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Covers for Carders

Covers for Carders

New Carders need new covers

In a recent post, I was asked about carder covers. I made mine quite a few years ago, ok at least 20 years ago, but had not got around to making ones for the other hand carders I own. (it’s just the others didn’t get out much and I got distracted, you know how that can happen I am sure!)  I had picked up 3 pairs second hand I think as part of a box lot at an auction.  They were ones with curved backs and not as old as some hand carders I have seen. These probably come from the 1970s. I have no guess as to the manufacturer. The only clue is a mysterious symbol on the back of each set.   “A”, “B”. “C”, I am afraid that these mystic symbols are not illuminating as to their origins. Luckily these strange symbols have not affected their ability to card wool.

Last week I picked up another hand carder, this one with significantly stiffer teeth than my present collection. I have also found that my safety carders have been coming with the Mers and will also need some safety covers (but not today). I have used a thin packing foam for the pet combs until I can make them covers too.

First, let’s have a look at the new carders;

My latest acquisition is made from a soft wood that is ruff on the end grain. I suspect it is probably pine.  The handles, although the same colour, seems to be made of a slightly firmer wood. The teeth are embedded in a canvas fabric, then glued and tacked to the wooden carder. Bernadette said she had a similar pair and that the stiff teeth are excellent for courser wool.

As I said the teeth are very stiff and have little flexibility. This doesn’t mean I don’t want to protect them.

second hand carders, wood is ruff on edges and teeth are very stiff handle of second hand carder, ruff with small dents (needs sanding)1-2 The new to me, carders before sanding

3 close up of Foam drying pad cut to cover carder teeth3 close up of Foam drying pad cut to cover the carder teeth

What you will need to make these carder covers

fome and microfiber dish drying mat elastic and velcro straps Quilt squares with sheep alpaca and mice foam sanding block (sandpaper would work too)4-7 Items used to make the carder’s covers

  • 1 Dish drying foam mat
  • 2 Elastic and velcro straps
  • Interesting fabric
  • (you may need a sanding block or sandpaper if your carder is a bit ruff)
  • A ruler, pen and sewing machine are also helpful.

When I made my first cover, I wanted to have something a bit softer than just the fabric cover to protect the teeth.  I found a bathroom soft scrubby pad, it said polyurethane foam covered by a “new” microfiber top. They were available at Walmart and then Dollarama, so picked a few up. Silly me I did not reserve all I had purchased for the hand carder protection as planned but used some for their original purpose of cleaning!!! they were available for about 3 years and then mysteriously disappeared from both my sources. They were replaced by a much larger, but similar, product called a “microfiber dish drying mat”. Its tag says Polyurothatin foam and 100% polyester cover. It is very much like the original pad but huge at 15” X19.5”! (I  could cover a large drum carder rather than just small hand cards with it!  ….HUM………NO! NO! That will have to be a later project!!) Luckily it is easy to cut to the correct size to fit the little carders with my cheap paper scissors. Ok, now I have the foam pads to protect the teeth.

For my newest set of carders, because the end grain is ruff, I will also need a sanding block to smooth it and prevent splinters. (Splinters are never good, they wind up in either your fingers or the wool.) I found a two-pack of foam sanding blocks at Dollarama. The local hardware store will have them or some old fashion sandpaper and a block of wood. In a pinch, a foam nail file will work as sandpaper too

  8 sanding the back of the hand carder taking out chips at edges ad little scratches and punctures8 sanding the back of the hand carder taking out chips at the edges and little scratches and punctures

half the hand carder handle is sanded the other half is still ruff 9 half the handle is sanded(lower half)

working at smothing the end grain of the carder, the wood is likly a soft pine10 working at smoothing the end grain

Now that I have the worst of the roughness smoothed and have pieces of foam to protect the teeth. now I can get the fabric and measure it out to make the covers.  The overall pattern is simply, a rectangle with long tabs attached at one end.  Depending on the shape of the fabric you have, changes where you will put your seams.  If you don’t have much of the fabric you like (say one with sheep), you can use a different fabric on the inside. luckily I have just enough!!

To make the cover closure you have a few options, sew-on Velcro is easy to use and seems to be common.  If you haven’t quite got around to sewing on the Velcro, you can try what I have been using  “Stretch utility straps” (elastic with Velcro on the ends.)I wrap the elastic over the tabs and connect the velcro to hold it closed.  I remember seeing closers made from ties, and even buttons, but I like the Velcro and strap closer the best.

Shark Boy has offered to help show you the old carder cover so we can make a pattern.

11 Sharkboy volunteers (his parents are cuddling in their project bag)11 Sharkboy volunteers (his parents are cuddling in their project bag so he offered to help)

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12-21 Shark boy removing the cover and foam pads off my old carders

Now that Sharkboy has opened the carder cover,  we can look at the shape and make measurements.

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22-28 measuring the original carder cover

29 size I am going with yours may be a bit different depending on your carders size29 This is the size I am going with, yours may be a bit different depending on your carders size

We should also notice you have three main options as to how you orient your carders for storage.  (the variations are more dramatic when viewing the curved cards than the flat ones but it’s still worth considering the options available for both styles.)

30 teeth to teeth (the handles now spread away from eachother)30 teeth to teeth

Option 1 stored teeth together – this leaves the teeth inter-meshing, while it may keep the teeth from snagging on any nearby object it is not great for the teeth. It also causes the handles to point outward if you have a curvature to the paddle part of the carders. This is the way most naked carders are stored.

31 Back to back/ teeth out (the teeth face out and are unprotected, the handles tuch at the end but dont ballance well on eachother)31 Back to back/ teeth out

Option 2 stored teeth out – this is a bit silly (but it is a possibility even if it’s silly), it will put the teeth in contact with anything in the vicinity (including your fingers) and give the carding cloth surface no protection. The only advantage is that the handles don’t stick out oddly. (I am trying to be positive.)

like the 3 bears looking for the perfect bed, this brings us to the final configuration.

 32 teeth to back (the handle fit together, so dose the curvature of the carder back. but teeth will be pressiung into the back of one carder) 32 teeth to back

Option 3 stored teeth in the same orientation – Since one carder sits above the other, this would cause the teeth to be stored against the back of the upper carder. Ah, this is where the foam pad comes in. There were masks on the backs of the new second-hand carders which suggested this was one of the ways they had been positioned. This orientation also alines the handles which makes them fit easily into a bag or basket when they need to travel.

Now let’s make the pattern.  There are two main rectangular shapes for carders; a shorter rectangle for wool carders and a longer rectangle for cotton carders. I have now seen “Student” carders which are smaller than the standard wool carders. Both shapes of carder require a very simple pattern so just adjust it to fit your size. If you are not trusting of numbers you can make a pattern using a couple taped together pieces of paper to check the fit.

I had been over at Walmart looking in their craft/sewing department. There was a selection of precut “quilting squares”, which were actually rectangles, that I looked through. They were not the finest of thread counts but they had 3 patterns with sheep, the odd cat/alpacas and one with mice.  The size works out to approximately 16” wide by about 20.5” long, close enough to what I had used last time!!  this is not like sewing an Elizabethan corset so if your fabric is a bit shorter in length it will still work, but with shorter tabs.  As long as you have fabric adequate to cover the width and enough length to wrap around the carders with their foam spacers protecting the teeth, the extra will be the tab length.  Two of my older carders have lived with a stretchy elastic with velcro and the foam pads for many years (they’re the ones that don’t get out much!) so you can fudge it if you are a bit tight on your favourite fabric.

Your other option is to make the cover out of 2 different fabrics if you’re short. This could be a fashion statement, flipping whichever side out that seems to fit your outfit that demo.

