Tools & equipment for felting & fulling

May 25, 2024

Have you ever had one of these issues while wet felting?

  • You used bubble wrap to roll a nuno felted piece and it left circular marks on your project.
  • You fulled a cobweb scarf in the washing machine and it came out unrecognizable.
  • You rolled a nuno felted piece on a bamboo mat only to discover that it pulled on the silk fibers.

If you’re unsure which methods or equipment to use for fulling, I recommend you don’t just follow what you’ve seen someone doing. Your project may be completely different, so it may need different fulling methods as well.

It’s not that there’s an exact recipe for the fulling methods to use. But, as a general rule of thumb, delicate pieces need delicate felting and fulling, and sturdy projects need methods that are more “aggressive”.

Think of it like you’d think of your laundry: do you wash a pair of thick jeans the same way you wash a cashmere cardigan?

This week I’ve prepared a couple of examples for you to give you some guidelines on this topic. Again, these are only examples, so they don’t cover everything.

Also, these are my choices and preferences. Other felt makers may have different solutions.

 

ANTI-SLIP RUBBERY MATS are often sold by the meter to place under rugs or inside drawers.

Here are some of the advantages of this material:

  • It’s inexpensive and durable.
  • It’s easy to wash.
  • It’s soft, so it isn’t aggressive to the fiber.
  • Because it’s sold by the meter, you can buy longs pieces to roll scarves, for example.
  • It doesn’t slip on the table when you’re rolling.
  • It tightens up nicely when you’re rolling and doesn’t unwind like bamboo blinds.

I have had one for years and I use it all the time for all kinds of projects. It’s one of my favorite tools for nuno felting or any other delicate projects, like thin felt with viscose fibers.

I wouldn’t use it for thick felt thought. And, if you prefer working with natural materials, this may not be the best choice for you.

 

BAMBOO BLINDS are great for rolling but they’re the opposite of anti-slip mats:

  • They’re hard and too aggressive for delicate fiber.
  • They can get moldy, so you need to make sure you let them dry well before putting them away.
  • They aren’t very durable.
  • They slip on the table when you’re rolling, so you need to have a towel underneath them.
  • They tend to open up when you’re rolling so you need to tie them and untie them all the time to check on your felt.

But they do have advantages as well:

  • They’re inexpensive.
  • They come in different sizes.
  • They’re strong and sturdy.
  • They’re made from natural and biodegradable materials.

They’re perfect for bigger and sturdier projects, and thicker felts made from coarser wool, like rugs and bags.

Yet, I won’t use them for nuno felt or any other delicate projects, since they pull on the delicate fibers very easily.

 

BAMBOO MATS/SUSHI MATS are my go-to tool when I’m felting small pieces that are neither too delicate nor too thick. Delicate pieces may be damaged by the bamboo, and pieces that are too thick may damage the bamboo (these aren’t as robust as bamboo blinds).

Of course, they have the same problems as the bamboo blinds: they can get moldy, they aren’t very durable and will slip on your worktable if you don’t place a towel underneath.

Unfortunately, there aren’t many sizes available. So, you’re limited to using them for small pieces.

But I love the way they tighten up around the wool when I’m making prefelts. This helps me create prefelt sheets fast and they become nice and flat.

 

Somehow there’s still this myth in the wet felting community that you need BUBBLE WRAP to make felt. I have to admit I still use it too, because I used to buy it in bulk. So, I still have a huge roll, and I’ll work with it until I finish what I have. But I don’t plan on buying it again.

Apart from adding to the plastic problem, here are my other reasons:

  • I find it difficult to wash and to dry.
  • The bubbles burst easily, so it has a short life.
  • The bubbles leave marks on delicate projects. While it’s true that they generally disappear from the surface after fulling, they still influence the shape on the edges of fine projects, making it difficult to get them straight.

The only real advantage I see is that it’s transparent, so it can be helpful when you want to place a template under it for the layout. I mainly use it for the layout, and I hardly ever use it for rolling.

 

The last tool I’ve bought for felting was a RIBBED RUBBER MAT. To be honest, I had never even considered getting one. It was a felting friend who convinced me to try it. Now, it’s one of my favorites.

I like to have it on my table because:

  • The ribs prevent any excess water from running all over the place, even though I do felt with very little water.
  • It’s great as a base if you’re using something else to roll, because it serves as an anti-slip mat.
  • You can remove it after felting and only have one thing to wash. And it’s also easy to wash.

