May 26, 2011

DIY Felted Wool "Billy Buttons"

 

UPDATE: Click here for a new post with troubleshooting tips.

In case you didn't catch my guest post on Young & Crafty, here it is!

While making felted wool beads for my DIY'd necklace, the yellow wool beads I was felting started to really look like stylized Yellow Craspedia (small, spherical flowers also known as “Billy Buttons” or “Woollyheads”).  Inspired, I made some extra felted wool beads, pierced them with cloth covered floral wire and made an arrangement in an inexpensive West Elm vase.  Scroll down for the how-to.
My FAUX Craspedia

REAL Craspedia
Via Bloomerism

More REAL Craspedia
Via That Windsome Girl

Supplies:
·         Mustard yellow wool roving (found in yarn/craft stores or online)
·         One bowl of hot, hot, hot as you can stand water
·         One bowl of cold, cold, cold as you can bear water
·         Cloth covered stem wire (from the floral section of craft stores – I used 20 gauge)
Instructions:
The whole process for one ball should only take a couple minutes.  First, tear off a piece of your wool roving, like you would tear off a piece of cotton candy.  You want ragged ends.  Remember that your wool ball will shrink a bit during the felting process.  Try starting with the same approximate amount of wool I use in the photo below to create a ball the same size as mine.  Real “Woollyheads” are about an inch in diameter.

Next, place a small drop of soap (I have used both hand soap and dish soap successfully) in your dry hands and also rub a tiny bit onto the piece of wool roving.

Then, roughly shape the wool into a ball before dipping it gently in the hot water – you want it a tad wet, not completely drenched.

Very, very gently roll the wool roving between your palms – like you would a clay ball.  At this stage, don’t squish the wool any harder than you would a baby chick.  Then dunk the roughly shaped ball into the cold water (this time you can soak it) and keep rolling. Then dunk the ball into the hot again, then the cold, rolling between dunks.  The change in temperature helps “shock” the wool fibres and is part of the felting process.  Plus, you want to rinse out the soap.
                               
As your ball becomes firmer (and thus smaller), you can apply more pressure.  Your ball is finished when it is firmer to the touch and feels “dense”.  You can see in the next photo how much smaller my ball has become.


Leave the felted wool ball(s) to dry, for 24 to 48 hours.  The dry felted wool ball should have a slight bounce to it when dropped on a countertop.  I recommend making a few as a “test” before diving into a dozen or so for an arrangement.
Once your felted wool ball is dry, simply pierce it with the end of the floral wire and twist & wiggle the wire into the felted ball until it almost pops out the other side.  Your ball should be dense enough to grip the wire.  I flung my finished “Billy Buttons” around and no felted balls went flying.  Then bend the wire as you please, making some droopy flowers or more rigid ones.  Bend the wire gently – you don’t want any kinks – just soft bends.
                             
And, voilĂ !


                     

44 comments:

  1. Aha...so thats how you do it! Love it..looks very effective and I love how it adds a subtle pop of colour. Thanks for sharing lovely x

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  2. Oh my gosh...love! I am totally stealing this idea and claiming it as my own! ;)

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  3. that is toooo cool
    they look amazing!!
    Amy

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  4. amazing DIY..love the look of it with the lamp...nice!!

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  5. Love the idea, I just know my little ones would be yanking them out of the vase, and little J would try eating them, while S tried using them as swords.

    I'll enjoy your beautiful handiwork from here. :)

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  6. I'm really, really going to try this.

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  7. Thanks for the compliments. I was SUPER jazzed about this project when I finished it. Normally I feel disappointed, I'm not going to lie. I'm my biggest critic. But this I was excited about and it is so nice to receive positive feedback.

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  8. So adorable! What a great DIY project....I love the mustard Yellow as well. Great blog, glad I found you!

    swirlsofhappy.blogspot.com

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  9. These are awesome! I love it most when there's lots of them. Good idea!

    Emilie
    www.liveeatsmile.blogspot.com

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  10. OMG! I am in love with these! I have always loved those little flowers but didn't know there names. Thanks for the tutorial. I am really excited about trying this. Super successful!!! and soooo modern!

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  11. Because I am a total nerd, I emailed a link to this post to Sherry from Young House Love. Like I said, I was totally jazzed about the results and wanted to share in the excitement with other DIY fanatics. Here is the sweet reply I got:

    Oh my gosh- ADORABLE! I'm in love. What a great project and such an informative and fun post. Love it!!!!

    xo,
    s (& the fam)

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  12. Wow ! Wow! Incredible and very creative.. .. Love it....!!!

