Felt rolling machine

More people surf in to read my posts on my felt rolling machine than anything else on my blog.

I haven’t really written much about it, partly because I don’t have room to set it up.

My studio at home is much smaller than the one I had when I bought the machine and as I haven’t been concentrating on felt (I have been a Jack of all trade for the past year) I have needed the space for storing materials for my work with local groups etc.

My partner is pushing me to sell it as it is just taking up space, but I am reluctant to as it cost me over £1000 to buy it/ get it here from America, I hope not to be working from my flat for ever and it can save so much time and effort with certain tasks.

We have now freed up room in a cupboard and I am going to try to set it up there. With so much interest I thought I would write again and if you have anything you would like to know… please just ask.

If you are thinking about buying one, but wonder how it would be on specific projects give me a shout and I will try to do it, photograph it and write about it for you.  But be patient as it might take up to a week for me to have time.

So to what I have tried and learnt.

My machines motor was broken in transport which meant initially it was very noisy and got very hot. So my first experience was frustrating, but feltcrafts sent me a new motor very very quickly and now it works perfectly.

The first thing is that I really had to play with the machine to get it to work for me. Patience is important at first as well as experimentation. I also had a lot of support from kneek who wrote to me with things that worked for her. She has a slightly bigger machine than me.

What I find works well…

I enjoy rolling felt, it is almost like meditation, but there are times when it is wonderful not to have too. If you need to produce samples quickly to get to the design you want to use, you have to produce lots for something – craft fair, gifts etc.

It frees up creative time.

Scarves– You can lay out 3 or four scarves side by side and more lengthways if your bubble wrap is long enough. This means that time is freed up ….when you would have been rolling the machine is doing it and you are building your next ‘batch’ on a second length of bubble wrap ready for rolling.

Fabric lengths – This was great. I use prefelts and found it perfect for this. Lengths of Nuno are easy too.

Pictures and hangings – As above, but I found that I had to open it and roll from the other end part way through.

  1. I laid out my piece on normal bubblewrap on to the smooth side. The pool wrap seemed to cushion it too much and so it took longer.
  2. I wrapped a damp towel around the roll to give it a little weight (If it is already weighty from felt/water I don’t do this)
  3. I use either lining fabric or plastic on top to pressing out all the air bubbles. Any air gaps will mean the fibres will not be forced back down into the felt… they will lift away felting to themselves.
  4. If I want the piece to be fulled I use warm soapy water and roll for 5 min, open it up and add hot water – roll from the other end and put it back on to roll.
  5. I have found that leaving the top roller up just a little ‘bumps’ the roll helping speed up the felting.

Things that work OK. But require focus…

Slippers, bags or resist work – I found that you can use it for these but must get the timing right. They are great for felting the flat sides, but you have to then felt around the edges and finish them yourself. I like this, but I have a friend who found it frustrating ( I think for her she would have liked it to do more for the cost) I guess it depends on your expectations and needs.

If you do not check them regularly they can become twisted. You dont want them to felt too long as the edges can felt and you get a ridge.

For me it takes the labour out of some areas when I need to get other things done.

The negatives…

It won’t do everything … if thats what you want.

It takes time to get to know it.

It isn’t the quickest machine. You can get machines which can be speeded up or slowed down…but the cost more.

It has to be on top of something to collect the water. I had to invent something as this is not provided.

This is quite a long post and I don’t want to bore you.

There are of course other ways of doing what the machine does, but I really like it and if I were making a lot of flat items regularly, I wouldn’t even think twice at getting one.

Please feel free to contact me if I have not explained something properly or missed something out.

Day four- Charlotte Buch workshop


I have my laptop back. Its not fixed, I am using it through a separate monitor.  But I don’t care … I can surf and blog and twitter and flickr ’til I drop.

This also means I can finish my posts on Charlotte’s workshop.

Day Four.  The last day……

We were in at 7.30 today.  I was so happy I had made all the pieces of my jacket and they had worked. I think after all my doubts about the prefelting in the tumble dryer I am actually seeing ways that it might be useful.  I’ve tried it before and I didn’t like the unpredictability of it, but having the opportunity to explore it with sample after sample, I feel I know how  to make the technique work for me. That is key I think. Working at it until you find how it works for you in just the same way as you have to work at wet felting to find the techniques that work for you.