Let’s get sewing

 33 End and side seem in, laing the old cover over the new fabric for locating tab length 33 End and side seem in, locating tab length

Since I am folding on the long side, I will have a seam at the end and down the opposite side. (seam is on the left short side and at the top long side)

34 Making wider tab ends34 Making wider tab ends

35 Marked in pen on backside of fabric to sew in tabs35 marked for sewing

This time I wanted to try a wider end tab to give a bit more protection for the carder. I found the center on the unsewn end and estimated the seam placement.  I used the edge of the pressure foot to give a thin seam allowance. Remember to leave the center area between the tabs open so you can turn the cover inside out. (I almost didn’t on the first one! It has been a while since I have been sewing, I should practice more.)

 36 NO WRONG WAY!!! (leave the space between the tabs un-sewn) i put the presherfoot down in the rong spot! 36 NO WRONG WAY!!! (leave the space between the tabs un-sewn)

37 extra wide seem allowance along open section, about 1 inch with a diagonal cut into both corners

Trim the area between the tabs to about 1 inch from the end of the sewing line. clip back to the corner  (see the pictures). The flaps will get turned into the opening and the nail pressed down after the cover is turned inside out.

38 turn out body of carder through opening left between tabs38 Turn out the body of the carder through the opening left between tabs

39 turning out tabs39 turning out tabs

Turn the body out through the open space then turn each tab right side out.  Tuck in the extra wide seam allowance at the opening. If your iron is not handy you can nail-press the opening.

40 turn out corners with chopstick

Lastly, take a rounded-end chopstick and get the corners poked out. There are more expensive tools for sewers to get into corners but this works and was in with the felting tools.

The elastic straps with Velcro

41 Sharkboy shows you the two different lengths of velcro (short and long)41 Sharkboy shows you the two different lengths of velcro (short and long)

The elastic straps at Dollarama come in two sizes which are not always the same length. pick one that is not too tight and compressing the foam covers but not so loose it won’t hold the carder cover on. (I know that was obvious but some really are quite different small or large than the previous ones I have purchased.)

If you want to make yours extra fancy, top stitch along all the edges. You can add two strips of sew-on velcro to the tab and the main body of the cover (try it on your carder to get the best position. If you want a fashionable 2-sided carder cover I would go with the elastic and Velcro arrangement my first cover has. (so you can turn it either side up)

For odd-size carders, you need to add teeth protection and stack them as you would like to store them. measure the distance from the base of one handle (at the edge of the carder) going directly across the width of the carder down to the underneath carder, across it stopping when you reach the other handle base. Call that X. Now decide how long you would like your tabs (t). X+T+ seam allowance= the long side of your rectangle. The width plus seam allowance x 2 is your other dimension. When in drought just use a string with knots or make a mock-up in paper. (I have found numbers can be just as tricky as letters!)

I do hope this is somewhat clearer than mud! If you decide that this is all too much work or you can’t remember where you put your sewing machine or your hand sewing needles there are a number of people selling premade covers on etsey.

Lastly, Sharkboy got all the new covers on the carders and staked them up for me. He has been working very hard and needs a treat to reward him.

Sharkboy is trying to stack the carders he has wraped 43 he is determand to get the 4 newly covered carders neatly gathered

42-43 Sharkboy is determined to organize the newly covered carders

This weekend (back willing) Mrs. Mer and her son Sharkboy will be going to a fibre festival south of Ottawa in search of hair. I will let you know how all our shopping goes.

Sharkboy says goodnight he is standing on his tail-fin and leaning on a carder he has been trying to move.44 Sharkboy has had a busy day helping with this project and says goodnight

the local Gaming/Felting Convention is back – blending skin tones for Mrs. Mer

the local Gaming/Felting Convention is back – blending skin tones for Mrs. Mer

A break from all the felting machines!

We had a great day on Easter Monday testing out the felting machines. We added Ann’s new purple one from Georgia to the mix.  But since we have had non-stop machine chatting I think we need a break from the sound of needles impaling wool at high velocities. So why don’t you join me for a day trip out to the Kanata Games Club one day spring Gaming (and felting) convention?  Mr. and Mrs. Mer came with me, in hope of adding more detail and some skin tone to Mrs. Mer.


The Kanata Games Club used the same Church as before. It’s built on a hill and has two large halls one on the lower level with big windows. This time they were only in the upper hall since this is the first big gaming event since the pandemic restrictions. We all wore masks (the church is still masking) except the Mer’s who didn’t have masks of the correct size. I may have to make them some. Or maybe their fishy-er parts keep them immune. Can fish get covid? (better not think about that or I will never get to tell you about the day.)

We arrived and as soon as I was settled, he quickly wandered off to one of the big tables. The big round tables were full of people with brightly coloured games with many interesting little pieces.  I found one of the smaller unoccupied tables by one of the windows.

1) Shortly after 9 am, I was happily left at a rectangular table with a Tim Hortons bagel and my felting supplies in a small clear plastic box. Mrs. Mer is reclining with bits hand blended skin tone.

I got comfortable for a nice long day of felting!

2) Mr Mer was there to supervise and cheer on the gaming. Mr Mer leans ageist a blue bag on the table in front are the small wool pad, the wrong beige, my phone and audio book, and my small clear plastic box of tools.2) Mr. Mer was there to supervise and cheer on the gaming. Mr. Mer leans ageist a blue bag on the table in front are the small wool pad, the wrong beige, my phone and audiobook, and my small clear plastic box of tools.

It quickly became apparent that while I had packed almost everything I needed, there were two small problems.  I realized I had brought a slightly different shade of base tone for her skin tone. Well, That can be fixed with a bit of extra blending.  The second problem resulted from the ongoing rebuilding of my office into a fibre studio, which is messing with my ability to know where everything is (specifically my mini carders AKA small pet brushes have disappeared)!!!  Oh well, I can blend a bit of this nice yellowy-ness with this tiny bit of raspberry red to the new base tone and that should be just about right. Without carders, I was blending tiny bits by hand which is slow when you are both sculpting more detail and putting on a colour layer. I am not a fast felter, I like to putter, consider, add a bit more wool, and eventually decide whatever I am making is complete.  But hand-carding all that I wanted to work on today would be a bit slow even for me!

3) Skin tone base colour from blending white (re-carded world of wool core wool), beige and amber Coriodale  and a bit of red I think may be merino.3) Skin tone base colour from blending white (re-carded world of wool core wool), beige and amber Coriodale,  and a bit of red I think maybe merino.

4) Not fully homogenous blends one with a stronger white and one with a stronger beige under tone.4) Not fully homogenous blends one with a stronger white and one with a stronger beige undertone.

I spent a long time hand-blending bits of skin tone for Mrs. Mer. I used white, beige, amber and raspberry tones. The world is not made up of flat uniform colours, so not blending to a uniform colour will provide a more natural looking tone. Today I wanted to improve Mrs. Mer’s head shape and extend her skin tone.

Hubby came to check on me at the end of his first game and I explained the lack of carders. Luckily the Dollarama was just a bit farther up the hill at the closest mall, a bit far to walk, (there was still snow) but a very fast drive.  He returned with a set of carders (pet brushes), a plug to charge my phone (it was dead again….) a couple of drinks and some candy(that will keep me felting!!).

5)  Dollarama $4.00 carders (pet brush) with safety tips.5)  Dollarama $4.00 carders (pet brush) with safety tips.

Recently at one of the local guilds socials, one of the pet brushes was being used to tease out the ends of locks. This is sometimes called flick carding. (Bernadette can show you how to properly flick card some time if you are at a social). The locks were not very long and there seemed to be a lot of poking of fingers as well as combing of fibre.  The Carders/pet brushes, that I had just been given, have little white plastic tips on each wire, safety tips!!! The packaging says the covered tips are to protect the delicate skin of your pet, while it also makes it much safer for your fingers if you are flick carding locks.

Like full-size wool carders, these pet brushes have little wires embedded into a backing.  some carders have wires that are quite stiff and some are more flexible. The same applies to pet brushes.  For comparison Cotton carders (like the name implies are used with cotton which has a very short staple length compared to wool) have shorter more closely spaced wires and tend to be longer rectangular shapes than wool carders.

