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Question: What needle is that? (Part 1)

Question: What needle is that? (Part 1)

I had another question about needles. This time it’s about keeping track of your needles.  On a positive note, if you have this problem you have enough needles to get them confused, Congratulations!!  For those of you who only have a few needles and don’t have the problem of keeping track of them, I should give you the opportunity to expand your collection and be part of this discussion!


Where we get our needles:

If you are not buying from one of the various original manufacturers of industrial needles (Groz-Beckert and others) you are likely dealing with a reseller of smaller quantities of needles.  Let’s start by looking at the options for needle acquisition.


If you prefer to go to the source you will get the best price per needle but do you really need 500 to 1000 (minimum order) of the same needle? (The shipping cost for a box or two of needles can be quite painful too!) If you are teaching, and supplying your students their needles for class, as well as doing your own felting projects, then you may go through 500 needles over a not unreasonable length of time. If you are only buying for yourself, I hope you are not breaking needles in quantities that make the purchase of 500 needles a financially good idea. (If you decrease your rate of insertion (speed) and are attentive to entering and exiting the felt at the same angle, it will save you a lot of needles, and will likely require fewer bandages!) (Also, I have a blog post I’m working on about safety implements for those who are either over enthusiastic in their stabbing or are still practising/perfecting their eye-hand coordination. My hand-eye coordination occasionally still goes wrong too!)

Felting Needles set in needle bed (in industrial needle felting macheen)  1) Groz-Beckert – needle board

Original manufacturers sell their needles mainly to people buying multiple boxes of 1000 to fit in their large industrial machines, used to make non-woven fabric.  New needles are needed when the barbs become worn or a new type of product is required. (Different needle shapes and gauges make different types of non-woven fabric and can run the web through the machine at different speeds. Groz-Beckert has more than 2,000 needle options when you look at all the variables.) As you can see from the picture above these needles are not colour-coded since they have to fit into the needle bed extremely precisely.  They have all their identification information on the end of their shipping/storage box.

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   2-4) Doer Needle boxes and Open box showing 100 needles wrapped in wax paper

One advantage of buying from one of the manufacturers will be, that you will hopefully have the entire needle code. This will give you more information about the needle and make it easier to get replacements when you are running low. The needles in the boxes above are from the Doer company and are wrapped in wax paper in groups of 100 needles all stored in a secure plastic box.

There is, unfortunately for us, a new trend with some manufacturers offering “added security” to their industrial customers. Instead of the helpful needle designation, they are adding “customer codes”. This is to cut down on industrial spying and fit with customers’ warehouse codes, which reduces getting mixed needles in the bed. Yes even in industry they can grab the wrong box of needles! “If needle types are mixed up and placed in a needle board, this can have a major impact on the end product. In a worst-case scenario, this can lead to instant needle breakage due to the needles being overloaded. The result is machine downtime, additional set-up time for equipping the needle boards, and scrap material, leading to increased costs.” Unfortunately, their solution may lead to less information for our resellers.

Buying from the manufacturer Pros: Cons:
Price; per unit cost is cheaper than resellers’ prices Price; minimum number of needles is usually 500 to 1000 of one needle size and style per box.  Also, a box and shipping can be quite pricy.
Information on needle specifications is usually on the storage box. For added security, ageist industrial spying some companies are dropping the standard “15x18x40x3 R222 G…” for “individualization” of package labels with no needle designations.
Companies not selling over-runs (from industrial orders) can sell you exactly the specifications you want, (overall length, working part shape,  gauge, barb type and spacing, and point type). Not all the manufacturers are interested in selling in “smaller quantities”, most have a 1 box minimum of each needle type purchased.
Keeping an eye on advances in the industry via the company’s websites, technical information or newsletters can keep you up-to-date with advances such as new coatings to prolong the working life of barbs or increases in the run speed of the machines. These innovations might be helpful to us if the needles have better flexibility while in use. Not everyone is excited about modification in barbs or reading technical papers.


a selection of needles offered by various resellers. showing that there is no comom colour sekeem to indicate the type of needle 5) Sample of some of the resellers, note that the colour systems are different for each re-seller.