The issues we had with one of the tumble dryers was good. If it had worked perfectly then I wouldn’t have struggled and questioned things, heat, time, load etc. and I wouldn’t have the deeper knowledge this gave me.

I thought I would put my jacket together first thing, but when I had finished prefelting the night before I had put it straight into a plastic bag and so it was still wet. I knew I would have to let it dry before I used the sewing machine on it and so I hung it to dry and decided to put it together at home.

This was good for a couple of reasons….

  • There was only one sewing machine.

I hadn’t thought much about it until R2W pointed out everyone would be ready to use it at the same time. Thankfully Bev came to the rescue and learnt her machine to the group. I am amazed at what she had in her car. Mary Poppins of the craft world and very generous.

  • I could spend time watching other people work.

This gave me an opportunity to see  all the different Charlotte techniques being applied to different pieces of work. Some times I was lucky enough to be asked to help, getting hands on experience and time with other makers. A real treat as usually I am so wrapped in my work and getting it finished that I wouldn’t get this blessing.

Today there was a buzz of excitement. There was something wonderful about watching people put their pieces together. I must be honest here, there was also a feeling of fear. How would something SO big ever become something normal sized never mind fitted. Charlotte was a constant source of positive encouragement and reassurance.

Pieces were HUGE.

dump 22.06.09 447 dump 22.06.09 478 dump 22.06.09 518

Like magic ( well not that quick – with lots and lots of elbow grease ) every ones jackets took shape.

Each time someone tried on their jacket for the final time there was excitement and wonder. Everyone made something unique which added to the anticipation and wonder.

We had a final chat with Charlotte. She was a great tutor and so patient, even when the properties of the needle felt were causing issues because they reacted differently to hers, she remained positive and professional using encouragement to spur us on. Determined to help us get it right.

I haven’t touched much on what I actually learned. As I said previously I don’t wan’t to share Charlottes techniques as they are not mine to give away. This might disappoint some ( I have had a comment) but unless it is already out there for you to look up on her site then I can’t. Sorry. Please except that it is a matter of respect for me and not a judgement on anyone else. We all see things differently.

It was sad saying good bye to everyone. It was a fantastic week and if you have been thinking about doing a workshop – on anything- make it one that lasts a few days.

I am inspired.


Day three – Charlotte Buch workshop

Day three….

Well we were ahead of the game on day three. R2W is the perfect workshop partner. Like me she felt we had travelled a long way to attend/learn and so the thought of getting up and in at 7am was not an issue for her. Yippeeee. And she was delighted at making the most of our time.

We had asked our landlord if we could get our own breakfast. He seemed a little surprise, but happy.

I am a lark, getting up around 6am and so is R2W. Brilliant. In fact on day two I was up at 5.30 and went for a walk to pass the time.I was too excited to sleep. Later R2W had said she was too and had been up earlier than me!

So this is what lead us to the early start. We were first in which gave us time to get another load of samples in the dryer.

This was the one main issue on the first day- one dryer, 12 students and a million samples ( slight exaggeration). There was a real back up which held things back a little. by day three there were 2 dryers and two spins. Much better.

So back to day three. Most of the group were already well into making their pieces. Some people had lengths of fabric designed, laid out and pre-felted! Others worked on each piece of their pattern – front left, front right, back etc. Placing their design exactly. It was wonderful to be surrounded by such creativity and colour. Everyone was supporting each other and bouncing idea around. Charlotte was so patient and knowledgeable.

  • Lay out for yardage
  • Lay out for yardage
  • pre felt yardage
  • pre felt yardage
  • wow wowyum

    I didn’t even really know what surface design I was using. So I set too.

    I had attended the workshop a) to meet/learn from Charlotte  b) to learn new techniques  c) to spend time focusing on felt and the atmosphere of being away at a workshop.

    Thinking about what I wanted to produce I decided I could play to my hearts content with samples and surface design at home. I didn’t need Charlotte’s expertise or support for that, but the technicalities of Charlotte’s techniques were where I would want her there.

    I decided to work on something concentrating on that.I made several samples working on a simple design with only a small amount of pattern somewhere. I wanted texture and if I could sneak it in, then a little sparkle. Just a little, I am not a blingy kinda girl.

