You may recall when I took the needle-felting class back in January 2016, the teacher introduced me to the idea of using felted wool pads to work on, instead of the usual foam rubber option. The wool pads don’t break down like the foam ones, and they are better for the environment.
One of the first things I did after returning home was make my own felted pad for working on. You can see my adventures with creating it in my blog post “Playing with Sharp Objects Again”. I also knew that I would eventually be teaching needle-felting classes, so I started making small felting pads that I could loan my students during classes.
I had someone ask me the other day if I would be making the pads to sell to other crafters. I won’t say a definitive “no” to that, but currently it isn’t at the top of my list. I would always rather teach folks how to make their own.
I had made 5 or 6 of the smaller pads during my last big needle-felting spree. I had attempted a number of different methods for creating my pads and wasn’t really pleased with any of them. During my needle-felting hiatus, while crochet took the front seat in my attention, my subconscious must have been chewing over the problems I had encountered.
When I decided to make more felting pads I realized I could use the “framing” method for at least getting my basic shape started for each pad. The question then was, what to use for the frame? In my house there are always lots of recyclables waiting to go to the recycling center in town. I dug thru what was in there and found an empty box that was just the right size.
I cut the sides that I wasn’t going to use and folded them over the sides I was keeping, then strapped the whole thing in place with clear packing tape.
The final box was a bit floppy and wanted to turn into more of a rhombus shape than a rectangle. How would I keep it from deforming when I was working on the pad?
My solution was to use some of my T-pins that I use for blocking. I squared up the box on top of my working pad, then used 2 pins along each side to hold it in place.
I didn’t place the pins at an angle to the sides, instead I slid them straight down the side of the box into the pad. Once the box was sitting securely on the pad I was ready to add fiber.
For this pad I decided to work on keeping the corners as squared as possible. To do this my plan was to fill the corners first to increase the density.
I placed 2 strips of fiber along the long edges and needled them a bit with the single needle to secure them.
Next I filled in the space between, tucking some of the fiber under the edges of the 2 pieces already in the frame. I used the single needle to tack this all down more.
Then I filled the whole frame to overflowing with additional fiber, concentrating it around the edges and corners. Time to do more needling to felt down this fluffy fiber especially around the sides and corners.
Next I used the 6 needle tool, that my friend Pam gave me, to felt the fiber further. The great thing about a multiple needle tool is for every strike with the tool it’s like making the same strike with the single tool 6 times. This speeds up the felting process a lot and is a bit easier on your body.
At this point the pad was felted enough that I was ready to flip it over and work from the other side. It is important to keep flipping the pad as you work on it, otherwise it can become firmly felted to the working surface.
I slipped my fingers along the side of a long edge and gently peeled up the pad of fiber from the working surface. Then I flipped it over and re-inserted it in the frame with the bottom on the top.
The fiber that is facing upward now is still pretty loose, I used a combination of single needle and multi-needle tools to felt it down.
These are the corners and edges after some single needle work.
Next I added more loose fiber to the edges and corners.
More work with the single needle to secure this new fiber.
Then I felted it further with the multi-needle tool. The pad is formed enough now that I’m ready for the next stage.
The next stage of making the pad starts with removing it from the frame. You can see in the photo that there was a little hole in my fiber in the lower right-hand corner. I solved that by needling a loose ball of fiber into that spot to fill it in.
Next I wanted to shape up the sides and corners of the developing pad. I used my single needle to felt them. I use a diagonal strike when working the edges, that way I’m not working straight toward my hand holding the project. When the fiber is still relatively loose the needle can come thru deeper than expected and you’ll stab yourself. I’m speaking from the voice of experience unfortunately.
For the pad to be useful it needs to be at least 1 inch thick and dense enough that it takes some force to penetrate the full depth. To that purpose I continued to add more fiber to increase the pad height and density.
I would switch off between the single needle and the multi-needle tools to compress the fibers of wool.
Once I felt like the edges were dense enough I switched my focus to increasing the density of the center of the pad. This is the section that will get the most action when the pads are in use. Fortunately, with a felted pad it is simple to add more fiber to areas that are getting too worn.
I added loose fiber laid in the same direction and overlapping the edges. I did some rough shaping and tacking of the fiber with the single needle.
Next I concentrated on using my multi-needle tools for compressing the fiber. I used my Clover 5 needle tool (finer needles with more barbs) as well as the 6 needle aluminum tool.
Once the fiber on the flat surface was felted down fairly well, I gently and firmly folded the loose ends around the sides of the pad and secured them on the opposite flat surface.
This is the pad after that step. I needled some more along the sides and on the flat surface to finish incorporating the rest of the loose fibers.
This is the flat surface view at this stage of work. It is getting firmer, but I still have a ways to go.
You can see looking at the edge that the felt is still fairly porous. To complete the pad I continued adding loose fiber on the flat surfaces and wrapping the loose fiber around the edges. I worked both vertically and horizontally with how I lay the fiber down. I also added fiber to both sides as I went along.
This is the finished pad, I will likely continue to work on it with the multi-needle tools to firm and smooth the surfaces. My pad in this post took 3.2 ounces of wool fiber and is 5 1/2 inches x 5 inches x 1 1/4 inch in dimensions.
If you are making your own felting pad and want one side of your pad to have some color, making it easier to see natural colored projects, you can felt in some yarn ends or colored fleece. To see an example of how I did that on my pads check out my blog post: “Deconstructed Yarn Painting”.