The Benefit of a Soft Feel Idle Roller

Pressure doesn't create felt

There are some people who believe that adding more pressure will improve the felting. This is a misunderstanding probably circulated by manufacturers of old style felt rolling machines or a throwback to the old steam pressure for making felted hats - although the process was a little more complex than just adding steam and pressure, it included hydrochloric acid, soda ash and more.

Pressure does not create felt. There is a video below explaining why this statement is true but imagine for a moment you put some wool in a vice, or under a huge weight – leave it there as long as you want, the pressure will not turn your wool into felt.

Agitation is what causes felting to occur.

The making of felt comes down to 3 key steps - open the barbs on your fibres, agitate your fibres and mesh them together (pre-felt), and lock them in place (full).

Without agitation, all you have is loose fibres.  Agitation – the rubbing and meshing of the fibres against each other - is the key to what causes felting to occur.  

If you are making heavier or thick items, the (grey) firm feel drive roller is ideal.   It holds your project and allows the specially designed idle rollers to do the work of agitating the thick felt. 

For light weight items, the firm feel drive roller will do the job, the rolling still creates the agitation.  (In the first few years of the GR we only had a firm drive roller).

But a softer drive roller with more movement at the surface interface, will provide more and better agitation in most circumstances.  More agitation under the soft squishy surface will naturally create felt in less time and create better felt (because the fibres are better blended).

A layer of bubble wrapped around your firm feel drive roller is a good and cheap solution.  When you felt using a layer of bubble wrap, the bubbles move back and forth and deform in shape as you roll, creating more agitation than the firm surface.  But putting bubble wrap on and off your drive roller each time you roll light weight felts can be annoying.

A better solution, particularly if you do a lot of fine felted items, is the purpose made (purple) soft feel drive roller.  The squishiness of the soft feel drive roller compound provides a cushioning effect under the felt bundle and that cushioning provides greater agitation.  Your lightweight felts will be better agitated (ie better blended, ie better felt) and performed in less time than it takes on a firmer roller.

The Gentle Roller wet felt rolling machine

The Gentle Roller wet felting machine