  • needle felt, chiffon circles-white, scrim circles- teal, plastic resist, bubble wrap resist, nylon fibres, angelina,
  • needle felt, chiffon circles-white, scrim circles- teal, plastic resist, bubble wrap resist, nylon fibres, angelina,
  • Scrim and various combinations of nylon and angelina. I treated each circles edge differently- just felting, using embelisher, needle felting and hand distressing before felting.
  • Scrim and various combinations of nylon and angelina. I treated each circles edge differently- just felting, using embelisher, needle felting and hand distressing before felting.
  • Some of the samples worked well. Some didn’t work at all and that was mainly because we were using chiffon and I like to use pongee. I settled on a mix of two samples.

    I liked the uniformity of bottom lefts circle and the tiny sparkle and texture of top rights centre ( your right).

    The relief was huge. Now I knew what I was doing I could relax and enjoy learning. I was way behind everyone else ( one person aside) but I knew as long as I made something simple it would be OK.

    Around me everyone was getting on great guns, well other than Bev. She had made and amazing front for her jacket. I don’t have the words to describe the beauty of the work.

    look at all that work

    look at all that work

    But she left it for too long in the tumble dryer and it felted. It was so so beautiful and I might have been tempted to go to a dark corner and have a wee sob, but Bev was amazing, she just made another.

    Just felted too much. I would hang this on my wall. The picture doesn't do the colours justice.

    Just felted too much. I would hang this on my wall. The picture doesn't do the colours justice.

    I quickly cut out all my pieces and placed my simple design on each piece. There were different ways off cutting out depending on the design off your jacket ( this is Charlottes technique and so sorry- you would have to attend to learn them, although they are on the whole common sense).

    I laid out my embellishments and then rolled it all up. When working on such large pieces there is an element of hope and trust that the piece will be OK. But as I had exhausted the sample part I felt pretty sure I had my timing and technique as close to perfect as I could. It helped to stick to the same dryer with every piece to get uniformity of agitation and heat.

    Laying out my very simple design.

    A few of us decided to stay as late as we could manage and Bev gave us the most wonderful gift of a meal. An Indian take away. It was great fun. Scuttling about trying to improvise cutlery, plates and glasses. We pulled two large tables together and chatted as we ate. It was a wonderful evening and I can’t thank Bev enough. Not just for the meal, but the companionship and intimacy it gave us. As I said- GREAT FUN. I could have sat and chatted all evening. We were all from such diverse backgrounds and even different countries ( I thought R2W and I would be the farthest travelled, but there were students from Ireland and NEW YORK).

    We ate and then back to work. I managed to get all my pieces done and so did R2W.Some people had already put their pieces together and were fulling their work. Their jackets were alarmingly big and although I work with felt and Nuno all the time and always work with shrinkage, I was struggling to see how they would come down to the correct size. But Charlotte was very calm and sure. She spent time working one on one guiding everyone through the issues they found. I just kept my head down and worked as quick as I could. I was luck as I didn’t have any problems.

    We finished around 10.30 or 11.00. I was very very tired and content with what I had done. We didn’t see the land lord to arrange our own breakfast….

    Day two Charlotte Buch

    Day two …

    We had arranged for breakfast at 8.30 assuming we would be tired, but the excitement was to much and we both had ideas and q’s running around in our heads and were up very early. We talked nothing but felt over breakfast and when we arrived there were already a couple of felters there.

    We got stuck in. I set about making more plain samples to put to rest my confusion over stretch and shrink. Charlotte had asked us to cut samples 15 x 30 stretch them to 30 x 30 and then felt them. In the first instance they should shrink 10 percent, once fulled they should be close to the original size. This worked for me when the sample was cut from the roll in one direction , but not the other way. For me this posed Q’s. Wouldn’t the pieces need to be cut from the roll in one direction? Otherwise the pattern would need to be cut differently?

    We had a short sit down talk to discuss q’s built up on the first day. Some people were struggling to understand scale and Charlotte spent time explaining as well as having others help explain.

    trying to get my head around the different shrinkage

    trying to get my head around the different shrinkage


    We set to again. Charlotte had patterns with her which were already enlarged for us to use. We all took time to look again at the samples of  her work she had brought with her. Some were made using the patterns she had brought. It was great to be able to see, touch and enjoy her work first hand. This spurred us on feeling inspired. patternI took all day to work on my samples. They were very plain and so I won’t show you as they are not exciting at all. But here are a few pictures of other peoples work. Beautiful explorations pieces using both texture and colour.

    dump 22.06.09 373 dump 22.06.09 379 dump 22.06.09 380 dump 22.06.09 383 dump 22.06.09 385

    We stopped for lunch and discussed being in a creative business. Making a living, being ripped off or having your designs ripped off. It was lovely to get to know other felters and share or experiences. The sun was shining (unlike Monday where we had thunder and lightening) and it was very relaxed.

