Hi everyone. I was remembering how confusing it was for me when I first started needle felting six years ago. Roving, Tops, Carded, Locks, Merino, etc and I had no real idea of what any of them were! This meant I ended up learning by my (expensive) mistakes. Sooo I have put together a guide for you lovely lot in the hope that it will help. It is by no means a definitive list, it just deals with the wools I now use and how I use them.
BREEDS OF SHEEP Different breeds of sheep produce different thickness of wool. As a general rule Merino sheep give fine wool, New Zealand sheep fine-medium, Corriedale Sheep medium, Bergschaf Sheep medium-course, etc. The coarseness of the wool is measured in microns so the higher the micron the courser the wool. So you first decide the breed of sheep wool and then make sure it is in the best form for you (ie usually CARDED for needle felting) Here are some different forms:-
TOPS/ROVING These are generally used for wet felting and spinning. All the fibres have been combed in one direction which can make it more difficult to needle felt into a 3D shape. If you are making an animal with a shaggy coat you may very will use tops/roving - as a top coat that can be trimmed.
CARDED This is wool that has been combed and roughed up in all different directions making it much easier to needle felt with! Carded Wool comes in the form of 'batts' and sometimes in 'slivers'.
SLIVERS Slivers are carded wool that has been formed into a long thin tubular piece and comes in a roll. They are particularly good for knotting and then wrapping round the knot to start your core body off. Also because they are long and thin pieces they are good for wrapping around armature wire (a wire skeleton).
BATTS Carded wool exactly the same as in slivers but it comes in a thick sheet. To start a core body you can break off strips and roll tightly then needle felt to hold together.
CORE WOOL This is carded wool that is an undyed natural colour therefore should be cheaper. Unless I am making something tiny then I will use the cheaper undyed wool to form my shape then use the more expensive and perhaps finer carded wools to finish. I tend to use undyed natural Corriedale slivers as my core as being able to tie a knot and then wrap round speeds everything up. Most wool sold as core comes in a big fluffy cloud rather than a batt or a sliver.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR 3d FELTING :- Carded Corriedale Slivers from £1 per 50g for undyed natural slivers and £1.50 per 50g for a range of colours it is economical, felts fast and gives good even results. This is a good allrounder.
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR 2d PICTURE FELTING :- Carded New Zealand Maori Batts this is a finer wool at 27 microns with short fibre lengths so makes it perfect for Painting with Wool and producing picture portraits. You can see our full range here