How to make a felt bead/ball
or, better to say, how I make them, I believe there are as many different ways as there are felters
I was asked how to make these in one of the recent comments on my post from last year “Felting for Beginners”, so I thought I would try to word it and take some pictures too to make my words clearer. Here it is:
You will need:
- small amount of wool, preferebly merino or some finer wool which felts faster than coarser
- soap, any will do, better soap than washing up liquid which you could also use, but it doesn’t lather as much as a soap
- 1-2 l bowl filled with hot water
- two healthy hands and some patience
Step 1: Drop your soap in the bowl filled with hot water.
Step 2: Break small amount (cca 20 cm) of wool tops and split in half. The more wool you use, the bigger the ball.
Step 3: Make a tight knot in the middle of the tops. Spread both ends as evenly and as much as you can.
Step 4: Fold one end over the knot and cover the knot with this end’s fibre all around.
Step 5: Smooth out the fibre in one direction, the knot at the top. Start rolling the knot in the loose fibre until you make a ball shape. It can be loose, but the tigher you roll the fibre, the easier and nicer it will felt later in the water.
Step 6: Make cup-like shape from your palm and fingers and immerse the hand with the ball in the hot water with soap.
Wait for a few seconds (20-30) until the fibre starts absorbing the water. Soap well your other hand with the soap which you have droped in the bowl (step 1) and start rolling the ball VERY GENTLY!!! with your two hands – the same movement like if you were making a ball from a dough ! The fibre is still absorbing water and the wet fibre DOES felt already as you move it slowly and gently. If you are too fast here and press too hard, you will create folds/cuts in the ball and will have difficulties to get rid of them. If you spot any folds = the surface of the ball is not smooth, but looks wrinkled, drop the ball in the water and leave it there for a few seconds, the fibre will swell again. If you still have folds, you better cover the ball with a tiny amount of dry fibre and gently felt in.
As you roll gently, you will feel the ball getting smaller and harder. Gradually, you can increase the pressure as you roll. Keep your hands soapy, it prevents your felt (any, not only balls) from pilling and fuzzy-look.
Towards the end, as the ball gets tighter and harder, increase the preasure and shape it in the palm of your hands. You can create a nice round ball
or press the ball hard with your palm and create a button-shape
or roll it up-and-down in your palms to make an egg-shape
Once you have your desired shape, rinse the ball well and reshape. Leave to dry – and admire!
While the bead/ball is wett, you can cut it into halves, slice it… with a sharp knife. When dry you can thread it with a sharp tapestry needle or make an earings, or as a centre for a brooch…………