Pinspiration Monday: Felt Billy Balls

This project HAS to be, hands down, the most successful DIY I have ever deemed myself worthy to recreate. I couldn’t BELIEVE how similar my result was to my inspiration, and it went exactly as the blogger explained it!

So lets get to the details…I first heard of this project via Tanya, of Dans le Townhouse. While DIYing felt beads for a necklace she was making, she stumbled upon yellow felt balls that looked an awful lot like Billy Button flowers (if you aren’t familiar with these happy, bouncy-looking buds, see here, here and here for examples). Not able to get over the resemblance, she decided to add floral cloth wire “stems” to the bottom and stuck them in a vase. Et voila! DIY Billy Buttons that will never die.

Source: Dans le Townhouse

I loved the look and absolutely couldn’t wait to try it out, although I had my reservations over whether or not I could actually pull it off. My experience with the supplies she rattled off (namely felt roving – huh??!) was, how shall we say it…NADA. So I really had no expectations whatsoever for my own attempt.

With a very flippant, “we’ll-see-how-this-goes” attitude, I headed to our local craft store where I picked up two packs of mustard yellow felt roving and a pack of long green floral cloth wire. I think the total cost was under $7.

Although I lay out the instructions below to the best of my abilities, I would suggest checking out Tanya’s post (in addition to her “troubleshooting” post) in case you want the fully rounded tutorial. Before I started the project, I also watched the video embedded in Tanya’s troubleshooting post, which was nice since I got to see the steps “in action.”

Essentially, you begin by filling two bowls (I used big mixing bowls) with water, one with super cold and the other with super hot water. I would suggest using the big bowls since there’s a lot of water splashage, but you DON’T need to fill them up all the way. In fact, I only put about an inch of water in the bottom.

Next, grab about a hand-full of felt roving (you can use the photo below as reference for how big of a chunk you’ll need) and pull it out so it’s loose and fluffy.

You can barely see it in the photo above, but the next step is to put a smear of soap on the palm of your hand and another smear on the surface of your felt roving “puff” – I used clear orange dish soap, thus the hard-to-see view above, but you can use any kind of soap.

Next, roll it lightly in-between your palms to get it roughly in a round shape, and then dunk it quickly in the hot water. Pull it out and roll again between your palms. The most important advice I garnered from Tanya’s instructions is this: When you first start out, roll the felt between your hands with barely any force, as though handling a baby chick. If you roll too hard initially, your roving will lose shape and crack. So roll VERY steady and gently.

After about five seconds of rolling after bringing it out of the hot water, dunk it into the cold water to “shock” the fibers as they start to form up. Continue rolling gently gently gently, alternating between dunks in the hot and cold water every ten seconds or so in the beginning, and every 20 seconds or so towards the end. As you continue, you’ll sense the ball getting harder and forming a nice round shape, which is when you start to roll with more force. Once the shape is feeling tough, don’t dunk it anymore and continue rolling until the water and soap have been rolled/rung out.

I took a few progress shots so that you can visualize the progress. Here’s the ball before dunking:

Here’s the ball after it’s first dunk and it has been rolled (like a baby chick) for ten seconds or so:

Here’s the ball after several back-and-forth dunks and the rolling pressure has been increased:

And here are a couple of completed balls:

Leave the finished balls to dry for a little while (a couple hours should do) and then you can move on to the stem portion of this project. For this step, I took a thin nail and shimmied it through the felt fibers, wiggling it back and forth to get the hole wide enough to slip the wire in.

After inserting the floral wire, I used a pair of wire cutters to make my “stems” various lengths and then slipped them into some vases I had on hand.

I put one set of five in our studio/guest bedroom in a vintage vase originally used in the centerpieces at our wedding – I love incorporated those wedding day details into the house as sentimental reminders…The felt Billy Balls add fun shape and texture to the coral side table arrangement, which is made up mostly of heavy glass and metal pieces. It needed something soft, bouncy and playful – The new felt buds are just the ticket.

The rest of the Billy Balls I made, ended up in a smaller vase (again from the wedding) on our entry table. The new faux flower arrangement acts as a continuation of the yellow and teal color palette from the adjacent living room.

Again, I can’t tell you how exciting it was to see my felt Billy Balls turn out just like Tanya’s – A true testament, I’m sure, to her awesome instructions! The only problem I ran into was my longevity. The skin of the palms of my hand got rubbed a little raw after rolling the felt for several minutes at a time. I ended up doing three the first day and three more the second day – Luckily for me, John stepped up and made the last two for me. What a guy…WHAT a guy…

Hope you enjoyed a happy and productive weekend!

Pssssst…I’m linking this post up with the Fall Pinterest Challenge put on by Young House Love, Bower Power, Our Fifth House and Ugly Duckling House. Click on those links to check out their own awesome Pinterest-inspired projects!!

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