Here’s a quick project that kids love. They get to play in water and use their hands without needing much fine motor skills. And they end up with colorful little felted beads they can use for just about anything. My daughter pretends they’re money, food, you name it. Or you can use a sharp needle to string them onto elastic cord to make bracelets and necklaces.
Felting is the process by which natural fibers like wool are subjected to a combination of heat, alkaline (like soap with high alkaline content), and agitation causing the fibers to grab together and make a firm fabric or shape. And you don’t need all three elements to felt, two of three elements will still felt the fibers.
If you don’t know where to get wool roving or batting, check your local craft store or yarn store. Felting is all the rage right now, so most places will sell you a tiny bag of fibers at a ridiculous price. If you’d rather get a better deal and a lot more fiber, try knitpicks.com.
1 oz. (28 grams) Wool roving or batting
Smidgeon of dish soap
Warm water (in a bowl or just the sink)
Human hands (little thumbs, no thumbs or all thumbs is fine)
A few towels to soak up water (if you’re doing this with kids)
1. Pull a tiny amount of fibers away from the fiber supply. Hold each end of the fiber supply to pull, if your hands are too close together, you’ll be pulling on each end of the same fiber and that just doesn’t work. The fibers will pull away very easily if your hands are far enough apart. Note: You can pull fibers from several different colored fiber sources to make multi-colored beads.
2. Dip the fibers in water and place them in the palm of your hand. Add the tiniest drop of soap you can.
3. Use your other hand to roll the fibers into a ball by moving your hand clockwise for awhile and then counter-clockwise. Use vigorous movement – you can’t be too rough. Watch Nora do it:
4. Continue rolling until the fibers have hardened and formed a tight bead. The bead is likely to be slightly egg shaped. No worries, just squish it into a sphere.
5. Rinse the bead well to get out the soap, blot with a towel and set out in the sun to dry. You can make up a bunch of beads, and then rinse them all at the same time.
Repeat until your kids get bored and start making a frothy mess with the dish soap . Give it a try, it’s such an quick and easy project, but you’ll be surprised how fun it is.