If you buy two of the little pet brushes you can use them exactly like you would a set of wool carders. It takes a bit of practice to get the movement of the carders to blend and mix the fibres but it’s worth the practice.

6-7) Close up of teeth on the comb. note the bend about 2/3rds up the wire 6-7) Close up of teeth on the comb. note the bend about 2/3rds up the wire6-7) Close-up of teeth on the comb. note the bend about 2/3rds up the wire

You can see that one wire has lost its safety tip. it may have been missing when I took it out of the package and I just didn’t notice. I did not seem to lose any others while carding. I have heard of small pet brushes that had longer wires and larger safety tips that can come loose and disappear into the wool. So far this brand seems to not have that problem. (it will be worth keeping an eye on these to see if the tips stay attached over time.)

starting to blend first blend with constituent colours in background a darker blend with Mrs Mer in the background the two blends showing the lighter and darker vertions8-11) Examples of blending fibre to create skin colours

It’s nice to have a pallet of blended colours pre-made to pick from when you’re adding the top layer of colour. I am also doing a bit more detailed sculpture of her head and neck so a general mid-tone is also helpful.

12) MRS Mer laying on her back, double needles working along angle of the jaw (Mandible)12) MRS Mer laying on her back, double needles working along angle of the jaw (Mandible)

13) New muscle development below the oxiput and above upper traps.13) New muscle development below the occiput and above upper traps.

As with Mr. Mer, I was concerned with her ability to see where she was going when swimming. Unlike a full fish whose eyes would be looking forward and to the sides, her eyes in anatomical position would be looking at whatever is below her as she swam. This could allow for painfully swimming into things or being attacked by a bigger fish that she didn’t see coming. To alleviate this anatomical problem of blending fish and human anatomy I added an extra muscle on top of the upper traps to help her hold up her head for prolonged swimming. I will also beef up her erector spini in the back so she can also tip her torso up to reduce potential neck stain. The things you have to consider when felting are just amazing!!!

I worked along the underjaw and corrected some of the asymmetries in her skull.

14) attachment of SCM mucle scluping along jaw and adding skin colour.14) attachment of SCM (Sternocleidomastoid) muscle, sculpting along the jaw and adding skin colour.

15) gaming tables with people playing board games

The gaming continued around us, with players switching tables as one game ended and a new one began.  A few came over to see what I was working on, but most have seen me at previous felting/gaming events. Someday I am sure I will get to share my table with another felter!!

I took a break from her head and neck and worked a bit down her arms and started adding a bit of skin tone on one of her hands.

16) Mrs Mer through her arm into the air while trying to stay modest and warm with the other arm/hand (I need to make her a shirt soon)16) Mrs. Mer through her arm into the air while trying to stay modest and warm with the other arm/hand (I need to make her a shirt soon)

17) Mrs Mer’s waves goodby as its time to pack up.17) Mrs. Mer waves goodbye as it’s time to pack up.

I was in the middle of working on Mrs. Mer’s hand when Glenn’s last game ended.  So it was time to pack up after about 9 hours of fun felting. We both had lots of fun and hope there will be another Felting ….errr …. Gaming convention soon!

If you do a lot of 2D or 3D needle felting and enjoy working with blended colour you may find one of the types of carders handy. Depending on how much fibre you need to blend at a time will give you an idea of which type of carder may be best for you. (carders give you a woollen preparation for spinning while combs give you a worsted preparation)

Here is a quick reference chart showing the amount of fibre needed and tool options to achieve that amount.

Amount of fibre Tools to consider Notes, Pros/Cons
Smaller than a handful Hand blending -(if the staple length is longer than you want you can tare it or use scissors to shorten it)

Pros: free!, quick and easy to do for small amounts

Cons: can stress wrists and fingers pulling fibre apart as you blend it.

A Handful or a couple of handfuls Pet brushes used like wool mini-carders -like mini carders quality varies by manufacture. Some teeth are very stiff some are very flexible.

Pros: cost $2.50 to 10.00 each (cheap)

Cons: some are not well made and don’t hold up to stronger wools or heavy use.

A double handful Wool carders -designed to work with wool. Comes in various teeth counts (fine/Medium/course).

Pros: You can sometimes find a set secondhand from spinners.

Cons: new hand cards can be pricey but not as pricey as a drum carder.New Around $100.00 Canadian with shipping.

A larger amount (a batt) Drum carder -designed to work with wool. Comes in various teeth counts (fine/Medium/course).

Pros: can create larger amounts of blended fibre than a hand carder.reasonably easy to use,

Cons: a bit harder to clean for some. Even second-hand 150.00 to 350.00, new; high 200s to much more for larger or electric versions. The smaller ones are moveable/ sort of portable. The bigger ones are better left in a work area)


18) 3 full size hand carders, pet brush carders (my real mini carders will turn up as I keep shuffeling things) and small combs; a set of Rodger Hockins and one bee decapping comb in the interm location in my ofice/studio18) 3  full-size hand carders, pet brush carders (my real mini carders will turn up as I keep shuffling things) and small combs; a set of Rodger Hockins and one bee de-capping comb in the interim location in my office/studio

If you do a lot of 2D or 3D needle felting and enjoy working with blended colour you may find one of the types of carders handy. Depending on how much fibre you need to blend at a time will give you an idea of which type of carder may be best for you.

First Quarter Tree Finished and I Got Mail.

First Quarter Tree Finished and I Got Mail.

After some final fiddling with the width of the trunk and shadow and adding a little red bird for interest, I decided I am done with the winter tree.

Next is spring so I have to figure out what kind of tree I made. I wasn’t thinking of a particular tree when I started the experiment in making a tree. Here is the original tree experiment post.  After doing some picture searches I think it is most like an Oak tree. The other option was a Maple but the bark on a Maple is quite grey and Oaks have much more brown and textured bark. Naturally, neither of these makes the kind of flowers that pop into your head when you say tree in bloom. They make droopy green (sometimes red) tassels. Maples make maple keys and Oaks make acorns.  What kind of tree do you think it is?  I may decide it is a fantasy tree so I can make blossoms anyway. What do you think?


The other exciting thing Jan told you about too. I got my Package from Georgia (Russian Federation whether they like it or not).

Here are some unboxing pictures.


I was surprised it was all assembled. Jan had some assembly required with hers. The other fun thing is it is purple and has a cute little bee. It has 4 what look to be size 36 felting needles in it. It holds 4 of them.

Purple and a bee are all very well but how does it work? It took a little experimenting on how where to hold the machine in relation to the felt surface to get the best felting. It worked well but it is hard to engage all the barbs on such a long course needle. We decided to switch out my big needles for one of the smaller crown needles. This also helps with a comparison of Jan’s machine to mine as hers only holds one.  I like it. It is bigger than Jan’s and I like hers too.  I like the Chinese one the least. A lot of that is the way you hold it. It is a much slower machine and we all know that patience is not one of my stronger qualities. One thing I would recommend is that you get an awl or sewing stiletto or something similar to use to hold new fibres down so you are not getting your finger so close to the machine. Unless you have long talons like Jan for doing such things.


In this last picture, you can see how much ( the white fibres) gets punched through when you fully engage all the barbs of the large 36 triangle needles and how big the holes are even when you only engage the first barbs( yellow fibres).

You will get to hear about the rest of the testing later. Jan is making a chart and doing some analyzing of data. Better her than me. 🙂

First Tests of Ann’s and Jan’s New Felting Machines Part 3

First Tests of Ann’s and Jan’s New Felting Machines Part 3

Part 3:

This will be a “short post” since we have had a third machine to add to our investigation (which I hope will continue on next Monday).  Ann has received a package from Georgia, hopefully containing the Solar Bee she ordered. It is vary similar to the design of handle and motor placement of the Orange fly but instead of a single needle it can have up to 4 needles. We will let you know what we find out about it soon.

