Halfway between the first day of winter and the first day of spring is the traditional beginning of lambing season, though new sheep might actually be born anytime from December through May. To celebrate sheep, lambs, and the beautiful wool they give us, we are sharing several weeks of wool crafts you can do with your children.
Felted Wool Balls
Wool Dryer Balls have become a very popular way to add natural scent and quicker drying agitation to machine drying cloth diapers, linens, or any clothing. You can easily make these dryer balls yourself the hard way, the easy way, or the super easy way.
Wool Balls the Hard Way
Actually, the hard way isn’t that hard. If you have seen felted wool figures and wished you could learn to do that, too, wool balls are a perfect way to start your wool felting adventure.
This method is certainly easy enough to do with children, though you may want to start with smaller wool beads.
- Wool roving
- Hot water
- Needle felting needles
- Needle felt mat
Wool roving comes in a big variety of beautiful colors. Some people use a lower quality wool for the center of the ball and save the colors for the outside of the ball where they will show.
Your first step is to wind the wool tight. Keep winding the roving around your ball quite tight, making an effort to keep it smooth and even. If you have made a Waldorf doll or other wool doll, you already know how to do this. When you have a ball of roving about as big as a grapefruit, you are ready to felt your dryer ball.
This is where the felting starts. You place your ball on the felting mat and start poking the ball with your felting needle. This forces the wool fibers through and around one another. You can do this by squeezing and rolling without the felting tools, but the felting won’t be as tight.
Once your ball is smooth and round, you begin felting in water. Dip the ball in a bowl of very hot water with a tiny bit of detergent, then roll the ball around in your hands. The scales on the individual fibers open in the hot water then close on other fibers as you roll the ball and it cools. The individual wool fibers hold on to one another, and you have a felted ball.
I call this the hard way, but it’s really very easy. It’s just that the other ways of making felt balls are even easier.
Felting supplies are available at craft stores.
Wool Balls the Easy Way
If you don’t want to buy felting tools, you can still felt large and small wool balls.
- 100% wool yarn
- tapestry needle
- non-wool thread
Single ply wool yarn will work best, but you can use any all-wool yarn.
Start by winding the yarn around two fingers several times, then fold that yarn in half and use it as your core. Now, keep winding and keep it tight.
You don’t need to make this ball quite as big as the roving ball, though it will tighten up some. When the ball is just bigger than you want it to be, cut the yarn and use your tapestry needle to thread through the ball so it doesn’t unwind in the felting process.
At this point, you could do the wet felting above, but this is the easy version, so we’re just going to drop the balls in pantyhose. Put the first ball in the toe, then tie the pantyhose tight with thread. Drop in the next, tie off, and so on until you have a continuous sausage of wool balls.
Now, wash on hot and dry on hot. Just throw the balls in with a load of towels. Once they are dry, cut the threads and free the dryer balls.
Wool Balls the Easiest Way
Even young children can make felt balls, but it helps to keep the project short.
We have a colourful wool ball kit that takes about 10 minutes to make. The short cut is to use a tennis ball as the center, wrapping the wool roving around the tennis ball. Then, wet felt and squeeze to create a colorful toy for child or pet.
This kit would make a great party craft.
Vary Size. Adapt any of these methods to make smaller balls for wool beads, doll heads, or other small items. Remember to keep them larger than your small children could swallow.
Add Colour. Dye your own wool or experiment with colors you can buy.
Change Shape. Felting can be used to create flat fabrics or very elaborate sculptures
Once you see how easy it is to create your own felted wool toys, you’ll be hooked.
Image © Paulselway | Dreamstime.com