Testing; Needle Felting on Denim & Jeans

My adventures with wool fibre are crossing more boundaries! How will 2 of my ‘faves’ come together?! Let’s see how it goes – testing; needle felting on Denim & Jeans.

Denim Meets Wool: An Adventure in Needle Felting on Denim & Jeans

Denim: the fabric of our lives, from iconic blue jeans to stylish jackets. But have you ever thought of denim as a canvas for your creative needle felting adventures?

While wool is the traditional go-to, experimenting with different materials can bring exciting results! So, I grabbed my needles, wool roving, and some trusty denim scraps, and embarked on a journey to see if needle felting and denim could become best friends. I especially wanted to see how washable the needle felted denim would be.

I love working with wool, as thee are so many felting projects & possibilities. As the wet felting technique creates a new wool fabric, this method is simpler as it utilizes a very popular one; denim.

The Denim fabric:

  • Surprisingly sturdy: Unlike delicate fabrics, denim held up surprisingly well to the poking and prodding of the needle. The tight weave prevented the fibers from tearing or pulling up, creating a stable base for your design.
  • Unique texture: The combination of smooth wool and textured denim creates a visually interesting dimension. You can play with this by incorporating denim threads or frayed edges into your felt design.
  • Upcycling potential: Give new life to old jeans! Turn rips, tears, or unwanted pockets into opportunities for creative expression. This is a sustainable way to add personality to your clothes and reduce waste.

The Challenges of Felting on Denim:

  • Thickness: Denim is thicker than regular felt, requiring more effort and potentially thicker needles. Be prepared to put some muscle into it!
  • Washability: How well will the wool roving fibres attach to the denim and allow washing.
  • Needle breakage: The density of denim can be tough on your needles, so use thicker ones (36 gauge or higher) and be prepared to replace them more often.
  • Limited detail: Due to the thickness, achieving intricate details might be tricky. Opt for bolder designs or focus on textural contrast instead.

My Experiment:

To keep this simple I used a few scraps of different denims. Nowadays denim comes in more than 100% cotton, many have quite a bit of stretch; therefore some polyester or spandex is in the fibre mix. Using my multi-needle felting tool I quickly felted a few simple hearts. Test which needles will manage to get through the cotton fibres as not all denim is the same.

Once the designs were complete the back looked like this. One side is a stretchy denim and one is not. They seem to look quite similar.

Adding some extra Assurance:

Once you understand that the wool is essentially just staying in place by having some of the fibre poke through the back side. For that reason, keeping it in place will ensure the design also stays. So why not add some type of glue?

I added a layer of iron-on fusible interfacing on the backside. This method is somewhat similar to the rubber on the back of a carpet.

I also used some of the fabric medium that is used to add to acrylic paint for painting on fabric. It is quite thin and dries quite unnoticeable.

When painting on the extra layer of the Gac 900 Fabric Medium I did not let it soak through.

Perhaps there are other fabric mediums that can also solidify the back fibres, as long as it does stay flexible as well as being washable.

If you are only needle felting on to denim for home decor; such as a framed piece of art the washability isn’t a factor.

Tips for Success:

  • Start small: Choose a simple design for your first experiment.
  • Use the right tools: a variety of felting needles, finger protectors and a firm felting surface to protect your work surface.
  • Layer strategically: Build up your design in layers, starting with coarse wool and progressing to finer details.
  • Embrace the texture: It isn’t necessary to hide the denim completely. Let it’s unique texture peek through for added character. That’s what makes this an almost better option to paint.
  • Seal it up: If you’re embellishing a garment, consider using an aid to secure your felt design and prevent unraveling. Options like fabric medium or an additional adhered layer of iron-on fusible interfacing.

After Washing:

To test these samples I added them to a load of typical laundry at my place. I have a front load washer which I find does not aggressively agitate especially if it somewhat a full load. I did not use the dryer, but hung them to dry. After the first wash they still looked quite good so I threw them into another load. (See the pictures above) I would say that the edges are a bit ‘fuzzier’, but not a huge loss of fibre. The areas that lost the most detail are where there is minimal amount of felted wool. For that reason I believe that the wool has a better staying power when it can tangle with more wool; like ‘strength in numbers’.

The Verdict after testing needle felting on denim & jeans:

Needle felting on denim is definitely doable, but it comes with its own set of challenges. My suggestion would be to create a design that is not that dependant on ‘perfection’ as there may be some ‘softening’ if there’s some wear or abrasion (washing or rubbing). However, the potential for unique textures, up-cycling opportunities, and a sturdy base makes it a worthwhile experiment for adventurous felters. So, grab your needles, unleash your creativity, and see what denim and wool can weave together!

Whatever you decide… remember there are so many options! Be creative & unique.

Have you tried needle felting on denim? Share your experiences and tips in the comments below!

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  1. Thanks Barb for your experiment and tutorial! I’ve never tried needle felting on Denim, Only on a Wool Beret. And I haven’t tried washing it yet.

    1. I bet it is beautiful! I would not through it in the washing machine! It probably does not get soiled so a gentle soak and hand wash would be good. Roll in a towel to blot the water without stretching or wringing as you don’t want to stretch it out.

  2. OMG! I have stains on my jeans that could be turned into little flowers or colourful shapes! I looooooove this idea!