Saturday, February 18, 2012

Tutorial: Needle Felted Bead with Craft Felt

Tutorial: Needle Felted Bead with Craft Felt, by Kia Dallons

"Strange Quark"  Needle felted and embroidered bead.  Craft felt, wool roving, metallic embroidery thread.

I made these for the "Celestial" theme swap.  They have a black craft felt base, with purple and blue wool roving. For this tutorial, I decided to go with red, because it would photograph more clearly.

You will need: Craft felt, wool roving, felting needle, metallic embroidery thread. 
Start with a triangle of craft felt.  This one is 1 1/4" x 8", which worked down into a 1/2 x 3/4" bead when it was done.  It doesn't have to have smooth edges, or be a perfect triangle.  Roll the felt up, as shown above. Try to keep it as centered as possible.  Next you need a felting needle.
Felting needles have tiny barbs along the shaft, which tuck the fibers together. They are sold in packs to be loaded 3 or 4 at a time into special holders, but I like to use them individually for detail work. They are very sharp! Be careful not to poke yourself!
Starting just below the tail of your wrap, push the needle part way into the bead to secure the felt. Repeat every 1/4" or so around the center of the bead until you tack down the "tail" last. Avoid pushing all the way through, and directly  through the very center, as you don't want to close your hole.
It should look somewhat like this when you are ready for the next step.
From the end. You can see the felt is tightly rolled.
Work one end of the bead at a time. I already tacked down one end of this one. As you can see, the felt pushes out more to the side you are not working on. This will correct itself when you do the other side, but don't let it get too far out of whack. 
How to work down the end: Starting at the edge of the inner most wrap and working around the spiral toward the hole,  gently tack just the edges down. Point your needle at an angle towards the middle. You will need to repeat this a number of times, so don't try to work it all down in the first pass.
You can see the first round is getting narrower.

Eventually, you will end up with a little rim around the hole. The first side that was tacked down is now getting pushed out a bit. The needle marks the center. By this time, you should not be able to see the edges of the wrap very much, as they get blended in and tucked down. 
Viewed from the end. Next, define the holes. Open the hole up a bit, and spread the edges out. You will need to occasionally ream out the hole with the felting needle while you are working, to keep it clear. 

Working at an angle, and close to the surface of the bead, tack the edges away from the hole. 
Now define the hole even more, by working from the inside towards the outside. Work it down until the edges are no longer visible. 
It should look like this. 
Now, jab the bead all over with the needle. Repeat until the surface is uniform, and you like the shape. If you want, you can call it done at this point, or add other embellishments, but if you are planning to add roving, don't worry about making the bead look finished at this point. 
This is wool roving bought from a craft store. It comes in a small package, and unfolds. Another great place to find roving is your local yarn store. You only need a small amount, like the small tufts shown in the foreground of the photo. Also shown is the package/box of felting needles.
Roll the roving a bit between your palms to get it to make a loose rope.  Wrap around the bead. I like to start at the hole, so that it's easy to keep track of where it is, but it's up to you.
Tack it down. I'm using a multi-needle holding tool for this. It's not necessary, just faster. 
You can make bends and swirls by tacking a spot and then wrapping a different direction.

Once you are happy with the design, go over it again with the needles and get everything pretty well stuck on there.

Pretty hairy! 
Next, I added a layer of red roving over the black, and tacked it down.

Ready to jab a million times. Once the roving is pretty well on, I switch back to the single needle for better control. 
Keep on jabbing! Remember to keep the hole open.
Eventually it will become very firm, as all the fibers get tucked down. I could have kept going, making it smaller and less fuzzy, but I liked it like this.
From the end. 
I added some metallic embroidery ( which is hard to see in the pic ), and put it on a head pin with some beads.  Finis!