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.
- 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 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 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 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 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.
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.
I also have a rolling machine.
- 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.
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 tools: Same idea as Marilyn’s for a fulling board. I use mine for vessels when I want really sturdy felt.
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’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.
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.
- Judith’s tools: I use a Tupperware star lid for rubbing.
- 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 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.