wool roving balls- washing machine method

We have been busy making lots of little kitty jingle toys. We have made these using the hot water in a bowl method, which is so time consuming and takes forever if you want to make a lot of these. Then there is the short cut method- the washing machine. Using the washing machine does a pretty good job forming the balls and aiding in the felting process. This method is so much faster and easier!

What you need:
wool roving (we purchased ours at a fiber fair)
jingle bells (small or medium size)
top loader washing machine- (top-loading machines work the best for this)
nylon tights (child sized)
yarn or string


1. Layer the wool, place the bell at one end and roll into a ball.

lay wool, place bell

A mess of loose balls ready to put into the nylon tights.


2. Place the balls in the tights, tie a piece of yarn tightly between each ball. Make it tight! This is what forms those balls.
3. Place the links of wool into the washing machine. I put in three or four “links” at a time (each link has 12-14 balls). Set the water setting on HOT, small load, and add 1 tablespoon washing soap. Set on the longest cycle, the more these are agitated the better.
4. I put the balls through 3 washing cycles.  Each wash you do, the tighter the balls become. 

put in tights, tie tightly

5. After 3 cycles they still come out of the tights kind of soft with the machine method; so we do the manual method to tighten them up a bit and shrink them more.  We put them in a bowl of hot soapy water and roll them in our palms for about a minute until we reach the desired size.
6. When you are happy with the size, set them aside to dry. I was in a rush with this last week, so I tied them up individually into the tights and threw them in the dryer for about 20 min. This really speeds up the drying if you are anxious for them to dry.

out of the washer

This is how the little ladies are packaging the toys. They threw in some dry catnip for that extra bit of kitty love! They cut apart cardboard cereal boxes to make the labels and refer to their “shop” as “Little Spud.” I love it! Hopefully these will be a hit at the fair this weekend!

add catnip

Instead of kitty toys, skip the bells, add an acorn top and you have cute little acorns. We will add ribbon as a hanger to put these on the Yule tree. (The cats love these too by the way, so they must be put up high on the tree).


Now I’m off to help make cinnamon ornaments and peanut butter kiss cookies. The holidays are so busy but I love every tradition and minute of it!!!! Enjoy your day!


  • December 19, 2010 - 11:57 am | Permalink

    Merry Christmas from My HomeMade Montessori Manipulatives.

  • December 19, 2010 - 11:55 am | Permalink

    I like your blog ideas so much. Visit my page sometime. Merry Christmas to you and yours.

    Lisa :)

  • December 11, 2009 - 11:07 am | Permalink

    Do you think you could use something other than tights? I have three boys (well, two and one on the way), therefore no tights. (:

    I have tulle and other netting-like fabrics. But they might not survive the dryer. Hmmm. Any ideas on that? I’m terribly new to wool and felting – but I have nine cats that would *love* some new toys. (:

  • December 7, 2009 - 4:25 pm | Permalink

    I am really looking forward to trying this project. I suspect that if I made the balls a bit bigger they would also be fun baby toys…

  • December 4, 2009 - 9:11 pm | Permalink

    oh my gosh, that photo of the nylons with the little balls in them is just cracking me up! nylons. thanks for the tips and for posting when you are so busy!!

  • December 3, 2009 - 1:14 pm | Permalink

    They are so cute! How do you get them so perfectly round? Any way I make them, they always end up with creases…. I think it might be how I roll them into balls???

  • December 3, 2009 - 1:06 pm | Permalink

    Oh my! Everyday I am wowed by your cool projects! This is another one we will try! Thanks~Karen

  • December 3, 2009 - 10:27 am | Permalink

    How cute! I love that they made their signs on the back of cereal boxes…I love re using things like this! Thanks for sharing…we love wool around here!!

  • December 3, 2009 - 9:13 am | Permalink

    Love it! And we are on the same wavelength– I put up a tutorial for wet felted snakes today using the cheater, ahem, I mean washing machine method too. I love my washing machine at the moment:)

  • December 3, 2009 - 8:49 am | Permalink

    The first time I made felted balls with kindergarteners, the children had a wonderful, wonderful time rubbing the wool in the hot, soapy water. No one wanted to stop. But they didn’t come out as balls at all. They were mostly flat, with blobs and tags hanging off of them, like matted little clouds. We had to call them “shapes.” Then we learned about using stockings for felting, to control the shape some, and make “mossy” rocks out of green felt on stones. I like the children’s catnip toys and packaging. I hope they sell well! Beth

  • Robin
    December 3, 2009 - 7:58 am | Permalink

    Their little sign is sooooooooooo very cute!!!!

  • December 3, 2009 - 3:37 am | Permalink

    great! would love to buy a bunch for my Ciro cat! Bravissimo!

  • December 3, 2009 - 1:30 am | Permalink

    What a fun idea! I hope the little ladies sell bunches of them!!

  • December 2, 2009 - 11:50 pm | Permalink

    Very cool! Say, did I see some stars made with sticks here or was it somewhere else? I’m wanting to do those and just would like to peek at the photos!

    :) Hope you have a great fair!

    • December 3, 2009 - 8:51 am | Permalink

      No the stick stars aren’t from me. Hmmmm, I saw them too recently…..where was that?

  • Jane
    December 2, 2009 - 9:13 pm | Permalink

    I’ve never made the balls this way-thanks for the tip! I’m sure they will be a hit at the fair.

  • December 2, 2009 - 9:05 pm | Permalink

    It’s brilliant how you felt the little balls…we usually do it by hand and it takes forver…very clever, I have to remember that. I bet the kitty’s love this.

  • December 2, 2009 - 8:41 pm | Permalink

    I think we will need to do some more felting here as well, they are lovely

  • December 2, 2009 - 8:20 pm | Permalink

    Those are so cute! I made some bigger one (in larger tights) like that for Finn when he was a baby. Don’t you love the centipede look of the tights when they’re filled. :)

  • December 2, 2009 - 4:58 pm | Permalink

    We’re going to make bigger balls for babies. I’m thinking we’ll try felting them by hand and then finishing them off in the washer. The idea is that we’ll then embroider on them. We’ll see if we actually get it done!

  • December 2, 2009 - 4:25 pm | Permalink

    What a great project! I’m sure they’ll be a hit!

  • December 2, 2009 - 2:56 pm | Permalink

    don’t you love this time of year! every year i have to slate projects to the next year because there is never enough time.

    we made some of these last weekend with the washer/dryer method and i agree the 3x wash is the best. i decided to switch from my size tights to girl size tights because they were a bit hart to get banded to tight.

    we catnipped our balls but i really like the idea of putting the catnip in the bag!!! thanks!

    • December 2, 2009 - 3:00 pm | Permalink

      Oh, yea, good point about the size of tights. Going to edit now. I’ve only tried the girl size tights and do believe the smaller the tights the better. Thanks!

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