Felting Tips from the Forum

Felting Tips from the Forum

We have a wonderful community of felt makers in the forum and recently one post started a long discussion about rolling felt and the equipment used. I thought that those of you who aren’t members of the forum might like to read some of the tips. If you’d like to join the forum, just click on the button on the right side bar that says “Forum” and sign up. It’s easy and you’ll learn so much from the discussions, community and sharing.

Machine Ann wants to build
Machine Ann wants to build
  • Ann’s suggestions: To prevent tiring during rolling sessions, make sure your table or counter is at the right height so you don’t have to lean over. You can sit and roll too. Put the roll on the floor and use your feet to roll. Put the roll on a towel or boot tray to keep it from slipping. You can leave off rolling until the next day if needed. You can even let the felt dry out and then re-wet when you come back. I rub my nuno first. I rub it gently on the silk side to encourage the wool to migrate up through the silk. I have it covered with a sheer. The sheer is an old curtain from the second-hand store. I love my glass wash board. It’s an old one in a wooden frame. There are many ways to felt and we all have our own way. Try as many different ways as you can and then pick the parts you like and make your own way.

    Marilyn's Felting Tools
    Marilyn’s Felting Tools
  • Marilyn’s suggestions: Use a bamboo mat or blind to roll. If you get a pool solar cover, get the lighter weight kind. With Nuno or an intricate design lay it down on bubble wrap, spray it down first, cover it with tulle, rub the soap over the netting, then after a few rolls, replace the netting with Saran Wrap until it starts to felt. With a double-sided piece, use Saran Wrap under and over along with flipping boards. You can stop and start projects when necessary. Cover it with plastic to keep it moist. Although if you won’t  finish it within a day, let it dry out. I think everyone experiments until they find what works for them and the energy and space they have to work with. Depending on the project, when I’m done rolling after the fibers are meshing I use either a plexiglass cutting board with a nubby side to full or a glass bead board I made from an old cutting board using hot soapy water. I also made a smaller glass bead board with a handle. Then I like to “throw” my projects to finalize the process. It’s great way to get rid of tension.
  • Judith’s suggestions: Use a rubber shelf liner on a towel to roll for fulling. Put on some music to roll by, “Rock and Roll” works best not the “Blues”. If you get tired, take a break. You don’t have to roll it all in one go. It’s an art rather than a science. No strict rules – do what works best for you. My son-in-law made me a fulling roller from an old wooden rolling pin. He routed grooves along the length of the pin. It works very well. I also find a microfibre towel more effective than a terry one. I prefer more rubbing than rolling and a bit of throwing is good for the soul too!
  • Nada’s suggestions: When nuno felting, start with the bubble wrap bubble side down, cover with a curtain and roll. Turn the bubble wrap bubble side up at a later stage. Roll for up to 5 minutes but take frequent breaks or pauses as needed (total rolling time 40 mins). For standard felting, place a towel first, then a bubble wrap, lay wool, spray it with soapy water (cold) and cover with very thin plastic sheeting which is used for protecting furniture when painting, press down so as not to disturb the pattern, remove the sheet and put on the netting. Then start rubbing using warm water and olive oil soap.

    Lyn's Wetting Down Tools
    Lyn’s Wetting Down Tools
  • Lyn’s suggestions: For heavier felt, use “bubble side up”. Also, replace the bubble wrap (top and bottom) several times during the felting process so the bubbles are not always in the same location. Lay the fibres out on bubble wrap, then cover with net to wet down, draw bar soap over then agitate very gently through the net. When the fibres have ‘settled’, remove the net and replace it with bubble wrap. When lifting the net it’s best to slowly ‘peel’ it off, releasing any trapped fibres gently as you go – otherwise you risk ‘exfoliating’ your piece of felt! To prevent friction damage during the final shaping of 3D felt with your hands (after rinsing the soap out of the felt) wear thin latex gloves for a smooth finish.

    Zed's Felting Tools
    Zed’s Felting Tools
  • Zed’s suggestions: I honestly don’t ‘get’ the whole rolling for ages thing … do people who roll for ages just not do any rubbing at all? I honestly don’t think I’d felt if I had to bother with all that. A small piece of felt takes me 15 minutes, 20 tops. Even felting my book cover last week and taking photos throughout took about an hour and half, so maybe 45 minutes felting. I have a few videos showing a sample being felted start to finish www.youtube.com/user/feltbyzed/videos. It might help if you don’t like rolling. I have a better towel now too, that stops the bubble-wrap moving when I rub the felt on it. Edges aren’t so hard to keep straight when there aren’t many embellishments, otherwise they act like another layer and depending how they are laid on top, pull the wool/felt in all directions, so edges always end up wobbly for me then. If you use ‘netting’, lift it up often, after rubbing each side, so it doesn’t attach to the wool.

