Several companies produce needle felting or embellishing machines and the list is slowly growing. I use the Babylock Embellisher in my studio along with a hand felting needle tool that holds up to six felting needles. The hand tool is useful for detail work as well as preparation work on a piece that will be finished with the Embellisher.
When the Babylock first hit the market, my local quilt shop put one on the floor for demonstrations. The samples produced consisted of fabric with a few yarns and ribbons. I must confess, I watched the demonstration and thought, “Why would anyone pay over $1000 to needle couch a few decorative yarns to some fabric?” Well, as it turned out, this machine was capable of doing a whole lot more than that.
Months later, I ran into a fiber artist friend of mine who had recently purchased the Embellisher and was producing beautiful art-to-wear and wall hangings using this incredible machine. I stood mesmerized before her work and knew that I had to have one. Within twenty-four hours I visited my local dealership and made an offer on a new machine. At the time, these machines weren’t exactly flying off the shelves so the dealer accepted my offer.
The Babylock, a stand-alone machine, uses 7 barbed needles that enter seven small holes in the throat plate. The needles catch fiber from the top layer and pull it down to the bottom layer, eventually creating a meshed double-sided fabric. The Embellisher allows you to use anywhere from one to seven needles at a time. Replacement needles are available through dealerships at about $3 a pop, something to think about during the decision making process. Necessity being the mother of invention, some clever owners have cut hand felting needles to size and used them in the Embellisher quite successfully. You can even order cut needles online at substantial savings.
Since its entry into the market, the Babylock Embellisher has dropped in price. If you are interested in this machine, visit a Babylock dealer and don’t be afraid to negotiate the price. Do give some consideration to the importance of warranties and dealerships. Dealers often offer free classes with the purchase of a new machine. Additionally, they offer support when you have a problem (and this is no small thing).
The rising interest in needle felting has not gone unnoticed by Babylock’s competitors. Bernina sells a Decorative Needlepunch Attachment for some of their CB Hook sewing machines. I’m considering purchasing the attachment as a backup to my Embellisher. Brother also sells an attachment for some of their machines Janome offers a stand-alone felting machine, and in the latest Nancy’s Notions catalog, Nancy Zieman lists a Sewing With Nancy Fab Felter for $299.00. Another company listed below sells a battery operated machine as well as a universal attachment (I have no familiarity with these products).
Here is a list of online sites that provide helpful information regarding felting machines and felting attachments. The list is neither complete nor comprehensive. I simply offer it as a starting point for those who have written me requesting information on this subject.
http://www.janome.com (Xpression Needle Punch Felting Machine)
There is also a yahoo group dedicated entirely to the Babylock Embellisher. You can join the group at this address:
A great way to do research before purchasing any machine is to join a yahoo group whose members already own the particular machine in which you are interested. By doing this, you will gather a wealth of information and reduce your frustration level when you actually make the purchase. You’ll also make some new friends who share your interests.
N. Rene West