Does it frustrate you that your wool figurines don't look the way you want them to? The best advice to beginner needle felters will help!

My best advice to beginner needle felters come from lots of experimenting. Having looked at some amazing wool sculptures as a novice needle felter, I wanted the same beautiful smooth finish with barely any visible needle marks and also hoped for easy moldability.

However, the wool in the first kit I bought was Merino wool tops which made my attempts unsuccessful. I thought I didn't have it in me to understand how this wool poking craft should work. 

Luckily, some time later, my curiosity to find out how other needle felters could reach those amazing results got reignited. After extensive online research I found some long-time experts who made it clear that the culprit was the wool.

The best advice to beginner needle felters

After I did my own experimenting, I can say with 100% certainty that  the best advice to beginner needle felters I can give is to start with medium carded wool.

In case you're wondering what is wrong with Merino wool, the short answer is nothing. It's beautiful, smooth and you can get it in various amazing colours. I guess these are the main reasons why most kits include Merino wool. But exactly because of these qualities, for 3D needle felting it is not the best choice. It can be used for some details or mixed together with other wool but not on its own if you are just starting out.

I want to help you avoid the same frustration and discouragement I went through. That's why in this post I would like to arm you with the basic knowledge of how to choose your first batch of wool if you are a beginner.

Why should you start with medium carded wool?

Reason #1: Fibre "size" matters

Let's discuss quickly what 'medium' means first. Not all wool has the same softness. This is measured with the microns. The lower the micron count, the finer and softer the wool is to the touch. There are 3 big categories: fine - under 27 micron, medium - under 33 micron, and coarse - over 38 micron. 

Fine wool, like Merino for example, is more difficult to needle felt into 3D shapes. Also, making those needle marks disappear can be a real pain - so it's definitely not beginner-friendly. Medium and coarse wool is a much better choice. Not only is it easier to shape, but also faster and much less slippery.

The video below shows you how wool tops of different microns look like.

Click to play

Why choose medium fibre softness

The reason I suggest medium fibre softness is that - based on my experience - it's optimal for creating both simple and more intricate details.

Reason #2: The difference between wool tops and carded wool

All kinds of wool can be either combed or carded. These two words only refer to two different ways the wool is processed.

Wool tops are combed which means that all fibres are parallel to each other. You can buy tops, aka rovings, in long lengths.

In contrast, carded wool have fibres brushed in many different directions and they look loftier. It is sold as batts which look like fluffy sheets, or as slivers which look like a big ball of rope. In both cases the fibre length is much shorter.

The video below shows you how carded wool looks like both as bats and slivers.

Click to play

Why choose carded wool

Look at the video to see how different wool tops and carded wool look.

Click to play

Carded wool needle felts faster and, in my opinion, can give you more possibility to get the shape and smoothness you want. Plus, since the fibres are going all kinds of direction you won't see lines in your finished piece

I admit that I don't like to see the lines of fibres if the project does not require it. However, in all earnest, if you have no problem with seeing lines, medium wool tops can also give you good results. You only need to learn how to handle them.

Which breed to choose

Now that you know which type of wool to choose as a beginner needle felter and why, let's see your options. According to the National Sheep Association, there are more than 90 different breeds and crosses of sheep in the UK! And that's just one country! That could be quite confusing and overwhelming, I know. 

So to make it easier for you and keep it simple, I'll tell you my favourites. With these two you can felt firm and smooth sculptures. It's important to note that all needle felters have their own wool preference, so feel free to experiment when you have nailed the basics.

Perfect (almost) all purpose carded wool #1: Corriedale

Corriedale bundle - carded natural white and coloured wool

The Corriedale sheep is a Merino-Lincoln cross breed and produces medium wool - 25-30 microns. Needle felters love it.

I use natural white Corriedale batts as the base of my sculptures, then I use dyed carded wool as a top layer. I also found that this is a great wool for practice. The one I buy is from New Zealand and mulesing free. It means that the animals don't get mutilated in order to prevent fly strikes. 

Please, make sure that the shop you buy from only sells mulesing free wool. Sheep don't need to suffer while they are being shorn.

Perfect (almost) all purpose carded wool #2: Shetland

Shetland bundle - carded natural white and natural colour wool tops

The Shetland sheep also produces soft medium wool - usually 29-31 microns. It is just as amazing for needle felting as carded Corriedale. I use carded Shetland batts from the Shetland Islands and absolutely love them. The sheep have 11 beautiful natural colour combinations. However most often you can buy natural white, moorit (brown), grey and black Shetland wool in batts.

If you are looking for coloured carded wool, then it's easier to find them in slivers rather than batts.

If you live in the UK, then here are my two favourite shops I get my wool goodies: and

What to put in your woolly shopping bag

Make sure you follow my best advice to beginner needle felters and choose medium carded batts or slivers from mulesing free farming. Accompany it with some 38 gauge triangle or star needles to begin with.

If you want to experiment, you can reach a better smoothness if you finish it up with a 40 twisted star needle. You can get these needles of superb quality from Claire's shop - one I mentioned above.

I hope I could help you with this advice and you'll enjoy needle felting even more. I would really like to hear about your experiences. Let me know how you liked my recommendation in the comments below!

If you can't wait to get started, try making pumpkins first! Learn how to poke a lump of wool to turn it into a pumpkin. Click on the photo below!

Happy felting!

Needle felted pumpkin tutorial post image
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