Felting basically involves shrinking and interlocking wool fibers so they won’t come apart. The item is usually very sturdy; you can cut wool that has been felted as opposed to knit or crocheted. Felting on a ball is an easy and fun project that adults, teens, and kids can do with great results. You can complete your project in an hour or two and for less than twenty dollars.
- You want wool roving, not wool that has been spun into yarn. Wool roving looks a bit like a cotton ball that has been stretched. If you can’t find wool roving at your local craft store (look to see if they have any felting kits), it is a very easy item to find online. Look for a package that gives you a variety of colors. The size ball you use will determine how much you’ll need.
- 10″-12″ diameter ball with some give to it (avoid very hard rubber balls)
- A bowl to set the ball into so it doesn’t roll
- Three pantyhose tops (cut off the legs)
- A gentle dish detergent, such as Ivory
- Bucket that you can submerge the ball
- Warm water
- Washboard or rubber mat
- An area that will mop up easily if things get messy (such as an outdoor deck or a linoleum or tile floor)
Wet Felting on a Ball
Note: Even though you will be covering the ball, the wool will shrink, giving you a bowl that you can shape into a hat or purse.
Step 1: Set the ball in the bowl.
Step 2: Cover the ball with three thin and even layers of wool. Position the first layer vertically, the second horizontally, and the third vertically (these don’t have to be neatly lined up). You can change colors as the colors will blend into one another as you felt. Go for dramatic color contrasts such as yellow and black or softer combinations that will mix together, such as blue and purple or red and orange.
Step 3: Check that you can’t see the ball through gaps in the felt.
Step 4: Get some help to stretch one of the pantyhose tops over the felt-covered ball. You want to avoid shifting the wool.
Step 5: Turn the ball over and repeat with the second pantyhose top.
Step 6: Turn the ball again and add the third pantyhose top so none of the wool is exposed.
Step 7: Fill the bucket with some warm water. Mix in enough dish detergent that your fingers feel slippery when you swirl them through the water.
Step 8: Roll the ball in the warm soapy water until it is soaking wet.
Step 9: Press and push on the ball for about 60 seconds.
Step 10: Bounce the ball on a table or on the floor for two or three minutes.
Step 11: Remove the outer two layers of pantyhose and tug on the edge at the opening of the felt bowl-shape. If the material stays together, then remove the last layer of pantyhose and remove the felt from the ball. If the wool isn’t felted, cover with the pantyhose as before and bounce the ball for a few more minutes. NOTE: Your goal for felting on the ball is just to get the wool to hold together … it shouldn’t be stiff.
Step 12: Shape the felt into your desired object. Use your hands as well as the washboard or rubber mat. Any special shapes, such as a point on the hat, needs to be done before the fabric is fully felted (it will be firm).
Step 13: Rinse the item in cool water. Wrap in a towel and then step on the towel-wrapped object so you can remove most of the water. Let dry. You can shape the hat on your head as it dries.
Step 14: If you are making a purse, you can stitch on the handles (you can find at craft stores) when the fabric is dried.
Once you’ve tried this process of felting on a ball you can explore working with different size balls and molding the final shape. This is a fun an fairly inexpensive project to do with kids and their results can be as great-looking as something produced by an adult.
Check out these other craft articles for more ideas:
Make Felt Balls
Crochet and Felt a Bowl
Guide to Eco-Friendly Yarns
Photos by Susan Caplan McCarthy