Monday, August 30, 2010

the process of making felted beads

have you ever made felted beads? i'm sure there are people who do this differently, but this way works best for me. i think it's so much fun.

i needle felt and then wet felt my beads. for the needle felting part, start out with a special needle - with tiny barbs along the edges. you can find these online or at hobby lobby. you'll need wool roving, which you can find online or at a really cool woolery or shop. you'll also need some thick foam (i like this blue foam best - it's more solid and less squishy, but still foam).

wind the wool into a round shape. it probably won't be perfectly round, but that's okay. you can fix it along the way. then carefully carefully carefully start jabbing the needle through it. the barbs will catch on the fibers and your shape will become more solid. be careful not to stab yourself, and be careful not to use so much force that your needle will break. it's a fragile little thing. check the shape every now and then to be sure your bead is spherical...unless you want to create some other kind of shape, which is perfectly okay, too.

repeat the process for a while and you'll end up with a collection of fuzzy little marbles. i used to skip this whole part and move right into wet felting, but doing both makes the whole process so much more productive. the beads almost always turn out round this way, and the wet felting process is faster and less labor intensive.

wet felting works to further seal the fibers into a shape through soap, water and agitation. use a mild liquid hand soap or laundry detergent. i've found it works best to put a little squeeze of soap into a bowl of warm water. it makes plenty of lather for at least a hundred beads. i dip the bead into the soapy water, maybe run it under some warmer water if necessary, and then carefully carefully carefully roll the bead around in my hands until it's more solid. after a while, this process is really calming in itself. (also, i know that i have strange lines on my hands. i was fingerprinted last week for work, and, no joke, the fingerprinter man told me that i had "damaged" fingers, but i really don't. they're just uniquely liney.)

once you're happy with the shape and feel of the bead and the fibers are no longer sticking out all over, rinse out the soap. cold water works well for this. at this point, i really like using the egg carton to store the wet beads, because:
a) it will hold a lot of beads
b) these beads will not fly away when they dry in the sunshine
c) the carton will dry along with the excess water puddles

here's a before and after (or a halfway point) photo of beads. can you tell the needle felted beads from the wet felted beads?

here's another before and after.

eventually, they dry. this weekend, in the hot early afternoon sun, these beads dried within hours. i don't know how many hours, because i checked four hours after i put them outside, and they were already completely dry. and now, more possibility. i can't wait to make something out of these!

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