I am going to start from square one and tell you I took no shortcuts with this project. You can go about this more than one way. There are many sellers online who sell felt balls individually, allowing you to customize your sizes and colors to your preference. You can also buy ‘kits’ that provide all of the materials but that you build yourself. For me, I figured I was going to have some fun and make everything, including the felt balls, myself.
When I first starting looking into it, I was a little bit intimidated. My research taught me that I would basically need wool fresh off of the sheep. I have never worked with wool before, so I had no idea what I was getting into! I ended up finding one pound of wool roving on Etsy for just under $20, With that, I figured even if I failed, it wasn’t a super expensive project. I found the bakers twine right at Target in the craft aisle, for $2.50, I think! Everything else needed I had on hand, so the grand total of supplies that I purchased was $22.50.
1. Wool Roving (I ordered 1 pound, you will need much less if you are only making one strand of garland)
2. Baker’s Twine
3. Gel Food Coloring
4. Paper Towels
5. White Vinegar
6. Dish soap
7. Large Sewing Needle (I used a plastic crochet needle and it worked just fine)
Wool roving. I am being honest when I say this still smelled like the farm. Not terrible (as in not manure like), but definitely farm-like.
Dying the Roving
The part of the process that probably intimidated me the most was dying the roving. It turned out to be pretty simple! I recommend skipping to the bottom of this post and making a ball or two to figure out how much roving you will need for each one, and then separating out how much you will need for the number of balls you want to make. Then, fill a pot with water and 1/4 cup vinegar. Bring to a boil. Once it starts boiling, add your food coloring to your desired preference and remove from heat. You do not want any active bubbles or moving water, as this can agitate the roving and cause it to start felting. Once the water is just under boiling without being active, add your roving. I placed some large spatulas on top to help keep it all submerged to help get a more even dye. Here is a part that is kind of fun. You will know when the dying is done because the roving will absorb all of the dye, leaving the remaining water clear!
The blue dye is for a garland that I have yet to complete 🙂
After all color is absorbed, typically 20-30 minutes, you can let it sit for awhile, or you can drain off the water. I lined paper plates with 5-6 paper towels, and allowed each batch to dry overnight.
Here is my pink roving right after being dyed. Depending on the amount that you dye, it should be ready to felt in 24 hours or so. I did a bigger batch of red, and it did take a bit longer to dry.
Creating the balls
Okay so now the fun part, creating the balls! I placed a small amount of dish soap in a plastic bowl, and filled it with cool water. In another bowl, I placed hot water. These are what you will be placing the roving in to begin felting.
Break off and fluff some wool roving. I tested out some roving that had not yet been dyed to gauge how much I would need for the size and density I was looking for. Ideally, whatever size you want, it should be twice that size before you start. Make sure it is fluffed, and there are no thick/streaky patches.
One tricky part I ran across is getting creases in the balls. With some practice, I found the best way to go crease free balls is to cup the wool roving in both hands, and submerge fully in the cool soapy water. By doing it this way I was able to control getting one area more wet than another, or having it fold in on itself.
Once your roving has been dipped in the water, start to roll it in your hands very loosely with almost no pressure.
Each ball takes about 2 minutes to roll. I placed them onto a stack of paper towels on a plate to dry, and allowed them to sit overnight.
For the size of my fireplace, I used 30 felt balls to create my garland. Depending how far you want them spaced and how long you want your garland to be, I would say anywhere between 20-30 balls will be sufficient. Gather your bakers twine and a large crocket or sewing needle.