Friday, October 03, 2008

Making Felted Balls

To make the ornaments shown in Quilting Arts Gifts, you need to make felted wool balls or you can buy pre-felted balls from the Artgirlz or Quilting Arts. I like to make felted balls myself because I can have fun playing with colors and shapes. How to make the felted balls is explained in the article, but it does not have photos with all the steps. So, for all you visual learners here's how I do it.

Warning: once you start making these it will be really hard to stop.

This is a great way to use up leftover yarn, by rolling golf ball size yarn balls as a base for the ball. Wind yarn into oblong shapes to get a berry shaped ball. I usually use wool yarn because I know it will felt better, but in a pinch I have used other yarns too. My favorite place to order roving is from Outback Fibers, the colors are gorgeous and the prices are very reasonable. Unwind a length of roving, while holding it in one hand, grasp the end portion with the other hand and gently pull off "tufts" roughly 5-6 inches in length. Spread the fibers into a thin flat layer with all the strands going in one direction. Pull off another tuft of roving and layer it on top of the first at a 90 degree angle. Repeat this process several more times, criss-crossing 4-6 thin layers.
When lifting the blanket of roving there should not be thin spots or holes. Changing the colors of yarn in the layers will create a heathered multicolored wool ball.

Wrap the roving blanket you have created around a yarn ball, making sure there is full coverage of fluffy roving with no bare or thin spots.

Close the roving covered yarn ball in your hand and bring it to the foot of a knee hi panty hose. (buy cheap ones at the dollar store, or use those ancient ones in the back of your hosiery drawer that you never wear anymore) Gently remove your hand from around the ball and tie and knot a small piece of yarn around the hose to secure the ball in place.

When all the balls have been wrapped in the hose, place them in the washing machine, set the water to lowest level and hottest setting. Add a small amount of detergent, about a tablespoon, the exact measurement is not crucial but soap is important in the felting process. I usually run it on a long cycle, the more agitation the better the felting. Good old fashion top loading washers have the most success with felting.

When you take the chain of balls out of the machine, you will see little fibers have come though the mesh of the hose. Snip the tied yarn between the balls, gently peel away the hose removing the ball and roll the ball in your hands to smooth the fibers.

These would make great cat toys but dogs will want to shred these to smithereens. My chihuahua thinks there is nothing more fun than stealing felted balls when I am not looking and peel all the fuzz off.

This is my latest batch in preparation for my Make it U workshops in Houston.
50 felted balls ready to go. Come to one of my MIU workshops at International Quilt Festival Houston and stitch one of these babies into a lovely ornament.


  1. Anonymous4:11 PM

    judy, thanks for doing all these great photos. your article made the process clear, but the extra how-to photos really reinforce it.

    love all these brilliant colors! wish i could come to houston. you're sure to be a big hit with these!


  2. wow, Judy, the last two pictures are the coolest! I love the picture of them all tied into a long string.

    I also used the same concept of tying the yarn into the stocking when I was using left over dye to die a skein of cotton. I was seeing if it would work & it was fine. Pushing it all the way into the bottom of the stocking & tieing it, kept it from getting knotted. There were a few little spots that I had to be careful unwrapping it but it worked so well I would do it again.

    Thanks for the pictures, I will have to give this a try when I get home to a decent washing machine! :)

    Maybe I could even make a couple of really big ones for the dogs to play with :)

  3. cindy, that is a great idea to put a skein of yarn in a stocking to dye it. You could felt them by hand, rubbing the pantyhose in your hands with soap, but it would take a while and you might end up with chapped hands, lol.

  4. Thanks for this Judy! I'm gong to give it a shot!

  5. just the box of colored balls is pretty. you always give such good tutorials. I have wool roven but i need to get some wool to make the balls. this will be a fun project for me and my grand daughter when she comes to visit me over the holidays. yipee...another fun art project!

  6. Anonymous2:53 PM

    This is awesome! I've been wondering how to do these felted balls. Thanks for the simple and detailed instructions.

  7. Anonymous8:59 AM

    I so have to try this - thanks for posting.

  8. I just started making these and they are addicting! Thanks for your great tips and photos - very helpful!


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