I get asked this question a lot so have decided to list which pads I have used and which, ultimately, I prefer to use.
Below is a list of the pad types that are available along with my own personal experience of using them.
White poly foam pads – these work well for one or two small projects but do dent quickly and become ineffective quickly. I also found that my needles are more prone to breaking when using these pads after one or two projects.
Medium to high grade foam pads – this type of foam is much better and will last far longer than the ploy foam ones. the medium grade ones are very similar in consistency to bath/car wash sponges. They do last longer however they do dent and fibres easily get stuck in the foam.
Hessian/burlap and rice pads - I don’t like working with rice pads and find that my needles often break however I am aware that many rate this type of pad. The hessian itself is prone to catching the wool fibres and I also find that the hessian fibres can transfer onto my project too.
Needle felting brush pads – I have used these but spent more time pulling the wool fibres from the pad bristles. I covered my brush with a piece of felt which helped but again I found needle breakage a problem.
100% wool pads – these are, in my opinion, worth the higher investment. I found that the wool fibres do get stuck in the pads and depending on which you get the can start to harden as you felt very much like the piece you are trying to felt.
Wool/Poly mix – we work closely with our suppliers and after discussing the issues with each felting pad they decided to experiment with the wool pads and added some polyester to attempt to create a pad that has the same feel as the wool pads but will last longer. I have been using my pad now for over 12 months and if has hardly worn at all. Wool fibres do collect on the surface of the pad, but these are easily removed, either by rubbing a hand over the pad, or using a damp cloth. You can also use a clothes brush to keep these pads clean.
So, in summary there is a lot of choice and in the first instance I would recommend using the ones provided if you are buying a needle felting kit. if you are wanting to needle felt without a kit, again the foam ones are easily obtained from Amazon, and they are not too expensive.
Once you are bitten by the needle felting bug you can experiment with the different types of pads, or if you are looking for a recommendation the wool pads (100% and 80/20 wool/poly) are well worth the initial extra cost as they really do make felting easier, they are kind on needles and they last far longer than the other pads.
Yishouzuo: Craft your way to happiness :)