History of Felt

On this website you'll find examples of my felted creations, and the felted work of others. I thought, however, that visitors might like to learn a little more about the process and the history of felting. Sometimes, to me, the process still seems like magic: you take tufts of fluffed wool, rub it with water, and you have a beautiful piece of wearable art. The wool is what makes the process all possible. There are microscopic scales that cover the individual filaments of animal hair and these scales are responsible for the fiber's ability to felt together.  


Felting occurs when fiber is moist, alkaline and physically agitated. The warm water and soap causes the scales to swell open, and the filaments sang together when massaged and agitated (imagine miniature Velcro swatches connecting to each other). The knotting causes shrinkage and results in a dense strong felted fiber.


Additional fibers that alone would not felt, such as silk and cellulose, can be added in small proportions to the felt, as the animal fibers will intertwine and mat around them.  


This technique is called wet felting and has been practiced for thousands of years. Based on archaeological findings from the Central Asian Steppes, felting of animal hair has been a means of creating unwoven fabric for clothing, shelter, and artistic expression since at least 600 BC. There is further evidence that there may have been even earlier knowledge of the process.

Today, however, there are other methods besides wet felting. Contemporary felt makers now have access to electric felting machines that agitate fleece between two moving planes to create impressive flat fabrics, and felting needles that allow for dry felting of fiber both two and three dimensionally.

Felting needles have barbs cut into the metal allowing the needle to snag and intertwine filaments of fiber when forced through loose fleece. Machines with hundreds of mounted felting needles create sheets of felted fiber and pre-felted squares that you can attach to other felted products.  


If you have any more questions about felt, feel free to comment or email me and I'll get back to you quickly with more information on the magic of felt.

(Photo 1 taken from Electron Microscope Images under creative commons licensce, all other photos property of BFelt, all rights reserved)

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