Felted Cat Toys

Several years ago, my guild, Black Sheep Handweavers Guild was asked to take part in a kids' art day held at the Palo Alto Cultural Center. The basic plan was that kids, each accompanied by an adult, would have an assortment of art events to take part in. The Cultural Center approached us to see if we would help.

I think our guild members provided eight of the 14 events offered. (They're a great group of people!) We had people weaving on looms, using drop spindles (sorry Priscilla!), fingerweaving jump ropes. Many options.

I talked some of my friends into helping making Felted Balls.

The layout was four of the large folding tables formed into a large horseshoe shape. I had specified we needed a nearby water source, so we had these wonderful sinks at open part of the horseshoe with both hot and cold water.

We arrived looking like we were fleeing a war. I had:

We set up Kathy at the far right with the drum carder and the wool. If kids purchased a center they wrapped the weedy roving around it. Otherwise,they simply wrapped the roving into a ball. Then they got to play a bit. They could pick any colors they wanted and, using the drum carder, Kathy would help them create a small batt to wrap around the ball.

The finished balls were fairly big, ~7 inches across. Cece had the task of helping get the ball into the toe of the knee high stocking. Not trying to offend anyone, the easiest way to do this is how you would apply a condom. Fine. Moving right along here. The knee high was knotted just above the ball.

We then had ~14 dish pans along most of the horseshoe table formation. They were filled about half way with a soapy mixture. I just added a squirt of dish soap. The dishpans were alternating hot (not very) and cold water. The last four or five dishpans didn't have the soap.

The first kid submerged their ball and went squeeze-squeeze under the water. When the second kid was ready, the first kid moved to the second dish pan, complained about the temperature change, and went squeeze-squeeze. And so on and so on. The kids were at each station for less than 5 minutes (just until we had another kid ready to go). The adults who were volunteering got to wear rubber gloves, the kids got to get their hands wet.

When the first kid worked their way all around the horseshoe, I squeezed as much water as I could out of the sodden mess, and had the kids quickly walk outside. They then got a firm handle on the knee high and swung it around, either over their head like a heliocopter or sideways. This was possibly the favorite part. It took the kids ~five seconds to discover that everyone else around them got sprayed with water.

After the water was extracted, they came back in and I got to untie the knee high. And almost all of them had wonderful cat toys. If not, we let them go through the cycle again.

In spite of the enthusiastic twirling, the balls were a bit damp. The finished balls were put in the plastic bags to carry home.

We also told the kids and their parents, that if the balls got a bit ratty looking, to brush the outside a bit with a hairbrush, knot them in a knee high, and throw them into the washing machine and dryer. It's an even easier way to make the balls, but doesn't provide the (I'm sorry, I can't help myself) "hands on" experience.

Various observations:

One wonderful little girl of about 8 came through and her father was quite concerned that she not mess her clothing up, at all. Dad was helping a lot to make sure that the girl understood every possible educational value of what they were doing. He was also making sure that squeezed all parts of the ball evenly. Dad was a nice guy, just a bit, umm, controlling.

When they got to the end, I explained to the little girl about how she needed to extract the water and to be "very careful that you don't spray your Dad". She looked up at me and got a huge grin, turned to her father, and said, "Come on Dad!". Later a slightly sodden Dad came in and thanked me. His daughter wanted to make another one.

Three adults and one teenage helper worked with over 300 kids in just over four hours. And I would guess that about 25% of them made two of these balls.

Felting is a terrific project to do with your kids. There's something very therapeutic about felting and it is a lot fun.

For more information of felting, you should look into "Felting by Hand" by Anne Einset Vickrey and "Fundamentals of Feltmaking" by Patricia Spark. You might also look into getting a copy of the videotape produced by Victorian Productions on Feltmaking by Hand - The Basic Process with Anne Einset Vickrey".

If you have comments, please send email to: Rosemary Brock.

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