Wednesday, November 30, 2011

DIY Felted Wool Balls for Busy Toddlers

Let me start by saying that my family has a slight wool addiction.  We all have thick wool blankets, there's a pile of wool coats in the porch, we suggest wool CSA's from Stoddart farms as Christmas gifts, Rebecca has an outstanding assortment of hand knitted hats and wore wool diaper covers in her babyhood.  My mother is actually a famous rug hooker, having even won the Stanley cup of rug hooking.  No really.

So when I feel crafty it tends to involve mounds of roving. Last christmas I made these great felt balls for the gazillion babies in my life.  I shared a photo of them in my christmas gift round up and promised a tutorial and then, well, life happened.

Another holiday season is fast approaching and we were recently invited to participate in a "Toddler Busy Bag Swap" by our overly ambitious friend Alanna.  She was inspired by this great post over on The Rigneys and has roped 9 toddler wrangling mamas into making 9 copies of an activity to swap with each other.

It's going to be fun! Glittery dough, little bags to fill, matching games and puzzles are all in the works.  I have felted a million or so little indoor friendly balls to sort and toss all winter. As overwhelming as this time of year is, this was actually pretty painless.

First you'll need some balls or a form or some sort to start with.  You can start with yarn left overs or we used tennis balls last year and little cat jingle balls this year.  8 in a pack from the dollar store.

Next ask your rug hooking mother or your knitting and crocheting friends for their scraps of wool.  We're going to make a base layer of wool to stick the roving to.  Wrap you ball with the yarn tightly. Watch out for kittens.

Ready for the first round of felting? Take all your little balls and toss them in an old pair of panty hose or tights.  You want to stretch them tight and tie them into place with more of that scrap yarn. 

Toss them in the wash on hot.  Soak them first if you have an HE machine, the more water the better. You can toss them in with a load of laundry at this point. Don't bother with the dryer, it makes them all lopsided.

After the wash, the felting will have started.  Carefully cut all the little separating threads and have your toddler pull all the felted balls out of the tights. You should now have sturdy little felted yarn balls.

Now the real fun begins!

You'll need Roving.  Piles of fluffy unspun wool.  I buy mine on etsy where there are lots of shops selling directly from their own sheep farms along with fibre artists dyeing beautiful colourways.

 Pull and stretch it out with your hands.

Then start wrapping and stretching it around your felted yarn balls.  I like to build up thinner layers and mix the colours a bit.  I do a layer and then put it back into the tied off stockings in the wash.  One layer a night for a few nights with the day's laundry. I do the last polishing round in the washer without anything else as certain things can cause pilling and I've never figured out what so I do the last round alone just to be safe.

Before you know it you have a wonderful pile of simple fun for the little people in your life.

This year we're keeping them simple for good matching and colour sorting fun. 

Last year we had a really good time doing appliqués with bits of old sweaters.  We sewed them on and them felted them one last time.  They're holding up really well.  We play with these constantly.

We're headed to the swap this weekend and I hope they are as big of a hit with the other toddlers as they are around here.


  1. These look like fun! I've always wanted to try this.

    I'd love for you to link up and share:

  2. Brilliant! Sure is convenient to have a rug-hooking mom in this case. I've seen the really ambitious make these into wreaths too.

  3. These are absolutely wonderful! Thank you for the tutorial. :) Pam