diy project: felt craspedia (a.k.a. billy buttons)


There was a time — and maybe we’re still in it — when almost every stylish home contained a vase of craspedia, also known as “Billy Balls,” “Billy Buttons,” and a few other terms I’m not aware of. And why not? Craspedia are a very cool-looking flower, after all; definitely a great choice for mid-century modern fans, with those long, skinny stems and graphic yellow balls. I have a bunch of them in my home as well, and I do love them. However, I don’t like that the dried ones lose their vivid color and the fresh ones don’t keep long.

Enter this super simple felt version by Tanya of Dans le Townhouse: an almost perfect substitute for the real flower. Each one takes only a couple minutes, and then you get to enjoy them in all their bright yellow Billy-Ball-glory forever! I can’t wait to grab some felt roving and get started. Thanks for sharing this simple tutorial, Tanya! — Kate

Read the full how-to after the jump!

Materials

  • mustard yellow wool roving (found in yarn/craft stores or online)
  • one bowl of hot, hot, hot as you can stand water
  • one bowl of cold, cold, cold as you can bear water
  • cloth-covered stem wire (from the floral section of craft stores — I used 20 gauge)

Instructions

1. The whole process for one ball should only take a couple minutes. First, tear off a piece of your wool roving like you would tear off a piece of cotton candy. You want ragged ends. Remember that your wool ball will shrink a bit during the felting process.

2. Next, place a small drop of soap (I have used both hand soap and dish soap successfully) in your dry hands and also rub a tiny bit onto the piece of wool roving.

3. Then, roughly shape the wool into a ball before dipping it gently in the hot water — you want it a tad wet, not completely drenched.

4. Very, very gently roll the wool roving between your palms like you would a clay ball. At this stage, don’t squish the wool any harder than you would a baby chick. Then dunk the roughly shaped ball into the cold water (this time you can soak it) and keep rolling. Then dunk the ball into the hot again, then the cold, rolling between dunks. The change in temperature helps “shock” the wool fibers and is part of the felting process. Plus, you want to rinse out the soap.

5. As your ball becomes firmer (and thus smaller), you can apply more pressure. Your ball is finished when it is firmer to the touch and feels “dense.” You can see in the next photo how much smaller my ball has become.

6. Leave the felted wool ball(s) to dry for 24 to 48 hours. The dry felted-wool ball should have a slight bounce to it when dropped on a countertop. I recommend making a few as a “test” before diving in to a dozen or so for an arrangement.

7. Once your felted-wool ball is dry, simply pierce it with the end of the floral wire, and twist and wiggle the wire into the felted ball until it almost pops out the other side. Your ball should be dense enough to grip the wire. I flung my finished “Billy Buttons” around, and no felted balls went flying. Then bend the wire as you please, making droopy flowers or more rigid ones. Bend the wire gently — you don’t want any kinks, just soft bends.

You’re done!!

Kristan

Awesome DIY tutorial and final product! This is one I will definitely try out. And you know, there’s no real reason the “Billy buttons” have to be mustard yellow… :)

Pammy

You have no idea how long i’ve been trying to figure out how to make these! They’re so fun! Thanks

erin

how many balls can you get out of how many oz. of wool roving. i hope that makes sense but im trying to get an idea of how many oz. of wool to get to make a good sized arrangements of “wooly balls”…hehe

Pammy

How many ounces of roving did you need to make the quantity of billy balls pictured?

christina- floresdelsol

wonderful!! I sell so many dried billy buttons when they are in season (in a month or so). How great to have a back-up and make them instead ! thanks!

Marie

Oh how precious!! I did a felted project in my college 3D art class, we took thrift store wool sweaters and made purses and such with them! Super fun. Thanks for sharing!!

Marija

thanks for the tutorial!! the flowers look so realistic and simple (which is always key when you’re trying to convey subtlety and style).

Sunny

I’ve been wanting to try my hand at these. Looking forward to trying this tutorial, thanks!

P.S. Where is that divine lamp from?

Casey

How cute are these?! I have a bag of wool roving at my parent’s house somewhere – I’ll have to find it so I can try this project out! The lamp is very cool, too.

