Needle Felting Tools and Fibers plus Needling Techniques.

Is it alien to you? Thinking about learning to needle felt but feel a bit overwhelmed as to what supplies you need to get started or how best to begin? Don’t be scared, this blog and video tutorial will help.
Find information about different felting needles, what fibers to use, other tools and even needling techniques with a few helpful links where to find supplies.

If you don’t want to purchase a bunch of supplies before you know for sure you will enjoy this process, purchasing a kit that has everything you will need to get started is a very economical way to begin.

Purchase Felting Kits, click here.

Needles
*The larger the gauge (diameter) of the needle the thinner it is and the smaller the barbs will be on the needle. The more barbs there are on a needle the quicker and more aggressively it will felt, but it will also leave a more visible punch hole and may not be as accurate for tiny detail work.
Star – 4 sided needle aggressive felter, has more sides = more barbs.
Spiral – very aggressive felter but not good for use with a mettle armature as it seems much more delicate due to the spiral, even with the smaller gauge, it tends to break easily. But still my favorite needle to use. It has a smooth feel to it when your using it.
Triangle – 3 sided, sturdy needle, less sides also = less barbs. a 42 gauge triangle needle might work best for detail work as it has fewer barbs. Good for eye detail.
Reverse – will pull fiber out (barbs are pointed in opposite direction). Use once you have securely felted  your project to add a hairy or furry effect to your project.
There is also a crown needle and forked needle. I have not used either. They seem to be favorites of doll makers for putting hair on the dolls.

Purchase Needles here

Storing needles in a pepper shaker with a bit of raw fiber in the bottom, keeps your needles handy, organized and bonus, the lanolin (natural oils) in the wool will keep your needles from rusting!

Felting Surfaces
Felting Pad – There are loads of options here. Many felting stores sell nice compressed felting pads, click here. You can also purchase chair cushion material at a fabric store and use an electric knife to cut it in to the desired size. This cushion usually is not as dense however and will quickly fail by leaving large divots or breaking off/sheading into your project. However it does work in a pinch.
Rice Bag – Sew several layers of burlap together in a rectangle leaving room for a funnel at one corner. Fill bag with rice using the funnel. Stich up corner. Can replace top of bag with a new piece of burlap for each project and use quilting clips to secure to your pad. May be able to find a drawstring burlap bag to use instead of sewing one, but would work best if had several put together, because one layer really isn’t enough.
Felting Chunky – A felted square or rectangle that is so densely felted that it no longer allows things to felt to it, but will let the needles glide through it.
(Hope to have these available soon). Easy travel felting pad.

Types of Fiber
Alpaca – I am biased, but clearly the best fiber in the world! Alpaca works fine for needle felting, however it tends to be a little Hairier (soft hairy not course hairy).  Not great for making dense items or sculpting as it is too fine. Best used for small surfaces (like detailed fiber painting, where you are using small bits for each color needed), click here for sample. Or for making the pelts on felted animals. Suri fiber is also great for doll hair or horse or lion manes.
Corriedale Sliver– Best fiber I have found for needle felting, It felts quickly and is great for making dense, thick sculpture pieces. Easy to manipulate and comes in loads of colors, click here.
Core Fiber – Usually a courser, shorter staple sheep wool. Great for core sculpting.
Combed Top –  Usually Merino Sheep, better for wet felting.  Stable is too long and leaves punch marks and has a stringy, unfinished look to it when needle felted. However, it can be used with great effect for making long hair on something. Like the tuft of hair on a cats cheek.
Decorative bits – Can also add, Mohair curls, Firestar, Angelina, Bamboo or other silky cellulose fibers for effect, sparkle and texture to your needle felting projects.

