Things I'd Consider When the Gods/Goddesses are Against Me

When it just doesn't seem to be working

A quick checklist of things to consider if you are having issues in my order of priority.

1) Biting off more than I can chew

If you are new to the GR start with a small project and only one project.  Don't be too ambitious even if you're an experienced felt maker.  You need to become familiar with the nuances of the GR.

Mixing two different sample pieces is definitely not a good idea until you are experienced.

2) Water

It's important!  It's called "wet felting" for a reason.   You don't want it so wet that your wool is floating away, but you do want your felt to be wet thoroughly - both wet through and along your piece.  Thick woolen lay-ups can hold a lot of water.  You don't want dry spots between multiple lay-ups, and you don't want dry spot along your felt.

When you put your top plastic sheet on, press the felting through the plastic it will be easy to see if you have dry spots.  

Make sure you check it between cycles.   Some wools will dry out quicker than others.

3) Soap

It's important!  Do you know the pH of your soap?  Neutral detergents/soaps may be good for the environment, but they only partly help with felting.  The soap has two functions.  Firstly, it helps the fibres slip and slide relative to each other.  If your water doesn't feel a little slippery to touch it will not help much with felting. 

Secondly, you should use a high pH of around 11 to have a positive impact.  (Google your soap to find out the pH - usually in the MSDS Data Sheet - or buy some litmus paper for $1 on eBay).

High pH helps open the barbs on the wool allowing the fibres to catch onto other fibres and become enmeshed.

Don't be afraid to rub your item with the soap bar between cycles as that is adding high pH directly to your fibres rather than a watered-down solution.

4) What drive roller - soft feel or firm feel?

The soft feel drive roller was developed exclusively for light weight felts and light nuno-felt ie, scarves, shawls, wraps, are ideal on the soft-feel. You'll find it felts easier and slightly quicker than a firm feel roller because it provides greater agitation. I wouldn't use it for anything thick or heavy or using a resist as heavy items will crush the soft feel material.

The firm feel is preferable for heavy, thick felts and felts with a resist ie large garments, rugs, sculptural items are best on a firm feel drive roller.  If you make light weight items but don't have a soft feel drive roller, don't worry, the firm feel can do anything

The firm feel can be used on light weight felts, but it may need a little bubble wrap to help it make contact.  (see item 5 and 7).

5) Are the rollers touching the felt?

Look down from above on your rollers.  Are the side rollers (idle rollers) in contact with the felting bundle?  Are you on the right tooth on both sides (see item 6).  If you are doing something fine you may not have good contact - consider a soft feel roller or a modified firm feel roller (see item 7).   Or maybe you have an uneven, odd shaped felt piece and an odd-shaped bundle that results in uneven contact - there is a cure for that too (see item 8).

6) What tooth for the roller?

You should be using the first tooth wherever possible.  If doing nuno it should always be possible to use the first tooth as the bundles are never usually large.   It is rare to use the second tooth and even rarer still to use the third tooth.  Lifting the pivot hook will allow you to access the tooth nearest to the felting bundle.

7) Bubble-wrap

If you are making finer felts and don't have a soft feel drive roller it will help to wrap a single layer of bubble wrap around your firm feel drive roller.  You can tie it with string in a circular large spring like pattern along the length of the roller.  This is shown on a video called: How to make a soft drive roller from a hard drive roller.  This video is in Section 5: Felting / Fulling on your Gentle Roller.

8) Odd-shaped bundles

If you are making a bag, a sculptured item or maybe an item with a resist, you may have different thicknesses of felt or 'gaps' (like the gap in a one-piece bag).  Any odd shape can be made into a consistent rectangle with bubble-wrap.  It's on a blog: Rolling an awkward shape.

9) Rotations - how many?

Shorter rotations agitate more - great for difficult to felt wools or blends, or great if you know your materials and just want to get the maximum amount of work into your felt piece.  Short rotations are NOT so good for starting a piece with lots of embellishments that you want to settle in place.

