Monday, 4 June 2007

How to make a felt and wire mobile


I find watching a mobile gently dancing on a breeze completely mesmerising so I have chosen to make this mobile using a very simple structure that emphasises balance and movement. I've used wire and fishing line to hold my objects in place, but you could just as easily use a heavier framework of thin dowels or even smooth branches and string or ribbon.

My objects have some dimensionality because I think mobiles are best if they are interesting to look at from a range of angles. This is especially true if the finished item is to hang above a child or baby's bed or change table. I've used a mix of wet felted wool balls and sewn felt stars with a few beads thrown in for interest.

Materials you will need

Wire coat hanger or other wire

Pliers with wire cutters

Wool rovings in a range of colours as well as undyed

Bowls with hot soapy and cold water

Wool felt

Needles and cotton, including one very long or 'doll making' needle

Beads or other embellishments

Fishing line or strong thread

Hot glue gun

Making the structure

Snip the three straight sides from the coat hanger and bend the ends to loops. Make sure the loops face the same way and the finished bent wire sits flat.

Using fishing line attach the shorter pieces (the lower tier) the longer piece (the upper tier) using the loops on the upper tier and tying the line roughly in the centre of the lower pieces. Don't worry about being too precise, you will be adjusting the exact location of the line on the lower tiers once the objects are attached.

Making the objects

To make the felt balls start by choosing your colour palette from dyed wool rovings.

I chose the warm colours of yellow, orange and red, but cool colours also look great.

Prepare two bowls of water for the felting. Fill one with hot soapy water, the other with clean cool water.


For smaller balls you can make beads in a single step. Take a handful of wool and roll it up tight into a ball.

Dip it into the hot water until it is fully wet and then gently roll it between your palms.

As you roll, the wool will gradually shrink and harden to felt. As it firms you can apply an increasing amount of pressure. Occasionally dip it again into the soapy water to keep it wet and if it becomes too soapy rinse it with a dip in the cool water. When the ball is firmly felted rinse in the cool water, roll out excess moisture on a paper towel and leave to dry.

For larger balls start with a core of undyed wool. You can use coloured wool, but as you won't see this inner layer it is more economical to use undyed wool. Take a handful of wool and repeatedly pull apart to 'cut' the fibres.

Until you have a nice fluffy pile.

Ball the wool in your hand, dip it in the hot water and very gently start to roll the ball between cupped hands.

It will take some time to reach a smooth ball so you need to be patient. The more wool you start with, the longer it takes and the harder it is to get a good finish, so start modestly.

When it is firm and roughly ball shaped you can start adding skins. If you would like to greatly increase the size of your ball you can add one or more undyed skins to make it bigger before adding coloured skins for decorative effects.

Make a mat of wool that is roughly even in thickness and large enough to fully cover your core ball.

Pull the mat over the skin to form a new ball

Dip in the hot water, roll between your palms as before. As you start the skin will be much looser than the underlying ball so be careful to be gentle and to try and work the skin evenly as it shrinks.

When the ball is well felted you can rinse and then add further skins using the same method. Using a mat that is uneven or only partially covers your ball will create interesting multi coloured effects on the final skin. Be careful to start the felting gently so as not to dislodge the covering and create a lumpy finish.

When the balls are dry thread each one on to a length of fishing line using a long strong needle such as a doll making needle. You can add beads or other decorations to the line if you wish.

To make your other objects, choose a shape and cut this from felt. I have used a simple star here, but any shapes or motifs work just as well. For each object you will need two matching shapes to sew together either in the same colour or different colours if you want more variation.

Embellish your shapes before you sew them together. I have used a mixture of contrasting felt shapes, beads and flower shaped sequins on my stars. Shapes can also be painted or stamped using wool compatible dyes.

Stitch the two shapes together using blanket stitch and stuff with wool rovings.

Once the objects are complete, thread on lengths of fishing line, again adding beads or other decorative items if you wish.


Putting it all together

Assemble the mobile by adding objects to each of the loops on the lower tiers, and one centrally to each of the three wire structures. I have chosen to do this symmetrically, adding balls to each loop and stars to each centre but you can just as easily create beautiful asymmetrical mobiles by adding more or heavier objects to one end or other of the supporting wires.

Once all the objects are attached, hang the mobile from a doorframe or other free standing position and adjust for balance. Do this by sliding the fishing lines in the centres of the wires to the side until the objects on that wire hang in balance. When all the lines are correctly placed and in balance place a small dot of glue from the hot glue gun over the lines to secure their position.

You can also find this tutorial, along with my Steiner doll tutorial and a whole stack of other great projects in this great book. Available in bookstores in the UK, Australia and the US.

33 comments:

jessica said...

i too enjoy working with felt.
your pieces are lovely.

shula said...

Oh SOOZ!

I LOVE mobiles.

Ali said...

I'm a huge mobile fan - thank you for the great tutorial!

Jessicah said...

It looks as peaceful and soothing to make as it would be to watch! Great tutorial-one to keep in mind :)

Kate said...

Wonderful mobile - thanks for sharing!

Katie said...

Your mobile is lovely! Thanks for sharing the great tutorial.

flamehair said...

Thank you for this tutorial. I was just starting to think about making up some mobiles for baby two and this idea of beautiful enough to hung up anywhere around the house.

Kylie said...

absolutely beautiful! Will love to try this for my little one.

susan said...

i love mobiles too... and am thrilled to find your lovely blog here filled with such great things! thank you...

Evelyn Lum said...

What a beautiful mobile! I can't wait for one of my friends to have a baby so I can make them one such mobile ... I can even match their nursery deco ... WOW!

kneek said...

This is a lovely idea. One of my favorite baby gifts was a mobile with loosely needle felted sheep and a shepherd with sewn felt clothing. I've always wanted to make something similar for new parents, but lacked a tutorial like this to get me started in the right direction! Thanks for getting me started.

One Crabapple said...

I enjoyed this, Thank You !

I have been so curious about felting and now ! you get me wanting to try this even MORE !

Miriam said...

That's gorgeous!

Excellent way to put those grotty old wire hangers to use, too.

Thanks!
Miriam

Di said...

THANKYOU! I wish I'd read this before yesterday- I could have badgered you with questions about it!! I've been wanting to make a mobile for a while now... (just one of many projects I've been wanting to do for a while!)

Khadija said...

What a lovely mobile and your tutorial was great.

Jodi Renshaw said...

THANK YOU SO MUCH! I have been waiting for a post like this :)

nurturedmom said...

You've started a little trend in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada - a bunch of wool-crazy moms making little balls in their kitchens. I love it!

h&b said...

*This* is *adorable*

I think I can give this one a go.

A Little Diddy said...

Wonderful! I'm glad I found this, I have been wanting to make a mobile for my son and this helps. Thank you for the tut.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for taking the time to make this project public! I was wanting to make a mobile and could think of the proper support--of course, hanger wire!!! You have great use of shape and color!

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Jennifer said...

This is absolutely gorgeous! Thanks for taking the time to share it!

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halimdiktas said...

thanks...

I Purr-Furr to Craft said...

I too love working with felt.
Love the tutorial thanks for sharing

Olivia said...

Your tutorial is great, i will be using the idea as a presentation for an art assignment.
It looks great ^.^

amina said...

nice

nazi said...

thanks

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