THE FABULOUS FELT-O-MATIC TM

UPDATE: July 8, 2014

Life's circumstances dictated a hiatus in my felt-o-matic production and other feltmaking activities this past year which has lasted much longer than anticipated. 
My sincere apologies to anyone who may have made inquiries and received no response! 
I have just recently gotten back to work.  If you tried to contact me before and are still genuinely interested, please try again and I will do my best to reply in a timely manner.

diannestott@gmail.com

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Here is a short video that shows the process of making a needled prefelt from a single layer of carded wool batt:




THE FABULOUS FELT-O-MATIC
I designed and made the first Felt-o-Matic in 2003 for my own use. I use felting needles in conjunction with the wet felting process and because my work was becoming rather large scale, I needed a more efficient method of needling than using hand held needles. To my delight, my invention worked "fabulously"!
A friend asked if I would make one for her. Then, another friend suggested I take it to The Felters Fling Bazaar and take orders. The Fling was only two weeks away so I madly made a couple of new samples. (While my original "felto" worked great, it wasn't particularly lovely to look at!) The public debut of the Felt-o-Matic was a tremendous success and several weeks later quite a few other feltmakers had one of their own.
Since then, I have made many more Felt-o-Matics. They have found homes in feltmaking studios all over the US as well as in Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Falkland Islands, England, Ireland, Scotland, The Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, France, Italy, Greece, Slovenia, Ukraine, New Zealand and Australia.
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Some of the ways to use the Fabulous Felt-o-Matic
I could go on and on but here are just a few reasons you might "need" one. OK, I know this might sound like a sales pitch, but honestly, it's not!! I'm just proud of what my little "felto" can do - a little like it was my child (which it is in a way)!
* Use it to make your own needled "prefelt" from roving or carded batts. Unlike commercially made needled "prefelts", you can easily make your own with the Felt-o-Matic using any fiber(s) or color(s) you choose and control the thickness to suit your particular needs not to mention the width and length.
*Use it to make neat even edges easier to achieve.
*Use it when making cutout shapes in place of wet felted prefelts. If you needle sufficiently, you can make a batt stable enough to cut very intricate shapes from it and, unlike wet felted prefelts, you won't have worries about them not adhering or shrinking at a different rate.
*Use it to stabilize your design layout and keep it in place when wetting. It's just as if you had hand basted all of your design elements in place with needle and thread (only much faster!). Everything stays exactly where you want it to be.
*Use it to insure an even thickness in your felt. After you needle, your nice fluffy layout is compressed and any thin spots become a lot more obvious. If you follow my recommendation and use a sheet of 6 mil plastic between your wool and your foam when needling, you can just lift up the plastic and wool together. The wool will stay attached to the plastic and you can even hold it up to the light without anything shifting or stretching. It is easy to fix the thin spots before
wetting. No more surprise sheer areas or holes!!!!!
*Use it even when making 3D things like hats, slippers or seamless garments. Needling before wetting almost completely eliminates the possibility of an uneven area along the edge of the resist.
*Use it to help maximise your work space. Once it has been needled, your layout is stable enough that it can be rolled up and put away especially if you use plastic as above.
*Use it to make very stable flat needle felted fabric of any size/thickness you wish. The more you needle, the tighter it will be.
*Use it to needle fibers and other materials onto a woven or knit fabric backing.
*Use it for ......... well, I'm sure you can think of things that I haven't!!!!


