Monday, November 1, 2010

Monday Project - Beginning Felting

I'm working on several needle felted projects this fall that I'm planning on writing tutorials for.  If you've never done any felting before, beads are a good place to start - and learning to make a round form is a skill you'll use in many future projects.

This is a great project for kids - in fact, I've found kids have a lot more patience to make lots of beads than I do!  I'm starting with undyed wool and then dying the beads with Kool-Aid.  Powdered drinks give you nice, bright colors and, since they use food grade dyes, are safe to use your regular dishes with.

 Materials List:

* wool roving - roving is carded animal fleece, or hair.  I'm using undyed sheep roving - you can also use already colored roving.  Buy roving at yarn stores that also teach spinning and most craft stores, such as Michael's and Joanne's.  Dharma Trading also carries it.
* dish soap
* Kool-Aid or other powdered drink mix.  It's important to use the kind you add sugar to - if you use already sweetened mix, you'll have a sticky mess.  Kool-Aid will dye any animal hair - yes, it does dye human hair!  I used Black Cherry and Lemon-Lime.
*a small, microwave proof bowl or custard cup

The video below shows how I get started felting beads and helps clarify the written instructions.

1.  Pull off a small piece of roving.  It's going to take making a few beads to figure out how much you need for different sizes of beads!  Fluff the roving to separate all the fibers out of clumps.  Fluff it into somewhat of a round shape.

2.  Wet the roving with hot tap water and put one drop of dishwashing liquid on your hand.

3.  Very, very gently, roll the soapy roving between your palms.  At the beginning, you don't want to use much pressure at all or you'll have a squished piece instead of a ball.  As the roving begins to felt, you can use more pressure.  By the end, press firmly.  How long will this process take?  About 5 minutes or so, depending on how big you want the bead to be and what type of animal fleece you're using.  You want a nice, firm bead.  Once you've made one in the size you want, stop felting the following beads when it also reaches this size.

When the soap has lathered up so much that the bead is just sliding around your hand, rinse your hands.
If you notice you have a crease in the bead, put your fingers into the crease, pull up fleece, and continue felting.

4.  Rinse the soap out of the bead under cold water, squeezing until the water is clear.

The next step is dying the beads.  If you're using Kool-Aid or another type of powdered drink, it's acidic enough that you won't need to add any vinegar.  You can also use the paste type of cake decorating food colors.  If you do this, substitute 1 Tablespoon of white vinegar for 1 Tablespoon of water.  Using either of these food color dyes means it's safe for children to do the dying and it's also safe to use your regular dishes.  The other way to dye animal fibers is to use acid dyes.  These are not safe for young children to use and you need a dedicated set of pans and dishes that will never be used for food or eating off of.

1.  Mix 1/2 teaspoon of Kool-Aid mix with 1/4 cup of water in a small microwave safe bowl or custard cup.

2.  Add the beads and stir.  If you don't want your skin dyed, wear gloves!

3.  Microwave for 1 minute.  This boils a lot, so a dish underneath the bowl will save you from doing a clean up.

4.  Remove from the microwave with a pot holder (it's hot!!!).  Put beads in a sieve or colander and rinse until all the dye is out.  This is fast.

If you don't have a microwave, put Kool-Aid, water, and beads in a small pan, bring to a boil and boil for 1 minute.

Now you're ready to string your bracelet.  You'll need:

*9 - 12 felted beads (depends on your wrist size)
*stretchy bracelet cord
*optional additional beads
*thin, sharp nail

1.  Use the nail to make a hole in the felted beads.  If your beads are really tightly felted, it'll be harder - mine are always tightly felted and it takes work, but the nail will go through!  Sometimes it helps to have a thinner and a slightly thicker nail to trade off on.  Once the nail goes through, I wiggle it around to widen the hole and then go through the opposite end and wiggle it again.  If you're making a hole through light colored beads, be sure to clean the oxidation off the nail first or you'll get dark gray discolorations.  I use either steel wool or scouring powder (like Bon Ami).

2.  Measure enough stretchy cord to make your bracelet the size you want it to be and add about 4 inches.  Push the cord through a bead.

3.  String all your beads.

4.  When finished, check that it fits your wrist.  Tie in three or four tight knots and trim about 1/2 inch from the last knot.  If you can, push the ends through the holes in the beads on each side.  If the holes are too small, cut the extra cord to about 1/4 inch from the knot - but make sure your knots are really, really tight!

Happy Creating!  Deborah


  1. Hi Deborah, I absolutely love this project! I'd really like to link to it on AllFreeChristmasCrafts - we are always looking for Christmas jewelry projects! If this is something you'd be interested in, please let me know! My e-mail is jlitz (at) primecp (dot) com. Thanks!

  2. This is beautiful! I love the contrast of the felted beads & crystals.

  3. So pretty. Great directions and photos. Can't wait to try it!