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Tutorial of the Month - How to make a Bell Flower

Nancy guides us through the process of how to make a pretty bell flower, perfect if you’re a beginner starting out on your felting hobby. These flowers are great for hanging in your garden!

How to make a bell flower

We would like to thank Nancy from Flights of Fancy for sending in this tutorial, please find the instructions written by Nancy below:

I call this a bell-flower because when I make them I put glass stamens inside and hang them from long felt laces so they tinkle in the breeze. You can use ribbon and bells and get a similar effect.

What you'll need:

  • Two colours of merino wool – I have used cinnamon and buttercup – but as you will see from the pictures, all sorts of combinations look lovely!
  • A hand towel
  • Bubble wrap x 2 pieces approximately 30cms square
  • Spray bottle (from bath cleaner, or similar, well rinsed)
  • Liquid hand-soap
  • PVA glue
  • To finish: ribbon (approx 1m), bells/beads/buttons, needle and cotton

Follow these steps:

  1. Make up your soapy water – fill the bottle approximately 2/3f ull of water and add a couple of squirts of hand-soap. If you find it is too soapy later, you can add a bit more water but better to have too many bubbles than too few as they help the felting process.
  2. Fold your towel in half to give yourself a working area of approximately 40-50cms square.
  3. Place one piece of bubble wrap on top, bubbles up.
  4. Lay out in a ‘star-burst’/’sunshine’ with the fibres overlapping in the middle (Picture 1)
  5. Spray lightly to keep your fibres in place.
  6. Lay out a second circle of fibres – in your second colour – overlapping the first ones to form a larger circle. (Picture 2)
  7. Spray gently.
  8. Again starting in the centre, add a second layer of fibres using your first colour in a sort of ‘cartwheel’, overlapping the first layer at roughly right angles. (Picture 3)
  9. Add a second layer of your second - outer – colour, over the first so that you have two layers of fibres all over. (Picture 4)
  10. Spray gently.
  11. Put your second piece of bubble wrap on top, bubbles nearest the wool and press all over to make sure the fibres are wet all through. Very gently ease back the top bubblewrap to check if the water has penetrated. If the wool bubbles up a bit, it isn’t wet. Spray a bit more and press again!
  12. Gently peel back the top bubblewrap. Using the lower bubble wrap to help you, gently fold in the edges to neaten – they don’t have to be perfectly round, it won’t matter when you have felted the wool! (Picture 5)
  13. For your third layer, add your fibres again fanning out towards the edges, but this time start with the outer colour, following up with the inner colour. This will ensure your centre colour is on top on both your first and last layers of fibres. You can see how your folded edges of the first two layers show underneath. (Picture 6)  
  14. Spray gently.
  15. Cover with your second piece of bubblewrap, press the water through the layers and then turn the entire sandwich over again.
  16. Fold in your edges again, roughly matching the previous edge you made all round. (Picture 7)
  17. Replace the top bubble wrap, spray the top with soapy water to give some ‘slippage’ and start rubbing, gently at first, and then more firmly. If it isn’t very slippery add a squeeze of soap. This rubbing will matt the fibres together to form your felt. Rub for at least 10 minutes, turn over and repeat. (Picture 8)
  18. To check if your wool is felting, pinch up a few of the fibres. If they come away from the base your wool has not felted yet. Keep rubbing. When they are ready, you will find the fibres won’t lift.
  19. When fully felted, lift off the top bubblewrap, and – eek! – scrunch the whole thing up in your hands and gently roll as if washing a pair of socks.  Pull the circle out occasionally as any loose fibres will start to felt to each other. If this happens, prise them gently apart and then go back to ‘scrunching’. (Picture 9) – NB see tip 3
  20. Your circle will have shrunk approximately 1/3!  
  21. As long as the fibres are well felted and don’t lift, you can rinse your work and squeeze out the water.  Reform the circle.
  22. Mix PVA with water approx 1 part glue:4 parts water
  23. Squeeze your circle in the well-mixed glue mixture. Squeeze out and reform the circle one last time.
  24. To create the bell-flower shape, lay your circle over a small bowl or pudding basin and push the centre down a little way, easing the edges into a frill around the top (Picture 10).
  25. Leave to dry.
  26. If you don’t like the shape you can re-wet and reform this as often as you like!
  27. To finish:  When dry, cut a tiny hole in the centre of your flower and feed through the ribbon. Knot it underneath and stitch on some bells, beads or buttons.  Then sew the knot of the ribbon to the underside of your felt to secure it in place. Hang up and pat yourself on the back!

Tip 1 - Don’t forget your work will shrink as you felt the fibres.   

Tip 2 - No-one else will tell you this, but I always advise that you spray your resist right at the start – this helps keep the fibres in place as you lay them out!

Tip 3 - Soap is the key to good felting. Make sure particularly when ‘scrunching’ that your work is good and soapy. If it isn’t, not only will it not felt but the finish will be ‘fluffy’ rather than smooth

Tip 4 You can make much smaller flowers by just using one colour – or VERY much bigger ones – just go on adding to the circle as far as you want to go. However, bear in mind you will need to make the PVA water mix a bit more gluey because of the weight of the wool.

Nancy is the current Chairman of The Surrey Guild of Craftsmen, and is a member of the International Feltmakers Association and SAOS.   Her work is available from The Surrey Guild of Craftsmen Gallery in Milford in Surrey, and from small gift outlets and selected websites including: https://www.etsy.com/uk/your/shops/FlightsOfFantasyGB                                                 and https://folksy.com/shops/shafeenan

You can contact Nancy using the following ways:
Tel: 01483 282471                                     
Email:  flights-of-fantasy@hotmail.com
Website/Blog: www.flights-of-fantasy.com
Social Media: https://www.facebook.com/fantasiesinflight

Let us know if you have created a bell flower using this tutorial and show us your pictures on Facebook and Twitter, we’d love to see them!

If you have a tutorial that you would like us to feature, please contact andy@worldofwool.co.uk

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