Every single day I can expect at least one question about needles. Ours are nicely color-coded: purple for 38 star, green for 38 triangle, and blue for 40 triangle. (Choose yours here!) But what’s the difference in real life?
The simple answer is that different needles are used for different things. Our green needle is used for making the core of your project and is your all-purpose needle that is used with needle felting wool, such as our C-1 or C-1/Pelsull blend. Purple is used for surface details, and blue is used for finer wools, such as combed top roving or luxury fibers. Each is barbed, meaning that there are notches along the side of the needle at different points depending on the type of needle. These barbs mean that plunging the needle into wool allows the fibers to entangle. Or, in less pretentious terms, sticking the needle into the wool makes the fibers stick together.
But when you want to know about specifics, the fine-needle-felted print is a little more complicated. Felting needles have different gauges, and they function a bit differently depending on this number. The larger the gauge the finer the needle, and the smaller the holes the needle produces. Finer needles are more prone to break, though, and it takes longer to make a form. Larger gauge needles usher projects along faster and are more resilient, but they leave larger holes and aren’t as good for details. In other words, a forty gauge needle will leave a smoother surface than the sturdy thirty-eight gauge needle, but a thirty-eight will shorten your needling time and won’t break! Another way to ensure that your needle doesn’t break is to poke straight up and down rather than at an angle. We recommend rotating your project instead of changing the direction of your needle.
Then, to make it even more interesting, needles come in different shapes as well. Triangle needles include three edges of barbs and are the most widely used. Star needles have five edges of barbs which allows them to felt quickly and create a compact form. Spiral needles leave very small holes and felt extremely compact forms because they have have barbs all around.
Jennifer Field, one of our needle felting teachers, always starts with a 40 needle. She tightly wraps her wool over armature wire and so does not need to needle it as firm. She says that the harder your project gets, the finer your needle.
And that’s all there is to it! (At least to this needle-felting novice. I’m sure other questions could arise, and if there are, comment away!)
P.S. People often ask why they would use a needle tool, and it really is a matter of personal preference. Needle tools give you something extra in your hand to hold onto, and the weight can make the poking easier to control. Trish likes the FeltCrafts tool with a metal base, because the weight makes the process more satisfying. Tools also make needling go much faster, because– obviously!– the more needles poking, the faster the fibers entangle! The great thing about a multi-needle tool is that you can take out as many needles as you want. In other words, you can swap out needles in a six-needle tool so that it uses one, two, three, four, five OR six! Once you replace one needle be sure you replace them all, as the replacements often come in different lengths than the original needles. You can find all of our needle tools (and a few other goodies!) here.