When you needle felt you will need something to put under your work while you are felting to protect it. Most people prefer to use either some form of foam pad or a brush.
Personally, I prefer to use a needle felting pad. I find it easier to use and much more efficient than a brush. However, a pad is not to everyone’s taste and some people will prefer the brush. Both have their own advantages and disadvantages and there are other options which I have covered below.
There are in fact several choices that you can make for things that you put under your work while you were felting. One thing is essential though that whatever your decision that you do put something under it or you will find that your needles breaking frequently.
Which is Best, Needle Felting Brush or Foam?
Essentially both the felting brush and the foam are used to do the same thing. In needle felting, it is vital that you have some form of protection underneath your work when you’re using the needle. It’s protecting the needle from being broken on a hard surface and keeping your work firm.
Whether you choose to use the foam pad or the felting brush is really a matter of personal choice and also the type of work that you are doing.
If you’re creating larger pieces you may prefer to use a large foam pad while the smaller ones a brush or small pad may be better.
While I have concentrated on the brush and the foam pad here there are other options that you can choose from. Some people prefer to use rice pads while others use firm upholstery foam.
Both the brush and the pads have their advantages and disadvantages which I’m going to cover below.
The Needle Felting Brush
A needle felting brush is pretty much what it says. It’s a hard rectangular base with bristle sticking up. The idea is that you place the base on the table with bristles facing upwards and place your work onto the bristles and stab the needle into your work. From here if you stab too hard the needle will then go into the brush bristles and be saved.
My View On Using The Pad or the Brush
The brushes are about 16 by 11 cm (approx 6×4 inches) although they do come in different sizes. I do not believe any come much larger than that. This is quite a small workspace. In addition, I found that I stabbed quite hard and sometimes this meant my needle went through the bristles and hit the base of the brush.
This was when I was first starting out so it’s possible that I was just stabbing too hard. However, I was concerned about the needle breaking so I wasn’t I really happy to use the brush. Also, I found positioning my pieces on the brush didn’t feel right it didn’t they didn’t sit well.
Needle Felting Foam Pads Are Ideal for Projects of All Sizes
Needle felting foam comes in a variety of different colours and sizes. They also come in different qualities. They are simply rectangular blocks of high-density foam that you use for felting.
Pads do the same job as brushes they are there to protect your needle and place your work on. You can buy really small ones right up to really large ones depending on the size of the project that you are doing.
You have to be careful where and what ones you buy though, as some of better quality than others. If you buy them locally your local needle felting group may use a different type.
When I first started out I used firm foam pads from a local shop. They were cheaper to buy and they did their job reasonably well but they did not last very long at all. I bought the grey ones hoping they would last longer and they did however not as long as I would like.
Needle felting foam is easier to use the brushes in my view. However, there are some disadvantages.
When you’re using a pad to needle felt your work can get stuck to the pad if you don’t turn it frequently. In addition, your needle can also get jammed in the pad and snap off.
I cannot deny it I prefer to use the foam pad to the brush. However, the pads to wear out quite quickly. The pad I use is quite small so you’re essentially stabbing in the same place all the time. To keep replacing the pads can be quite expensive.
Other Alternatives That You May Like to Consider
Rice Pads Are Popular
Some people prefer to make their own rice pads. These consist of ordinary rice in a sack. A lot of people swear by these. I have to confess that I have not used them to give a personal view of what they’re actually like to use. However, when I see them being used I always cringe and think that the needle will get a broken head in such a firm surface.
Create and Use Your Own Rice Pads
Most people tend to make their own rice pads. How would you make it easier? Some needle felters have created either burlap sacks that you can fill with rice or material sacks. You just buy the rice and fill the sacks. They can take a lot of rice to fill. Some like this because they mould to your body and fit snuggly when you work. However, if you felt too hard you can get a needle in your leg. They can also be quite heavy. Some people prefer to fill them with polystyrene foam balls to make them lighter.
If you are going with this method make sure you freeze your rice or you could find yourself with a sack full of weevils. Also, make sure you can change the rice easily if you want to.
If you get the opportunity I think a good idea is to try each of the choices for yourself and see which ones you prefer. But don’t forget that as time progresses your projects may change and so might your preferences.
Some needle felters like to keep a selection of these pads whether they be brushes pads or rice pads for different types of projects so they will have options rather than just using the one. When starting out you just want to keep to the basics and focus on your felting.
Some People Prefer to Use Upholstery Foam
Some people also prefer to use a firm upholstery foam and probably because this is cheaper to get. This is like your felting foam only the density may not be as high.
Why I Don’t Recommend Polystyrene Boards
You could use polystyrene boards as your base. However, the polystyrene tends to break down very quickly and gets stuck in your work causing it to have white patches, so I don’t think it’s a good idea. You could consider covering it if you really wanted to use it. I do think there are better options out there.
How to Decide Which One to Use
My personal view is that when you’re starting out the high-density foam pads are the best choice. This is because they are economical to buy and easy to use. They re also easy to get a hold of and you don’t have to make them yourself. They also often come with the beginners felting kits.
As you progress with your projects you may want to try different types of pads to put your felting on. Each person will have their own preferences. My sister for example really likes using the brush, whereas I find it too restrictive and I keep going off the edges. Maybe I am a bit too vigorous what my technique!
Have You Made a Choice?
If you’ve had any experience of any of these types of pads please share with our readers below to help them with a better decision for their projects.
Which pad or brush option do you prefer and why?