The continuing investigation into the first 2 electric felting machines (China and Ukraine)

A quick look at trying detail work on pre-felt:

I tried fine detail work on pre-felt with merino, first with the Orange Fly (Ukraine). I did not have trouble working along the edge of main branches but found that it felted much faster than I am use to. the increased speed of felting is especially noticeable when we tried felting the tiny branches. Although it worked well, I did not feel as confident in my control of wool moving, I suspect I just need more practice.

1- dry felting on dry pre-felt. creem prefelt, black winter bare tree, orange fly needle felting machene on foam mat with a cuple needles and a bit of black merino wool 1- dry felting on dry pre-felt.

Next I wanted to try a piece of pre-felt that had been wet felted by Ann. This was one of her tree prototypes that she did not use as her finished tree.

2-3 pre-felt with one of Ann’s wet felting tree tries. - During wet felting. 2-3 pre-felt with one of Ann’s wet felting tree tries.2-3 pre-felt with one of Ann’s wet felting tree tries.

   4-6  I wanted to try adding little cardinals (red birds) to the tree. adding red dots to tree branches to indicate cardnels (red birds) black tree branches on prefet with red dots, adding a bit more fiber suddenly got a lot bigger dot. 4-6  I wanted to try adding little cardinals (red birds) to the tree.

I found that the machine grabbed the fiber and pushed it with enthusiasm into the pre-felt. A bit more than I had expected.  Again I think more practice would improve the bird-ish-ness of my red blobs!

back of prefelt showing red wool penitration 7 the back of the pre-felt showing the red fibers pushed to the back.

 I also tried on the orange Fly on 2 more wet felted bases with good results and not as good results.

Our next test base was a felt Ann had made in two colours of brown.

It was about the thickness for a wet felted hat but could be a good surface for a picture.

The single needle of the orange fly did not have trouble embedding fiber into the felt.

adding blue fiber to solid wet felted wool on a wool pad back of wet felted wool pad showing penitration of fiber. adding blue fiber to solid wet felted wool on a wool pad adding blue fiber to solid wet felted wool on a wool pad. using orange felting machine on an angle.8-11 working on solid wool felt.

I found that I felt more fiber movement when I angled the needle insertion. This would allow more barbs to engage fiber without having to imbed the needle into the wool felting mat.  (Angling the needle reduces the depth of insertion while still allowing more barbs to grab and entangle fiber.)

Having only one needle should be slower when laying in a general background colour. But, it is still quite quick, and there was no stress on my wrists, fingers, elbow or shoulder.  Ann and I should try a race between the felting machines vs. the 10 needle bar tool, which I find very fast for laying in backgrounds. But speed is not the only factor that the machines address.

We also considered the mettle machine from china. As you remember the mettle machine did not like most of the felting surfaces as much as the orange fly did. We used the fake clover brush (driveway asphalt painting bush from the hardware store) which is what seemed to be its favorite surface so far in our investigations.

mettle machine felting into wet felted wool on bristal brush 12 Mettle machine felting into wet felted wool on the driveway brush

Wet felted (Fulled) knitting as a felting surface.

Ann had fulled a piece of knit sweater and brought a piece to try felting into. the orange fly did transfer the white fiber through the knitting successfully but it was a bit more resistant than the firm felt.  (It is quite firmly fulled knitting.)

felting into fulled knitting on wool pad back of fulled sweater showing wool penitration 13-14 Orange Fly felting fulled wool knitting on a wool pad

Next I tried the mettle machine on the same surface. I noticed one of the screws loosening so stopped and tightened it. I suspect that you may want to check all the screws occasionally just so you do not lose one.

  15 mettle machine felting into fulled sweater on wool mat, 16 one of the tiny screws had started to loosen.15-16  mettle machine felting into fulled sweater on wool mat, one of the tiny screws had started to loosen.

There is less resistance when using the driveway brush  as a work pad but there was still the most resistance when we were felting on the fulled sweeter. Running with 2 needles was also less resistance than running the machine with 4.

  17-19 checking work angle and comfort holding mettle machine

I again tried holding the machine vertically and on an angle.  Both were comfortable to hold and there was less vibration/resistance when using the brush with this machine.

I have been making a chart for the 3 machines so next we will investigate the machine from Georgia and fill in the rest of the chart. We will open the package and put it through its paces next Monday (which is a holiday) and hope to have some test results ready for the next blog post!

For working on wet felting the orange fly seems to be a bit more enthusiastic towards embedding fiber into the felt/fulled 2D picture ground .  I will not give up on the mettle machine, I suspect we have not found its forte yet. I want to look further at 3-D sculpture. i am a bit concerned with the machines hitting armature wires (I may have to find some safety goggles before I try that!)

Until we can find out what’s in Ann’s mysterious package, Have fun and keep felting!

20 the mysterious package arrives at Ann’s

First Tests of Ann’s and Jan’s New Felting Machines Part 2

First Tests of Ann’s and Jan’s New Felting Machines Part 2

Part 1 can be found here:

Electric felting tool from Ukraine (Orange Fly felting machine)

 1) Ann found it on Etsy.  

We knew Glenn had found it on Etsy and had a long chat with the inventor.  He said that there had been illegal copies of his design, but they had not worked well having descriptions of falling apart and breaking quickly. His original design has been well-tested and had good reviews online.  Ann and I wanted to try it out and compare it to the Chinese design.

2) The orange Fly from Ukraine.  

Orange Fly from Ukraine came with Instructions.3) came with Instructions.

Like the Chinese machine, the price is fluctuating due to the changing value of the Canadian Dollar.

There are a couple of safety instructions with this machine which should be noted.

  • Do not run without a needle in the machine
  • Oil the bushing and inspect to make sure the needle is not heating (you need to add another drop of oil) also running at high speed will wear out the bushing and it will require replacement when the needle feels loose when sitting in it.
  • I would add keeping hair away from moving parts of the machine (I was one of the first 3 girls in shop class in my high school, and I remember long hair and power tools don’t mix well. It was one of the reasons the shop teacher would not let the girls use power tools in shop class.)

Material that makes up the machine

The first thing you will notice is that The Ukrainian machine is made of a plastic for the majority of its body, unlike the Chinese one whose body is made of metal.  I am not sure about the type or projected longevity of this plastic but as with most plastics it should last longer if a few precautions are taken:

  • Kept out of direct sunlight (can degrade some plastics)
  • Keep it at room temperature, and do not let it freeze or leave it in places of high heat (the dashboard of a car or in a sunny window.) being an electronic device it likely will not appreciate being left or used in high humidity. If in doubt it would be best to contact the manufacturer.

2 pictures of Ann holding the Ukrainian felting gun like machine, and 2 pictures of Ann holding the cylindrical mettle Chinese machine 4) Hand grips for both machines

Ergonomics/ comfortable grip:

The handle shapes and thus how you grip them are also different. You may find one more comfortable than the other. I found the grip on the Orange one comfortable and it was easy to see where I was pointing the needle.

Switch and switch placement: the switch or small on-off button are both located in the area where the hand will be near. (i did not test the orange fly with the left hand but may add that to the final tests). For the Ukrainian machine, I found the switch to be well located for the Right hand and easy to turn on and off.  The tiny black button on the Chinese machine was very sensitive and I inadvertently kept turning it back on as I tried to turn it off. This may just be me being too aggressive with my button-pushing. Ann seemed to be able to turn it off and on with less fumbling. You can see the Ukrainian switch in picture 2 of this post and in picture 7 from the last post, you can see the little black button from the Chinese machine. (

Noise: the Orange Fly is slightly quieter than the Silver Chinese machine.

Needle penetration /Vibration/kickback;  very little resistance to any of the surfaces or work pads with this one needle machine. (the exception was a fulled bulky knit sweater which gave a bit of kickback but this was fixed by increasing the speed.)  This could be partly due to the decrease in resistance when working with one needle when compared to more needles working in close proximity. We were also not sure of the exact gauge the silver machine was using. Ann has some of the Crown 40-111 needles I sent over to her. These may improve the operation of the Chinese Silver machine and make the test more even. We will report back after her husband has a chance to de-crank the needles so they will work in the machine.

