Pony McTate makes enough colourful, woolly spheres to go around.
I should have known. The rainbow colours, the tactile nature, the ease of making. Now I have a fully-fledged addiction to felted balls. I want them all over the place. Strung up in the sunroom. Festooned from the fridge. There's just something so moreish about these little balls of woolly goodness, isn't there?
You start with wool roving, which is raw wool that has been cleaned, combed and dyed but hasn't yet been spun into yarn. It is soft and fibrous and often comes in a long narrow bundle. The felting process uses hot soapy water and your hands to mesh all those fibres together into a dense little ball.
I've strung my little balls together with needle and thread to make a gorgeous garland. You could try a necklace. If you make enough, you could string them together so each ball touches and coil the whole thing into a round mat (secure it with stitches as you go). Or do the same thing with wee balls and make coasters instead. So many lovely possibilities. Time to rock and roll.
What you'll need
• Wool roving - I got mine from needlefelting.co.nz. Jo stocks loads of colours and it's all from NZ corriedale sheep. A 50cm bundle of roving will render about 5-6 small balls.
• Hot soapy water - I use a small squirt of dishwashing liquid to a cup or so of the hottest water I can get from the tap. Keep refreshing your water so it stays hot.
Unroll a little roving. To make a ball of about 3cm diameter, you need to start with roughly a palm-width of wool. If you want bigger or smaller balls, use more or less wool accordingly. Gently tease the fibres apart until a section breaks off. Don't use scissors; you want long fibres.
Lay the wool on top of a dish of hot soapy water. Give it a podge with your finger to dunk it a little without saturating the whole thing.
Remove the wool from the water and fold it into some semblance of a ball. Wrap the loose edges around the ball and smooth them down, if you can.
Very gently, start to roll the ball between your palms. Don't use too much pressure or your ball will form cracks and end up misshapen. Roll with a cupped hand or with your fingers. Your ball will begin to firm up as the fibres felt together. It might be getting quite foamy by now and you might find it slipping around in your hands; if so, give it a quick dunk in a separate bowl of plain hot water. If it starts to crack, dip the ball in the suds again and ease up on the pressure as you continue to roll. You can also tease out the edges of the crack to pull up some fibres and use them to cover it up. More soapy rolling will felt it all together. As your ball takes shape, increase the pressure until you are left with a nice firm round sphere. Give it a final rinse in plain hot water, squeezing to wash out the soap. Set aside to dry overnight.