Wet Felting Bead Tutorial

A fun project for anyone from 10 to 100 years old!

For this Wet Felting Bead Project you will need:-

  • 2g wool for each 2cm bead
  • Merino wool (the beautifully soft fantastic wool ideal for wet felting)
  • (Alternatively use Corriedale NZ Wool – the wool we usually use during the Needle Felting Workshops)
  • A small Bowl of warm water with a squirt of washing up liquid in.
  • A towel (to mop up any excess water)

Please read these instructions carefully before you begin

INSTRUCTIONS for wet felting one 2cm in diameter bead.

  • Each Bead should take you no more that 10-15 minutes to wet felt.
  • 2cm is an ideal size to start with.
  • Smaller beads can be trickier to make, while larger beads will take longer.

TIP 1: Always pull the wool apart, neverever cut it with scissors.

How to start
Take 2g wool and gently tease it out into a strip measuring about 30cm / 12” long. This is an ideal size to work with, but not vital!

Teased out strip of wool

Tie the knot
Tie a tightish knot in the centre of the wool strip to create a core, but not too tight. It is not a competition to see who can tie the tightest knot – you are building a core for your bead, which will reduce the rolling time. I will often tie 2 knots depending on the length of the 2 ends.

Top strip – Teased out wool with one knot
Bottom Strip – Teased out wool with 2 knots

Wrapping the core
The rest of the wool needs to be wrapped around the core, very much like a ball of knitting wool. You should end up with a smooth’ish round ball bead. One easy way of doing this is to divide each end of the 2 strips in half by tearing it down to the core knot. There will now be 4 ends still attached.

Wrap each one separately around the core. You can give it a few light jabs with a felting needle to make sure it doesn’t come unraveled. BUT DON’T jab too hard and distort the overall round shape. The end result should be a round ball of wool measuring approximately 3 cm across.

First ball is wrapped wool. Second ball is fully felted bead.

Rolling the bead
Without of letting go of your bead, dip it into the small bowl of soapy water. Gently squeeze most of the excess water out. Place this squidgy ball of wool ball in the palm of your hand. Place you other hand on top and gently, very gently start rolling it in the palm of you hand.

TIP 2: DON’T rush this part and DO NOT press too hard too soon. The surface of the wool is fragile and you will create creaseson the surface and your bead will resemble a walnut – which is NOT what you want * see Beware the Walnuts below

Using a circular motion, roll the bead VERY GENTLY for a few minutes in the palms of your hands. DO NOT put pressure on the bead as this will distort it – you want a round bead, not an oval bead.
As you roll the wool ball, it will slowly become firmer and start shrinking.
Only then should you gradually apply more pressure. 
Carry on rolling applying more pressure until the bead is smooth, firm and roughly 2cm in diameter.
TIP: If the bead becomes too dry dip it into the warm soap water.

Beware the Walnuts DANGER POINT:
If your bead should develop crinkles or creases it is because you have been using too much pressure. You won’t always be able to solve this – so put it down to experience and try again. Sometimes you may be able to take a little extra wool and wrap it evenly around the bead and carry on felting, but the chances of the wool attaching to the bead while you are felting it, are slim.
Don’t bin this mis-shapened monstrosity – keep it as a souvenir to look back at later and revel in how much of an expert you have become.
Alternatively you may find that this odd ball can be used in another project, especially if you actually need a crinkly creased walnut-like bead!!

You can now either wash your bead and rinse out the soap suds, or put it aside and start on the next bead! Then wash them all at the same time.

Washing your balls
Rinse the beads thoroughly in cold water to remove all of the soap suds. You can also alternate the cold water and use very hot water too, which can also help with the felting process. Blot them in a towel to remove excess water. Roll the beads between the palms of you hands to re- shape them. Leave the beads to dry.

FINAL NOTE You may find that your beads vary slightly in size and shape however hard you try. Don’t worry; it’s part of their charm. With practice you will find it easier (and quicker) to make similar sized beads.

A photo of each step starting with strip with one and 2 knots, wrapped bead, wet squidgy bead, perfect bead and lastly the dreaded Walnut.

There are so many things you can do with beads.

  • Make beads of different sizes, decorate them by needle felting spots on them, embroider with silks and add seed beads.
  • They are so easy to sew, and very forgiving.
  • You can make necklaces, bracelet, earrings, garlands, trivets, bags (although you will need many beads for this), hanging decorations, mobiles.
  • Mix them with glass beads, decorate bags and purses.
  • Use mixed coloured wools, then cut the beads in half and see what wonderful designs are inside.
A selection of beads that have been further embellished.