Thursday, January 19, 2012

Rolling Machine For Wet Felting

I had the extremely good fortune to find a used rolling machine for wet felting last fall.  I purchased it online from a fellow felter and was thrilled to find a way to eliminate the strain on my back and body from wet felting my finished pieces.  I also wanted to learn to  make scarves using some methods I hadn't seen before and being able to wet felt them by machine was a great idea.  Here is the photo of the rolling machine:

Rolling Machine for Wet Felting
It just so happened that I had a list of new classes that needed to be developed for the fall and the year 2012 and so I had to put my felting aside for a few months.  If you are quilter and want to see some quilting classes visit my website and click on the "Classes" tab for those coming in 2012.
I also made a baby quilt for my first grandchild due any day.  Here is a picture of it:

Bunny Quilt

Back to the rolling machine.  I first discovered this wonderful machine when I was reading about the "Fashioning Felt" exhibition at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in 2009.  You can watch a demonstration of a large rolling machine here:

After seeing that I wanted one but I wasn't a felter yet so didn't have a good reason to get one.  If you don't want to buy yourself a rolling machine you can make your own with the following instructions:   :)

Anyway, I was perusing one of my felting forum lists and came upon a person who was selling a used one.  After some discussion with her about what to do with it I ended up closing the deal.  She sent it to me and it was unbelievable heavy but I got it into my basement wet studio and proceeded to play with it.

However, I was having some problems learning how to use it so I called the company who makes it and had them send me the instruction book.  To visit their site go to:

I decided to do some experiments with different kinds of silk and fibers I had on hand to see how they would work in a scarf. 

Hand felted Silk Samples

I wanted to see if I could leave the edges of the silk raw and just felt fibers along to edge to finish them.  I also hoped that the silk would bubble up when the fibers shrunk from the wet felting.
The above picture shows silk cut into 12 inch squares with a thin layer of fibers hand felted into a grid pattern using a Clover hand felting tool on a piece of foam rubber base.  I felted a thin layer along the grid lines on the back sides as well.  The fabrics and fibers are as follows:

Pink - Merino fibers on commercial polyester sheer print
Purple - Silk-Merino blend fibers on pleated silk gauze
Blue - Merino fibers on commercial silk georgette print
Black - White alpaca and trilobal firestar nylon fibers on black silk organza
Gray - grey angora fibers on white silk gauze
Brown - brown alpaca fibers on white silk organza

I lightly felted along the fiber lines with my Babylock Embellisher machine to be sure they had entwined with each other on the front and back sides.

Then I put them into the rolling machine.

The blue plastic is a solar pool liner that you roll the wetted and soapy project up around a piece of pool noodle or pipe insulator.

Scarf Samples Rolling in Machine
I decided to use concentrated Dawn dish detergent and I used waaaaaaaayyyyyy too much!!

Soap Suds Flew Everywhere
I filled up the washing machine so I could rinse off some of the soap and kept rolling for about 20 minutes.  The side of the machine has a timer that you can set and it will automatically stop turning at the amount of time you choose.  I kept checking and found that the sample needed more time rather than less.

Felted Samples
Here is what they looked like after being rolled and dried with a fan.  I could see where I had neglected to felt some lines well enough and they had come loose.  But all in all, I was happy to see that my experiment worked:  I can felt the edges instead of hemming them; the silk will bubble and pouch wherever there is no fiber; all the fibers worked in their own way with their own finished look.  I could even use white fiber on white silk and dye them both AFTER rolling.  I noticed some shrunk quite a bit more than the others.  The angora hardly shrunk at all and it seemed to need more hand felting at the outset to keep it stable.

I decided to try rolling my scarf I had make in class last November. See the previous post from November 25 called "Needle Felted Scarf" where I explain how this was made.   I prepared it the same way I prepared the scarf samples, wetting it down with hot soapy water.  I didn't want the curls on the end to felt so I separated them by accordian pleating them with a piece of plastic and securing the roll in place with a plastic coated paper clip.  You can see the plastic "mittens" on the edges below.

Scarf Prepared for Rolling
Then I laid it out on the solar pool cover cut to the size of the rolling machine and wrapped around a piece of pipe insulation I got at Home Depot.

Ready to Roll
I rolled it a long time, checking every 10 minutes or so.  After what should have been too long, it seemed like the curls pulled out of the silk.  They barely felted at all and some of them almost fell off the silk.   I remember on one of my felted paintings, I used Wensleydale fibers for clouds in the sky and they just would not felt or mesh with the rest of the fibers like Merino does. It may be that the curls I got in my class kit are like these and will resist felting and blending.  The silk scarf base is certainly very slippery  and it seemed like the fibers pulled out rather than scrunching in to the silk like the above scarf samples did.  I'm not sure why - maybe one of you readers can enlighten me about curls and how to felt them.  The circular red pattern made with yarn on the scarf ends were also pulled out and are just hanging by threads.  The scarf cannot be worn now because it is not stable. 

Now I think I will run it under the felting machine to get the fibers punched back into the back side and wet felt it again, first by hand and then with the rolling machine.  It that doesn't work I will chock it up to experience and in the future, just use curls as additives rather than base wool.  I would use Merino fibers with curl accents when I make my own scarves. 

I still have to finish reading the book that came with the rolling machine and learn how to do more with it but I am glad to have it.  When I have several felted paintings ready I can roll them altogether and felt them at the same time instead of my arms felting each one seperately.  If any of you have any tips for me about using wool and silk together, I would appreciate it.

Happy Felting Everyone!!


  1. Hi Linda,
    I am a felter in Austin Texas with a gif art felt show coming up this fall. I am looking for a used rolling machine myself. I would appreciate it greatly if you let me know if you hear of one. Thanks! Barbara Attwe;;

  2. Hi Linda,
    My name is Vilma, I'm looking for a used wet felting machine..if you know anything about it, please, let me know!
    Thanks a lot!

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