Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Felt Beads

Felt Beads
When most people think of felting, it conjures up soggy and soapy images and a long wet process, before you get your finished product. It certainly put me off making felt beads on a regular basis. However after picking up a rather useful book in a second hand book shop all about felting I was inspired, the book talked about the different methods and processes & one thing that stood out to me was DRY (or needle) felting – no more getting soggy & pruny fingers!

This wonderful process is regularly used to add detail to larger wet felted items, such as flower detail on to a bag or eyes and facial features on to felted toys. Reading on, I wondered whether this process could be adapted for felt bead making. The best way I thought to find that out was giving it a go & IT WORKED! Admittedly the first few beads I made were vastly different sizes, but practice makes perfect & I cracked it! Here are some basic steps for making felt beads & some useful tips...

Stuff you need
Natural fiber (Merino roving is ideal)
Felting needle (very sharp – be careful)
Foam pad (thick upholstery foam is perfect)
A sharp metal skewer (or a knitting needle –for making a hole)

1. Pull out small chunks of fiber from the end of larger batch. Create several small piles all of a similar size (this helps to ensure your beads will all be approximately the same size! If you want to be really precise, you can weigh the fiber, 1g-1.5g is ideal.)

2. Pick up a length of your fiber and roll it up tightly in your fingers, creating a compact roll, keep hold of it firmly. Use further bits of fiber to wrap around the rolled up piece in opposite directions.

3. Once the bead is approximately the size you want (or a little larger, as it will shrink slightly), start felting; place your bead on a foam pad (I’ve used upholstery foam), gradually start working all over the surface of the bead with a felting needle, short repetitive stabbing action is the best way to get started.

Take extra care not to stab your fingers. The best way to avoid this is by holding the bead carefully at the edges & only stabbing the bead in the centre, away from your fingers - but keep moving the bead around to ensure you felt the whole bead evenly. Unfortunately it does seem inevitable that you will prick your finger (I seem to prick my finger every other bead I make - it’ll make you jump, but it’s not too bad).

4. Continue felting your bead until it is round and starting to feel compact. Roll the bead in your hands, this will help eliminate the holes created by the needle and also highlight any areas of loose fibers that may need more work.

5. Once your bead is nice and firm and you are happy with the way your bead looks make a hole through the centre with a metal skewer.

Your beads are ready to be used in any way you choose. I like to make long necklaces on cord, with spaced out beads, kept in place by a small knot either side.
Thanks for reading, Steph.

(Steph has designed a beginners felt bead kit around these instructions - available here)