 Many of the resellers of needles will colour code the crank of the needle to match their colour key of gauges and shapes. “Harrah, problem solved we can all have chocolate now to celebrate!”….. Not so fast, they are not all using the same colour key!!! So if you have more than one reseller you are dealing with, you need to know if this gold one is from Seller A or if the gold needle is from Seller B (or C or D or E….)? Unless you have only one source, you again can confuse what needle you are about to use.

Where can we find resellers?

Look for needles at Local stores, Fiber festivals and online at Amazon, Etsy, out of China and Mr. Google can help too.  Try to support local stores so we can keep having local stores, if you can’t find what you’re looking for then check farther afield.

Most of the resellers are felters and understand the needles they are selling. They can tell you about the uses of different gauges and the differences between different shapes of the working part.  Some can even explain the basic concepts of how the spacing and type of barb can change the enthusiasm of fibre moved by that needle.

Pros Cons
Re-Sellers Are usually colour-coded There is no consistency to the colours used between most vendors.
Most have a selection of the available gauges and working  part shapes May not have the number of barbs or the shape or gauge you wanted.
You can usually buy single or small quantities The cost is more per needle than buying a box of 500 or 1000
Cheap “Bulk Needles” sold in lots of 25, 50 or 100 Mostly don’t list gauge, actual length or number of barbs(“S, M, L”)
May not know the exact specification of the needle, other than the gauge so hard to get exactly the same needle.
A Gift Fabulous Free Needle(s)! My not come with gauge (S.M.& L)

Might forget the gauge in the excitement of new needles

Now we have had a brief overview of where we get needles (and have given everyone a chance to get too many to keep track of), we can return to our question, Which needle is this?


The Needle:

parts of a felting needle labled.(6) parts of a felting needle

Let’s consider the needle. By now, we are reasonably familiar with the parts of a needle. There is a wide variation in needles used in the industry, with over 2 thousand options from GB alone.  The most obvious difference is overall length. The most common Needles (Triangles) come in needle lengths: 2.5”, 3”, 3.5”, 4”, 4.5”, 5” (most needles we see are either 3” or 3.5”, occasionally a 2.5” turns up.) so that may not be too helpful for us. If you have the option to have different lengths for different gauges that may be helpful but most of us already have lots of needles and almost all of them are the same length.

Let’s look at the shape of the working part, where the barbs are located.  We can group our needles by shape reasonably easily. (Triangular, twisted/spiral, Star ether quod or tri, crown and the less common to uncommon; Conical needle, Teardrop, Vario barb and fork.) Unfortunately, the way we use them is by gauge, working from larger diameter-courser gauges to smaller-finer gauges, which is much trickier to guess by eye. While a 32g is drastically different when compared to a 42g, sorting a bunch of 40g’s from the 42g’s or 38g’s is much more challenging.

Let’s do a quick review of gauges (you can skip to the end if you have this memorized!)

  • Courser needles (32g and some people also list 36g)
    • for courser fibre,
    • move fibre more quickly,
    • good for building the under-layers of sculptures and used for adding appendages/parts.
  • Medium Needles (36g to 38g)
    • For medium fibre,
    • Not as aggressive fibre movement as the course needles,
    • Good for under layers of colour for a picture or more fine-tuning the shapes of a sculpture
  • Fine needles (40 to 42g)
    • For fine fibres
    • For the final layer or finishing work in both sculpture and pictures
    • Moves less fiber but creates less resistance and leaves less dent entering the felt
  • Extremely fine (46g)
    • For fine fibres
    • For the final layer or finishing work in both sculpture and pictures
    • Moves the least fibre, but creates the least resistance and leaves less dent entering the felt

Other needles that may be in your collection;

  • Reverse (36 to 42g) barbs pull fibre as the needle is extracted. Good for blending and for pulling up under-layer colours to create a nap on the surface.
  • Crown needles are easy to pick out with only one barb per side very close to the tip. They are excellent for shallow surface work or working on something very thin (pestle or wing membranes).