Needling Techniques & Tips
~Always keep your eyes on your project when needling
~Always poke or stab straight down. Do not poke then bend the needle in an angle
Deep Needling – Stab straight down with a good punch to change shape and density of felt.
Surface Needling – A  more gentle poke just through the very top layer is good for adding colors with out changing shape.
Deep Line Needling – Stabbing down the same path or in the same place will cause a crevice or depression that can be used to create depth or definition. Can gently use needle to guide the fiber in place before poking.
Flat Felting – Lay suitable layers of fibers across felting surface and needle the whole thing. Carefully pick the fiber up, and flip to needle other side. Continue to do this until your fiber becomes smooth and dense and does not stick to the sponge as much.
Creating a nice edge on flat felt – Create a nice line in your felt by needling in the same line over and over again.  Fold the smaller edge over the line and needle into place.  If you want to create a “fat lip edge”  needle just behind the fold and continue to roll and fold and needle behind fold until you get the thickness you want.
Felted Ball or Log –  You can tie a few knots in roving to start a dense ball, Fold fiber over the knots and needle, always turning to hit all sides as you needle. To create a log you can tightly roll with hands to form a log or start by wrapping fiber around a dowel, toothpick or skewer.  Adding fiber until you get to your desired thickness.  Remove dowel and needle and roll on pad, hitting all sides until smooth. Roll in hand to really smooth it out.
Thin Felted String for details –  Pull a tiny sliver of fiber and roll it across a sponge, or wet your fingers and roll on a flat surface until it turns into a tight string.  Good for small eye details.
Fiber Boogers – Wet fingers with sponge and roll a tiny amount of fiber between your fingers.  Great for small details like eye sparkle.   

Other handy extra tools to have available
wet sponge – to moisten hands when rolling a fier string or fiber booger.
Dowels, toothpicks or skewers – to help make tube shapes
Scissors – To trim bits that are too long and get rid of fuzzies when finished
Ruler – To measure fiber when having to repeat same step over and over.

Needle felting classes available at Lasso the Moon Alpaca Farm

Click here for more information on other fun classes and events at Lasso the Moon Alpaca Farm/ Lardworks Glass & Fiber Studio.

Needle Felting a Festive Pumpkin Tutorial

This is a great starting point for someone that has not needle felted before, but wants to start with something a little more creative and challenging then felting a flat piece of felt using a cookie cutter as a guide. The video also covers some handy felting techniques that can be applied to more intricate work.

To purchase the Needle Felting Pumpkin Kits, please click here.

Another good video to watch if you just started your needle felting adventures is our Free “Needle Felting Tools & Fibers” Video Tutorial , click here.

We also have a Needle Felting a Pumpkin Face Kit available that comes with a “How To” video. This kit includes everything you need to make 2 – 5 pumpkins depending on the size you make. Learn to make all kinds of expressions from giddy & glad to grumpy, grouchy, prickly or surprised.

To view the Needle Felting a Pumpkin Face Kit Tutorial however, you will first need to purchase the Pumpkin Face kit. To purchase the kit, click here.
The kit will come with a link to the tutorial where you login in with the code you are given at the time of purchase.

If you have any questions about making your pumpkins from our kits, please feel free to contact us.

Click here for more information on other fun classes and events at Lasso the Moon Alpaca Farm/ Lardworks Glass & Fiber Studio.

Avid Gardeners need to be Best Friends with an Alpaca Farmer!

Alpacas are more then adorable to a gardener. There are two other reasons an avid gardener should make quick friends with someone who raises alpacas.

  1. Alpaca bean fertilizer
  2. Fiber thirds/waist from shearing to be used as mulch

Talking Dirty
Alpaca beans are very low in organic matter, allowing the gardener to use them without having to compost completely. Alpacas are very efficient at extracting nutrients from their feed, which helps keep the organic matter lower on the output. Hundreds of species of bacteria and protozoa can inhabit the digestive system of ruminants and camelids. Also the amount of time the food stays in the camelids three compartment stomach helps them to extract more from the feed then other ruminants do.

Lower organic matter means less composting or ‘heat’ is needed to release the nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium quickly into soil. Some would say that alpaca dung has the highest N-P-K of any fertilizer. All I know is the stuff works great as evidenced by my lush gardens.

How to use alpaca beans
What is the best way to use alpaca beans to fertilize your garden? There are several good options depending on your access to alpacas. If you do not own alpacas you should hurry up and meet someone who does. I will share links and ideas about connecting with an alpaca farm latter in this blog. Some companies and alpaca farms sell dried alpaca fertilizer which has very low odor and is easy to use.

I call it Poop Soup, but most refer to it as ‘compost tea’. If you let the beans or dried fertilizer soak in a bucket or tub of water, you can then ladle or pour the liquid on your soil around your plants. If you dilute the soup even more by adding it 1 to 1 to water you can spray it directly on leaves.

