The fulling stage occurs when the felt becomes a solid piece of fabric. In order for the felt to shrink down, it must be agitated in some way. There are many methods of fulling, but rubbing and rolling are the two most popular ways. To speed up the fulling process, it is a good idea to warm the felt before fulling by either dipping the felt in a tub of hot water or pouring hot water over it and working it through.
The rolling technique uses a bamboo mat (or something similar) to roll the felt until it has shrunk as much as possible. Place the bamboo mat in front of you with the reeds lying horizontally on top of a towel (the towel helps keep the mat from slipping around). Lay the felt on it and roll it up inside of the mat. Begin by rolling the mat back and forth. Open up the mat and shift the felt ninety degrees and roll again. Once again, the felt will shrink in the direction that it is rolled. Continue turning and shifting the felt until it is thoroughly fulled.
The rubbing technique for fulling uses a felting board or a washboard to rub the felt across until it has shrunk as much as possible. Place the board down in front of you with the ribs running horizontally, then put the felt down on the board. Begin gently rubbing the felt until you notice that it is starting to shrink and develop a puckered surface texture. Straighten out the piece, turn it ninety degrees and continue rubbing. The felt will shrink in the direction that it is rubbed. Rub on both sides and at all angles to ensure a uniform size and shape. Determine whether or not the felt is completely fulled by pulling it. If it stretches, then continue fulling until it is quite firm.
Other fulling techniques that can be used are throwing, stomping or pounding. These methods are a fabulous way to work off tension! Any form of agitation will help to full the felt, though some methods are more appropriate depending on the project.
Never leave soap in felt for longer than twenty-four hours. The soap can possibly disintegrate the fibers and can also change the dyes. If you have to leave a project, rinse all of the soap out, gently wring out the extra moisture, and set the felt aside to dry. Do not put wet wool in a plastic bag-moldy felt is gross. You can always come back to your project later, rewet with warm soapy water and start where you left off.
For the final rinse, run warm to hot water over the felt until the water runs clear and free of all traces of soap. Finish with a rinse of cold water. Blot out the excess water by rolling the felt inside a towel. Or put the felt in the spin cycle of the washing machine.
Reshape the felt and smooth it with your hands, or better yet, press it with a hot iron. Remember that wool has an incredible memory and will dry exactly as it is left. It will take about twenty-four hours to dry completely. Sweater drying racks are perfect for drying-they allow air to get to all sides of the piece. Care should be taken if hanging a felted piece for drying, since the weight of the wet wool may distort its shape. Don’t forget to measure the size of your felt after you are finished.
The finished sample shows the results of the entire process.
Feltmaking may be a new experience for you. Try a sample-you may find a whole new outlet for your creativity.