The specialized needles we use have triangular shaped shanks, usually, anyway. On the three sides of the shanks barbs are placed which can be felt or seen, but are very small. There are many different styles, most of which can be used for any part of any project, but I have found that some are by far better suited for one type of use than others.
The most common have all three corners of the triangle sporting at least two barbs on each of the sides. This I would refer to as 3x2 (three sides with barbs, and two barbs on each side used). Placement of the barbs has something to do with the way the needle "pokes" in the fibers. For example, on one of the 3x2's that I have, the barbs start closer to the tip than another type. This I call the 3x2 Close which I have painted blue. I also have a 3x2 with barbs set further back from the tip. This one I painted green and seems better suited for finer fibers. The two described above are both 36 gauge needles and I have one 40 gauge 3x2 besides those. This I painted red.
Other needles have eight barbs on a single side, which I think of as 1x8. I like using this needle for making lines and use it often when making faces or wrinkles or folds in clothing. It is also very useful for detail work like fingers and toes, not to mention fingernails and toenails. Shortly after I got my first needles, I used the 1x8 for nearly everything from roughing in on through the project to the finishing touches. But, after a while, I found the 3x2 Close more useful for the rough work and, if I am not doing a lot of detail work, will use it even for finishing.
I have two "Star" needles which is loosely described as a square with the sides caved in. Barbs are then placed on the corners of the square. Some have two barbs close to the tip on all sides. These are terrific for applying small pieces to areas. Eyelids and eyelashes are excellent examples of where this needle is great. I'm also starting to develop other uses for this needle, but simply need more time to play with its characteristics. This one I left brown. The other Star needle I have is painted white and has it's barbs placed similarly to the 3x2's. It is a 38 gauge and it is quickly becoming one of my favorite needles.
There are many other variations and each will feel just a little bit different to the hand felter, but the ones mentioned here are just the ones that I use. Others I have not had access to, or just do not see much of advantage to them. Since I have had no experience with them, do not feel confident in critiquing them.
Once the needle has poked someone, there is a risk of a variety of medical problems from residual blood on the needle infecting someone else. It is best to keep a needle to oneself, and not share, as with any other needle. You may also want to consider updating your tetanus shot since you are working with animal fibers and a sharp instrument. Here I would like to mention that all my needles are brand new. I buy in bulk directly from the factory that makes the needles, so they are not used in any machinery previous to my buying them.
Buying back up needles may also be appropriate, as they are fairly brittle and can break if treated roughly. When tapping it is important to remember to exit your project in the same direction your needle has entered it. This reduces breakage considerably. If you ever have any questions I can answer, please do not hesitate to ask. I will get back to you as soon as I can.
FELTING NEEDLE PRICE LIST:
All needles are the same price
1-10 Needles... $1.00 each
11-25 Needles... $ .85 each
26-50 Needles... $ .70 each
51- 100 Needles... $.50 each
500 + Needles... Let's Talk
Please add shipping and a small handling charge plus 5.5% sales tax for Wisconsin residents. See descriptions of the needles on this page.
These are microscopic actual photographs of 1x8 (below) and 3x2 Close (Left) felting needles. These pictures are enlarged several times and we are still only showing a small part of the entire needles.