The second thing to mention about vibration is to further Ann’s finding or more correctly losing of a small screw from the Chinese machine. I found that one of mine (not one holding a needle) had loosened off when I was running a test comparing it with the Orange one. I spotted the black screw on the silver machine before it had a chance to fall out.

5) working on wool felt pad and wool felting base  /Needle penetration from the back5) working on wool felt pad and wool felting base  /Needle penetration from the back

 6) pre-felt on medium felt pad 6) pre-felt on medium felt pad

 7) pre-felt on bristle brush 7) pre-felt on a bristle brush

Changing needles

While using the tiny allen key with the Chinese machine was fiddly but reasonably easy, getting the needle into the Orange machine was a bit more complicated. The instructions definitely had English words but seeing a video of putting the needle in fixed the confusion. Not having to have the pre-step of cutting off the crank (which is required for the silver machine)  is an added incentive to look favourably on this one.

Overall, I liked this machine even more than I expected and Ann liked it too.  Next Ann and I will expand our investigation just a bit more and look at 3 thicknesses of wet felt bases. We will look at both the Ukrainian and Chinese machines. Ann may have a third machine, this one is coming from Georgia, and has multiple needles. if it arrives soon enough we will add it to the wet felt base info and let you know what it is like to work with too. I will try to give a synopsis of the machines.

We will also see if our suspicion that the crown needles with their shallow working depth will improve the interaction between the felting surface/wool, brush or foam pad and the Chines machine.

Ukraine felting machine:


PS: I have spent the last 2 days at the Ottawa Valley Farm Show, demoing felting with Mr. and Mrs. Mer as well as doing a bit of spinning on one of my travel wheels. I do want to show you some of the fun we got up to but wanted to tell you about the second felting machine before getting distracted again. I am hoping the spelling is ok and I haven’t forgotten anything! I am about to face-plant the keyboard so I think it’s time for bed!

First Tests of Ann’s and Jan’s New Felting Machines Part 1

First Tests of Ann’s and Jan’s New Felting Machines Part 1

This past Christmas I received an electric needle-felting tool. This one was made in Ukraine using 3D printing. It had a small motor driving a single needle. Glenn found it on Etsy after he notice I had been having long online chats with a representative, (Amy), of the brand XianDafu, sold by William Wool Felting Supplies Store. Who manufactures a different style of hand-held electric Felting machine from China.

Poor Amy, I spent a long time asking questions, mostly about their needles, what gauge, shape, and how many barbs per side. They are using needles with the crank and part of the shaft cut off (there are a couple of hand-held needle holders that require that the crank be removed too, but they’re not common). Ann’s very kind husband has cut needles for her before but I thought it sounded a bit intimidating so had been hesitant to buy one.  Amy was excellent to chat with, being quite familiar with the machine but didn’t have as much background with commercial felting needles.  So I went into teaching mode and likely overwhelmed her with details and info on needle shapes, gauges, barb placement…… and finally manufacturers I suggested checking out both the Chinese manufacturer Doer and the German Gross-Brecket. I passed on her information to Ann who decided it sounded interesting and placed an order.

By the time Ann’s order arrived and I got the chance to check it out, I decided it might be useful to have a second style of machine) the price had gone up! (Stupid fluctuating dollar value). The positive was that now there were a few options for accessories; I could order extra needles and/or extra screws. (They are tiny screws, so I thought it might be a good idea to get extras)

Ann’s Unboxing of the Chinese needle felting machine. opening the box, the parts are well packed in foam, vile of cut needles, the speed control with adapter for the plug1) Ann’s Unboxing 1

Ann’s unboxing 2 retractable guard. the guard retracted and extended.  2) Ann’s unboxing 2 retractable guard     

You can see my unboxing here  The synopsis, in case you don’t want to go back and read the post, for the packaging from China it was amazing in its use of extreme layers of skid wrap, over Bubble wrap,  over shrink wrap and inside the box, lots of good foam. I suspect the Ukrainian machine was also well packed for shipping, but it was not wrapped for shipping when I was given it, in Christmas wrapping. (I am pretty sure it did not arrive through the mail covered only in Christmas wrapping paper)

The concepts of having an electric needle-felting machine are:

  • reduce strain on your body (reduce repetitive strain injuries or tendinitis irritation)
  • increase the speed you felt at (the machine can poke holes into wool far faster than I can.) you can also adjust the speed of the needle in both the Ukrainian and Chinese machines that we looked at)

other things to think of, Mechanical considerations:

  • Ergonomics: Is it comfortable to hold and use?
  • How difficult is it to change the needles?
  • Both have a limited run time for the motor then it will have to rest and cool down. We seemed to work for up to 5 minutes then pause to adjust or add wool. The suggested run time is 10 minutes for the Chinese version, so well over what we had been doing. It would be important to adhere to the run times so you don’t burn out the motor which would not let you enjoy the benefits of the machine
  • Vibration, noise and Kick back should be considered.
  • How many needles can the machine hold and effectively work?

Ann and I have been trying to meet on a Monday before a social at the local guild to try out your new felting tool.  We had a few things we wanted to test with both machines. My pre-test suspicion was that the Chinese machine would be best for pictures and the single-needle Ukrainian machine best for sculpture. Let us see if I am correct and what you think from our initial test runs.

Let’s start by looking at the Silver Metal Electric Needle felting tool from China first. (The script on the box seems to say “Zendaifuku fibre moulding machine”)

Let’s start with how to add needles, since if it is not reasonably easy to change needles then you will be less likely to use the machine.

Ann Adding needles to the machine using a small allen key and inserting the needles that have had the crank removed.3) Ann adding needles to her China-made machine

This machine requires that the top of the needle (the crank and part of the upper shaft) needs to be removed. This can be done with needles you already have or you can purchase precut needles from the manufacturer of this machine. This is an extra step that the Ukrainian machine does not have. On the other hand, being able to use up to 4 needles gives you more options than a single-needle machine.

We both found that adding or changing needles to this machine was not difficult. Because the screws are tiny, those with reduced eye acuity or essential tremors in their hands may find this a bit more challenging but it should still be achievable. Caution: if you want to run this one with less than 4 needles, I would suggest taking out the empty place screws and storing them in the little screw topped vile holding your needles. I would also suggest ordering extra screws they are so tiny and likely to disappear if you don’t keep your eye on them while changing needles. (Sneaky screws!!)

4) Needle holding vile with screw top (these are Ann’s, mine has extra screws in the vile)4) Needle-holding vile with a screw top (these are Ann’s, mine has extra screws in the vile)

Ann lost one of her screws while running the tests for this machine. She took out two of the four needles to see if fewer needles would create less resistance and less kickback. She had left the two screws in the machine without the needles. She noticed one of the screws without a needle was missing and we used a tool I have shown you before to look for it. (Princess Auto has these, extendible-handled-magnet-with-light. Very handy for picking up needles, screws or pins from your weaving)

Using the extendable magnet with light tool to look for the missing screw under the table and close up of tool 5) Extendable magnetic with light

We started with the different felting surfaces we had with us; Firm foam pad (yellow), pool-noodle-type garden kneeling foam pad (green), and medium firmness wool pad (charcoal).

pool-noodle-type garden kneeling foam pad (green)

   6) My accessories and felting machine on the green foam with extra needle cases, Allen keys and tiny screws. Back of 100% wool felt base with Ann’s machine with only 2 needles.   6) My accessories and felting machine on the green foam with extra needle cases, Allen keys and tiny screws. Back of 100% wool felt base with Ann’s machine with only 2 needles.  

The green kneeling pad produced some kickback, but the Chinese machine did embed the fibre into the green wool felt base. Though it did work better with Ann’s machine with 2 needles rather than mine with 4 needles.

