The soothing pleasure of handling merino fleece, the rhythmic motion of needle felting, and the magical transformation from fleece to ball combine to make this a really satisfying (and relaxing) project. A great reminder to slow down and have some fun, whether you're decorating for Christmas, a birthday celebration, or any old time of the year.
This is a wonderful communal project, easy enough for kids and for not-so-crafty friends. So get the whole family involved or invite some friends over for a felting party. The beautiful hand made garland you end up with is just an added bonus!
- Two 50 gram balls of Farmhouse Yarn's 100% Lambs Wool Roving. This color is "Natural". Each ball of roving yields about 27-30 one inch balls.
- A few yards of any handspun worsted weight wool that will felt (to use for needle felting designs onto the balls). I used Farmhouse Yarn's Andy's Merino II in the color "Hot Pink". (Another good option would be Manos del Uruguay's Handspun Semi Solids.)
- A few yards of fingering or lace weight yarn (to string the balls onto). I used Alchemy's Silken Straw in the color "Fuschia".
- A hand sewing needle with an eye big enough to accomodate the lace weight yarn.
- A felting needle. These are made by Hamanaka and come in a set of two.
- Either a Felt Ball Maker by Hamanaka or 3-4 pairs of old or cheap panty hose.
The How To
9 or 10 feet long
I will describe two different ways to make the felt balls. The Panty Hose Method is quicker and easier, while the Hand Spinning Method is more hands-on. The Hand Spinning Method will keep kids busy for hours!
The Panty Hose Method
Tear two pieces of the roving approximately 8 inches long.
With your fingers, tease the roving to separate it out a little bit.
Cross one piece of the roving perpendicularly over the other piece.
Gather the roving up, and gently roll it a little between your palms to make a loose ball.
Tie a knot in the toe of your stocking and put the ball of roving down into the toe. Tie another knot right after the ball.
Make more roving balls and tie them up in the stocking.
Make as many balls as you want or can!
Then run all the wool-filled panty hose through the hot cycle of a washing machine with some gentle detergent. You can also put the balls in the dryer for about ten minutes, although that's not a necessary step.
Cut the balls out of the panty hose and roll each one in your palms to give them a nice round shape.
The Hand Spinning Method
Follow the instructions for Panty Hose Method to the point where you have a loose ball of roving. Instead of putting it into a stocking, place the ball into the basket of your Felt Ball Maker.
Enclose the wool in the basket with the other half of the Ball Maker.
Fill a large mixing bowl with hot water and some gentle detergent, hand soap or dish washing soap (you can use the kit's measuring spoon for the soap or just put in a good squeeze.)
Spin the Ball Maker in the bowl of water in a whisking motion for about 10 minutes.
Then spin it in the air for a minute or so to remove excess water (you may want to do this in your shower or tub because it gets a little messy.)
Remove the ball and roll it in your palms to make a nicely shaped ball.
For stripes and lines, cut a piece of the worsted weight yarn and place it on the felted ball. Use a felting needle to gently jab along the yarn, poking in and out of the ball. I find it's easiest to not pull the felting needle all the way out of the ball between jabs. The tiny barbs on the needle will "felt" or adhere the yarn to the ball.
For the dots, I cut little pieces of yarn, and, putting one piece on the ball, I stabbed the needle in the same small vicinity until the yarn all coalesced into a dot.
Here are some of the simple designs I used for my garland. Of course, there are infinite possibilities!
Thread your laceweight yarn onto a sharp sewing needle. Tie a knot in one end and sew through the center of each ball. Sometimes I had to put the eye end of the needle on a hard surface and push the ball down onto the needle.
But usually I didn't have a problem, and my garland was strung in no time!