I just realized that I haven't been talking much about where I find specific projects, just how neat they are to do so I wanted to start talking specifics. If my post on Monday inspired you to make toys, but you don't know where to start these balls are a good place. (Thanks to Micha for the idea.) They don't need much in the way of specialized equipment and you don't even need to know how to thread a needle which means children can help. They are great toys for babies, children, cats and dogs (as long as none of them have destructive tendencies). You can make them any color or combination of colors you choose and you can make them any size. These ones are just the right size for little hands to pick up and squish and the basic ball can be made in about 30 minutes, though it will take a couple of days to dry when you are done. I want to make these in every color of the rainbow.
What you need:
sink or large bowl
1/2 oz. - 1 oz. wool roving
Put 1-2 tsp. of dish soap in the sink and put about 4-5 " of the hottest water your hands can stand. While the sink is filling take your wool and form it into a ball (roving can be easily rolled up like a yarn ball) about 130%-150% the size you want the finished ball to be. Once the sink is full put your hands around the wool and put it into the water and start gently squishing the wool to get it fully wet and then pull it out and mush the fibers together. You will want to be careful to keep it as ball shaped as possible. Don't squeeze too tightly at first or you can get lumps that will be a pain later. As the ball starts compacting down you can squeeze a little harder. Once it starts feeling more like a ball and less like a pile of fluff you can start rolling it around in your hands, pausing every minute or so to re-dunk it in the hot, soapy water. If your water starts getting cool you may want to pour some boiling water in to keep the temperature up. The hotter the water the faster the ball will felt (which is why you don't wash wool in hot water). Keep rolling until you have a firm outside, the middle may be firm too, but it will depend on how hard you squished the wool in the very beginning. Once the ball is to your liking rinse it under cold water, squeezing all the soap out and reshape it. Then put it on a sunny windowsill until it is dry. The texture and colors are interesting for babies and it is soft enough that you can throw it around without hurting anything. They are a hit at our house.
Let me guess, now you are interested in the project, but don't know what I am talking about when I say "wool roving", right? Don't worry, unless you are a spinner or know one (or know enough about felting that you didn't need this tutorial) there is no reason you would have dealt with roving before. Basically roving is fiber that has been carded and prepared for spinning. Since hand spinning and felting have become popular many large cities will have at least one or two places that you can buy it. Look for a spinning shop or start calling local yarn stores and asking them if they know where you can buy fiber. If that doesn't work there are a ton of places you can find stuff on the Internet. Two that I like are A Child's Dream Come True has "Eco Wool Batting" in their doll making section which is cheap and can be wadded up and used in place of roving as well as roving for felting. Also Halcyon Yarn has a whole section of felting fiber. There are a ton of other places out there, these are just two I know of. If you have time to kill I'm sure you can find more via Google.
If you have any questions please ask and if you'd like to see more instructions like this please let me know. Also, if there are any projects or items pictured that you'd like to see instructions for let me know that too. Thanks.