POOP SOUP IS THE BOMB
your plants will explode with flowers and produce!

The live organizims in the fresh tea/soup can help fight some leaf fungus or spotting. If I use it in a spray bottle, I put cheese cloth over my old red enameled ladle, secure it with a rubber band and pour it into a large spray bottle using a funnel. A little gross, but easy enough. Be sure to use your poop soup within a few days of making it and store it out of direct sunlight if you wish to take advantage of the live organisms in the poop soup.

Where can I get alpaca poop if I don’t own any alpacas? These days of course you can order anything online. Here is a short list of a few folks I found that sell powdered or /shreaded alpaca fertilizer online.
GreenBudz – Alpacas of Montana
The Archers at The Larches Homes and Garden Store.

You can also try your local farmers market. Many alpaca farms have booths where you can purchase different alpaca products, including fertilizer. If you have access to an alpaca farm in your area they may let you collect some manure for free, or a small fee as long as you are doing the ‘collecting’. We personally host many open houses or you can call for an appointment where you can purchase a bag of dried beans in our farm store or collect the wet stuff for a small donation (bring your own bucket). For information on making an appointment or attending an open house at Lasso the Moon Alpaca Farm, click here.

I made alpaca poop soup and all my plants died!
It’s true, this happened to me about 6 years ago…read on

GRAZON BEWARE
Let me tell you the story of how my garden was put to a slow death one year. There is a herbicide product called Grazon that some farmers will use to clear hay fields of broad leaf weeds. It is said to pass through the animal without harming the animal, but….and a big but it is….it will stay in their poop and in your compost/soil for up to five years, killing everything in your garden…except grass. ALWAYS KNOW YOUR HAY SOURCE WELL and ask them if they use Grazon if you intend to use alpaca fertilizer in your garden!

ALPACA FIBER MULCH!

Oh my gosh, you would waist gorgeous alpaca fiber by throwing it on the ground in the garden? Well, not all alpaca fiber is created equal. Some is just too dirty (with hay matter or other vegetation) to mill and some is just too course or short due to extreme age, illness or poor quality genetics. A fleece is divided into threes. The ‘Firsts’ or Prime fleece is used for fine products that are usually meant to be worn. The ‘Seconds’, like the mid hip and neck can be used for items like socks, the ‘Thirds’ usually end up in the bin…if we are perfectly honest about it, and sometimes the seconds end up there too.

The fiber that is skirted off the prime, or waist fiber such as arm pit hair, makes great mulch. If you don’t use your seconds or thirds for anything else this is a great way to use them too.
Two Ways to Use the Fiber
1.) Use as a mulch for the walkways in-between your garden beds. I have been doing this for years. I simply toss my waist fiber down then spread a thick layer of pine mulch on top.
2.) Start an ‘instant’ bed using alpaca fiber as the weed barrier.

Another nice thing about using the fiber as mulch is that it helps maintain moisture levels. It absorbs the excess moisture when it rains heavily and holds it for latter. Eventually the fiber will compost. I usually redo my trails every few years.

Make an Instant ‘raised bed’.
Ok, maybe my beds aren’t raised in the technical sense since they are not contained by wood panels, but they work just the same.

1.) weed whack where you want your raised bed.
2.) Spread a thick layer of alpaca over the garden bed space.
3.) Spread a 6 inch thick layer of good organic raised bed potting mix over the alpaca mulch, completely covering it.
4.) plant your seedlings or seeds, keep seedlings moist until they sprout.
DONE!

This is my newest bed. Pumpkins and Sunflowers. Literally took me less then three hours to complete. Including my little “keep the damn ducks out” fencing. It went from just a mess of tall weeds to a pumpkin patch in less then a day.

How do I cozy up to an alpaca farmer, I love to garden and need to meet one or become one!
Check with your regional alpaca organizations, you will find a list of them at the AOA website (Alpaca Owners Association), click here. Research the internet for alpaca farms in your area. Not everyone that owns alpacas is going to be members of their local or national alpaca organization, although it would be nice if they did.
Attend an alpaca show (list of shows here), check out your local county fair and farmers market, or reach out to your local 4 – H or FAA program. If you are toying with the idea of purchasing an alpaca (must have two, three is even better). Please do some research first, by visiting farms and attending shows. They are easy keepers, but they have special needs that any responsible animal lover should understand before making an alpaca purchase. Another good route to try…follow the fiber. Where there are knitters, spinners, felters and weavers (Fiber Guilds and Art Guilds) there are usually alpaca owners. Good luck and Happy Gardening!