Tanya from Dans le Townhouse

Hi everyone,

Thanks for the awesome feedback! To answer a few Q’s:

The lamp is a vintage Lotte lamp from an antique store, but it was shade-less so I bought a new drum shade. New Lotte lamps can still be purchased online with their gorgeous shades or check out your local mid-century shop.

The wool will shrink about 50% from a puffy ball to a dense ball. I had one balled up yellow roving, about the size of a large grapefruit, and that yielded my arrangement, plus a necklace (check my blog – the DIY Projects page) and I still had some left over. So you don’t need much at all.

Katie

This is a brilliant DIY, and simple enough in materials that almost anyone could manage it affordably. That combo is hard to find–great stuff.

Tanya from Dans le Townhouse

Alexandria: I used 20 gauage wire covered in a green papery-fabric. Any floral store or craft store will carry it. It is called floral wire. If they don’t have 20 gauge specifically, you need something pretty stiff, to keep the stem shape. If you cannot find cloth covered wire, try spray painting what you can find. Hope that helps!

Sorry I miss your question the first time I replied.

Susan

Love the graphic, fun look of these….they make me smile like the pansies with the faces but they last a lot longer.

Leone

Ooooh, thanks for the DIY. I will definitely be trying this. Lovely!

Zsa Zsa

It’s picture perfect! Yellow seems to be getting my attention a lot these days and as much as I love fresh flowers, this one’s a fabulous substitute! :)

oak console

These look great. They have a charlie and the chocolate factory look to them and are great for adding color accents to your home

LindseyBee

those are so adorable–my living room is yellow & cream so I think I’m going to try to make these whenever I want to switch things up! Glad there’s a little tutorial on how to make them–I’m excited!

Swank Studio

Your tutorial is exactly what I’ve been searching for for the past year! Thank you, thank you! I am headed out for supplies right now!

Rachel Shockey

I love this project! I used to dry flowers but didn’t always like them when they were done hanging because the colors always changed and darkened, especially the yellow ones. This is a great solution and looks super easy; I’m going to try it! I love Billy Buttons! :)

Lauren Berndt

Hi, I love this idea. I’m in the process of doing it right now and my balls are looking more “brain” like for a lack of a better term and not as smooth as yours appear to be. I didn’t know if the wool I’m using isn’t as good a quality. It seems to be when i roll the wool to form the initial ball that i’m getting these creases. Do you have any tips? thanks!

Melissa

Wonderful! I am going to try to make these soon, and experiment with different colors.

A long shot, but do you happen to remember where you bought that lovely vase from? I love its simplicity and small opening.

Nelle

I am so happy to see this tutorial! I have been in love with Billy Balls forever but wanted to make them as opposed to buying them and paying for shipping.

Where did you get that vase???

Tanya from Dans le Townhouse

Hi again,

To answer some more Q’s:

Nelle: the vase is from West Elm. I just bought it recently, so they should still be in stores and I think it came in other colours. Maybe blue?

Lauren Berndt: Good Q. It takes some practise. If your balls are lumpy, they are not fully felted. Mine are firm – and bounce a bit when dry & dropped. Cracks do happen. I am planning a post in the next couple of days that will demonstrated how to fix a crack (check my blog). But for now, here is a tip: if you start to see a crack form while you are felting, add a thin layer of roving over the crack, add a touch of soap and keep felting. That solves any troubles I encounter. Also, be gentle at first, like you are petting a baby chick and gradually add pressure.

annette

i love the idea of making these and using a white ribbon and a candle to make curled petals. daisies fit better in my home but your wooly balls look great! haha

erica

i know how to make this even easier! shove wool into the toe of a nylon stocking (buy cheap ones or use old ones with runs). tie a knot above the wool. run it through the washing machine. pull the wool out and re-ball it, add more wool if you want, and repeat until it’s big enough. you can roll it around with your hands to make the perfect shape.

MB@YarnUiPhoneappv1.5

You can also do this with bars of soap to get the Anthropologie look for a lot less dollars. Anthro mixes up its roving so it’s multicolored…you can do the same. BTW, Chicagoans – inexpensive roving can be bought at Vogue Fabrics in Evanston.