Then the discussion turned towards what type of tools we all used for felting. Many are adapted from other purposes or forum members have made the tool themselves.

Marilyn's Bead Board Felting Tools
Marilyn’s Bead Board Felting Tools
  • Marilyn’s tools: There is a Plexiglas cutting board on the black and the cutting board and hand tool with the glass beads.  I used E6000 glue to attach the beads.  The old plastic cutting board had to be roughed up a bit before gluing on the beads,  but the bare wood board was porous enough it didn’t need any preparation.
    Side View of Marilyn's Bead Board Felting Tool
    Side View of Marilyn’s Bead Board Felting Tool

    I bought a handle and attached it to the wood, then glued on the beads and let it dry for a couple of days. They all work well and were inexpensive. I’ve also used rubber stair tread for heavier duty fulling. I have a collection of different size pool noodles, PVC, rolling pin and wooden dowels for rolling as well as blinds, bamboo mats, pool cover, non skid shelf liner and bubble wrap. I use tulle and mosquito netting and two types of polyester curtain and mesh.  I have a large roll of solar pool cover, bamboo blind, a selection of pool noodles, bamboo mats, PVC tube,  and a rolling pin. Perhaps instead of rolling with it, I should try rubbing on it with the bead board.

    Marilyn's Rolling Machine
    Marilyn’s Rolling Machine

    I also have a rolling machine.

    Ann's Tupperware Lid
    Ann’s Tupperware Lid
  • Ann’s tools: With the glass wash board you don’t rub on it you roll on top of it. I have seen people rubbing but when I tried it just made the felt all fuzzy and yucky. I use a starburst Tupperware lid for rubbing.
    The machine Ann wants to build
    The machine Ann wants to build

    I want to build a large rolling machine. It is like using your dryer. Roll up your felt and put it inside. This would make doing larger pieces possible. I am looking for the tube still.

    Zed's Bead Board Fulling Tool
    Zed’s Bead Board Fulling Tool
  • Zed’s tools: Same idea as Marilyn’s for a fulling board. I use mine for vessels when I want really sturdy felt.
    Zed's Polyester Netting
    Zed’s Polyester Netting

    I use a polyester ‘netting’, I used to get it on rolls from Ikea, but they stopped doing it, so I bought their curtains ‘Teresia’  www.ikea.com/gb/en/catalog/products/90262021/ They are even cheaper, masses of fabric for a small amount of money. They are light, but the weave isn’t so open that they felt to the wool. I’ve used Lyn’s idea too, bubble wrap pouches (so you can slide your hand in) to rub vessels.

    Lyn Using Bubble Wrap to Rub
    Lyn Using Bubble Wrap to Rub
  • Lyn’s tools: I scrunch up some bubble wrap (so that the bubbles are showing), grip it tight then wet-soap it over to make a ‘tool’ similar to the pebble boards but it’s very ‘gentle’ and ideal for the first stage of rubbing through net. There are ‘proper’ misters and water dispensers that felt makers can buy, but I’ve always found household-cleaner spray bottles and plastic milk cartons with holes punched in the lids to be just as good (well washed out, of course). And those little dish sponges are just the right shape to grip when mopping away excess water.
    Tools to Dry Felt by Lyn
    Tools to Dry Felt by Lyn

    A piece of dual-purpose ‘equipment’: I was wetting down a large piece of felt and had a gentle waterfall from every side of my table. Aaargh! So I bought an extra-large dog-crate liner to solve that problem. Then I found that it came in handy for drying large pieces of flat felt – a wide window blind (used for rolling) spread over worked well as there was air flowing all around the felt.

    Tupperware Starburst Lid
    Tupperware Starburst Lid
  • Judith’s tools: I use a Tupperware star lid for rubbing.

    Nada's Felting Tools
    Nada’s Felting Tools
  • Nada’s tools: There is a larger size bamboo blind used for shading windows (I only had to remove metal parts) which I use for fulling larger pieces of work. I use the small bamboo mat (originally used for sushi making) for rolling smaller pieces, an improvised plastic roller made of plastic, (I stuffed it with plastics and wrapped it with a strong adhesive tape. Originally it is used for insulating electrical wires and comes in different sizes but I find it useful for rolling nuno scarves, a kitchen roller pin covered with bubble drawer protection non slip plastic which I use for felting flat pieces, a plastic tray for rubbing after the first phase of felting, I don’t know what you call it, it is originally used for draining wet shoes. I like felting because it does not require expensive tools, everything can be improvised.

