08 November 2010

Wool Balls - a Tutorial!

Little known fact about ME: I know sheep.  That's right, I know enough about sheep to know how to feed them, shear them, even castrate them.  I've worked on two different farms where sheep were one of my responsibilities.  I don't just know sheep, I like sheep. One day I dream of having a little lamb of my own that I will treat nice, and hopefully she will grow beautiful fluffy wool for me to make beautiful things out of.  We will be a good team. 

Until then I have to trust other people to take good care of their sheep so that I can enjoy the fruits of their labours, because I love wool as much as I love sheep. One good thing to do with wool, even if you are not a knitter or a crocheter, is to felt.  Felting is easy, fast, and the products are oh so beautiful.

This week we made wool balls out of wool yarn and roving (carded raw wool, not spun yet.)  We made them to be functional, but they are so gorgeous and fun that they have become toys rather than the drier balls they were intended to be.

Here's how:

-wool scraps (optional, if you happen to have old wool sweaters or anything, this is a good way to repurpose them)
- 100% wool yarn - make sure it is NOT machine washable, as it will not felt
- felting needles (optional for decorations)
- wool roving
- an old nylon
- a washing machine and a load of dirty clothes!

One way to make them cheap and easy is to make the core (or the entire ball) out of yarn, as roving can be hard to come by and tends to be on the pricey side.  Start by wrapping the yarn, very tightly, around two fingers.

Remove your fingers from the yarn and continue wrapping, keeping it quite tight, creating a ball. 
I used this brown yarn as the core, and then switched to brighter colours, so I didn't use as much of the colours I liked.  I covered the core colour completely on some balls, and left some showing on others. Don't be afraid to be creative!

 Once you have a ball of a generous size (it will shrink to 1/2-2/3 it's unfelted size) you can decorate! I used felting needles to secure yarn in different designs directly to my balls. I just laid a contrasting yarn on the ball and poked it with the needle until it was secure.  Once the felting process is done, it will not come off.

Alternatively, you can make the center of your ball out of old wool sweater scraps, or completely out of roving.  This is one that I made from roving, wrapping small strips tightly around themselves. 

With the roving, I used the felting needles again just to make sure it was secure before I felted it. You don't need to do this, as long as you wrap it very tight.

See how the needle has started felting the roving to itself. This ball isn't unraveling anytime soon!

Once you have made as many balls as you want, pull out your old nylon and start stuffing!

Tie a knot, or tie off with a piece of yarn, between each ball. 

Take your yarn sausage to your washing machine and throw it it.  Felting occurs when the fibers are shocked (hot to cold and cold to hot) so wash as hot as you can, with a cold rinse. 

I only washed mine on one hot wash with towels, then dried it with the same load.  You may want to throw yours in a few cycles, just to be sure they felt completely. Once you are done, pull them out, cut them out of the nylon (they may slightly felt to the nylon, so be prepared to spend a few minutes pulling them free) and enjoy!


  1. Cool, I've never even heard of making those before. Way to go!

  2. I love those so much and I really, really want one...

  3. Thanks for the tutorial on doing them in the washing machine. I have done small ones before with my hands and hot soapy water (also lots of fun!), but this would be a much quicker way to do a lot at once. Must try this soon.

  4. This is soooo cool! I was actually wondering how to make these. Maybe I will brave them! :)

  5. i want to do this and make christmas decorations. very cool.

  6. Guess what is super awesome? THAT!
    Guess what is not on my to do list? Castrating sheep.

  7. What a fun idea! I could see a whole series of little ones strung as a garland!

  8. Thank you for sharing about this! I love the idea of using old wool sweater scraps.


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