How to Rock and Roll…and Save Your Back!

So you’ve laid out your wool, wet it down, covered your layout in tulle or plastic and rubbed it with soap and water. It’s time to roll that baby up! But how?

First of all, for larger projects, be sure to use some kind of rolling bar, such as a pool noodle, as a base. Rolling bars make the process faster and more comfortable, though by the end of your rolling process you will take out the noodle and roll your felt on its own more vigorously. Pool noodles make good rolling bars, because they have a little give, which helps the fibers move in all directions. When nuno felting, large-diameter rods are a good choice, because the felt doesn’t have to fold over on itself as many times as it would with a smaller rod. This protects the careful layout from disruption during the rolling process. For these projects, you can use a large but hollow plastic pipe or cylinder. Other options include dryer vent tubing or ribbed plastic plumbing pipe.

(Note: In Felting Fabulous Flowers, Gillian Harris does not use a rolling bar and opts instead for a small bamboo mat. This is an okay option for smaller projects such as flower petals and stems.)

Position the rolling bar at the bottom edge of your felt, and roll it up tightly, making sure that the tulle keeps your layout in place. Tie the roll using some kind of stretchy fabric (we recommend using knee-high panty hose legs). This ensures that your fragile prefelt will stay in place and will continue to entangle. 

When you first start, roll very gently. Rock your bundle back and forth and keep your hands on the outside of your felt. Gradually add more pressure, and keep in mind that your piece will start shrinking in the direction that it is rolled.

Chad Alice Hagen and Jorie Johnson have some good advice for rolling on page 24 of Fabulous Felted Scarves. For example, be sure to roll your wrists slightly inward and roll using the fleshy part of your forearms. Otherwise, it might cause bruising (Hagen 24). If you decide to use your legs, sit in a comfortable chair, put your roll on a rubber entrance mat, and begin rolling. According to them, the method creates “good shrinking results for items that are not too fragile” because of the weight of your legs (Hagen 24).

To save your back, Christine White recommends finding a table that is waist height; try to have your hip bones line up with the table surface. Having a high table sometimes feels like a good artistic choice, but it’s not good for your posture! Then, become a “reverse rocking chair,” which shouldn’t be hard to imagine for you creative types! Keep in mind that you don’t have to add any pressure when rolling, because the weight of your hands is enough, especially for nuno. Place one food forward, and rock your body to the table with each roll. Some people lift their back leg when leaning over the table with each forward rocking motion. When I did that, rolling became like a yoga stretch. Christine, who has had two spinal fusions, now says that rolling is her favorite part of felting!

Now, go ahead and roll, roll, roll, and, like always, tell us how it comes out!

Also, I found my fabulous felting information in two fabulous books:

Hagan, Chad Alice and Jorie Johnson. Fabulous Felted Scarves. New York: Lark Crafts, 2007.

Harris, Gillian. Felting Fabulous Flowers. London: Collins & Brown, 2014.

2 thoughts on “How to Rock and Roll…and Save Your Back!”

  1. Christine changed my life when she showed me her healthy-body way to roll…I don’t dread that part of the process anymore!

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