    Teri's Tool For Wetting Down Large Projects
    Teri’s Tool For Wetting Down Large Projects
  • Teri’s tools: My favorite tool for wetting out large nuno pieces is my garden sprayer, I found a chap selling them on Ebay for £7 and for the cheap skate list, I cut the bottoms off bin bags (pedal-bin liners are great) and cut up the side to make sheets of plastic for rolling in or protecting my work surface from water/dyes.

Amazing, isn’t it how much you can gain from other felt makers advice? I really think that felt makers are natural problem solvers as they seem to be able to make a tool for felting out of anything. If you have more tips or favorite tools, please add them in the comments or join us on the forum.

27 thoughts on “Felting Tips from the Forum

  1. Well didn’t we all have a lot to say! 🙂

    Many helpful tips there and some I’ll be taking up too. Goof luck with rolling machine Ann. 🙂


  2. I went to a class which rolled with polystyrene pipe lagging and rolled the felt and bubble wrap and a towel round it because the tutor thought it caused less strain. As a disabled felter I have found my world of wool felting pin quicker and it helps me roll in a way which exercises my upper body muscles. Try holding your stomach in while you roll in 100 roll sections. I can felt most things in 800.

    1. I always change the foot forward halfway thru each rolling session to avoid fatigue. It does give you a good upper body workout especially when you add the tightened abs. Good point lizseville!

    2. I think these posts are so interesting. Some things are difficult to communicate but when I was making cushions I also discovered that laying out technique was quite important. By following a set laying out style I was able after a short while to produce felt which was much more consistent in quality, thickness, degree of shrinkage etc I do feel that there is a very strong physicality in the way fibre artists learn their art through working their felt.

  3. It’s great to learn what others are doing. Thanks for putting this this together Ruth. I know I’m trying some of the techniques I haven’t used before. I think we tend to stay with what we learned first unless we’re fortunate enough to have a whole community to teach us new techniques. 🙂

    1. You’re welcome. It is a good idea to try new ways as you can continually improve on the way you felt. I know over the years I have changed the way I felt.

  4. Thanks, Ruth for an immensely helpful post! I know I will be going back to this or future felting methods. Good to try different techniques till we find what suits us best! Had never thought of holding stomach in while rolling–great idea!
    Question for Ann: you mention not rubbing but rather rolling on the washboard. What are you rolling with? Just got an old metal washboard from my sister!

    1. I usually just roll up the piece and roll it up and down. It will felt fast. If the edges on the metal one are quite pointy ( the one I had was) I would put a towel down on it to smooth it out unless it was a very thick heavy piece. It will full fast. be careful you do not felt the piece into a solid tube. You can put it in a piece of thin plastic to prevent this,

    1. I know Ann has been thinking about this machine for a while – she can’t find the pipe she needs for a reasonable amount.

  5. What a wonderful post – so much variety and experimentation! Those bead rubbers are beautiful and useful looking.

    I find my glass washboard a wonder for extra fulling (and spot shrinking). Haven’t had the dreaded fuzzies (although I tend to do most rubbing on the inside of a hat). Just make sure the felt is wet and quite soapy.

    1. Thanks Juliane – it is nice to hear from lots of people since there are so many different methods. Thanks for your tip about using the washboard.

  6. I use the Palm Washboard from Robbin at Heartfelt Silks. It’s a great tool – there are several different models. Saves you the rolling. Check out her site at heartfeltsilks.com.

  7. One thing I see US/Aussie felters mention is pool covers instead of bubble-wrap, I can’t say I’ve ever come across pool covers here (or many pools for that matter!), but every time I see those ‘bumpy’ bathmats, I consider getting one and think they must be similar?

    1. Pool covers are usually blue and look just like bubble wrap but they are made from much heavier plastic and are much stiffer. They work well for heavier felt items. I’m not sure I know what you mean about “bumpy” bathmats so I can’t compare the two.

    2. My (solar) pool cover is clear. The blue is too hard to see designs on. As I mentioned earlier, if you use this be sure it’s 8 to 12 mm. I have 16 and it’s too stiff unless of course you have Ann’s dream machine and are doing rugs! I bought mine on Amazon in a size I could cut into sizes that would suit my needs.

    3. OK – the differences are that the mat is probably rubber and the pool cover is heavy plastic, the pool cover is good for really big projects as it can be ten – twenty foot wide, as Marilyn points out the pool cover comes in various weights/thicknesses. But I am sure the bath mat would work fine.

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