You may notice some resellers are less knowledgeable about what they are selling than others. I have found sellers, mostly on Amazon and from China, that describe their needles as “small, medium and large” which describes the length of the needle rather than the gauge. The ones I have seen with this listing have all been Triangle-shaped. Unless you are looking for an unidentified gauge it’s likely better to look at the ones that give you more information.

Part 2 will continue  on September 12 with  Keeping track of your Needle Gauges

Have a fabulous last long weekend of the summer, and the fall fibre festivals are just around the corner!! (except for those of you who are just about to come out of winter and begin  spring!!)

Dose the twisted needle twist as it goes into the wool?

Dose the twisted needle twist as it goes into the wool?

Recently I was asked more questions about needles. (I do love finding out about needles, how they are used in industry and how we use them by hand. I hope you still have a bit of curiosity about them too, after all my enthusiastic chatting!) To answer the second question, I still want to get my hands on a forked needle (how can I be fair in my investigation if I don’t actually get my hands on one?) A quick review, In industry there are two types of structuring needles. Structuring needles are not technically felting needles (since they don’t make the felt) but are used to create surface texture on non-woven material.  One is the Forked needle, and the other is a crown needle (which we have chatted about before. If you don’t remember that chat you will find it here;    Since I have not had success locally finding a fork needle, let’s turn to the other question about needles. It involved one of the Needles found in the group of needles which do make the industrial Felt.

Does the twisted (also called a spiral) needle twist as it goes into the wool?

Ok, this is a question about mechanics, and how the needle works.  So let’s review the parts of a triangle needle and compare that to the twisted / spiral needle.

diagram of parts of a regular felting needle and a spiral felting needle1)Parts of a regular felting needle and parts of a spiral needle

We can see that all the usual parts are present with a spiral / twisted needle. The difference is in the working part. you can see both clearly have a triangular cross section in the working part but the spiral/twisted needle has that triangular shape rotating in the cross section through the working part.

diagram of a twisted needle close up2) Twisted Needle showing close up of working part

Let’s have a quick review of what shapes are most common in the cross section of the felting needles most often used by hand needle felters. Our most common shape is the triangle, but the 3 and 4-sided stars are also quite available. While some are not as common, there is a spiral or twisted versions of each of the three main shapes.

Common Cross sections of working parts of main felting needles3) Common cross-sectional shapes of felting needles

Let’s go back and look specifically at the spiral or twisted shaped needle. If you look at the cross-section of the spiral at various spots, you can see that it is a triangle rotating around a central point.

4) Cross sections of a twisted needle across section of the working part   5) Looking from the tip up the needle through the segments shows how the tip of the triangle changes position up the length of the working section. (i have updated diagram 5 to more clearly show the location of each edge.)

As you know with all needles, the barb is located on the edge of the needle. With most needles, the barbs are located vertically, one above the other, along each edge. There will be one, two or three barbs per side depending on the specifications for that needle.

The exceptions, for vertically stacked barbs, at present are; the Crown needle (which only has one barb per edge), the fork needle (that has no barbs and a cylindrical shaft) and the spiral needle (whose barbs follow the curve of the needle’s edge).  The last exception to the vertical barb rule, is more of a technicality; the conical needles has barb aligned vertically but because of the taper in the working part, it will engage fibre laterally (we can chat about that further in another note. If you are curious?)

So as the spiral/twisted needle is inserted into our felt how is it engaging the fibre it catches in its barbs?  it is grabbing segmentally as each barb enters the web of fibre. It will create more of a circular Spiral of engagement rather than the three barb points a regular triangle needle will engage.