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  13. I have been wanting some billy buttons in my house for so long now!

    I made some "test ones" tonight and I have a question: How do I fix the cracks? I keep getting these little mouth-like openings. It isn't a smooth circle.

    Thank you for any help you can give!

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  14. Hi Jen,

    I am glad you asked that question. I will describe it here, and will do a post about it in the next few days.

    There are a couple methods, but here is the easiest: if it starts to crack as you are rolling the ball, take a bit more of the roving - a super thin "layer" - and when your ball is about half felted, lay the extra layer on top, add a smidge of soap and do the dunking process again. Keep rolling, repeat as required and that should take care of any cracks. I can take photos that will help clarify.

    Also, while rolling, be gentle. At first, you barely apply pressure. Pressing too hard can cause cracks too. And I promise: the first few I made were brutal. You start to get the hang of it. If you check out my DIY Projects Page, I made a necklace, too, and that post links to a video I found helpful.

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  15. this is great! i've been looking all over the place for instructions on felted billy balls. thanks for posting!

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  16. I think this is a great fun DIY post. I design wedding flowers from time to time and have noticed that billy balls dry really well though, so don't know that I would go to all this DIY trouble. Cool Tip for real billy balls: You can also spray paint them. It adheres really well and changes the whole color and look of it. You can see my post of the wedding i designed with them sprayed green, and a scobiosa pod spray painted purple at http://theretrolutionary.blogspot.com/2010/10/tara-bryans-wedding.html

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  17. Hi there! Where can you purchase the mustard yellow roving? The link in your post is broken - thank you so much! I'm hoping to make these as center pieces for my wedding reception.

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  18. Hi there, thanks so much for pointing out the link is broken. Perhaps the colour roving I was linking to was sold out.

    I have fixed the link and here is the address: http://www.sarastexturecrafts.com/. This is her main page - you will have to search for rovings. I have never purchased from Sara, but she has good customer reviews and is enthusiastic about textile arts.

    I bought my rovings locally, at a wool and yarn shop. Many stores with supplies for knitters or textile artists will carry wool rovings. I suggest phoning around before ordering online. It is nice to be able to see the colour in person. If you do buy online, let the seller know what the project is for - they should help you determine if the shade of yellow is the right one.

    I invite you to take a look at this post for some troubleshooting tips:

    http://dans-le-townhouse.blogspot.com/2011/07/felted-billy-button-troubleshooting.html

    And check out this post for a few fun examples of Billy Buttons used in wedding bouquets and as table decoration:

    http://dans-le-townhouse.blogspot.com/2011/07/fun-uses-for-felted-balls.html

    Good luck! I'd love to see photos of your finished product.

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  19. I love to use such flowers for decoration in my house. Thanks to you and this tutorial, I don't need to buy expensive flowers anymore. Will try it for sure.
    Thanks for sharing. Posting it on my blog. Included a link to your page... expect high traffic and loads of comments :)

    -Tanya
    http://tanyaanurag.blogspot.com/

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  20. this is really cool ....love simplicity...and this just personifies it...have got to get me some roving...

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  21. Thank you so much for sharing your tutorial! Your flowers are absolutely adorable!!!

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  22. These are absolutely beautiful! Thank you so very much for sharing! I'll have to put them in my file of things to do once the house is cleaned up and the clutter cleared out (a process which is transpiring slowly but surely!) Once again thank you!

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  23. Just purchased some yellow roving online! Out of the three local crafts stores only one had some and the yellow was combined with other colors so it would cost some $$$$ to get enough. Can't wait to try these. If it goes well, I want to get other colors to make a felted ball garland for Christmas decor!

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  24. Hi Jamie, other than online sources I have only found bags of felted wool, too. If you check my DIY projects page, there's a link to making needle-felted artwork from the same material. Once you get going, there are tons of wool crafts to do so I'm sure you'll use the other colours. I'd recommend experimenting on a colour you don't like.

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  25. so impressive!! I just came across this from your current post - but love how these turned out, and super kudos for you for putting together the step by step!

