Felt Balls From Knitting Wool for a Chunky Bead Necklace




Introduction: Felt Balls From Knitting Wool for a Chunky Bead Necklace

About: I like making things - anything and everything - and figuring out how to do things by myself. I blog about it as YorkshireCrafter on Wordpress.com.

This is a beginner's felting project that uses up oddments of yarn to produce spherical beads that can then be made into a necklace or bracelet.  The beauty of using yarn is that it is easy to get beads of the same size by measuring the same length of yarn for each one.   And it's a lot easier to come by than wool tops, the traditional material used for felt-making.

It is vital that the yarn you choose is 100% wool and that it is not a machine washable yarn.  It is possible to get yarn with a small proportion of man-made fibre to felt, but leave that for when you know what you are doing - if you have never felted before, you need 100% wool.  If it has been treated to make it machine washable then it will not felt, so read the label and only use yarn that says hand wash.  A loosely spun yarn is best, and ideally a chunky one as you won't spend so much time unravelling the individual strands. 

To make enough felt balls for a necklace similar to the one in the photo you will need:

about 18m of chunky, 100% wool yarn (or the equivalent weight of a finer yarn)
a small bowl
a kettle
washing up liquid or other liquid detergent
old newspapers
kitchen paper

Step 1: Preparing the Yarn

Measure and cut a length of yarn for your first felt ball.  If you are using a chunky yarn, a 2m length will produce a ball of approximately 18mm diameter.  (See the final step for the lengths required for different diameters.)  Cut the 2m piece into shorter lengths of about 75-100mm.

Separate the strands in each length.  The yarn in the photos has 3 strands.  Lay them randomly on top of each other, not all aligned. 

Step 2: The Felting Process

Boil the kettle and fill a small bowl with water that is just cooler than boiling. Cover your table with old newspaper to soak up any splashes of soapy water.

Scoop up the strands in the palm of your left hand (assuming you're right handed) and squirt on a small amount of washing up liquid. Work it though the pile of strands with the fingers of your right hand.

Now pick up the little heap of soapy yarn with your right hand and dip it partially in the hot water. Remove it and let it cool a little so you don't scald yourself. As soon as you can handle it, put it back in your left palm and work the water through the fibres with the fingertips of your right hand.

Form the bundle of strands into a ball shape and rest it on the closed fingers of your left hand. Use the closed fingers of your right hand to roll it, moving your hands in circles in opposite directions one above the other. You need to try and exert a little pressure with your hands, as it is the combination of moisture, heat and pressure that causes the fibres to felt together. At first it will be impossible to press on the ball at all without it squashing, so just keep rolling lightly. Using the closed fingers of each hand to start with, rather than the palms, will help because the ridges between your fingers provide traction. Don't let the ball of fibres slide between your hands or it will deform and will not felt. If your hands get too slippery and covered in foam, give them a wipe on a cloth.

Dip the ball in hot water again from time to time. I found that 4 dips in total were enough for a ball of 18mm diameter. If it gets too wet it will be very squashy and hard to roll, so roll it on a few sheets of kitchen paper if necessary to absorb excess moisture. Don't be tempted to squeeze the water out of it and then try and reform it into a ball shape, that is likely to result in a ball with a join that hasn't felted together properly.

Keep rolling and applying as much pressure as you can. The ball will get smaller (see photos) and firmer so that you can press harder and harder on it with your hands. The entire process might take 15 minutes for your first attempt, but probably no more than 5 minutes per bead when you know what you are doing. Towards the end of the process, move the ball into the palms of your hands so you can push them together harder - this is easier if you turn your hands vertically rather than one above the other. Alternatively, you may prefer to roll it on the table instead (move the newspaper first) using just one hand, as you can exert more pressure like this. However you do it, keep checking to see that the bead is spherical and coax it gently back into shape if it isn't.

How do you know when you are finished? When the ball feels really quite hard, it's not getting smaller any more, and when you give it a squeeze between thumb and forefinger, it springs back into shape. Rinse it thoroughly under the cold tap and then put it down on the newspaper until it has stopped dripping. Leave it on a sunny windowcill or on a radiator to dry for 24 hours or so.

Step 3: Making the Remaining Beads and Stringing Them

To make more beads of the same size, cut the same length of yarn as before.  Check the size of the bead against the one you have already made before you call a halt to the felting process.  It should be very slightly bigger than a dry bead, as it will get a little smaller as it dries out. 

The necklace shown in the picture has 13 beads in the following sizes:

length of yarnsize of beadnumber of beads
3m                               22mm                       1
2m                               18mm                       4
1m                               15mm                       4
0.6m                            12mm                       4

When they have all dried, string them using a needle and thread.  I used tiger tail, threading it through a needle with a reasonably large eye.  You can mix them with any other beads you may have - I used some small rock crystal ones. 

If anyone is interested, I can do another I'ble showing how to attach a clasp, etc. 

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    6 years ago on Introduction

    I tried... and failed miserably :(

    2014-12-21 15.03.37.jpg
    Yorkshire Lass
    Yorkshire Lass

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Oh dear. Maybe this wasn't pure wool, or else it was machine wash treated?


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    I completely forgot to come back here. Yes I bought Bernat "roving yarn" at the craft store and it was 80% acrylic. I had thought it was the same as the Patons I had previously bought for a knitting project. After I used actual wool, you're instructions were great!


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Though I prefer needle felting, I've done wet felting before from a kit (it made two little frogs- quite cute) but I have to say, your instructions on how to wet felt (particularly explaining to use your fingers, and not your palms) quite simply made more sense than the somewhat vague instructions in my kit. I couple tips for you from the kit (you can see how this works for you), there was roving wool in my kit (which is more or less what you get when you pull yarn completely apart- I find that easiest to do with a thin wire cat brush), and they had you start with a little rolled bundle, and layer strips in different directions over and around it (like paper mache). I saw you just were laying them flat in the more condensed yarn strips, and I thought you might enjoy seeing which style was easier, or even more effective? (fluffy roving vs yarn strips, flat criss cross vs paper mache)
    Have fun!

    Yorkshire Lass
    Yorkshire Lass

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    It certainly sounds more sensible to start with a little bundle, seeing as the aim is to achieve a ball. I'll give that a go the next time. I'm glad you found my instructions helpful, I struggled with the instructions I found in books which is why I thought I'd do an Instructable once I found a method that worked after much trial and error.

    Hi :0) Your neclace is grooovy :0) !!! Maybe I missed this info (sorry) Just wondering,what size needle did you use to get holes through the balls to be able to insert the wire?

    Yorkshire Lass
    Yorkshire Lass

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Hi, thanks for your comment.

    I used a beading needle, which I just happened to have. It has a small eye and is long, which helped. You certainly need quite a long needle. I don't know what size it is, but it is quite fine, meant for tiny beads.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    It is, and quite itchy too :(
    I tink ill need to use some other kind next time, but this what i had at hand.