Sunday, 19 June 2011

Felt Up? A felt beads tutorial

Can you see how snow white my hands are?  That's because I took it into my head that what I needed more than anything else was a bit of colour in my life so I hit my bag of Merino tops to make a wet felt bead bracelet.
Materials

A selection of complementary Merino Tops
Soap or washing up liquid
Hand warm water
Hand cream
Mattress needle
Shirring Elastic Thread
OK, hands up who is wondering what exactly Merino tops are?  Well this is what they look like,  you will remember that Merino is a variety of sheep that comes originally from Australia by way of the US and has very soft wool.  The top is the washed, dyed and carded (carding the process by which the wool fibres are teased apart and made ready for spinning) wool which is sold from a number of places.  A quick google will bring up a number of suppliers like the Handweavers Gallery and Studio or Wingham Wool who can supply you with these.
So select the colour of beads that you want to work with and open up the tops.
Tease the top into two and gently pull off about 4" of fibre.
Now there are various methods of rolling a ball, you can tease the fibres in half again vertically.  Roll one strip up like a Swiss roll, take the other strip and do the same again over your existing Swiss but rolling over so that you cover the open ends.  However, I am a simple soul and so I simply start to roll up the fibre into a ball.  Remember you will lose at least 25% of the size in shrinkage.
Now take a smidge of soap in your hands and some warm water and start to roll your felt ball.  It will feel like a soggy cotton wool ball and you will think that the ball will not come together but keep on rolling it between your palms as it becomes harder and denser and occasionally pass your hands under a hand hot stream of water.  


Once you have a passably sized bead, you can add some further fibres to make a bead that looks like mosaic, you could choose fibres from the other tops or add silk fibres too.  Remember that the new fibres will only hold if you matte them into the existing felt bead.
You will feel that the ball has become really solid, you need to shock the felt, firstly by using hot water and then follow this up with cold water and continue to rinse the bead until all the soap has dissipated.  You now need to let the bead dry out... I leave mine to dry on a sunny window sill.


When you have finished making the number of beads that you need, get out your hand cream, you will certainly have clean hands so use the hand cream to keep them soft too!
Once the beads have dried out, you need to string them up.
Use a mattress needle, which is a wicked looking implement originally used for sewing mattress buttons to the top and the bottom of mattresses.  The needle is strong enough to pierce through the dense fibre of your bead.  

Set out your beads in the pattern that works best.  I have used shirring elastic doubled up to string the beads together so I do not have to use findings to fasten the bracelet.  
When you tie the two ends together, push the knot into the bead to hide it and make the bracelet look neat.
And here is the finished item all ready for Handmade Monday, so please go over to Wendy's Blog to see what everyone else has been up to over the past week.  


However, if you also want to see a blog with some amazing wet felting work, take a look at Rosie Pink's blog, the work that they do is fantastic.


And now for the really shrivelled hands as I make the accompanying necklace... pass me the hand cream!

24 comments:

Cherie said...

This is a fabulous tutorial. I made a set of beads last year with wool from my friend Paul's sheep.
I read your profile and you sound soooooo much like me. I am also a stash hoarder. Going back to have a proper read of your blog.

Carolee Crafts said...

Thank you for the tutorial, well laid out and easy to follow, love the beads.

Wendy said...

Wow, gorgeous and clear tutorial and very tempting too. I love felt and the colours you chose. Superb finished product too!

Caroline Lovis said...

Another lovely post Ros. Thanks for the tutorial, I think I'm going to have to change my 'to do' list to my 'Ros to do' list. These look great and open up a whole relam of possibilites don't they?

Helen said...

They are fab!
I have some wool tops and I have had a couple of unsuccessful attempts at felting... I might be tempted to have another go!

fatmonica said...

That looks great-I love the colour!I've never tried felting but may be tempted to pinch some of Helen's felt and have a go!

PuppyFly Boutique said...

Wow - I truly learn something new each week! Love the colours x

dreamstar said...

Brill tutorial Ros, well done. Great pics and what a process! End result looks fab too. What a great project

Maria said...

I love the beads and colours are my favourites. I have never tried felting before but your tutorial makes me want to give it a try.

madewithloveuk said...

love the colours here!

Annie and Lyn said...

That's a beautiful bracelet Ros and a very clear tutorial. I hope it encourages lots of people to 'have a go' because making felt's such a fascinating craft.

Mrs A. said...

Love the bracelet and thanks so much for the lovely clear tutorial.
Hugs Mrs A.

Aviya Glass said...

Gorgeous colours and a very simple - to follow tutorial for anyone wanting to try felting.

Claire Cooper said...

I love hand made felt - the bead bracelet looks amazing - must make some felt soon!

Charters said...

What lovely beads and a great tutorial. Looks very tempting to 'give it a go'. Something that I've always wanted to do ... as well as the other 101 other 'to do' things. Need more hours in the day ...

Picto said...

Such a beautiful bracelet, great colours too, it looks fun to do and can be so versatile.

Jan x

Alison - Belovedly said...

Really nice bracelet, love the colours. That needle looks vicious!

Anna said...

Loving your bracelet and those lovely colours. I have never even heard of Merino so you really do learn something new every day x

Laura said...

That's wonderful! Thanks for the great tutorial, too. I remember making felt beads in school, way back when... :)

Picto said...

Thank you for your comment Ros, yes it's great to get an award, I just need to sort out how to get it in my side bar now :o)

Jan x

Napiligal said...

Love it. My knitting group had a "felt in" a couple of years ago and we all made balls. We put them on memory wire with little do dads in between and made cute bracelets. Some of my balls even had butt-cracks. There is a pic over on my rav project page.

witchyknits4ewe said...

How awesome! I actually just watched an episode of Knit & Crochet Now that showed this too! Hmmmm, I wonder if this has been a hint?!

Mae @ Kitchen doors said...

lol I actually love this. At one site, I saw felt decor hangings. I think it's time for felt to shine

JB said...

I've just discovered felting, and love these! Just ordered some tops - can't wait to have a go. Lovely clear tutorial, thank you.