Felting needles come in a variety of shapes and sizes. They are used primarily in industrial machines that hold thousands of needles in large flat plates to create non-woven fabrics. But fiber artists use them for 2- and 3-D work, either singly or in a hand held apparatus that may hold several needles. I prefer to use only one needle when I am sculpting figures.
All felting needles have a basic shape. They have a long shank with a narrow shaft that has a very sharp tip. picture of felting needle The shaft may be triangular, star shaped or conical. The thin shaft is barbed. A barb is an indentation, and it is this feature that catches the wool and enables you to felt. The number of barbs, the location, and the depth varies between needles. The smaller barb depth will push less wool and vice versa. Let’s look at these features and how they affect needle felting.
A thin shaft of 38 or 40 gauge, that is either star shaped or triangular will leave the least visible hole in the finished piece. On most needles fiber artists are using today, the barbs start 3/8” (9.5mm) from the tip. I suggest using a needle with a barb starting only 3.2mm from the tip. This needle does not have to penetrate very deeply to work effectively. This is especially good for fine details such as making fingers, toes, and eyes and lips on figurative sculptures, or adding finishing details to two dimensional work. Very little surface deformation occurs as the needle does not have to go deep to push wool.
(32) notches start 3/8 inch from tip
(36) notches start 1/8 inch from tip
(38) notches start 1/8 inch from tip
Extra Fine Triangular
(40) notches start 1/8 inch from tip
Ultra Fine Triangular
(42) notches start 1/8 inch from tip
samplers are packaged with 6 of the commonly used sizes: Coarse (32), Medium (36) Triangular, Fine (38) Triangular, Fine (38) Star, Extra Fine (40) Triangular, Ultra-fine (42) Triangular. The sampler pack is useful for the person who wants to try different needle sizes.