Firm foam base (a piece of the kneeling pad) yellow

    7) Firm foam base (a piece of kneeling pad) yellow7) Firm foam base (a piece of the kneeling pad) yellow

The yellow firm foam had the most resistance to the needles and had the most kickback. Holding the machine on an angle helped the needle barbs engage the fibre.

Wool mat (medium softness) (I have one that is thinner and firmer and one that is thicker and softer)

8) 2D and 3D on wool mat with Chinese machine8) 2D and 3D on a wool mat with the Chinese machine

On first impressions with this tool and this wool mat, Ann liked the 3d more than the 2d felting.

 9) Increasing Speed using dile on cord 9) Increasing Speed

Increasing the speed improved felting in both 2 and 3 D but she is still having some kickback with 4 needles.  She also found that working on an angle worked better than vertically. We again suspected that the lower angle might be engaging more of the barbs with the fibre, than when held vertically. With the amount of resistance felt with this surface, we may not have the speed, gauge and number of needles set up to optimize for this machine. We will investigate further.

Ann held the tool at an angle and found it worked better. We think that the surface may be too resistant to the needles in use. We suspected finer gauge needles or fewer needles might improve the felting.  For a second try, Ann switched to two needles instead of four this reduced the kickback but didn’t remove it.

10) Ann reduced to two needles and tried the wool mat again. it was more effective.10) Ann reduced to two needles and tried the wool mat again. it was more effective.

11) We also tried a 3-D object, using 2 needles and without an armature.11) We also tried a 3-D object, using 2 needles and without an armature.

This caught and entangled fibres into the felt successfully. As you can see, Ann was running it with the guard locked in the retracted position.

After checking the mats we had with us, we came to the conclusion that there may be too much resistance and maybe we needed something more like the clover brush pad to allow the machine to work to its best potential. Neither Ann nor I have one and they are so small a work surface. We needed to come up with an alternative. I found my red kitchen scrub brush and Ann went to a hardware store and found a bristle scrub brush and a driveway brush. So we now had 3 brushes of different stiffness, height of bristles and bristle density to try next.

  12) 3 brushes to try (since we dont own clover brushes)12) 3 brushes to try

 13) Princess Auto red scrub brush; tightly packed, stiff plastic bristles. 13) Princess Auto red scrub brush; tightly packed, stiff plastic bristles.

14) Whisk brush with handle from Home Hardware longer and softer bristles that are tightly packed.14) Whisk brush with handle from Home Hardware, longer and softer bristles that are tightly packed.

15)  Driveway brush without its pole handle also from the hardware store; firm bristles more dispersed than the other two brushes.15)  Driveway brush without its pole handle also from the hardware store; firm bristles more dispersed than the other two brushes.

16) Prefelt over the driveway brush 16) Prefelt over the driveway brush

Using the driveway brush as you would a clover brush seemed to be the most effective of the options we have tried. The other two brushes were found to be too stiff (Red) and on the other, the bristles seemed too close (Black). The driveway brush created less resistance than even the pool noodle-type garden kneeling pad foam, which was better than the wool or hard foam with this machine.

I suspect that if changed to finer needles, with the barbs located closer to the tip we would again see an improvement in fibre engagement.

If this company makes a new version I would suggest it would be nice to have the guard able to lock at a couple of spots so you could set the depth the needles would penetrate. Secondly add “Extra Fine” needles to their options, with barb placement close to the tip. (a shallow working depth but maybe not as shallow as the crown needles)

The machine itself felt comfortable in the hand, it felt safe and solid to work with. The adjustable speed worked well and we remembered not to get too excited and overwork the machine, so no more than 10 minutes on. We probably were working more in the 5-minute run times, then letting it rest as we set up the next bit of wool to work on.

Next, we will look at the “orange Fly” electric needle felting machine from Ukraine. We can then compare the two.

Ann and I would be interested to hear if you have tried the metal electric needle-felting machine from China. How did you find it?

This is the link to the Chinese Needle felting Machine. The price has fluctuated quite a bit due to the strength of the Canadian dollar.,scm-url:1007.40050.281175.0,pvid:c33f93e0-5aac-4884-bd34-54c5fe444a00,tpp_buckets:668%232846%238114%231999&pdp_ext_f=%7B%22sku_id%22%3A%2212000031240835199%22%2C%22sceneId%22%3A%2230050%22%7D&pdp_npi=3%40dis%21CAD%21206.27%21206.27%21%21%21%21%21%402101d1b516779458756708517ed103%2112000031240835199%21rec%21CA%211912286868

Felting Machines, from Ukraine and China

Felting Machines, from Ukraine and China

I was surprised at Christmas with a single needle hand-held felting machine from Ukraine.  (Glenn said he had been told by the seller on Etsy that there is a Russian rip-off, which had horrible reviews. It either seized or flings parts of itself off as you try to use it.) The Ukrainian one he gave me, seems to want to keep all its parts together.

1) Ukrainian made single needle felting machine. Speed control is on the power supply.1) Ukrainian-made single needle felting machine. Speed control is on the power supply.

2) Ann liked it and suspects it will work with sculptural projects.2) Ann liked it and suspects it will work with sculptural projects.

3) It came with a thank you card from the maker3) It came with a thank you card from the maker

  4-5) and instructions.4-5) and instructions.

 Glenn had seen me waffling about a 4-needle hand-held felting machine out of china. That one required the needles to have the crank end cut off. I was not too excited by the idea of cutting needles, so was waffling. I spent a long time chatting with different customer representatives asking lots of questions about needle gauges and shapes. They listed 3 unspecified sizes. I put on my teacher hat and went into education mode and explanations of needles (you may remember my meandering through the topic of needles in a previous blog.)  I passed all the info I had gleaned from them to Ann, who did order one which arrived in early January. She will, I am sure, tell you more about how she is finding it. We will also likely do a comparison of the two types we have acquired.  After seeing Ann’s I decided it looked like it will probably work well for Picture Felting.

Today a mysterious package arrived from China, well a few little parcels also arrived including the metal thimbles I was waiting for. It was covered in a layer of clear tape with layers of skid rap under that! (Skid wrap is like cling wrap but extra clingy!! It holds boxes or other things on a shipping skid.)

6) tape over skid wrapped cardboard box sitting on a clear box of tiny colourful elastics.6) tape over skid wrapped cardboard box sitting on a clear box of tiny colourful elastics.

7) protective waterproofing covering removed from small cardboard box7) protective waterproofing covering removed from a small cardboard box

I carefully extracted the box from the wrapping with the help of some scissors.  There were multiple layers of Skid wrap so the scissors were the best solution.

Now to get into the box without damaging the contents….

8) Bring on the Norway pewter Heilag Olav letter opener!! (small cardboard box balancing on small clear plastic box of tiny elastics balancing on a mettle box that use to hold quality street candy8) Bring on the Norway pewter Heilag Olav letter opener!! (small cardboard box balancing on a small clear plastic box of tiny elastics balancing on a mettle box that use to hold quality street candy

Hum what is this? Wow, this is well-wrapped!! There is something loose underneath it!

9) Surprise! A bubble wrapped object 3 small canisters and cloth rose.9) Surprise! A bubble-wrapped object, 3 small canisters and a cloth rose.

9) Surprise! A bubble wrapped object 3 small canisters and cloth rose. 9-10)  Surprise! OH MY!!! That was unexpected! A rose as well as 3 tubes of extra needles!9-10)  Surprise! OH MY!!! That was unexpected! A rose as well as 3 tubes of extra needles!

11) Opening the end of the bubble wrap bag I found More sealed plastic in the next layer!!! 11) Opening the end of the bubble wrap bag I found More sealed plastic in the next layer!!!

I am starting to wonder if they were expecting horrific weather in Canada or if there will actually be an end to the protective wrapping!! (it may be all packaging and nothing inside?)

 12) Aha!! A fancy white box with writing I cant read and a sticker with some sort of cool pattern on it.12) Aha!! A fancy white box with writing I can’t read and a sticker with some sort of cool pattern on it.

