great for making tiny digits), paper-wrapped and chenille stems (aka pipe cleaners). LivingFelt and Sarafina both sell all of these.
If the needle felter loves to work on 2D wool paintings, a few rolls of wool prefelt would make a great addition. Fabric stores will carry 100% wool felt or wool blend felts which you can buy by the yard (the individual squares of felt are all polyester). However, I have found that WeirCrafts sells 100% wool prefelt in a multitude of colors. Prefelt can also be used to create clothing items for sculptures.
More Expensive Gifts:
If you're buying for that special someone and would really like to get him/her that one really nice gift instead of a mix of things, here's a list of other tools a needle felter might use. I would make sure that the recipient does not already have one of these, because unlike the gift suggestions above, it would not make sense to invest in one of these if they already have it.
These are like the fiber blenders above, but much much much larger. They are an incredibly useful tool, especially when blending a large amount of fiber. If you want something fancy, Ashford is a popular brand, as is Schacht. My personal choice would be to go with Howard Brush. I have a number of Howard Brush products and I honestly believe they give you the best value for your money.
This is a wonderful tool for making a small landscape batt, blending a large amount of fiber, or if your felter likes to do both needle and wet felting, to arrange the wool and pull it off in a sheet for wet felting. If you or someone you know is a woodworker, it's easy to make your own and just buy the cloth to put on your blending board. You can purchase a blending board kit here. If you want to buy one already made, this is one of the nicest blending boards I've ever seen. In fact, this is what I showed my husband as the example of what I wanted when he made mine (using the HB kit). Read my guide to blending boards here.
This is the machine gun of felting tools. While pretty much all methods of needle felting are entirely controlled by the manual stabbing of needles into wool, this is a battery operated tool which boasts 2,500 depressions per minute. That being said, cons include the fact that it's not quiet and after using one, your hand might feel numb for a short while same as it would from using a power sander. This is one of those gifts I'd probably ask the recipient for their opinion, "So, I know you like needle felting, and I read something about there being this battery operated felting tool. Have you ever seen it?" Gauge the reaction first. If the person sounds interested in it, it's available on Amazon. LivingFelt also sells it but I believe it's on back order.
An embellisher is like a sewing machine, except instead of needle and thread it uses felting needles! I've even seen a children's version of this called the Sew Cool, though I'd probably avoid the toy version of it as a gift idea for an experienced needle felter. It just wouldn't have the control nor the power necessary to work on larger projects - if it does work. The reviews are not very optimistic. No, I'm talking about the Janome Felting Machine. Simplicity also makes one, but as of writing this post it would seem that the Simplicity Deluxe is either discontinued or out of stock everywhere. BabyLock also carries one. (Only con is you cannot purchase BabyLock online, it's only available through authorized dealers). You would want to search for either felting machine or embellisher, because different companies call them different things. Where the Addi Quick is great for 3D projects, the felting machine or embellisher is great for creating 2D wool paintings as well as embellishing items such as your clothes, home linens, pillow cases, curtains, really anything you can think of.
Needle felters, did I leave anything off this list that you think I should add? Feel free to comment below and add to the wish list!