Lauren Berndt

Tanya,
Thanks for answering my questions, I need to try this again and i’ll check out your blog too! I also couldn’t get my wire which may have been 18 gauge into the felt balls. I’ll try the 20 is it possible I rolled them too hard and they are too taught? Thanks again!

Greta

I’d really like to make a multi-colored rug out of these! that might take forever though..

Amy

Billy balls are my favorite… So vintage and unique… I used them all over in my June wedding, and now I want them in our home… Thanks for this tutorial! One question though… I made a set of six and in each ball, I had a problem with the rolling together. Where the roving meets it’s other end, there always seems to be a cracking issue. They haven’t yet dried, so I’ll see how they look when finished, but do you, or anyone have any suggestions to reolve this issue? Thanks!!!

Sonya Vance

Wow! I wish I had found this tutorial before my wedding! Your finished flowers look great. I hope I can find time to try this soon. Thanks for sharing.

Kristi

Love this! I am going to definitely make these! Thanks!

Christy

I felt in love with felting and needlefelting a few years ago. There are many kinds of wool roving out there depending on what sheep it is taken from. Some wool just felts better than others. There are very silky long fibers and then there are shorter nubby fibers. It’s good to experiment to see what works best for you. Some research on the internet about fiber types and you’ll be a pro. I usually buy my wool from Ornamentea online or Felt Alive online. Both supply a nubbier wool and have great colors and prices (not to mention customer service). Have fun!

Tanya from Dans le Townhouse

Hello again D*S readers. For anyone who had issues with cracks in their Billy Buttons, check out this troubleshooting post:

http://dans-le-townhouse.blogspot.com/2011/07/felted-billy-button-troubleshooting.html

You will find two techniques for making those pesky cracks disappear. They happen, but with practise you will find that they become less and less of an issue.

Lauren,

If the wire won’t go into your balls, use wire cutters to trim the wire into a point – so it is more needle-like at the end. This will help pierce the billy button.

Abigail

I have fallen in love with Billy Buttons, but there are so expensive. This is a great way to cut cost. Thanx for the idea, tutorial and troubleshooting. Would have never though there’d an crafty way of doing. I have more than enought time to get this done for my wedding……thanx again!!!!!

Jessica Pollock

Love this idea!! I’ve been wanting to do the felted balls for quite awhile now and I love the idea of the yellow billy buttons! Thanks so much for sharing!

Ramya

Amazing Idea! Can’t believe sponge can be used to make such elegant decor. Definitely on my list to try out. Thanks for the DIY!

Melissa

This is a great tutorial…I have been making these like crazy and wish I could find a faster way to do it but this method works well. I am going to use these as part of our centerpieces for our wedding in yellow, gray and teal so I have to make around 180-200…yikes…but it will be worth it in the long run.

Corinne

Beautifully explained. I’ve got a few days off and will be making these in all sorts of colours!!!

Stella Silva

Me gustó mucho, felicitaciones, buena idea!!

Di

Love to try this. My mother has a prize winning photograph of biily buttons. A bunch of these would compliment the photo

Anuradha

Hi,
Awesome DIY tutorial.Just made these in different colors instead of only yellow. Look cute but I’ll wait for them to dry before I get excited. lol..Another issue apart from the cracks in the finished balls I found was trying to get them all to be of equal size. The wool roving I bought was in different colors and quantity. ( The blue was more than the orange) and also wasn’t equal in thickness. I think that affects the size of the balls. So though I tried my level best, some might be a tad bit smaller than the other. Is there a fix for this issue?
They look so cute though in different colors. Can’t wait to put them up! Thanks!

Swarley loves Billy Buttons!

Amazing results! Can’t believe how awesome these look! Cool beans, dude!

Cristina

Is it possible to make these and safe to put as decoration on cake?

Grace Bonney

hi cristina

you could put these on a cake, but they’re felted, so they will likely leave some fibrous strings behind after you remove them (to eat the cake).

grace

Kattie

Way cool! Some very valid points! I applreciate you
penning this write-up plus the rest of thhe wbsite is very good.

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