Long rotations are the preferred setting.   It is much preferred when starting a piece with embellishments that you do not want to move out of place.  With nuno felting, longer rotations are best as it helps the fibres penetrate the carrier fabric rather than over agitating the fibres into felt before they have time to penetrate the carrier.

If in doubt, use longer rotations - it takes less time than short rotations.

Always use different rotation between forward and reverse ie 3.00 reverse and 2.75 forward. 

The reason they are different is so that the bundle doesn’t stop at the same spot on every cycle.  Don't use 3:2 or 2.75:1.75 or any combination with a difference of 1 cycle as it will still land on the same spot.

The reason reverse is the larger number is because if you take up the bundle with the plastic hex shape on the LEFT hand side, then having a larger reverse number will effectively ‘tighten’ your roll on each cycle.

10) Cycles - how many?

Initially only do only 250 cycles before you take it off, check it, and take up from the other ends.  When you are experienced, you probably won't need to check it between cycles - just unroll and take up from the other end.   

250 cycles may seem a small number between re-rolling but it ensures you are equalizing the felting process.  You can probably extend it to 500 cycles once you get a feel for how it is working.  

11) Speed - how fast?

We always suggest that you start the first few sets of cycles at 50%.  This is only to make sure that everything is in place, the bundle doesn't slip, the roller doesn't fall off, etc.  Usually within a few seconds you can gradually increase the speed up to 100%.

Always roll at the fastest possible speed.   This is 100% in almost all cases.  You may need to go slightly slower if you have a huge rug or an awkward shape.  No matter what you are making, if your felt bundle doesn't seem settled and comfortable at 75% that might indicate your bundle is unstable and you need to take it up more evenly.   Rolling at 50% achieves not much at all.    

These above steps are very easy to do and should be a regular consideration when felting.


Other things to look at are;

12) How do I take up the lay-up?

You should be taking up the bundle from one end and then the other.  (Then side to side if it is squarish)

When you first take up your bundle on the drive roller, the near end (where you begin) is inside the roll.  The far end where you finish is outside the roll.  This outside region will always get the most felting work.

After the first cycle.  Place your roller down and unroll it.  What is currently the outside of the roller will now be near end.  The inside will be at the far end. 

Take it up from the near end.  Now what was outside the roller is inside the roller.  Where you finish, what was the inside of the roller is now the outside.

This is the basic manner in which the bundle should be taken up.  It alternates the fabric which is outside and inside of the roller.  

13) False Ends / Partial Folds

If you find your felt is working in some areas better than others you should be using “partial folds” or “false ends”.   This is almost always required for a piece over 1.1 meter (4 feet) in length or width.  This is covered extensively in the owner's manual Part 3: A comprehensive Guide to Using the Gentle Roller.   It is also shown in many videos, so I won't go into detail here.


13) Half-Folds

Roll your bundle from one end.  Unroll and take up again as per item 12 above.

After 2 cycles (or 4 cycles if you want to give it a bit more), unroll the bundle and fold both ends in so they touch in the middle.  Roll from both ends as usual.

This goal is to equalize the amount of the bundle that is exposed on the outside of the roller during your various rolling cycles.

An example of false ends rolled sideways is shown in the very first video of Section 5: Felting / Fulling on your Gentle Roller.   The video link is:  Making a simple nuno felt scarf.


14) Weighted Rollers (only for PVC idle rollers V1 / V2 Gentle Rollers)

Heavier rollers create more agitation.  I discuss this on a video called “Pressure doesn’t create felt”.   Weighted rollers aren't necessary for nuno felting – but it can help.  Weighted rollers are easy enough to make with water.  Watch the video.

15) Join the Gentle Roller Group on Facebook.

If you don't believe me, or you want some more suggestions, you can ask questions of other users, get tips or comments and it’s a good place to just keep in contact.

The Gentle Roller wet felt rolling machine

The Gentle Roller wet felting machine