Understanding needle gauges can often be quite complicated... 'Is there a technical meaning?' people ask, but often recommending needles will depend not only on their technical details and your fibre choice, but also on the project you have in mind.
So let's start with the technical... traditionally the bigger the number, the finer the needle. So for example from the needles stocked in my Craft Shop, gauge 19 is the thickest, followed by 36, 38 and then finally 40 being the finest. There is also a very fine 'flexi' needle to consider, if you are a doll maker.
'What needle do I use for what fibre?'... Technically I would recommend;
19 gauge is for heavy/thick wool/fibres and felting heavy felt fabrics together. These are great to start off larger projects with, especially sculptures.
36 gauge is for mid thickness wool/fibres to a fine fibre (merino, shetland, norwegian, welsh etc...) and are a great all round needle to have in your needle felt kit.
38 gauge is for mid thickness wool/fibres to a fine fibres also (merino 64s, merino 56s, Blue Faced leicester, etc...).
40 gauge is for fine wool/fibres (soft merino, merino/silk blends, silks, plant fibres, angora, etc...).
Flexi needles are fine and great for applying small features or hair, especially for fabric dolls requiring small amounts of felt fibre.
However, you must consider your project. For example;
Small scale needle projects - I would recommend a 36 to start and use 40 to make your finer 'feature' details.
Big scale needle projects, including full felt dolls - I would recommend a 19 to start the inner construction, where you may choose to start with washed fleece and then a mixture of 36, 38 and 40 to proceed through the outer decorative, wrapping layers and sculpt the defining 'feature' details.
Wet and dry projects - I usually recommend a 36 needle, as these are less brittle in comparison to the finer ones so punching through the tougher wet layers shouldn't be too much problem. However, you may wish to try a 38 or 40 to finish.
Fabric and felt dolls - If your doll is mostly fabric and you wish to needle felt only hair and smaller features then I recommend a size 40 or a 'flexi' needle which are much finer still.
All of the felting needles you will buy have barbs on the usable length. These are to catch the wool fibres as you work and push them down into the felt you are creating. There are however, different blade shapes that will effect your needle choice for example there are two needle shapes in my current colletion; firstly is triangular and secondly is star. These shapes refer to the formation and number of the needle's blade edges.
The triangular blade is the most commonly used in needle felting and is good for all projects. This needle blade type is the one you are most likely to have as a standard in your collection. Why not check the needles you have? If you look at the end point on, you will be able to see if it is triangular or star shape.
Star blades are generally good for a faster finish (an extra blade edge with barbs makes it quicker). In my collection you will find I stock my;
19 gauge is triangular.
36 gauge is triangular.
38 gauge is a star shape.
40 gauge is triangular.
My reason for stocking my 38 gauge as a star blade, is purely because there really isn't that much difference in size between a 38 and 40 (my finest needle).
Essentially think start thick and end fine... that should help you and remember the thicker the needle you use the larger the hole it will leave, so go fine to finish if you don't want to see the punch marks!
Do please bear in mind though, that all of this is my opinion, you may find in practise that you prefer to use a different mixture of needles for different projects... this is not unusal, feltmakers always attack new projects in different ways. The most important thing is that you feel comfortable with your choices.
Still not sure which to choose? Why not try my mixed pack of needles?
I hope this helps… Here's where to find related product... Sara's Texture Crafts.
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