felt ball how-to

This, dear readers, has been what some people might call “a week”! So glad it’s over and turned out well! I realize that it’s only Wednesday, but the rest of the week should be easy peasy in comparison to yesterday. Don’t you love how cryptic I am? Anyhoo, I’m looking forward to family day at work tomorrow, to the rest of my students’ presentations, and to having only two short weeks left in the semester. And now…back to my regularly scheduled projects.

After a good amount of trial and error, I finally managed to suss out how to make some fuzzy, nice looking felt balls.

You may remember my stock pile of roving I ordered a few weeks back. Turns out it’s fantastic for felting, I think b/c it’s less processed than the stuff I bought earlier on.  While it doesn’t feel nearly as nice and does a number on my hands, the outcome is super.

To make felt balls, all you’ll need is:

-roving
-scissors
-liquid soap (dish soap and liquid hand soap worked the same for me)
-water (either running or in a big bowl)
-dish gloves (if you’re like me and don’t want to ravage your hands w/ wet wool)

First, cut the roving into lengths. I originally pulled it apart, but cutting yielded more uniform size results.  This is about a 2inch piece of roving.  After felting, I ended up with a a ball that was roughly 1.5 inches in diameter.

~2 inch pieces of roving

Next, pull the roving apart so it’s fluffy and sort of ball-shaped.

fluff balls

Take one fluff ball (still dry) and add A FEW drops of liquid soap to it.

resist the urge to use a lot of soap!

Now, very gently roll the soaped-up fluff ball b/w your hands, trying to make it round. You’re working the soap into the fibers, which is one of the factors that causes the wool to felt. Once you have your roughly shaped ball, wet the wool A LITTLE. Then keep on rolling.

soapy ball

Continue wetting and rolling the ball.  As you do this, it will start to felt and come together in a ball shape. It’s a huge waste of water, but I did this under the faucet. It worked much better than the bowl method (pictured above). I alternated between very hot and very cold water (“shocking” the wool), using just hot water, and using just cold water. I honestly didn’t see a difference in the type of ball it produced.  Seriously though…resist the urge to roll it to hard. It just doesn’t work.  After some trial and error of your own, you’ll figure out the right pressure.  It took me about 10 test balls until I felt like I had a good thing going. Sometimes the balls have cracks in them. If that’s the case, just take a tiny bit of roving and wrap it around the ball to cover the crack. Then use a bit more soap and water to felt it on.

Now rinse your fab new ball.
After rising, I shook mine out quite a bit.  It’s stunning how much water wool retains.  Even after shaking, the balls still took a few days to dry completely.

And that’s it! Now grab some yarn and a tapestry needle and start stringing. Here’s how I did it:

Leave 6 inches of yarn for hanging — knot 1 — slide needle through ball and push up to knot– knot 2 –leave 3 inches of plain yarn/twine — knot 1–slide ball into place–knot 2 — etc.  Leave another 6 inches of yarn on the other end for hanging. I’ll need about a million more by August.

Here’s my first one…uhhh “artfully” draped in front of my absolute favorite pic of my paternal grandparents.

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Oh, and if you throw in a few little ones (faster! easier!) you can fashion them into weird but potentially charming boutonnières. Though I’m sure you’d do a better job w/ the ribbon…

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