Bee Like a Dandelion

I am so excited that dandelions are finally becoming vogue. They have so much to offer… still they are humble, yet resolute. Bee like a Dandelion!

Dandelions are the first thing on the menu for early spring pollinators, especially bees, but also hover flies, beetles and some butterfly species. Sparrows and goldfinches enjoy the seeds. They also provide humans with a food source. We are so busy trying to dig those deep rooted buggers out of our grass and gardens, most never notice the value they have.

Why are they called Dandelions? (Taraxacum officinale), are named after the French dent de lion, meaning lion’s tooth, which refers to the shape of the dandelion’s leaves. Due to it’s effectiveness as a diuretic, dandelions are also referred to as ‘wet-the-beds and ‘pissy-beds’.

The leaves of the dandelion can be eaten in a salad, suated or even made into a soup. It is best to pick the young leaves as the older ones tend to be pretty bitter. Following are some links to interesting recipes I plan to try. At the time of writing this, our dandelions where just barely getting started and I couldn’t find enough leaves to collect without potentially harming the plants. I wanted to leave what little I have coming up for the pollinators for now.
Dandelion Soup
Dandelion Tart
Dandelion Pesto
Sauteed Dandelion Salad with a kic
The flowers can also be made into wine and jellies.

Leave, Leave, Pick.…It is always a good rule of thumb when you are foraging to pick the third plant you find. Leaving the first two for the forest friends. This helps ensure you will be able to find some next year. Also be sure what you pick has not been sprayed with any pesticides or chemicals.

Are Dandelions nutritious? Yes, they are loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, sterols, flavonoids, carotenoids, and sesquiterpenes. Dandelions have been used by herbalists as remedies for illnesses including liver problems, gastrointestinal distress, fluid retention, and skin ailments to name a few.
other benefits click here for a full list.

Dandelions are in flower from late March through late fall, and at their peak in May. They produce seeds asexually without the need for pollination. Who, as a child, hasn’t picked up a dandelion puff ball, blew and made a wish? I still do. If you never have, try it. If you don’t like dandelions and don’t like your neighbor, you will probably want to blow the seeds a drift in their yard. Hey, maybe they like dandelion tea and you are doing them a favor.

Another popular use for dandelions, is to make a tea using the flower buds. Simply steep them in boiling water. It is supposedly good for calming a stomach ache. You can also make a dandelion coffee using the dried, ground and roasted roots.

Dandelions make a wonderful ingredient for soap making. I love to make infused oils that can be used in soaping and dandelions are great for this. Just fill a mason jar half full with dandelion buds and fill with your favorite oil. (olive oil, almond oil, avacodo oil, etc). A pretty simple dandelion soap recipe comes from one of my favorite blogers, The Nerdy Farm Wife.

Her soaping book, Simple and Natural Soapmaking is a must for first time soapers. Wonderful recipes and loads of pictures.

Another great way to use dandelions medicinaly is by making a salve. Salves are easy to make and you dont have to worry about messing with Lye, which is very caustic, like you do in soap making.

I will have dandelion soap and salve available in our shop soon, well sort of soon. It takes 4 to 6 weeks to cure a soap. I cant wait for the dandelions to flourish and bloom on our farm, so I can make more of these wonderful things mentioned above and take advantage of all this ‘weed’ has to offer.

Click here for more information on other fun classes and events at Lasso the Moon Alpaca Farm/ Lardworks Glass & Fiber Studio.

Alpacas started this journey

My husband and I have raised alpacas together since 2000. Through the years we have learned so much, not only about alpacas but also about ourselves. Our interests have developed and changed but one thing has always remained…our love for alpacas.

As is with most folks it was love at first site. The more we learned about them, the more we knew we wanted them in our lives. Now they are so much a part of daily lives, I just couldn’t imagine not having them. From hosting farm tours and fiber art classes to creating one of kind art creations using the fiber…it is all because of them.

“You are the Master of your fate and the captain of your soul” – Henley

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