Wet Felting with a Washboard

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The old fashioned wash board is quickly becoming my most used felting tool. I use it for the final fulling process when wet felting. What it does is it straightens out the top layer of wool and smooths it out creating a harder surface of felted wool.
When wool hasn’t been felted enough it starts to pill as the fibers continue to move around in the felted wool, break and rise to the surface. Fulling your felt sufficiently prevents this from occuring.
I had a bag that I felted recently. I was a bit impatient and didn’t felt it completely. Soon my lovely bag started to get little wool balls rising to the surface.

I decided to give it the washboard treatment to see if I could stop the pilling. I pulled off the little wool balls from the surface of the bag. Then I filled the kitchen sink with warm soapy water and gave the bag a quick and gentle wash. I refilled the sink with more soapy water and put the bag back into the water. I squeezed out most of the water and took the bag to the wash board.

washboard felting

When you are felting with the washboard do not rub the wool back and forth against the washboard as this can break the fibers. What you should do instead is gently roll it up the length of the washboard using the pressure of your fingers to press down as you roll.
I started by working from the top of the bag. Because the bag is a round shape I worked my way around the bag in circles from the top of the bag to the bottom. Using both hands, I placed the tips of my fingers on edge of the rolled wool.
Using both hands (Picture shows only one hand as I was clicking the photos with my right hand) gently press down on the rolled edge and push up the bag with your fingers until the bag rolls up to your palm.

Keep rolling until you have reached the top of the wash board. Lift the bag and move it back to the bottom of the washboard and continue working your way around the bag.

Move your finger tips back to the edge of the roll and push up again.

After a few rolls your fingers will become more sensitive to what is happening to the wool. You will feel it compressing as the air bubbles are being pressed out of the wool. The wool will shrink in the direction that you are rolling.

This picture shows the partially fulled bag. You will notice that the top part of the bag where I have rolled has shrunk considerably.

It took a few times of working my way around the bag to get it fulled to a smooth and even consistency.
I am using a glass washboard. I think a metal one would work equally well . I cut the legs off the bottom of the wash board so that I could sit it flat on the table and be able to pull it close to me as I sit as I found that the legs were getting in the way as I was working.

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Author: Paivi Suomi

I've had an interest in weaving, looms, yarns and textiles since I was a small child. I learned to knit, crochet, sew, do needlepoint at my mother's knee. My grandmother was a Saami from northern Norway. I am very interested in studying more about tradtional Saami and Finnish style weaving and handicrafts. Paivi Suomi