Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tutorial: How to make...nope, not saying until after Christmas because my family will read this...

Ok now, if you are a member of my family, and you live in Arizona, quit reading this. Really. You can come back and take a look after Christmas.

Here is a picture to fill the space, so you can click away to a different page. (The rest of you, just scroll down past my tree.)

Still here? Ok Eric, you need to pretend to be surprised on Sunday morning when you unwrap yours then!

Now then, I've been making Christmas ornaments to give to my family this year, and I thought I'd share what I did in case anyone else needs a last minute craft project.  These are wet-felted wool snowmen, with bead decorations.

You'll need:
white wool roving (not superwash)
dish soap
hot water
white cotton crochet thread
black sewing thread
big eye sewing needle
beading needle
an assortment of beads:
   3 black 'E' beads
   4 black seed beads
   2 small black bugle beads
   1 small orange/copper bugle bead
   2 long bugle beads
a scrap of ribbon, yarn, or finger loop braid

Ok, first thing we do is to make three little wet-felted wool balls, in various sizes. Grab some white wool roving. Don't get superwash wool, because that has been treated to prevent felting.

Pull off about 6 inches of roving (more or less, depending on how big you want your ball to be), strip it apart into three pieces, and feather it out a bit.

Roll  a piece of the roving up into a ball.

Wrap another of your pieces of roving around it, and then the third, building up the wool into a nice round ball.

It will look like this. Now, take your dish soap and the wool ball, and head to the sink.

Put a drop of dish soap on your hand, and rub it between your hands until your palms are lightly coated with soap. This will keep the wool from sticking to your skin in the next step.

Run the tap water until it is hot. Cup the ball of wool lightly between your hands, and run your hands under the water until the wool is soaked through.

Now you have a soggy lump of wool in your hands. Put another small drop of soap on your palms, and start to toss the wool back and forth between your cupped hands.

Wool fibers felt when you add water, heat, a bit of soap, and agitation. The microscopic scales on the wool fibers just kind of velcro themselves permanently together. So after you throw the ball back and forth for a bit, the surface starts to hold together.

Once the surface holds together, start to roll the wool ball around between your cupped hands, like you're trying to make a ball out of play-dough or clay. You'll probably need to rinse the ball and your hands briefly under the hot water again, to get rid of some of the soap suds and give your hands a bit of traction.

When you have the ball holding firmly together, rinse it, set it aside, and repeat the process. You're aiming at having three balls of slightly different sizes, to make up the snowman. I made enough balls for a half dozen ornaments.

It is very possible to keep rolling the balls around in your hands until the agitation turns them into nice firm felt. But I took a short cut, and tossed the wet wool balls into the dryer for half an hour or so.

When they came out, they had firmed up, and shrunk quite a bit. Now, my snowmen were ready to assemble and embellish.

Here are the rest of my materials. I have a rather extensive bead stash, so I just went rummaging around. But you can decorate the snowmen however you wish. They make a great blank canvas for your own creativity.

To assemble your snowmen, measure out a length of white cotton crochet thread that is about 4 times as long as your snowman will be.

Thread your big eyed sewing needle with the cotton crochet thread, and poke right through the smallest wool ball.

Thread the middle sized wool ball onto the thread, and then lastly the big ball. Now, turn your needle around and go back up through your snowman the way you came, so your needle ends up coming out of the small ball again.

Pull the balls tightly against each other, and tie a knot on the top of the snowman's head to hold everything together.

Tie another knot at the ends of your thread, to form the loop for hanging up your ornament. Trim off any excess thread. There! You have a wet felted snowman blank to decorate as you choose.

This is how I decorated mine. I strung the beading needle with the black sewing thread, and secured the thread at the bottom of the middle ball with a small knot.

Then I sewed on one of the black 'E' beads to be the first of the snowman's coal buttons. I went up through the felt to the middle of the ball, to get to the right place for the next bead.

After sewing on three beads for the buttons, I poked through to where the snowman's arm would be.

To make his arm, I strung a long bugle bead, and then a seed bead.

Then I skipped the sead bead, and went back through the bugle bead the way I came.

I snugged that tight, and stitched through the felt at the base of the arm to hold everything in place. Snugging things in tight makes the arm stand out from the body of the snowman.

I poked through the ball to the other side, and added the second arm the same way. Then I poked over to the center of the neck, up to the top ball, and over to where the eye would be. A small seed bead becomes the eye.

A very tiny copper bugle bead made a good nose, and then two small black bugle beads became the snowman's smile. When everything was stitched down, I took tiny stitches and knots at the bottom of the smile to secure the thread.

A bit of fingerloop braid knotted around the snowman's neck made a jaunty scarf. (I'm not going to include the directions for the braid here--this is already long enough. But I did a tutorial earlier, and you can find it at http://tangibledaydreams.blogspot.com/2011/02/tutorial-basic-finger-loop-braiding.html .) If you don't have a braid, a ribbon or bit of yarn would work.

Then I made more snowmen, so the first wouldn't be lonely. They do get kind of addictive to make!

I hope you have fun with these. Merry Christmas!


  1. Soooo cute! Thanks for sharing and I hope Eric does well at acting surprised ^_^
    Happy Holidays!

  2. Love them, I might have to make some too.
    Thank you for sharing.

  3. They are adorable! I loved the tutorial - thanks!

  4. Great tutorial. It is so well written and illustrated that even I might be able to make these adorable ornaments. I know your family will be delighted when they receive theirs.

  5. I love these - my kids would go NUTS!!! So cute

  6. I love these too!!! Adorable AND clever!!! xo

  7. Wow - what a process! The ornament is precious!

  8. Really adorable! Love those and what a great tutorial.

    Lynette - Sweet Posy Dreams
    Blogging Buddies

  9. Thanks for stopping by, everyone! If you happen to make these, and post pictures somewhere, do stop back and drop off a link. I'd love to see them.

  10. Cute, cute, cute!!
    Merry Christmas!