Having a Ball with Felted Beads

by Ellen

I’ve been trying my hand at making felted beads.  They’re so pretty and relatively easy to make.  I’m planning to turn my beads into jewelry for gifts.  Children love to help out, especially since there’s water involved!  I’m hoping to get a good collection of colors and sizes to string into a necklace for my grandmother.

Here’s what you’ll need:

1)  Wool.

I used carded fleece and merino top wool, which I found at our local yarn store.  Wool roving or batting will work, too.  I also used some gorgeous hand-dyed fleece which was a bit pricier, but is great for adding small bits of color accents to the beads. You can use old wool yarn scraps, but they will still look yarn-like after felting.  Be careful to use real wool; washable wool and non-wool yarn won’t felt.

Hand-dyed carded wool and merino top wool

2) A big bowl of hot water with added soap.

You can either add a few drops of liquid dish soap, or agitate a bar of soap under the water to make it sudsy.

Warm soapy water

3)  Cold tap water to finish the felting.

How to wet felt a bead:

Take a deep breath.  It takes a little practice.

  1. Pull a small amount of wool from the hank and wind it loosely into a ball.  Layer more wisps of wool on top of this core, until you have a ball that is approximately twice the size of the bead you’d like to make.
  2. Dip the wool very slowly into the water, keeping it submerged until no more air bubbles escape.
  3. Slowly pull the wet wool out of the water and begin, very, very gently, to mold it into a ball, or shape of your choice.  Lightly pass the ball from hand to hand and as it begins to take shape, you can roll it delicately between your hands.
  4. Dip in the water and roll some more.  Repeat this step until the bead begins to shrink and harden.  (Sometimes I need to dip and roll twenty or more times.)
  5. When the bead is compact, run it under cold tap water for about 30 seconds, while rolling it between your palms.
  6. Leave bead on a towel to dry.
  7. For larger beads you may want to insert a toothpick while they are still wet.  I am going to string mine with a needle and strong thread, so I didn’t make a hole in advance.

Here’s an example of some beads that I started rolling too quickly and vigorously.  The wool separates and makes tough folds if you move too quickly at first:

Beads I rolled too enthusiastically at first.

Never fear!  If you don’t like the look of those crevices, you can always layer a new piece of wool on top and felt some more.

Disk Beads

You can also roll strips of wool, layered however you’d like, into long snakes.  When the snakes are dry, cut them with very sharp scissors to form bead disks.

Disks cut from felted "snakes."

Other Uses

You can also make:

  • Eco-friendly wool dryer balls.  Undyed wool won’t run on your clothes.  If you use dyed wool, it’s a good idea to wash the balls several times before you put them in with your clothes.
  • Large felted ball for children.
  • Ornaments.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

Denise December 23, 2010 at 9:45 am

Here is a fun ornament to make with felted beads!

Ellen December 24, 2010 at 6:55 am

Very cute! Thank you for sharing, Denise. I’ve been wondering what to do with all the extra beads. Ice cream is always a good idea :-)

Marian Schubauer December 26, 2010 at 7:23 am

I will really treasure my wool bead necklace. The beads are so very beautiful . After all the work involved in their creation, i will keep them in a safe spot in my dresser drawer and woe unto anybody who fools with them. Thank you ,Ellen..

Ellen December 26, 2010 at 8:00 am

I’m so glad you like it, Gramma! It was fun to make and I enjoyed choosing colors that remind me of you. It was wonderful seeing you yesterday!

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