    In the afternoon we had to have an idea of what we intended to make . Most people chose to make a jacket and we all had to know how much needle felt we would need. This was quite stressful. A lot of us hadn’t got our head around our samples and what ratio we would be working in. There was no coloured pongee which was disappointing. it limited choices, but sometimes it is good to have limits.

    I started to work on exploring designs for my jacket. I knew I was going to make something quite plain , but wanted to work a bit with the pattern. I have always wanted a pixie hooded jacket and so that was the first thing to get added. I fancied different sleeves and so I measured  it out on the pattern given by Charlotte. It was so big because of the 1:6 scale. I had to cut it out on the floor. Thank goodness for the wonderful space we were working in.

    I played with different designs for the rest of the day. My blisters were fine and so I didn’t feel the need to rush off.

    Winghams made us welcome at their shop in the evening. It was amazing, well worth a visit. dump 22.06.09 412We then went to eat at a local pub in Wentworth called ‘George and the dragon’ It was a wonderful evening chatting and getting to know each other.

    Red2white and I headed back to work on our samples. We left at ten – I was really tired and Red2white was too. We asked to get our breakfast earlier and headed to bed. I was really missing my dogs and night time is strange without them.

    Charlotte Buch Workshop.

    I adore felt in all its guises, wet, 3D, wearable, art, nuno, fusion, lamination etc. But I LOVE felt when it is clean and contemporary.

    Charlotte’s work is wonderful. The designs are perfect, well thought out and well balanced. The finish is excellent. Need I go on?

    I have her booklet ‘How to make felt for clothing’ and found it inspirational.

    Then I found out she was giving a workshop in England and I really wanted to go. One catch, I am so busy at work I knew I wouldn’t take time off. I hate saying no, I find it hard to turn down work and so I just fantasised about it. That was until Red2white called. I was over the moon and booked it ASAP.

    We both travelled by Megabus which was unbelievably cheap and stayed at a B&B in Elsecar where the event was taking place.

    I was working at Rockness until Sunday afternoon and left straight to the bus station to catch my train at 7pm arriving at Sheffield at 3.30 am. It was busy on the bus and so sleep was impossible, but I was excited about the workshop and had a great book, so it flew by.

    I then took the 7am train from Sheffield to Elsecar ready to start the workshop. Quick wash and change and I was ready for anything…….

    Felt rolling machine

    Finally I played a little with the felt rolling machine. I want to give her a name, but nothing has come to mind yet.

    I am making signs to help people find my studio. It the second floor and so I need a couple. This is an ideal project to test out the beast.  I plugged it in and tried it on a dry run. – It was so noisy I lept back and turned it of with fright.

    I was actually shaking.

    I tried again, ready for the noise and this time the roll jumped clean out of the machine. I read the instructions over – again.  They are a little confusing, stuck to the machine on arrival there was a little sign stating the roll end should point down, yet in the instructions they were to point up. I repeatedly tried different ways and wound the tension arm to different positions, but the roll still flew across the room.

    I decided to leave it for now and make my sign.

    I didn’t take it quite as far as prefelt, I lifted off a lot of the water and there was very little soap. I rolled it carefully in the roll and put it in its jaws. Lowered the rollers and braced myself. It worked. I had expected  fibre and pool roll flying across the studio and hours of cleaning up, but instead the roll flew around and the noise wasn’t so bad either. Obviously it needs the weight of the felt – doh. I also watched the directions of the rolls and there is no way it could work roll end up as it would just unwind.

    I followed the directions and rolling it for 1 min.  opened it and nothing had happened. Repeated it. Nothing. repeated it. Nothing.  I then left it on for 8 minute. Nothing.

    I was starting to think that I could have hand felted it, fulled it and finished it by now.

    In the instructions it states that soap speeds up the felting, but can make it uncontrollable. Soap it is then.

    I added some olive oil soap and a little warm water, then gave it 4 minutes. This time there were signs that the ground and prefelt were felting, but the orange roving was still lifting off.

    I am impatient for results – that why I love felting and so I am a little frustrated at this point.  I decided to  leave it until tomorrow.