Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Mar. 09 Program: Felted Beads, Bobbles, and Buttons by Jane Neimi and Jodi Francisco

Surely you've tried felting as a fun and easy way to transform your knitted work into something completely different. The fabric becomes dense, warm, and strong - perfect for cold-weather items. As an added bonus, your washing machine does all of the hard work!

Well, felting is also a great way to add a special touch to your knitted garments - try your hand at felting smaller pieces which can be turned into unique buttons, beads, and bobbles, giving your work just the right finishing touches!

There are many great uses for your beads - try them as jewelry, scarf fringe, buttons, covered buttons, and zipper pulls to name a few - the options are endless!

Create Yarn Beads:

With a few ends of yarn, make a knot to form a center for a ball and continue to wind around and around to form a ball of whatever size you want. You may want to occasionally use a fabric glue to hold the yarn in place. Glue the end or tie a knot and let the ends fray. If using wool, felt it all together.

Embellish Felt Beads:

Use BeadSmith Fire Line (not fishing Fire Line) - either a 6 pound or 12 pound weight - to add seed beads to a felted bead, and give it the look of sputnik. SoftFlex very fine .010 can also be used. Either of these can be found at bead stores.

Seed beads come in a variety of sizes from small to even smaller. A size 11 or 10 will sit nicely with a size 8 seed bead. To embellish your bead, You will start by threading a size 10 beading needle, and leave a tail of wire and go through the ball. Next, thread both beads onto your needle and place on the ball. To secure, go around the end bead and back through the first bead and continue to add beads to decorate the felt ball. End where you began and tie the ends and bury them.

Fantastic bracelet by Jane Niemi of handmade beads using an assortment of techniques!

Couching beads onto a ball is another way to add beads. Using more than two beads would add to the dimension, making antennae like adornments. Sequins can also be sewn on, using the same technique as for two beads, or add them as part of the two bead technique.

You may also choose to needle felt directly onto your felt bead by winding yarn around the felt ball and other decorations onto it.

Keep in mind that fabric Beads need not be limited to wool - you can also try your hand natural and synthetic fabrics - even paper! Cut a strip of fabric into a long triangle; the widest part should be the length of the bead that you want, and taper to a blunt point. The thinner the fabric, the longer your strip should be. You may want to use a fusible interfacing on the wrong side of either silk or knit to give it a little more body and stability. Beginning with the widest end of the strip, wind it around a skewer, close to the pointy end which will enable you to slip the bead off. Wrap the fabric tightly and continue winding toward the end of the strip. Apply fabric glue to the last 1/2” to secure. Let the glue dry and remove the bead from the skewer. Voila, insta bead!

When creating your various fabric beads, buttons, and bobbles, you may find it beneficial to use a stiffening agent to make your beads slightly more durable. Various stiffening agents include:

White glue (such as Elmers) diluted with water until it is a milky white consistency
Mod Podge
Acrylic Floor Shine
Clear glossy or satin finish Poly Wood Sealer (such as Varathane)
Upholstery protective spray

Experiment to see what works best for you.

Layered pieces of roving and novelty yarns, ready to felt.

Be sure to check out this great Felted Bead How-To for a step-by-step introduction to felt bead making!