Friday, 13 November 2015

Needlefelting a Christmas Tree Bauble

"Is that all you've done, the whole afternoon?"
"Lovely, isn't it?"
"Mmm.  How we shall enjoy seeing the tree decorated - for Christmas 2016."
Needlefelting is thoroughly therapeutic.  Some people do those adult colouring in books to chill out.  I was feeling perfectly tranquil after a couple of hours stabbing away at one felted wool ball, til my companion, Elinor Gotland, pointed out the flaw in my master plan for a retail sales empire.  It had taken a fair amount of time just to experiment with different kinds of fleece for making the initial felted balls.  The Easy DIY Drier Balls instructions are indeed easy, but the results vary according to the fibre.  I am now able to advise you that if you knot
a handful of fine merino or alpaca into the end of a pair of tights and put it through the hottest cycle on your washing machine, the ball will be almost impossible to cut loose.  Do the same with a handful of Black Welsh Mountain sheep's fleece and it will felt into a soft ball, bearing a happy resemblance to plum pudding. Try wrapping silk fibres round a core of wool and they barely felt at all.  
Recalling the dense felting tendency of a mixed batt of fleece I got ages ago, I thought I would try felting lumps of that. The washing machine produced good, solid wool balls, nice and rustic.
"Look, Elinor.  With a loop of linen thread to hang them from, these are a pleasure to needlefelt into Christmas decorations."
"Best you share the joy, Beaut."
Which seemed a good idea.

If you bought one of these felted balls as part of a Christmas Kit at Crafts by the Sea, here is how I needlefelted the prototype.  First off, the felting needle is barbed and very sharp.  Go slowly til you get the knack of keeping your fingers out of the way.  If you get really keen and want to buy more felting needles, I got these from Adelaide Walker.

The yarn is handspun, two ply, which means you can pull it apart into two separate threads, called singles.  While any yarn can be needlefelted, handspun singles are much easier to fix on than many millspun yarns.  Lay the end of a single across the felted ball and jab it a few times.  This pushes some of the fibres into the ball and starts to felt it on.  Curve the single around the ball in deep bends, ending up by felting it back
over your starting point.  Now use short lengths to add curved side branches at about six points. Don't worry if it looks like a dog's dinner, the trick with needle felting is to persevere.  If you really hate the look of something you've done, it is easy to pull it back off. The coloured fluff is called wool tops.  The fibres are all aligned and the best way to take out a little portion, is to pull just the tips of the fibres at one end.  Use the felting needle to stab in some red
fibres to the end of one of your side branches on the felted ball. Swirl the wool in a circle and needle it in.  You can leave it quite fluffy and textural or jab it on firmly with lots of stabs.  Now choose a smaller amount of another colour to fill in the centre.  Use the dark yarn single to outline the flower, then add a couple of inner lines.  I like to think mine were Charles Rennie Mackintosh roses.
 A flower for every stem and a pair of leaves for every flower, not a problem if they overlap, add more if you fancy or do fewer.  Enjoy.

After Christmas, the ball could become a pincushion or sharp ear ring stems could be poked into it to keep them safe.  One thing, it definitely won't get broken.


  1. Oohh Fran I really like the RM look of that bauble. Tell that silly sheep to go and boil her hea.....ummmm maybe I had best not finish that....Hi Elinor!


    1. "Hi Jaki. Boil my heavenly fleece? I leave mucking about with felting to Fran, Beaut."

  2. I was admiring your baubles yesterday and came away with the purple ones. Brilliant little shop. They were all lovely, I just missed out on the robin though.

    Susan (Pembs).

  3. having no clever companion like yours - I found out some time back all by myself, that I will never have a "handmade christmas emporium" - unless we suddenly have 36 or 48 hours days:) but your woolly baubles might be a good idea for the tree this year - we found a lost kitten, which will probably reduce our glass baubles to tinkling pieces on the floor:) not sure that I'll get more than one or two done for this year though... my tip for a natural looking tree - forego the artifical lametta for thin strands of silk! lovely to look at and spinable afterwards:)
    greetings from the wet and grey "emerald isle"

    1. Excellent idea about the silk - I bought some, but it isn't easy to spin and it just got left on the too hard pile. If I look at it all Christmas, maybe I'll get up a head of steam to try again.

    2. Fran - don't give up on the silk yet! it is very different to wool, but once you get the hang of it (spinning from the fold made all the difference to me way back!) - you'll love it, I am sure!
      happy spinning