What is Needle Felting?
Needle felting began as a way to mesh raw animal hair fibers such as sheep's wool, alpaca wool, Angora goat hair, rabbit fur, llama hair and others together into a single piece of non-woven material through the process of entangling them with the use of a barbed needle. The needle is repeatedly "stabbed" into the mass of fibers, and the barbs pull those fibers back and forth, condensing and weaving them together. As a modern art form, this form of "needle felting" was initially used as a way to create 3-D figures and shapes, and also as a way to applique fibers and materials to other pieces. This can take hours of time and literally thousands of repititive "stabbing" movements, and out of the desire to speed this process up, Machine Needle Felting was born.
A needle felting machine looks very similar to a sewing machine, but instead of a single, threaded needle, it's designed to use 7, 9 or even up to 12 threadless, barbed needles to accomplish the same "stabbing" motion previously necessary by hand. While this machine became popular in the quilting community for the ease of its use for appliqued pieces, there seemed to be a lack of further purpose for this incredible machine and all its potential.
Isabella began using the needle felting machine at a friend's store and instantly fell in love. She purchased her own and started with small projects like coasters and pincushions and quickly progressed onto larger pieces, like pillows, table runners and wall hangings, creating incredibly detailed natural scenes and landscapes using a "puzzle style" approach and her shading and embellishing experience from bearmaking. When enough people asked her to put some patterns together for the pieces she created and to begin teaching them how to do what she was doing, she decided that there might be much more to this "felting" thing than she first thought.
Isabella recently published her second book on machine needle felting, "Willow Nook's Machine Needle Felting: Wool Images", and continues to teach classes and show her craft across the country.
A needle felting machine and useful tools.
Willow Nook Machine Needle Felting
Shading along a wax paper guide makes the process simple!
Cutting along the wax paper template.