Before you start poking:
For small pieces, rub the wool in between your hands like dough to create a ball. This will tangle the fibers a bit and give you a head start on felting. See it here at 0:27.
For medium and larger pieces, it may be easier to keep the wool in a smooth sheet so that you don’t have to worry about smoothing out bumps later on.
If you are not sure how much wool you need, start with a smaller piece and then wrap additional wool around it to make it bigger.
You can fill larger needle felted pieces with a ball of acrylic stuffing or polyfill to save on wool. First felt the acrylic stuffing into a solid mass and then cover it up completely with a layer of wool. Another technique is to wrap sewing thread around the polyfill and then cover it up with felting wool. This is a good technique to use for large, round pieces.
Remember that needles are somewhat delicate and can break easily. Keep backup needles on hand when you are working on a project, just in case your needle breaks.
When working with a kit, before starting a new project, set aside a little bit of wool in each color. You can use the extra wool to correct any imperfections or make small modifications, improving the overall look of your finished project.
When creating a specific flat shape, like a heart, triangle, or circle, try using a stencil or cookie cutter to help mold and shape your piece. Stuff the stencil full of wool, place it flat on your mat, and begin poking. Turn your stencil (containing your wool) over and poke on the other side. Keep poking and flipping your piece over until it is relatively firm and has taken on the shape of your stencil. Then work to firm up the edges and fine tune your piece. See it here and here.
To avoid poking yourself, always hold the wool in a manner so that you can see your fingers and poke carefully and slowly at first.
Needle felting the main object:
In the beginning, the wool will be soft and fluffy. After 5-10 minutes of poking, your wool will start to take shape and take on the density of a cotton ball. The more you poke the wool, the more crosslinks will form, and the smaller and more dense your wool will become. This takes time; be patient. See the progression here beginning at 0:37, and in the first 1-3 minutes of just about all my needle felting videos.
Use a needle felting pen to speed up the felting process. Check out my video on the efficiency of needle felting pens vs. a single needle here at 0:26.
Always pull the needle out in the same direction you stuck it in to avoid breaking the needle. Poke straight up and down – don’t tilt the needle while it’s inside the wool.
When creating a round, uniform ball, poke all around your piece evenly. Don’t just poke in the same spot unless you are trying to mold your wool into a specific shape. See my video on creating a round ball here.
Don’t force your needle into the wool; it could break. When your needle felted object becomes dense and difficult to penetrate with the needle, work slowly to avoid breaking your needle.
When attaching small pieces, leave some loose fluffy felt on the end of the smaller piece in the spot where you plan to connect it to the larger piece. Make an indentation in the larger piece in the spot where the smaller piece will go using your needle, or cut a small incision in the larger piece using scissors and stuff the tip of your smaller piece inside. Then use your needle to secure the two pieces together. See it here at 3:22.
To attach black plastic eyes, mark out the spot where you want to place the eyes using your needle. Then create holes using scissors or an awl. Put a little bit of glue on the end of the eyes and stick them in the holes.
When the object gets firm and difficult to poke, it is nearly done.
If your needle breaks and disappears inside your needle felted piece, gently squeeze your piece to expose the broken needle. However when squeezing, be careful not to place your fingers in the spot where the pointy end of the needle disappeared. Use tweezers to gently but firmly pull out the broken needle. Alternatively, you can try using scissors to cut your needle felted object in the spot where the needle disappeared, and try to find it. Once the needle has been removed, use loose pieces of wool to felt your object back together. See how to remove a broken needle here at 1:36 and here at 2:07.
Details and finishing touches:
When you felt a different colored piece of wool on top of an already-felted object, don’t felt the new wool down too hard, because you might change the shape of the underlying object or lose the newly felted piece of wool in the larger one. Use your needle to gently poke the fibers of the wool into the main object just so it stays in position.
If you end up with unwanted dents or gaps in your final project, take a little bit of the same colored wool, roll it into a little ball, and gently felt it into the gap with your needle. Felt until it blends into the final piece, eliminating the gap.
If you are not happy with the finishing details of your piece, don’t be afraid to pick off the top pieces of wool with your needle (See it here at 1:55 and 2:42). Then add some extra felting wool to fill in any gaps in the main body of your object, and redo the details.
When creating small facial details, a common mistake is to use too much wool. For eyes, noses, and mouths, often times all you need is a tiny, tiny wisp of wool. Remember that it’s easier to add more definition afterwards than to remove the piece entirely and redo it.
Add a face on to any object to make it “kawaii” or cute! Rosy cheeks add another level of cuteness! See a detailed tutorial on adding facial details here.
Try using embroidery thread and a needle to sew on a mouth or whiskers. This technique can be cleaner and more precise than felting on a thin strip of wool.
To make your piece more child-friendly, you use wool for eyes instead of the black plastic eyes that come in kits or can be purchased separately. Do not use melamine foam in your projects, which can be very dangerous if swallowed.
When finishing your piece, gently poke the surface to tuck in loose fibers. Then use scissors to trim any loose fibers and smooth out the object.