Here are two ways to visualize how the needle’s barbs are grabbing the fibres as they enter the web. As you know the barb will engage (grab) the fibres it encounters which will be at or close to the surface of the felt web of fibres. For clarity of the diagram, I have had the barbs that are deeper in the web engaging with fibre closer to the barb. If I had more correctly illustrated the crossing fibres, which the barbs are affecting, all the fibres would be at or near the surface layer(and the diagram would be a confusing-looking mess!)

diagram of how barbs on sides 1 to 3 interact with fibers as the needle is inserted6) How each barb distorts the web in a different position as the needle is inserted

I am hopeful you can see the spiral engagement of one edge, then the next, then the third. I have added colours (Red, Purple and black) to the edges to try to make it easier to see how the spiralling of the triangle shape interacts with the order of the barbs as they encounter the fibres.

Here is another way of looking at the order of engagement of the barbs around the centre of the needle.

Diagram the order of barb engagement as the needle is inserted into the felt7) The order of barb engagement


A few more particulars about Spiral Twisted needle

If you read the technical details on the Groz-Breckert site, (one of the needle manufacturers, this one headquartered in Germany) you can find that Spiral/twisted needles are available in:

  • gauges from 38G to 42G
  • Length of 3 or 2.5 inches
  • Usually has 2 barbs per side, but only one barb style is common
    • has a modified barb arrangement (spiral location around the needle)
    • the needle placement gives higher fibre engagement
    • the needle is a bit stronger from barb placement (in the felting machine, both the “machine direction” (8%) and to a lesser degree “cross direction”(4%).)  It may be a bit less prone to breakage with small vector changes if used by hand!  it would still be better to try to go out at the same angle that you inserted the needle.
    • it is listed as having more chance of splitting fibres when using microfibers (we should be ok we tend to take our frustrations out on natural fibres such as wool, silk, alpaca, dog or cat hair)
  • Fiber transport is listed as “Substantially Higher” for a twisted needle, rather than a regular (triangular) needle (of the same gauge and barb shape).
    • It can move about 10% more fibre than a standard felting needle with the same barb dimensions. (It is More Aggressive when compared to the same gauge and barb style of a standard needle)
  • Uses industrially are; Automotive sector (visible areas such as trunk lining and other non-woven surfaces) and Filtration fabrics.

Doer Needles from China sample of 38G Spiral needle8) Doer Industries (China) 38G-222 Triangular Spiral (they also have 40G-222 with the same barb spacing.)

Hand Needle Felting Uses;

  • Good fibre movement(more than a Triangle needle of the same gauge and barb type)
  • Good for compacting fibre or generalized initial sculpting. You may find it a bit aggressive for fine detail at larger gauges. Try a finer gauge if you find it more aggressive than you desire.
  • Used on a sharp angle (surface work), good for catching loose fibres that need embedding
  • Good with short fibres will grab and embed them quickly
  • If you require a 42G needle but don’t have the patents that such a fine gauge requires, a 42G Spiral needle may be for you. (it’s a little bit faster!)

Watch for;

  • May not be as effective when multiple needles of this type are used close together (held together with an elastic or some holders with close spacing) you may find with medium to longer fibres you are trying to engage the same fibre with adjacent needles

Let’s consider the question, “So, Dose the twisted needle twist as it goes into the wool?” What do you think so far?

I know you will remember that the needle itself is descending in a straight line, it is not moving other than in one vector (up and down in this depiction). There is no rotational component of insertion necessary. The movement of the needle descending into the fibre is creating the spiral engagement (grabbing) of the fibres. So technically, the needle is not turning in a spiral but the engagement of the fiber is interacting in a spiral. Each barb has not rotated but descending in a straight line. The fibre cot by the barb is also descending in a straight line, but as each barb above it engages fibre it will be grabbing a bit that is offset from the barb below it. This gives an illusion of spiralling while engaging a more even amount of fibre surrounding the needle than a regular triangular needle would (with barbs stacked vertically in 3 spots). So the answer would be “the needle no but the fibre looks like it is from the surface but is actually not.” Well, now you are likely disappointed after such a long explanation. But there is one more thing to consider.

