Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Helpful Tips for Making Wool Felt Beads


It seems that wool beads are becoming more and more popular. Although I do sell a variety of wool beads and handmade supplies in my Etsy shop, you can easily make your own wool beads. This post is not a tutorial on how to make wool beads because, quite frankly, there are many, many places to find step by step instructions for that. Simply type in "wool beads" or "felt beads" on any search engine to find several good sources with complete instructions for making the beads. Rather, this post is filled with a few tips to make your wool beads better and to make the process of felting them a little easier for you. These tips are just little things that I've learned along the way after making literally hundreds (if not thousands) of wool beads.

First of all, there are a few types of wool beads and ways to make them. I'll be referring to both roll or sushi beads as seen in the first set of photos and also plain round or ball beads as seen in the second set of photos. Roll or sushi beads are made through the wet felting technique with layers of colored wool rolled together while round or ball beads are made through either wet felting or needle felting (dry felting) with wool fibers matted together to form the ball shape. I actually use a combination of both techniques, wet and dry felting, for most of my wool bead making. As you will see in some of my list of tips, I find that using a combination of techniques gives me more control over the outcome and also speeds up the bead making process. As I stated in the previous paragraph, please do an internet search to find complete instructions for wool bead making as well as more information about wet felting and needle felting techniques.

Now on to the tips . . . I've done my very best to give you some helpful tips about wool bead making that I've learned along the way. Please feel free to experiment and add your own personal touch to any of my suggestions. Also, if you have a great suggestion or tip to add, please leave a comment about it. I'm always looking for new ways to make the process of wool bead making go a little faster or easier, or just produce a better quality bead.


Tips for making the process a little easier and faster:
  • If you plan to make several round or ball beads in one or many colors, it saves time if you measure your wool ahead of time, or section the wool off into small piles with one pile designated per bead. This also makes it easier to achieve similar size beads in the end.
  • For both ball and roll beads, I recommend lightly needle felting each before wet felting them as the final stage. It may seem like it would take longer to do both, but it actually saves you time on the more strenuous part, wet felting. By needle felting the shape first, it also allows for less lumps and a smoother textured bead all over in the end.
  • Don't try to felt too many beads at one time manually. I've found that it is better to felt beads in batches while dividing the work into different stages if you use a combination of needle felting and wet felting. This makes is less physically and mentally strenuous and much more fun.
  • Lay your wet felted beads out to dry on paper towels in the sunlight or a warm room if possible. Periodically change the paper towels as they become wet with moisture from the beads. I've also heard of felt makers putting their beads in the oven to dry on a very low temperature setting, but I've never tried this myself. I just let them air dry to reduce fuzziness, and they are very pretty laying out to dry on my kitchen table!

Tips on reducing the fuzziness on your wool beads:
  • For wet felted beads, try not to handle them as they dry. This can loosen the little wool fibers on the surface and make them stick up even more which increases the fuzziness.
  • For needle felted beads, start out using a heavier gauge needle. Then finish it with a fine gauge needle. I find this really helps in reducing the fuzziness. The finer gauge finishing needle will refine the outside and get rid of a lot of lumpiness and fuzziness.
  • For wet or dry felted beads, you can use nail trimmers or small scissors to clip off those little fuzzy fibers, but be very careful not to cut into your bead while trimming it.
  • For any type of wool bead, you can use a fixative on the outside such as hair spray - yes, hair spray! You can also lightly coat the beads with a solution of two parts water and one part craft glue, or an even more diluted mixture if you prefer. Be sure to use as little glue as necessary in your solution, or you will end up with hard, crunchy beads, and make sure to use a glue that dries clear so you don't get a white film on your beads. Also, be aware that, although a fixative can greatly decrease the fuzziness, it can also sometimes make wool beads feel sticky or hard to the touch. I recommend using any fixative lightly and testing it on one bead first to see if you like the results before you commit to using it on a whole batch of beads.

Tip on the type of wool to use for bead making:
  • I have found that some types of wool work better for making beads than others. Ultimately, this is really a personal preference, but here's my opinion for what it is worth. I recommend choosing a wool that will felt quickly and can be handled easily. Ordinarily, I find that shorter haired fleeces work very well for making beads. I have also used merino for making beads because it felts very quickly and is a pleasure to handle. Really, any kind of wool that can be felted can also be made into felt wool beads. As I stated before, it is really just up to the felt maker and their personal preferences. You may want to test several types of wool by making a couple beads per type before you commit yourself to make a hundred beads of one kind of wool.

Well, I hope that my few tips are helpful to some wool bead makers out there. If you have any questions about making wool beads, please contact me via my website or Etsy conversations. There are a few techniques that I keep secret as any good fiber artist should, but if I can help, I will certainly try.

2 comments:

  1. I love all your felted beads. Keep up the great felting.
    http://felting.craftgossip.com/

    ReplyDelete
  2. I did another little article about you on: http://felting.craftgossip.com/2007/08/08/beads-beads/

    Check it out and PLEASE leave a comment and have your friends stop by also and leave comments.

    Thanks,
    Linda

    ReplyDelete

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