Needle felting was originally designed to make commercial felt. A big plate of needles could do a sheet of felt at a time. The process could utilize synthetics and some non-wool fabrics The first use of commercial felt was in cushions and mattresses and from there spread to automobile carpets and even to embellish clothing.
In the early 1980s, David and Eleanor Stanwood experimented with using one needle by hand as a fiber art technique. Today, artists are creating sculptures, embellishments and shaped pieces with the needles while wet felting, the traditional method, is still popular to create flat felt pieces.