Wool felt or felted woolt is a non-woven fabric, created by rubbing wool fibers with hot soapy water.
Felt is the oldest textile material in the world. It only needs wool fibers and water and friction. Therefor the technique of felting must be prior to weaving or knitting as these techniques use spun yarn. To spun yarn it needed the invention of the wheel!
There is a story, telleing it was Noah who discovered felt. The animals on his arche lost their hair. They urinated and walked on these hairs. When several weeks later the animals left the boat, Noah discovered a beautiful carpet of felt.
I love this story because it illustrates quiet good how to do felt.
Felt making step by step:
- Sheep fleece is cleaned from impurities.
- The wool is washed, carded, can also be combed and more often than never is dyed
- Small strands of wool are layed next to each other by superimposing them like the tiles of a roof.
- A second layer is added in the same way by crossing the fibers perpendicularly. You can add as many layers as you want according to the desired thickness.
- The wool is sprinkled with hot water (soapy *) and once the fibers are well soaked, they are rubbed by hand – gently at first and then stronger and stronger.
- The friction activates the felting process. Heat, moisture, pressure and repeated movements cause a natural reaction: the scales of the fiber open and cling to each other. It is an irreversible reaction that creates a material with extraordinary qualities: felt.
To learn more about felt properties check here
*Most felters work with soapy water. Personally I only use hot water.