Welcome to the first tutorial I’ve ever presented! This is a suitable and basic project for someone who has never tried needle felting before, and is also a great project for kids (who are old enough to work with sharp needles and with supervision). Skill Level: Beginner
Stick with me here and I will walk you through “how to make a wool ball with a rattle sound inside”. When it’s complete, you can either use it as a toy for any little one, pet toy or further your exploration into needle felting and use colour roving to create a colourful finished ball.
You will need a safe and protective surface to felt on. You can choose a white foam block, foam pads are available at most craft stores and large department stores. I bought this black, large rectangle dense foam pad from a shop on Etsy that sells needle felting supplies. The beige piece you see is a piece of felt. I like to place a sheet of felt over my dark pad because it stops any bits and pieces of the pad from getting felted into my creation. It extends the life of my felting pads too, because they do take a beating…or stabbing I should say!
Next: the needles.
For a project like this, I use 3-4 needles at a time. They are all-purpose felting needles and have a triangle head. When you start searching around to learn about and purchase felting needles, you will see that there are different gauges(sizes). Pictured are a 36. That’s my favourite gauge to work with and the size I almost exclusively use. The higher the gauge number, the bigger the needle head is. I purchased these from a supplier on Etsy.
Felting needles are extremely sharp. These needles have barbs on the triangle tips, those bards grab and fuse the wool fibers, causing the felting to take place and by stabbing the wool thousands of times. TIP: if you are a beginner, you may break the tips off the needles but don’t fret! That is very normal for your first try. As you practice more, and get comfortable holding them and using them, they won’t keep breaking. You may also stab yourself (OUCH)…but that will also become rare as you gain more experience 🙂
Next: The rattle/shaker sound!
This ball will have a nice shaker noise that is especially appealing to infants or someone seeking sensory. I use tiny plastic containers that I fill with micro sized plastic beads. I purchased these supplies at a local discount store in their craft supply section. Fill the container about 1/3 full of the beads and close the lid. This particular lid is very snug fitting to it’s container.
Next: gather your wool!
I use wool purchased from a local sheep farmer(Cedarview Farms) who believes in free range and they use no pesticides or hormones. The wool goes to a mill for processing. For this project I’m using wool that has been processed into roving. It’s the texture of core batting and is such a high quality product. Wool pulls easily apart in your hands, just rip off an amount to start your ball.
Next: putting the rattle sound into the middle.
1. Rip off a small chunk of the roving. Spread and flatten it out. Place the container into the middle.
2. Roll the wool around the container
3. Fold the ends of the roll over to the middle to make a rough ball.
4. Start using the needles to poke and stab, while forming a ball shape. Your needles will end up hitting the container in the middle, that will feel awkward, but you will learn to work around it as you go. TIP: to avoid constantly hitting the container while felting, I try to felt on a bit of an angle to only hit around the rattle. (see pics at the bottom)
5. Keep going and going! You will continually roll this as you felt, using your opposite hand. Rolling it as you hold it and felt it, helps to shape the ball. Felt until it’s a nice ball shape and smoother and more dense in texture. TIP: it took me approx 10 minutes to felt into a smooth, more dense ball.
Next: a second layer of wool to make the ball bigger.
Rip another chunk of roving. Spread it out and flatten the chunk.
Roll the wool around the ball.
Now felt! stab and poke…stab and poke…stab and poke…. This second layer took another 10 minutes and it’s firm to the touch, densely felted.
Next: one more layer of wool to make the ball bigger.
Repeat exactly what you just did. The third layer of wool took me approx 10 minutes to felt. When the ball is firm and dense, then you are done. You can keep adding more layers of wool to keep making the ball bigger. It shouldn’t be too squishy when done. Truthfully…felting with wool reminds me of working with play dough or clay! Your ball when done, may remind you of how a ball of play dough feels 🙂
Tip: using just one needle is great for very specific areas that need shaping, such as this egg shape that has occurred during my felting. Using the one needle to take care of the misshapen area works well. Sometimes snags occur, or seams are thick… working on those specific areas with just one needle is nice and easy.
Tip: Sometimes you will find little bits and pieces of what we call vegetable matter(you can see these dark flecks in the pic below). These are pieces of grass and straw left behind. Some wool you buy will have tons of it, some you buy will be extra clean. This particular wool I use hardly ever has vegetable matter left behind, but in the event you come across bits and pieces, don’t fret. They usually fall out on their own as you poke, but if they don’t, they are very easy to just pull out and away.
Tip: This is how you can direct the needles as you felt, to avoid poking the rattle container as you go. Hold them at a bit of an angle and they will ‘skim’ the outside of the ball as you stab. See pics below.
You are done!
Easy Peasy! You did it! Keep practicing! Felting is very labour intensive and extremely time consuming. It’s also fun, addicting and so rewarding! Please come back, I plan to post many more tutorials.
If you would like to add colour to this ball, just use any shade of roving you please, and repeat the layering process until it’s covered. Have fun!