Oops! I did it again!
Purple Moose Felting's Guide to
“Why do my needles keep breaking??!!”
Felting needles, as a rule, are VERY fragile. If you are new to felting and are breaking needles right and left, rest assured - you will break fewer needles as you become more experienced. When I (Caryn) first learned, I went through about five needles in the first week. Now, I only break one or two every few months, usually when I’m tired and not paying attention to what I’m doing. While a certain amount of breakage is normal (and inevitable) here are a few tips that might help while you’re learning:
Tempting as it may be, never use your needle to pry or wrench your felted fabric in one direction or another. Felting needles are thin and very brittle – especially the fine gauge needles like the #40 and #42 type. Don’t use them to dig out a mis-poked bundle of fuzz or to force any fibers that are already firmly felted – because they will surely break. (A sturdy sewing needle or a pair of tweezers works great for times like these - always keep one or the other handy when felting so that you can use it to pry things instead of using your felting needle.)
Next - it’s totally fine to poke your work from different angles, BUT don’t change the angle of your needle WHILE it is inserted in your work. Attempting to change the angle mid-poke will almost certainly result in a broken needle. Always poke into, and out of, your project at the same angle – sort of like a sewing machine would do. This can be hard to monitor if you're poking really quickly, so if you're breaking lots of needles, slow down a bit and try to figure out exactly what you are doing each time a needle breaks so that you can use that information going forward to help prevent further problems.
Take your time – especially when felting around an armature. If you are poking hard and fast and hit something firm (like a wire armature) your needle is more likely to break than if you were poking lightly and slowly. When you go slowly, you are also more likely to feel that “resistence” of hitting something, and you can stop before forcing it further.
Also - I'm sure you already know this, but always felt on top of a piece of foam or a felting mat so that your needle has something soft to plunge into when it pokes through the backside of your work. If you work directly on a hard surface (such as a table), the tip of your felting needle is going to take a beating (and so is your table top!)
For me – breakage usually happens when I'm trying to force fibers that have been firmly felted. I get impatient with the shape of an eye or something and start getting aggressive, and then BAM - broken needle. I hate it when that happens, but it’s a great reminder not to keep doing it!
And one last tip: It’s a good idea to keep a few extra needles on hand so that you don’t have to halt production when you happen to snap one. It’s gonna happen sooner or later, so you might as well be prepared, right?!