How to Create Felted Beads and Jewelry
Does fiber call your name and draw you in? Make you want to stop everything and knit, or weave, or felt the minute you see a new skein of beautiful yarn, a newly dyed piece of silk, or after watching wool being spun at the Saturday farmer’s market. I know that’s what happens to me. And I’m pretty sure I’m not alone…
I’ve seen the “stash” of yarn many of you have shared on Ravelry; on Facebook, I’ve seen many beautiful knitted, crocheted, and woven designs pop up among your bead weaving designs; spinning tools have been spotted next to beading supplies; and many of you express joy when we share a new project that bridges our fiber and beading worlds.
Looking back – in the Beadwork 1998 Spring issue, there was a great project on how to make wet felted beads, by Amy C. Clarke.
I was immediately drawn to this tutorial and appreciated being able to compare the wet felting process to the needle felting I’ve been doing recently.
Wet and needle felting processes have their place, and there are purists who will only felt one way or the other – whichever way you prefer, both ways yield beautiful results.
Here’s a look at wet felting beads: Amy’s instructions clearly show how simple it is to make these colorful orbs.
Alternatively, dunk wool batt in baths of soapy hot and cold water; fold, compress, form and repeat
The secret behind this process:
Hot water opens up the scales on the wool fibers, the soap and agitation allow the fibers to move closer together, and the cold water closes down the scales, permanently locking the wool fibers together.
Needle felting accomplishes this same result but is done dry. A barbed needle is inserted into a batt of roving, and as the barbs move up and down along the wool fibers, they are “knitted” and locked together.
For both processes, the more you do to the fibers, the tighter and more firm the results.
Here’s a quick tutorial on forming needle-felted beads.
How to Make Felted Beads
Materials needed for needle felting:
– Felting needles
– Felting mat
– Wool roving
– Adhesive bandages!
Note of caution – felting needles are VERY sharp; please use caution and be careful as you work with these tools.
Form a loose ball of roving.
Place the formed roving onto your felting mat.
Using felting needles, pierce the materials. Repeat.
Move the forming fiber shape around, turning it over and shifting it so you felt the fibers evenly. Insert the needles; shape and repeat.
Continue to pierce, shape and move the materials around. As you compress the fibers, the overall size of the form will decrease; add more roving as needed. Continue in this manner until the bead (or form) is to the shape and size you like.
You can embellish the surface with additional roving, beads, crystals, or other surface treatments. A piece of yarn was placed along the surface of this felted bead then a single felting needle was used to pierce the fibers.
NOTE: You may find the yarn disappears into the formed bead. If that happens, you likely need to compress the fibers in your bead further, so the interior is more dense.
TIP: Sometimes I use the needles to shift an embellishment a little this way or that way – this is also when I usually snap the tip of the needle off. The needles are meant to be straight, and stay straight. They do not like to be bent!
Whether you like needle felting or wet felting, there is a great satisfaction in being able to make your own beads from fiber. And there’s no need to stop at beads, or keep the beads round. The sky’s the limit!
If you’d like to see more of the wet-felting article, you can find it in the Beadwork 1998 Spring issue which is now available digitally in the Beadwork 1998 digital collection. Also now available, the Beadwork 1999 collection. These two new collections combined contain the first eight issues of Beadwork magazine ever published. Complete your collection today with these “never available before in digital format” issues.
Happy felting, happy bead making, happy beading!
Editor of Beadwork and Editorial Director, Bead and Jewelry Group
Updated July 2019.