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Taking a Stab at...Gauges

When it occurred to me to needle felt, I did what any new hobbyist does…I bought stuff! I had no idea what to look for, but I figured I could find something at Michael’s…so off I went. And I saw, right there in the yarn and embroidery aisle…the stuff: roving and needles and prefelt and foam. Also kits, but I’m not a kit person.

I bought four needles that had pink silicone covers on the top, a pack of multi-colored roving…a sheet of prefelt and a square of foam. I discovered the amazing crunching sound and the satisfying feel of the threads of wool being knit together by the barbed needle. Stabbed myself for the first time (crop top!). In the years since, I’ve purchased pounds of wool in every color of the rainbow and many, many needles.

Felting needles, I’ve learned, have different styles and gauges. They come in triangle or star tips or with barbs arranged in a spiral down

the shaft. To tell you the truth, I can’t tell one from another. I don’t focus too much on the style of needle, but I do think a lot about the gauge of the needle.

The gauge refers to the “chonkiness” of the needle. The lowest, most chonky gauge is 36…The daintiest little gauge is 42. Each size has its place. If I have a wad of core wool with fibers all over the place and I want to make a pumpkin, I’m using the chonkiest one I can get. If I’m adding eye color to a portrait of a cat, then a fine point needle is the one I pick.

Getting the gauge right makes the difference between having a delightful, stress reducing session of needle felting and a frustrating, painful, “I want to punch something” session. Go too chonky and your needle bounces back at you. It practically fights you. Go too dainty and you won’t get anything felted. Like slipping a straw into a glass of iced tea.

Over time I’ve learned what the right gauge feels like. I have to pay attention and not be too attached to one needle, even if it’s a favorite with a pink silicone top. I have to be willing to test a few needles and be willing to swap one out if it doesn’t serve me. Sometimes I don’t feel like I have a lot of control over things…fate can be cruel…but when things get wild and woolly, I can control how I respond. I can control the gauge.

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