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Hi KnitsWithRaceCars, Thanks for your comment. I think there are many factors that can affect how the stitches are formed. It has to do with where the stitches are actually formed on the needle tip, and how tightly the yarn is held as the stitch is being made. If I'm using a slippery needle, my hands aren't as loose and my stitches get tighter. The real take-away is that you should always do your gauge swatch with the needles you intend to knit your project with. Otherwise, you might have some unexpected results! I imagine the same should hold true for crochet hooks, though I admit I'm no expert in that area.
HI! Im a beginner too and so far just LOVE this hobby/craft! I have found that a size 40 is just great for the little details like eyes, mouth, nose, etc. While looking for sites on needle felting, I ran across a site called Felt Alive. She has THE best needles that I have used thus far! I use her color coded needle that is yellow and red on the end and it is just wonderful for little details. Also, her prices are pretty reasonable for the quality you get! Even me being a beginner, I have not broken but one needle, just be sure and don’t bend the needle at all inside the project. Anyway, my point to that is don’t be afraid to spend a bit more on your needles . Getting a few from that site really helped with the frustration of doing and learning how to do little bitty details because the needle was really fine and the color coding ends help a LOT too! I wish Craftsy would do a class on Needle Felting for sure!!! Hope this helps a little!