That being said, it is possible to turn a needle as you insert it into the felt. Rotating the needle can be used to grab flyaway fibre, or catch something that is loose on the surface. It involves rolling the needle between the thumb and first finger. This is not a good long-term technique since it is engaging little muscles that get tired more quickly than larger muscles and can be strained easily when compared to larger muscle groups. Instead of spinning a triangle needle trying to grab fibre, you may find that a Spiral/Twisted needle is a bit easier to engage loose fibre.

I hope this gives you an overview of the spiral or twisted needles. Their a bit more aggressive than an equivalent triangular needle,  so they may be helpful for finer gauge work if you are not patent. I hope, if you get the opportunity, you will try them for 2D or 3D felting.

PS; the needles will work without having to know all the details of how they work, but knowing may give you creative ideas and inspire you to use them to solve challenges while you’re felting. Even better, I did not add any exam questions at the end!!!


Craft Basket Makeovers – part 1

Craft Basket Makeovers – part 1

A good few years ago now, after I had acquired and learned how to use my spinning wheel, I was casting around for some means of storing the associated equipment in a reasonably respectable way.  The wheel and associated bits lived with us in our living room and needed to be tidy.

Quite by chance I came across a shop selling off cheaply a large deep cane laundry (I think) basket.  It was only going cheap because one of the handles was broken and it had no lid.  The much reduced price compensated for something which was no problem as far as I was concerned.

I used to work in Maidstone (Kent) and nearby there was a lovely shop called C&H Fabrics (sadly no more) which sold both dressmaking and curtain fabrics and haberdashery.  I could never bypass their remnant section – they almost always had something good and large enough to be really useful.  I managed to purchase several large pieces of curtain fabric of a design which was really “with it” at the time (most rarely  for me, I am usually following several years behind fashion fads).  This was during the time when Macramé made it’s first appearance and I was very “into” this.  So I removed the remaining cane handle and instead added two twisted cord macramé handles.

laundry basket without lid, with macramé handles, filled with spinning equipment


Then I set to and lined the whole of the basket using the curtain material, making sure that there were pockets around the sides of sufficient size to take threading hook, spare bobbins; flyer; carders; ball winder and my Neatsfoot oil – my wheel had a leather connection between the treadle and the footman – the bits that actually drive the wheel, and the neatsfoot oil is a good natural conditioner for leather and ok for oiling the metal parts.  The rest of the associated bits – fleece, box of carded rolags, tea towel used as a lap cover, cord for tying skeins and niddy noddy would just sit in the middle.

Now I needed a lid for the basket to keep the dust out (our bungalow was very dusty because part of it was still a building site).  So I cut two circles of the fabric and a circle of wadding.  I attached the wadding to the wrong side of one of the circles, by machine quilting around the pattern/motifs printed on the fabric. On the other circle, which would be the underside of the lid, I added a zipped pocket.  I then finished the lid by stitching the circles right sides together with another length of macraméd cord attached to one side.  Then, after turning the circles the right side out, and hand stitching the turning gap, I attached the other end of the cord to the basket. The lid sat on top of the basket with everything safely inside; well except for the niddy noddy which was too tall and had to stick out of the side, so it made do with a length of cord to attach it to the basket.  My brother in law had made the niddy noddy for me, having already made one for my sister.  It is purposely on the large side because each circle of a skein wound on it would be 1 yard long.  This made it easy to calculate the skein’s length.

Lined spinning basket with lid folded open to shop equipment in pockets
Finished basket open

Finished basket with closed lid to show quilting, with niddy noddy poking out of top.
Finished basket, closed.

