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!
- 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)
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.