Felt Rug Making:
Flat Felt made from medium to coarse wool:
First, be sure you have wool that will felt. Certain sheep breeds have wool that is not good for feltmaking. Superwash wool has been treated so it will not felt. It is a good idea to test a small sample for felting characteristics before beginning a large project with wool that you have not worked with before.
Lay out the wool on your rolling mat. Before wetting the wool down, placing a piece of nylon fabric or mosquito netting over the pile of wool will hold the wool in place when water is poured on top. Press down on top of the netting holding it down while pouring the water over your hand will hold the wool in place. The netting can be left on the wool for the first one or two rollings in the machine. Then it should be removed so the wool doesn’t felt through the netting. A thicker layered felting batt requires more water and more time for the fibers to absorb the water. The fibers can be completely wet down and allowed to sit approx. 10 minutes before rolling up.
Press down with your palms on a thicker batt before adding water. Press in at an angle around the edges. Press and press gently pressing in to flatten the batt. Sprinkle water over the batt and roll up in the rolling mat. Roll for a minute then unroll and add more water, gradually wetting down all of the wool as you roll for a short interval between wettings.
Rolling on the machine with less pressure starting out, will spread the water over the project and not press it out of the wool. Because the roll is tightening as it rolls, it can press the water that is not absorbed by the fibers, out of the project. This is why the project needs to be checked at intervals and more water and soap added.
After a couple of intervals on the machine, the wool will have started to felt or mat together. Hot water with soap that has a high pH can be added now.
If making a thick rug, initially tying the roll to make it more even makes it roll easier on the machine. If you find that the roll is too lumpy, re-roll it as evenly as possible, tie in two or three spots and place on the machine. When it has rolled on the machine for a few minutes it will even out and later can be placed on the machine without tying the roll.
For rugs and upholstery fabric, laying the design on the smooth side of the pool cover, then laying the background wool on top will protect the design from moving in the early stages of felting.
Neutralizing the felt when you are finished felting and fulling:
All handmade felt projects are made with soap and water that has a high pH. The projects should be neutralized during the second to last rinse. When you have rinsed out all of the soap so the water runs clear, place the project in a pan or bucket of clear cool water that has 2 -3 Tablespoons of white vinegar added. Let it sit for about 5 minutes then rinse again in clear water to get rid of the vinegar. Shape and allow to dry.
Felt Rugs on a rolling machine:
- Lay out your design on the smooth side of the solar pool cover rolling mat. Remember you are working from the back of the design.
- Lay your background wool on top of the design being careful not to disturb the design. You need about 4 to 5 inches of wool to make a thick rug. Lay the wool so the fibers are lying crosswise to the next layer.
- Place netting over the top of the wool and wet down with hot soapy water. Press down with your palm flat where you add the water to wet through the wool layers. It does not have to be completely flat because the machine will also disperse the water.
- Move the top roller up so it will not touch the project roll. Place the project roll on the machine and allow it to turn on low with no pressure from the top roll for about 3 minutes.
- Remove the project roll from the machine and check for dry areas. Add soapy water to any dry areas then replace the project roll on the machine and let it turn for 5 minutes.
- Check again and add soapy water if needed then replace on the machine and lower the top roller so it is just touching the project roll. Turn one full turn and roll on high speed (7 – 8) for 5 minutes.
- Check the rug. By now the fibers should be set in place. You can use more pressure and a higher speed.
- Continue rolling on the machine until felt has formed and you can turn the rug over.
- Roll on the machine for 5 – 10 minutes intervals until felt is strong enough to work by hand.
- Remove the rug from the rolling mat and roll it up on itself, rolling back and forth with your arms and hands. You do not need to use a lot of pressure. Roll from all directions and turn over and repeat.
- When the felt is the desired strength, roll up and rinse by hosing down on the top and let it drain in the rolled upright position.
- Lay flat and straighten the rug on a flat surface and let it dry.