How to make a felt bead

Making felt beads is a great way to embellish hand-crocheted or knitted apparel or to add to your jewelry collection. You only need a few items and a little bit of friction.

It’s a lot easier to make felt than you might think. In fact, it’s said that felt was first made by accident: a Roman bishop once padded his sandals with wool to keep his feet from hurting. By the end of the day, the sweat from his feet combined with the pressure from his footsteps made the fibers swell, stretch, and cling together; making a thick, strong fabric. We won’t be using sweat for these beads hot soapy water will work just fine.

One of the biggest misconceptions about making felt is that any yarn will do. Actually, you can only felt wool fibers or yarn. So if you want to embellish a felted sweater with felted beads, make sure you knit or crochet your sweater out of wool yarn, or you’re just going to end up with a very large sweater.

Felted beads are a very easy project that even a small child can do. Here’s how you start.

Your first step in making a felt bead is to acquire a small amount of roving, which is raw wool used to make yarn. Roving comes in all different colors and sometimes is carded or combed. Try looking at a yarn or fabric store for roving, or check an internet site or auction that sells wool. Roll a small bit of one color of your roving into al ball, smaller than the bead size you want. Next, tightly wrap a different color around the ball.

You may repeat as often as you like, with as many colors as you like. When you’re finished your ball will be twice the size that you would like the finished bead to be. Weigh your big bead on a kitchen scale and remember the number if you’re making anything that requires multiple similar-sized balls, you’ll want to use the same amount of roving each time.

Now comes the fun part. Get yourself a pitcher of hot soapy water. Four tablespoons of dishwashing soap in six cups of water will work well. But make sure the soap is fragrance and dye-free. Now get your bead wet. Make sure it’s completely saturated in the soapy water. Then begin to roll the bead between your hands. Be gentle, though. If you put too much pressure on it, it’ll put folds and creases in the bead that won’t come out once it’s dry. You want your bead to be smooth and uniform. The wool is going to be kind of messy when you first start, but it will harden.

You can take this time to add designs if you wish. You can work strips or disks of wool into it to make a stripe or a polka dot. Or if you like the way your beads look without embellishment, just leave them alone.

Next, get down to business with the shaping of your bead. Dip it in hot water again to keep the temperature up, and roll it between your hands again, putting a bit more pressure on it but being careful not to make any folds in it. Be creative you can make round beads, oval beads, or long skinny beads. Once it’s the size you’d like (half an inch is a good size), rinse your bead in cool water, getting all of the suds out of it. Then you can let it dry overnight. Make as many beads as you think you’ll need for your project. You might want to poke a hole in each bead with a toothpick before it gets too hard, so you have an easier time stringing the beads later.

Now you finally get to see how your beads look as a finished project. Take a sharp needle and some embroidery floss or crochet thread, and string your beads. Your projects are limited only by your imagination. Make a bracelet or necklace with your beads, tying a knot between each one to separate them. Mix them with glass beads. Put a hairpin through one and use it as a barrette. Use your beads as buttons on a sweater. Hang some along the edges of a shawl. You can even just make a bunch of different sizes and put them in a bowl for display, or make one that’s 3 inches in diameter for your cat to play with.

There’s a lot of satisfaction in knowing you made these great-looking felt beads yourself. Let your creativity go, get your hands wet, and you’ll come up with a masterpiece!

There’s a lot of satisfaction

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