Start with wool roving, add a little water, soap, and pressure from your hands and you've got the makings for felted balls and beads. With felted beads, you can make jewelry--bright, one-of-a-kind jewelry--in less time than you would imagine.
Wool roving is a slightly twisted roll or strand of cleaned, carded, and combed wool fiber. It may be dyed in a variety of colors. Small bags of wool roving are available in most crafts stores. Larger amounts can be found at yarn and weaving stores.
-- Assorted colors of wool roving (1 ounce makes about 30 beads)
-- Liquid hand or dish soap
-- 12-18" long clear elastic .7-mm bead-and-jewelry cord (stringing beads)
-- Purchased metal beads (spacers between wool beads)
-- Long doll-maker's needle or long sharp needle with large eye
Finished beads: 3/4" diameter
Pull a small piece of wool from one or more colors of roving.
Gently pull fibers apart to fluff the wool.
Using the palms of your hands, roll the fluffed wool into a loose ball, changing direction frequently to keep the resulting ball round. Wind errant fibers around the ball evenly as possible to keep it smooth.
Fill a small bowl with very warm water as hot as your hands can comfortably tolerate. Add a drop of liquid laundry or dish soap. Dip dry ball of wool into bowl of hot, soapy water.
Squeeze excess water out of ball.
Roll ball between the palms of your hands like you would roll a ball of modeling clay. It is important to roll very gently to avoid forming large cracks or lumps in the ball that cannot be taken out.
Continue rolling for a minute or more. Gradually the ball of wool will begin to reduce in size and feel firmer. Add a bit of hand pressure as this happens and continue rolling.
As ball begins to firm up, immerse it in a bowl of cold water. Take ball out after a few seconds and continue rolling, then immerse it in sudsy hot water; repeat until ball reaches desired size, rinse again in cold water to stop the felting process and gently roll out excess water from ball.
To avoid misshapen ball, do not squeeze out excess water but roll ball with one hand on a towel laid on work surface. Roll ball again between the palms of your hands to regain round shape.
Use a sharp sewing needle to pierce a hole through ball to make a bead. If you are making a very large bead, insert a toothpick through center of ball while wool is still wet. Allow ball to thoroughly air dry. Complete drying will take a day or two.
Thread elastic cord on doll-maker's needle. String beads on needle, alternating wool beads with metal spacer beads until reaching desired length. Tie two or three square knots in elastic cord. Thread tail ends of elastic cord onto needle. Thread tails, one at a time, into felted beads, moving the knot into the hole of a spacer bead. Trim excess cord.
Using a spunky mix of bright-hued wool roving, you can quickly fashion this necklace and bracelet. The cord and clasp are available at crafts stores.