Friday, March 06, 2015

How to Make Felt Wool Balls

Felted Wool Balls or Beads DIY Craft Tutorial 

easily create homemade wool dryer balls or felted beads for decoration

how to make felted wool balls easy craft tutorial for dryer balls or decorations

Like many of you who have been wet felting or needle felted for a while, wool balls or beads are probably one of the first things you tried making. Me too! I have been creating handmade felted wool balls in all shapes, colors and sizes for several years now. I have used them mainly in making felted jewelry and also as embellishments for fiber art pieces. 

You can see many examples of what I've done with my own felt wool beads at my Flickr gallery. I still have shoes boxes full of all sorts of colors that I keep on hand for future projects. Honestly, I just find them fun and so easy to make that I use up my scraps on them. My five year old also likes making them with me as they are a very kid-friendly felting project.


The big utilitarian trend now seems to be homemade wool dryer balls. For all the hundreds and hundreds of felted wool balls that I have made over the years, I can honestly say that I haven't ever tried them as dryer balls, but this craft tutorial can apply to making them for that purpose or for jewelry or other decorations. I personally think they look very pretty piled in a glass vase or bowl with some pine cones or seasonal accents.


FELTED WOOL BALL MATERIALS:

100% wool roving or batt
(I used off-white merino roving.)
pantyhose, stockings or knee highs
dish washing liquid
washing machine
dryer (optional)
felting needle (optional)


FELT CRAFT TIPS:

No wool roving or batts on hand? No problem. Try using a commercial yarn that is at least 80% wool instead. Wrap it tightly and it should felt well with this method of making homemade wool balls.

how to make felt wool balls or beads craft tutorial plus tips by the funky felter

HOMEMADE FELT WOOL BALL INSTRUCTIONS:


1. Begin by wrapping a bit of wool roving around the end of your finger to start a small ball. Pinch it tightly then continue wrapping roving around it crisscrossing the layers until you build up a ball. Wrap the wool as tightly as you can. You can make the balls any size you like. Please remember to account for a small amount of shrinkage during the felting process and make your wool balls or beads slightly larger than you'd like the finish size to be. 

(Optional Step: I often use a felting needle to tack the end of my roving into place and lightly needle felt the ball when done wrapping. This helps it to keep the rounded shape, but it is not necessary to do in order to create nicely shaped felted wool beads.)

2. Stuff your tightly wrapped wool balls one at a time into a length of pantyhose. Pull the pantyhose tightly around each wool ball and tie a knot before stuffing in the next one. Repeat until you've filled your pantyhose. I recommend making several felted wool balls at once with this method and filling at least a few long strings of pantyhose to make it worth using your washing machine and the energy costs.

3. Toss all your filled strings of pantyhose into your washing machine. Set it on the hot cycle for a small load (unless you have a lot of pantyhose strings filled with wool balls, then accommodate for load size accordingly). Add dish washing liquid. I usually squirt in a few big globs for quite a lot of soap suds. I also usually add fabric softener to the rinse cycle, but that's entirely up to you. I personally don't think it makes much difference - just makes them smell better when done felting.

4. After you've washed them once, check to see if the wool has felted. It should feel dense but a but spongy to the touch. I usually put my felted wool beads through the hot wash cycle 2 - 3 times (repeat step 3) to be sure they are fully felted. Use your own good judgement though as all washing machines are a bit different and one wash may felt them completely in yours.

5. Once they are fully felted in your washing machine, you should remove them by cutting them out of the pantyhose, or you can put them in your dryer first on medium heat for about 30 minutes to an hour to reduce some of the moisture. I usually put them in my dryer for a while unless I can't wait to see how they turned out which happens! 

6. Your felt wool balls will most likely be super fuzzy and clinging to the pantyhose at this point. I handle this by using scissors to cut the pantyhose away from both ends where it is knotted, just a straight line cut across each end. Then I pull the pantyhose forcefully off of each felted ball. It does take a little muscle and wee bit of time, but totally worth it! Afterwards, you can easily use sharp scissors or even a shaving razor to trim away any remaining fuzz. I've personally not had a problem with removing any felted balls or messing up their shape while doing so.

7. Lay your newly felted wool beads or balls on a towel out in the sun or a warm place to dry for a couple of days. This way they will dry all the way through the center. I've even heard of some people putting them in a mildly warm oven, but I haven't tried that myself yet so I can't endorse the method. If you've tried it or have another drying method, please let me know.



Want more sweet tips on making felted wool balls or beads? 

Nine helpful timps for making felted wool beads or balls by the funky felter

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