The fitted out basket sat comfortably by my chair and spinning wheel while I was working at home, but was a bit big to take with me when I went to my spinning group each week. Luckily my sister, having visited the Willows and Wetland Centre on the Somerset Levels, gave me a large basket which she had bought there.  The Levels is a large flat low lying area where Withy Willows have been commercially grown for basket making for at least the last 200 years.  In fact willow baskets and other items have been made there since pre-Roman times.  If you are interested there is more information on the area here: Somerset Levels (As an aside, Glastonbury Abbey, also referred to in the link, used to own much of Sturminster Newton where I now live, despite Shaftesbury Abbey being much nearer to us and owning most of the rest of the surrounding land.)

But I digress.  The basket which my sister gave me was intended as a picnic basket.  It was short and wide and it’s carrying handles positioned so that it was carried flat.

picnic basket on lawn with handles up
See how the handles work to carry the basket flat?

It was just what I needed to carry tops (roving?) and spinning equipment when I was away from home.  Of course it needed to be fitted out with pockets to keep everything tidy and safe.  I had sufficient fabric left of the remnants used for the large basket to make them match.  I lined the base of the basket adding pockets at one end for flyer and bobbin, lap cover and oil.  I didn’t want to spoil the look by using the plastic box for my rolags and by then I had learned basket making courtesy of the WI.  So I made a basket to fit, lined it and made a lid with more of the fabric.  The lid of this little basket was quilted in the same way as the lid of the large basket, and also attached with macramé cords made from fine crochet cotton, with a wooden toggle closure.

small handmade cane basket with fabric lid attached by macramé cord with macramé and wooden bead closure
Rolag basket in the sun

By this time I was also “into” Tunisian Crochet. I had been making ordinary crochet items for as long as I could remember but fell for this new (to me) technique. So in addition to storage for threading hook, personal bits, glasses etc., I needed storage for at least one Tunisian crochet hook – this looks like a knitting needle, but instead of a point it has a hook. I also needed somewhere safe to put large sheets of paper patterns, as I tend to use diagram type patterns and they take up a lot of room. So I set-to to line the lid of the basket with just one layer of the fabric, but with pockets, short & fat and long & thin attached. I sewed this onto the inside of the lid but left one of the shorter ends unattached so that I could tuck paperwork etc., inside.

Open lined picnic basket showing lid lined and with pockets, and with rolag basket and other equipment in the basket.
All my equipment (almost) in the basket.

Incidentally, the sharp eyed amongst you may have noticed that odd bit of hooked wire tucked away in the longer tube/pocket and be wondering what it is.  It’s a do-it-yourself lazy kate – a device for assisting with plying yarns from one, two or more separate bobbins.  An old shoe box (or a basket) and this bit of wire are all you need, poke the wire through one end of the box, slot the bobbin(s) on and poke the wire through the other end of the box.  It’s not the best way to do it, but if you put some tension on the yarn by passing it from the bobbin around the wire once before taking it to the wheel for plying, it works.

Oh and a quick boast – can you see the handle of the threading hook poking out of one of the lid pockets?  The handle was actually a light pull which I had made while having a go at wood turning some years earlier, and the hook is only an unbent paperclip – but it works ok too.

So that was my basket set up and ready for journeys.  Oh yes, the niddy noddy.  That was too big again, so it had to sit on top.

Closed picnic basket with niddy noddy on top attached by cords but with handles down.
Basket with niddy noddy (but the handles are down so I’ll have to remove the niddy noddy, put the handles up and replace it because the right handle won’t go over the end of the niddy noddy – then I can pick up the basket.)

Eventually the cane hinges of the lid, and the cane closure wore out so they were replaced with macramé cords.

Some time before I moved from Kent to Dorset in 1999, I wrote an article about these baskets and submitted it, with photographs, to the Journal for Weavers Spinners & Dyers as I thought it might be of interest to them.  Apparently not though; I eventually received a letter returning the photos (but not the article, so I’ve had to rewrite it!) and saying “… the Editorial Committee … felt that the article was rather too indirectly concerned with weaving, spinning and dyeing ….”   Oh well!

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.

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