It may be one of those boxes other people’s phones can read. (I did mention my phone only claims to be smarty….but it is mostly out of power and is just a phone. It doesn’t even text. Which is good since it’s a phone so friends should just call me.)

 13) Gold text on the white box, any idea what it says? 13) Gold text on the white box, any idea what it says?

Removing the outer layer and lifting the lid I found helpful instructions, including some English!!

14) the instructions in multiple languages14) the instructions in multiple languages

Oh no more packing, this is very well-packed!

15) Now we are getting to the heart of the matter! lifting the thin foam layer I can see a silver solid mettle with plastic sliding needle guard and the nob for the speed control and anther bottle of needles all nestled securely in more packing foam.15) Now we are getting to the heart of the matter! lifting the thin foam layer I can see a silver solid mettle with a plastic sliding needle guard and the nob for the speed control and another bottle of needles all nestled securely in more packing foam.

16) Digging a bit further I found the power cords with speed control and a white plug adapter that I wound need on this side of the ocean.16) Digging a bit further I found the power cords with speed control and a white plug adapter that I would need on this side of the ocean.

17) all the parts extracted from the packing, plus the 3 viles of needles an the cloth rose.17) all the parts extracted from the packing, plus the 3 viles of needles and the cloth rose.

The needle canister with the machine has three sets of four needles, I did not ever get any of the otherwise very helpful company reps to tell me what gauges these are. It may be 32, 36 and 40 gauge but I’m not sure. I may investigate more Sunday.

18) Allen Key inserted to add the first needle. 18) Allen Key inserted to add the first needle.

Referring back to the instructions, yes it is best to actually read them and not just guess. I loosened the needle-holding screw with the Allen key provided. (I got extra screws and Allen keys since I don’t want tiny parts to go missing.)

Each of the four needles has a tiny screw that needs to be backed off to insert the cut needle and then tighten. You can run it with one needle or up to all four.

19-20) When the needle(s) have been added you can twist the guard and release it. showing guard retracted and extended.19-20) When the needle(s) have been added you can twist the guard and release it. showing the guard retracted and extended.

This is what it looks like with the guard extended.  It slides up and down like the Clover and fake clover tools do.

I have to get back to getting ready for tomorrow, which will be the Spin in, in Chesterville, a small town south of Ottawa. I hopefully will have photos for you of the fun and shopping, in an upcoming post.

there are a number of other hand-held felting machines (tools) have you tried either of these or one of the other ones? once I have given these a good test run we can evaluate the ergonomics and get a better idea of their effectiveness.

A new spindle

A new spindle

Both Jan and Bernadette have told you about our guild sale and exhibition. Now it’s my turn. I didn’t have my own booth this year so I got to wander around and fill in and help out wherever I was needed. It was really nice to not be assigned anywhere and just enjoy the show and chat with everyone after not seeing so many in person for a couple of years.

I am not a big spender at these things. I look for new fibres and add-ons and how people are combining things. Then I  go looking for the ingredients to make my own.

The one thing I do buy is spindles. I bought a new spindle from Judy Kavanaugh.  She makes all kinds of tools and patterns.  This one is a bedouin-style spindle.  It has 4 arms and is a top whorl spindle instead of a bottom whorl spindle I usually use.  The wood is beautiful.


Bedouin Spindle

People kept asking if it was a Turkish spindle but you can’t take the arms off this one and you don’t wrap your yarn around them. this is the other way up so you can see the wool cob on it. The angle makes it look small.

close up of the wool yarn on spindle

I am enjoying spinning on it. and that brings up to the other things I bought. I bought 2 batts from Bernadette. I like to buy them from Bernadette because she isn’t recarding wool tops. She is using wool she processed herself and it is really nice to spin.

blue wool batts for spinning. a bedouin spindle

The Darker blue is what I am spinning on my new spindle and it’s marked as mixed fibre. It’s soft and a little shiny.

The brighter blue I am spinning on another spindle.

bright blue wool batt and drop spindle close up of yarn of a drop spindle

The wool is much spongier and I have lost the label but I am betting it’s Coopworth. It’s very nice to spin too.

This post is a bit backward because I bought the wool first and the spindle second. The new spindle is more exciting to chat about so it got top billing. It really went like this. I started to spin the bright blue batt first. Then I decided that a blue spindle that Judy had for sale really was calling my name. When I went to get it, someone had already bought it. You snooze you lose. then standing there chatting with Judy I saw her spinning on a Bedouin spindle and gave it a try and decided it was just as well the other one was sold. I picked out the lovely one at the top. So then I abandoned this lovely fibre and started spinning on my new spindle with the other batt.

All in all, I think I was very restrained in my buying. There were so many pretty things I could have bought.

Here is a picture of me spinning at the show. And yes I really did chop my hair off. It was time for a change and it will grow again.

28 Ann took her new spindle for a spin!



A Question about Crown felting needles

A Question about Crown felting needles

A couple of days ago I was watching an online demo of Needle Felting Faces done by Marie from living felt out of Texas. She was using one of the new firmer wool felting mats (it looks similar to the ironing felt mats). She was using a 42Triangle (42T) needle. She said she chose this needle because she wanted to “have the fiber sit on top of the picture and not underneath”. I am not sure if she is using a triangle needle with 3 barbs per side (a 42T 333) or only 2 barbs per side (a 42T 222). A T42-333 would be more aggressive at moving fiber than a T42-222.

I asked in the chat; “Since you are focusing on adding the wool mainly to the surface have you tried a 40 or 42 Crown needle? A crown needle has the barbs very close to the tip of the needle so works with little (depth of) poking.” I did not get an answer from Marie but it started a side conversation about Crown needles with a European felter in the chat.

I was surprised that Crown needles were not well known. They have been available for a few years; at fiber festivals, online and if you are lucky at the local fiber arts stores.  I am sure most of you have bumped into them but may not have had the opportunity to try them out.

Let’s look at where they come from, the working parts of the needle, why would you want one and what is it good for?

Where the Crown needle comes from;

One of the manufacturers of felting needles is Groz-Beckert, who classifies crown and fork needles as “Structuring” needles.  A Structuring needle works on “structuring previously bonded nonwoven fabric” in a machine to produce a Velvety or grainy surface texture. They are designed originally to plunge through the felt pulling fibers to the opposite side as can be seen in this video.

As felters we tend to look at items not originally intended or designed for felting and turn them into felting tools. Bubble wrap, lids of Tupper wear jugs, pool noodles, garden kneeling pads and we look at the industrial felting needles and go “AH!! I could do this with them instead!”  In this case, instead of pushing fiber to the far side of the felt and through creating a surface texture, we can reduce the depth we work at and secure fibers close to the surface of your work.

Crown Needle diagram1) a close up of the end of a Crown needle.

Parts of a felting needle 2) Parts of a felting needle

How the needle works and the structure of the needle

Let’s review how a felting needle works. As the needle enters the fibers/felt, its barbs (notches in the needle which can vary in number and placement along the working part of the needle) grab some of the fiber and as it is inserted drags the fiber with it into the felt.  Since the barbs are one directional the fiber carried by the barb stays at the depth it was pushed as the needle is removed. This repeated entanglement creates felt. The felt can be a 2D picture, a 3D sculpture or industrially the needles can create the non-woven fabric used to line the trunk or cover the door panels of your car.

With the Crown needle, the bards are located very close to the tip of the needle and are arranged one per each working side (3 working sides in a triangular needle). This means the working depth is the distance from the tip to where the barbs engage and entangle fiber into the web (felt ground). So on my crown needles, it’s about 1/4th of an inch. There are different styles of tips and different lengths of barbs so there can be a bit of variation if you look at the industrial options. But overall, the distance from the first barb to the tip is very close compared to other types of needles.

Where did I find mine?