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I make the felt-o-matic in three sizes: 36 needle, 64 needle and 100 needle.
The 36 needle version has a 4" X 4" base
The 64 needle version has a 5" X 5" base
The 100 needle version has a 6" X 6" base
The felt-o-matic in the video is the 36 needle size.
They are made of furniture grade cherry that is nicely finished - not raw wood. They are lovely to look at and delightful to hold in you hands.
I supply them with standard 36gg or 38gg triangular needles. You really have to misuse it to break needles since the needles are controlled to enter and leave the wool at a 90 degree angle . Should needles need changing, removing four screws on the top gives easy access to simply pull out the old needle and drop the new one in place. Other gauge needles may be used as long as they are the same length as the original needles.
The Felt-o-Matic requires a fairly rigid foam base to work on ... one that will compress or "give" only slightly (if at all) when pressed on.
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How you can own a Fabulous Felt-o-Matic
The Felt-o-Matic is only available directly from me. I personally make them one at a time and as a general rule, I make them to order. Depending on the number of orders I have on hand as well as my other commitments, it takes from 2 to 8 weeks from receipt of confirmed order to shipping.
You can see and try the Felt-o-Matic exclusively at New England Felting Supply in Easthampton, MA. Thanks to Chris White for generously allowing me to display one there!!!
If you are interested in having a Felt-o-Matic and would like pricing or other information, please send an email to : diannestott@gmail.com
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So what's the difference between the Fabulous Felt-o-Matic and an embellisher machine???
Both provide a more efficient alternative to using hand held felting needles. Beyond that, it's rather like comparing apples and oranges. Both are fruits but that's where the similarity ends. The Felt-o-Matic is essentially a miniature, hand operated version of a large commercial needle loom. An embellisher is essentially a motorized tool that mimics the action of hand needlefelting.


The embellisher is a great tool for adding needled details to a base fabric - no surprise there - since that is exactly what it was designed to do!!!
The embellisher was not designed for allover needling of large pieces of laid up carded/combed wool and requires a fairly stable base under the loose wool - something like fabric or wet felted prefelt or water soluble stabilizer. It would be very cumbersome if not downright impossible to needle something as large as my rugs, for instance, which are usually a minimum of 4 feet wide in any given dimension prior to wet felting. Never mind the fact that a fairly large layout of carded wool likely wouldn't hold together and maintain its integrity during the manipulation necessary to get it under the needles of an embellisher - thinking here of sewing big things like draperies made of really loosely woven very, very thick fabric!

Yet, the biggest difference between an embellisher and the Felt-o-Matic lies in the size of the area needled with each stroke and the needle spacing. An embellisher needles an area about the size of your fingertip. There are often several needles in that very small area and as a result, the barbs of those needles grab an individual fiber in a number of different spots along its length. The result is a "tufting" effect - tiny little loops of individual fibers wedged into the base fabric. This is great for the intended purpose - adding embellishment that becomes firmly attached to the base fabric. It works on individual fibers in a way that is very similar to how a punch needle works on yarn in punch needle rugs or embroidery threads in Russian punch embroidery. Because of the close needle spacing and the repeated needle thrusts in a very small area, the fibers are so tightly tangled that there is little or no fiber movement possible (which is a good thing). But, if the piece is subsequently wet felted, that magic "something" that happens when wool meets water and agitation just can't happen because the fibers are already locked so tightly in place. That's not necessarily a bad thing but it means that the embellisher is not the best choice of tools to use if your goal is the look and hand feel of traditional wet felt.

The felto (just as commercial needle looms used to produce needled prefelt) has a much less dense needle spacing and as a result, individual fibers are generally grabbed by a single needle barb and the entire fiber is dragged - at more or less right angles - into the web. This produces a loose but well tangled batt with individual fibers arranged in a very random orientation (a really good thing!) - yet those individual fibers are still able to move about and latch on to other fibers during the wet felting process. I've mentioned a number of advantages to using needling prior to wet felting above.

To sum it up ....

The embellisher is a needle felting tool. The product of the embellisher is needled felt or base fabrics with needled on fibers.

The Felt-o-Matic is a tool that uses felting needles but was designed to enhance the preparation of wool fibers for wet felting.

Of course with all that said, the Felt-o-Matic can also produce a very nice needled felt. Even though I designed it for use in conjunction with the wet feltmaking process, additional needling (beyond what's necessary for wet felting preparation) will produce a very stable needled felt fabric with no limitations in size or thickness and no need for using a stabilizer backing. It can also be used to needle wool or other fibers onto a backing fabric like silk or cotton. All in all it's a very versatile tool.