It is great fun making felted balls - especially with the help from enthusiastic children! The balls can be used to make jewellery, toys, mobiles, embellishments, costume and more.
Merino wool is particularly good for making felt. It has a long fine fibre which felts readily and is available as natural, and in a choice of 27 different colours.
The wool fibre needs water, soap and elbow grease to cause the felting. An empty detergent bottle with a spray attachment filled with hot water with a few drops of washing up liquid works well.
The spray bottle helped to regulate the application of the soapy water.
Instructions for making the Felt Caterpillar:
Felting the balls by hand
- Take your wool fibres and pull until a small loose handful comes away from the roving.
- Gently shape the fibres in the hollow of a cupped hand and spray a little soapy water onto them.
- Pass the fibres to your other hand and spray the other side of the fibres.
- Bring your hands together, cupping the loose fibres between them. Gently begin to rotate your palms to make the shape of a loose ball.
- Increase the pressure and speed as you feel the ball begin to take shape. Add more soapy water to help with this process.
- Sometimes the fibres create folds and cracks on the surface of the ball. To repair these, add a few strands of the wool fibre, lay them across the surface and repeat step 4.
- The ball can take between 5 to 10 minutes to become fully felted, depending on the density required. When you are happy with it, rinse in clean water and squeeze it a few times by rolling between your palms.
- Place the damp balls in the airing cupboard to dry
The balls can also be felted using the washing machine method
The felted caterpillar is constructed from different sized balls, the largest being the head. The felted ball is solid and robust.
- Thread a darning needle (Tapestry Needle) with a strong cord at least three times the length of the intended caterpillar.
- Begin with the smallest ball and push the darning needle through the centre (a pair of pliers may be needed to pull the needle out through the other side).
- Add the subsequent balls until they are all strung together and the thread is protruding through the caterpillars 'face'.
- Make a stitch and take the thread back through the ball and through the remaining balls. Pull the thread carefully until it makes a crease in the 'head' ball to make a mouth.
- Tie the ends of the thread together in a knot.
- To make the antenna, lay out a small amount of fibres and spray with soapy water. Roll them between your fingers to create a sausage. Felt the fibres vigorously until the sausage thins out and lengthens. Tie a knot in either end and cut in the middle.
- Thread a needle with cotton and push the needle through from the knot end and up the length of the antenna. Stitch it in place, taking care not to make indentations in the felted surface and return the thread up the length of the antenna.
- For the nose, sew a bead just above the crease of the mouth.