There are many needle holders on the market. My choice is the needle holders by CTR. They manufacture three sizes. They make sizes in #3, #6, and #10. Shown here are the #3 and #6.
As you have guessed, #3 means it holds 3 needles, #6 holds 6 needles, etc. You will notice one holder has 2 needles. There are times when it is good to have 2 needles side by side. You could also have the #3 holder with 1 needle in it.
The holders are aluminum so they do have a bit of weight, which in my opinion helps when needling. They are anodized (so the aluminum doesn’t turn your hand black) and are ergonomically designed (so your hand doesn’t tire while felting).
The reason I have as many needle holders as I do is the fact that I don’t want to have to stop and change the number of needles I have in a holder. If they are all loaded with the number of needles I want, I can spend my time felting. The holders are a “one time investment” and well worth it. If you bend or break a needle, the holder unscrews for replacement – very simple.
Needles come in an assortment of sizes and shapes. When you first start working on your piece, you will generally use a 36T or 38T. The number denotes diameter and the T stands for triangular.
The bottom portion of the needle is where the barbs are. Each side has a barb facing down and one facing up. There are six barbs plus the tip on each needle. The needles are very sharp, so be careful!
Frank calls the #6 my weapon of choice – I figure the more needles the faster the felting, but I also felt large things. You may only need the #3 holder.
If you are an aggressive felter you will find your piece will have pock marks. Use a lighter touch. Remember, the only part of the needle doing the work is where the barbs are. Also, the larger the diameter the needle has, the larger the hole. For finishing you can use a #40T, 42T, or 40S. Being smaller in diameter, these needles will “erase” the holes left by the 36 or 38. The “S” stands for Star which is four sided (more barbs than the T) that are concave.
As you work with the needles you will develop your own touch with them. One of the key things to remember is to always be aware of where your fingers are and not have the needles in the same space at the same time. Having said this, I still stab myself every now and then.
Whether you are using one needle or six, have the needles come out of the roving in the same direction they went in. You can go straight up and down (or at any angle) – don’t go in with one direction and out another, you will bend or break your needles.
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