Copyright © Needle Felted Art by Cherie' Davidson. All rights reserved.
Handmade, hand sculpted
Needle Felt collectibles
Handmade - handcrafted - from the heart
I was wondering what it is about needle felting that I enjoy so much, and I realized that it's a combination of the elegant simplicity of beautiful, tactile wool fibers and using only a needle to create my visions. I also think there is something therapeutic about stabbing and poking to create a type of living result. Then, there's that element of danger…will I stab myself with a very sharp, multi-barbed needle today? Will I draw blood or narrowly avoid injury? Ok, that part isn't too fun, but it adds to my investment into the piece and focuses my concentration, which in turn expands my ability to concentrate and apply myself, and that is never a bad thing! So the entire art, or craft, or passion, of needle felting suits me, and is very satisfying. I simply love everything about it.
But, what IS needle felting, exactly? Well... basically defined, it's the action of taking wool fibers and, using only a very sharp barbed needle, compressing and tangling the wool fibers into a felted shape. And one of the things about needle felting I find so interesting is, that it's only been around since the 1980s!
Felting wool is an ancient technique, although it was done through a wet felting process where a lot of water and rubbing/friction was used to compact the fiber into a fabric or item. Needle felting, however, was traditionally a machine process where thousands of super sharp, multi-barbed needles are driven into dry wool fiber until it tangled and compacted the fibers together into a flat, highly usable fabric.
Well, in the 1980s, an enterprising woman in Denmark wondered if she could use just one of those machine needles and work it by hand to make three-dimensional items, like jewelry (beads), brooches, etc. And she tried it, and as the story goes, it turned out better than she had imagined!
An early pioneer (possibly the first person) to use the felting needle to make 3D dolls, Birgitte Krag Hansen, developed sculptural needle felting techniques as we know them today. She created art pieces, dolls and animal sculptures, and she is still working her needle magic today, with a lovely gallery of sculptures. Since Birgitte's first techniques, needle felting has evolved into two basic paths: armature-based figures, where a core of wool is wrapped around the wire, and then the piece finished with needle sculpting, and the sculptural needle felting I learned from my mentor, Kay Petal (whose mentor was Birgitte), where it is all wool, begun with core shapes felted together, then details layered and felted over the core.
Needle felting was virtually unknown for many years, but in the past decade or so that's changed, and it's becoming quite a popular hobby for those who love textile arts. And speaking of art, needle felting today is considered a true art form. It employs many similar perspectives, knowledge and skills as sculpting in any medium, but it only requires a felting needle and wool fiber (which is one of the great appeals to me personally!).
One of the coolest things about needle felting is that, once you learn a very few basic things, you can make it completely your own. Many artistic felters have adapted their own styles and methods, making this art very personal and genuine. It seems natural to start with the standard method that best suits the look you like, and then manipulate the pieces and create your own methods and style. That's part of the fun of it! I have many techniques now that are uniquely my own, and it continually evolves for me. It's very exciting to create whatever comes to my mind! From life-like animal figures, to cartoon and fantasy creatures, look-alike art dolls of people, to zany, adorable caricatures, I can't get enough of sculptural needle felting, and I don't see that ever changing!