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  26. Hi Tanya! Your blog is gorgeous and I love your billy buttons! Thanks for the great idea :)

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  27. I posted your darling DIY on Craft Gossip Felting http://felting.craftgossip.com/2012/02/23/diy-felted-wool-billy-buttons/

    Linda

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  28. this project is fabulous! i want to get started on them for my wedding! can you give me an approximation of how much they cost per stem? if not maybe how many billy balls you got out of a 2oz package of roving?

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    Replies
    1. Hi Katie! Thanks for your compliment. I bought my rovings in a bulk bag with other colours & they weren't weighed, but in this post I have a picture of how much felt I used to create my billy buttons (which yielded about 18-20, not all are pictured):

      http://dans-le-townhouse.blogspot.com/2011/07/felted-billy-button-troubleshooting.html

      The amount I used is about the size of a grapefruit . . . so that should be about 2oz . . .

      Billy Buttons will shrink by about 50%, so that should help you gauge how much of your rovings will yield how many billy buttons. Also, how densely you felt yours will also affect how much roving you use.

      I hope this helps?

      Let me know if you have any other Q's! It might take one or two for you to get the hang of it, so start small. Make a couple, let them dry, and see how they look. I don't recommend making a batch of 200 until you try a few.

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  29. I love these billy balls. I made some in autumn colors for a birthday present and they looked so beautiful. To dry them, I tied them individually in an old stocking with a knot between each one and put then in the dryer. Worked a treat!

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  30. I have to leave a comment b/c I loooove your blog. I had pinned your felted billy buttons awhile ago (still have yet to make them- need to get some roving). But curbly has directed me to you blog, yet again.

    I have been perusing your diy projects & house tour and can't tell you how much I love it. Your style is beautiful, I strive for this kind of design. I can't quite pull it off- I struggle with editing pieces and having enough storage.
    But I just love everything on your DIY page- I've made my kids a play kitchen myself, recovered a MCM chair for a sewing chair (and would love one like you have in your guest room or living room- love them both), in the process of replacing ugly ceiling fixture with a drum shade. And then I scroll down to see your christmas spiders (I made those a few years ago, too). Everything you've done, however unrelated, is right up my alley.
    I have subscribed today but now I'm busy reviewing past posts.... lots still to see!

    thanks for the creativity and beauty you share....

    your newest fan, also in Ontario

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    1. Hello fellow Ontarian!

      Thanks for the hugely flattering comment(s). You definitely made my day and have motivated me to get off my butt and make something. Right now.

      I love knowing someone is excited about my projects, and it's so fun we've made similar things! I'm hoping you have a blog so I can be inspired by your fabulous creativity :)

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  31. May I ask about the details on the paintings? Love them!

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    1. Of course! The paintings above the sofa and also the one in the dining room are by my Hubby's grandfather, Bert Weir. He is a professional artist and here is his website: http://bertweir.com/

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    2. Thank you...I will check out his website!

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    3. No problem! Those pieces are from the 1980s (his best work, in my opinion) and I believe he still has some left. He is quite prolific.

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  32. I am just loving these billy buttons! This is such a great idea and I can't wait to try it out myself. I also saw the one's Tamsyn {from Max & Me} made with your tutorial and they look great as well! I will be coming back to follow your tutorial when I am ready to try it out! Thanks so much for sharing. I shared this over on my blog :) http://www.hubbymademe.com/10-needle-felting-projects/

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  33. Thank you SO much for your wonderful tutorial!!! I made my own version of your felt Billy Balls over the weekend and was SO happy to see them turn out okay =) http://wp.me/p1s8eD-33b

    Thanks for the inspiration!!

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  34. Hi! I made a few of these to see how they would turn out. They look great, but I can't get them on the stems. Is there a trick? I have 18 gauge floral cloth wire and it doesn't pierce the balls at all. Any suggestions? Thanks!

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    1. Hi Angela. Great question! Your wire might be dull on the ends (to keep people from hurting themselves). Use a pair of wire cutters to trim the ends at a sharp angle. When I made another set and used different wire, that's what I did because the balls were felted so densely it wouldn't pierce. This should work! If it doesn't, you could try using a thick needle to form a hole and then inserting the wire, but make the end of the wire sharper by cutting it on an angle should work. Good luck :)

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    2. Thank you so much for your quick reply! It worked!!!

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    3. I'm so happy it worked!! I'd love to see a photo of your billy buttons: dans.le.townhouse@gmail.com. I'm always so excited when people make these!

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