I absolutely love it as a fulling tool because:

  • The ribs are big enough to create friction. But it isn’t as aggressive as a bamboo mat, since the rubber is still soft. So, it doesn’t make my felt fuzzy.
  • You can use it as a base and just roll the felt onto itself.

Would I use it for nuno felting? No, I wouldn’t. I still think that nuno felting, like pieces with viscose require very gentile fulling. Otherwise, I’d use it for any other project.

Two things I feel a ribbed rubber mat is perfect for:

  • To make cords.
  • To roll the edges of a piece of felt to finish them well.

 

I have been working with SYNTHETIC FABRIC for many years. I find it has advantages for very specific projects:

  • You can do your layout on it, and then use it to roll as well. You just need to use a pool noodle for the core. You will need to tie it up, though, since it’ll tend to open.
  • It’s thin and not aggressive at all. Actually, it doesn’t produce any friction. So, it’s perfect for projects that need slow felting.
  • And, of course, being synthetic, it doesn’t attach to the wool.

I find it’s perfect for nuno felt, especially if the project is made with a base of silk and not much wool.

 

TEA TOWELS/OLD SHEETS can be used in the same way as synthetic fabric. But they may attach to the wool a bit.

So, it’s better to use them for the final stages of fulling, when the wool has compacted already. They help create a felt with a smooth finishing.

They’re also more robust than synthetic fabric. So, they can be used for more robust projects as well.

 

TOWELS are also great for the final stages of fulling. But I’d recommend them for more robust projects.

Another way I use them is as a base and then roll my felt onto itself and on the towel, much like what I’ve described for the ribbed rubber mat.

 

RUBBING TOOLS are ideal to get shrinkage on targeted areas.

For example, I like to use the wooden tool in the photo to rub the brim of a hat. It not only shrinks the felt, but it also helps flattening it.

Another situation in which I use them is to shrink the edges when they’re curling, i.e., when they’re shrinking less than the central area of the felt. This allows for a quick, corrective shrinkage.

I would only use these in thick and sturdy pieces. Never on delicate felt like nuno or thin felt with viscose. If you use them on delicate projects, they’ll tend to get fuzzy/hairy.

There are many alternatives both in terms of size and shape, as well as in terms of materials. Rubbing tools can be made of wood, but also glass or ceramic.

 

A couple of years ago, I found this TEXTURED ROLLING PIN in the kitchen section of a store. It cost me close to nothing, so I thought I should give it a try.

I find it useful for fulling shoes or other thick projects, since it allows you to go deep into the felt.

But I sometimes also use it to start the felting of a piece with embellishment fibers. Yet, in this case, I don’t make too much pressure. I just roll it gently over the project. I find it helps stubborn fiber attach to the wool.

If you can’t find this sort of pins, you can use massage tools as a substitute.

 

For years I was afraid of using a SANDER. But, after I’ve tried it, it became one of my favorite tools.

You can use it for any flat project. But it’s essential for fine felt, especially nuno and any project with viscose.

I think it’s the best alternative to rolling, since it creates a lot of pressure. It’s a quick method, and it makes felting easier. So, it’s great for felt makers who find rolling too straining.

Just make sure you know what you need to do to be safe. I won’t be able to go into that here. Let me know if you’d like me to write a blog post explaining how I prepare my work area and how to choose a sander.

 

I sometimes use a WASHING MACHINE as well. But only in very specific situations: for thick and sturdy items, and only when it’s not a problem if they shrink too much.

In other words, never for items like shoes, hats, clothes or nuno felt. For example, I’ve used it for bags that were already fulled, but I wanted to shrink more.

 

I hope I haven’t overwhelmed you with so much information, and that you find this post useful as a reference to help you make decisions.

Please don’t go out and buy everything I mention. Find a way to use what you have at home already. You don’t need everything.

Listen to your gut feelings, don’t be afraid to experiment and decide for yourself. The more you felt, the more you’ll instinctively know what to use for a specific project.

If you don’t want to work with plastic, you don’t have to. Check out this blog post on how to avoid plastic in wet felting.

Also, you may have health issues that don’t allow you to use a particular method. So, play with the different ones and see which may be more suitable for you.

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