Ann and I were both curious a few years ago and I bought a box of the Crown 40-111 from Doer out of china. The price for the needles (500 in a box) was good but the shipping cost was a bit painful (but still cheaper than a flight to China and buying them there!). At present, there are listings for 40, 42,43, and 46 gauge Crown needles from Doer. Groz-Beckert’s PDF lists Crown needles in gauges from 25 to 46. Some of the Groz-Beckerts range would likely not be useful to us but is an impressive amount of options!  With both companies, the working part is triangular as you can see in the last picture from the group below.

box of 500 Crown needles3) box of 500 Crown needles

the designations for the 40gauge crown needles I purchased4) the designations for the 40gauge crown needles I purchased

needle are wrapped in bundles within the box5) needle are wrapped in bundles within the box

close up of one of the needles6) close up of one of the needles

For part of the surface decoration on the iris flower, I used crown needles individually and in groups of 2 or 3 held together with a small rubber hair elastic.

using crown needles to add detail to the Iris petals, note the shallow angle I was working at7) using crown needles to add detail to the Iris petals, note the shallow angle I was working at

Why would I want a crown needle and what do they do?

When you want to affect the surface of your felting, you can try the crown needles and/or you can change the angle that you are inserting the needles. A very shallow angle, (almost parallel with the felt surface) will keep the barbs from going through a thin petal or 2d picture.

With a crown needle, there is a reduced distance the needle needs to travel to engage the fiber and secure it into the web.  This reduction in range of movement may reduce some of the strain on the body during the movement of felting, especially if the movement is slower and involved a more careful insertion of the needle. That said you will further reduce your likelihood of muscle fatigue or injury if you also remember to take (Stretch) breaks or let your bladder help remind you to take breaks by drinking liquids like ice tea or water. It’s not a good idea to ignore your bladder when it asks you to stop felting!

Gauge vs fiber size

As the gauge of the needle gets bigger, say a 40 crown vs a 46 crown the fiber diameter/fineness that will be most effective with the needle will change. A 46 crown needle will work better with finer fibers. Conversely, a larger courser fiber may not engage or be grabbed effectively by the finer needles and barbs. Fine needles will also leave less surface distortion than a larger needle. Sometimes if you are getting large dents when using fine needles, it may be more a matter that you just need to keep felting until the entire surface is evenly compacted, all at the level of the original dents. That said a finer needle and/or a shallow angle of insertion will also reduce the dented texture on a surface.


Depending on the project, you will likely have a couple of favourite needles you keep picking up. It may even be the same needles you gravitate to over many projects. So why, if you don’t already have crown needles, mite you want to consider adding another needle type to your collection? Their ability to work at a shallow depth gives them an advantage over other needles whose first barb placement is farther away from the needle tip. Crown needles can be very useful in portraiture, very thin structures like petals or butterfly’s or adding detail to your wet felted vessels, hats or garments. Basically any time you don’t want fiber added to one side to show on the other. (This may also require a very shallow angle of insertion.)

A Crown needle may not be the needle you reach for the most in your needle felting but when you want to work superficially, it is an excellent option to consider adding to your choices of tools.


If you are still curious and want to know more about other needles that are available in the industry you may enjoy looking through this PDF from Groz-Beckert.


possibly for my next post; Mr. Mer has been digging through the fiber Bernadette brought in to a library day to see if I could find some acceptable (to Mr. Mer), Mer hair.

Felted Iris Flowers Part 2

Felted Iris Flowers Part 2

Last week we got the petals to the point they were firm and reasonably thin. As I promised let’s look at the new equipment I am about to use.

I ordered a felting pad for ironing. it is a little firmer than the white felting mat I was just trying out. I also ordered the clover craft iron II (with accessories). I spotted it on at a lower price than I had seen it in previous weeks so ordered it. Checking on the day it arrived it was up in price over 10.00, while today the price is back down to 2.00 more than I got it for! Prices are acting very strangely lately.

Let’s look at the Felt Ironing Mat first.

23 Wool ironing mat “14″x14″ Wool Pressing Mat for Quilting”

Yesterday I found out some felters are using these ironing pads as felting mats. Ironing mats, (about .5 inch thick) are thinner than the 1 to 1.2 inch felting mats. The ironing pad is a bit firmer than the white felting mat. It arrived folded, with instructions that include “do not fold”. If I use it as a chair pad I will likely flatten it quickly, but I tried it in its present state. It is about half an inch thick. I measured the white wool mat at about an inch thick. The grey wool mat was about an inch and a quarter. (See Photo below)

24 comparing thicknesses

25 (Ironing mat, White wool mat, Grey wool mat)

I did a brief test with the bad sheep picture. This would let me check the end feel of the needle entering the ironing pad, which is quite resistant but does work.

26 needle test of the ironing felt mat

I suspect using the ironing mat may increase the strain on the arm/wrist/finger muscles with prolonged enthusiastic (stabbing) use for felting. I do not like ironing except for before sewing projects, so I am unlikely to injure myself using this as an ironing pad. This thought may come back to haunt me……

The Clover mini iron II and accessories came with a lot of instructions and diagrams. i read them over when they arrived then put everything away in a nice little box.

27  Clover Mini Iron II

28  I found a plastic box at Dollerama to keep the Iron and its attachment options in.

The iron is usually used with appliqué by quilters. The various attachments will get into small corners and the ball attachment will accentuate dishing shapes. The Iron is designed to flatten and smooth the surface of the felt, more like the commercial hot press felts.  It may be interesting to try starches or misting with this too. (oh no a distracting thought escaped!)

There are other similar-looking devices which are used for Auto body repair and another for taking wrinkles out of leather goods (shoes, bags etc.). Check the temperature range on each type, you don’t want to scorch your felt.

One last thing to remember about the mini iron, from what I have read online, it is very important to keep the iron rest, (the plastic and wire thing that supports the iron tip), somewhere you will not lose it. I read many warnings that this part can mysterious disappearance and happens frequently.

Tiny Craft iron time!

Ok, now I am ready for the next step that I skipped with the prototype.

 29 I plugged in the iron and waited for the iron to heat up

After a couple of minutes, I tried it on the prototype. Hum it doesn’t seem to be hot yet. The wool is not warm? I wonder if it’s working? Did I get a broken one? Let me check…Ooops! OWW! No, it’s hot now.

30  I guess this means the Iron is not broken. Owwww.

I carefully ironed each petal, first the prototype then the new petals I had made. There was a bit of thinning visible. I will have to try pressing a bit harder but i didn’t want to scorch the wool. Next flower I will try to get a wire that is closer to the petal colour since the black and green floral wires are still slightly visible, at least in the photos.

31 Carefully ironing the petals

I took them in to show Ann on Library day. It was not as busy as we had hoped so Ann got her dry felting experiment done and I showed her skinny petals.

32-33 Ann inspects the thinness. She said she had not anticipated them to be so firm.

There was one more step I had skipped in the instructions for making a rose from Tjarda’s Workshop.  She had very carefully trimmed any fluffy, flyaway edgings on her petals. I recently purchased a few more variations on curved bladed scissors. I selected one with a short curve to the blade that seemed to fit the petal and started trimming. I think I was a bit more enthusiastic than Tjarda but did get all the fluff removed and smoothed the curves.

34 trimming the edge fluff

35 close up of scissor blade curvature

36 Here is a before (R) and after (L) petal.

After trimming, I tugged gently on the edge of the petal to give a bit of the frill. The tugging is along the length of the edge.

The next step will be adding the last details to the iris petals and then assembly! But that will be another time, I have a bit more library work to do. So, while I am off doing that I hope you are enjoying spring and getting a chance to have fun felting.

Update; we seem to have had a week of mid-summer weather (not so good for the spring flowers). This weekend we made a trip to the first biggish Fiber Festival which was only a 3-hour drive away in Peterborough Ont!  It was so good to be able to feel fibre in person! if you are interested I took a few pictures (121 actually) but promise I won’t inflict them all on you! I am sorry I did not get a picture of the beaver we saw sitting in the grass beside the highway (i was driving) I thought it was only a groundhog as we approached but saw the distinctive tail as we passed. What a fun Saturday! I hope you are enjoying your weekend too!

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