What is felt?
Felt’s uniqueness lies in the fact that is a cloth that is not woven.
Legend has it that felt was first discovered by Saint Christopher, the patron saint of travel who packed his sandals full of wool to make them more comfortable. The sweat and movement lead to the first ever pair of (not necessarily clean) socks - and the first felt fabric.
Felt today is usually made by compressing or matting natural wool fibres together with soapy water.
Felt fabric is used across the world in making decorative and warm slippers, bags, hats, brooches, trimmings, piano hammers, carpets, drum stands and roofing. felt is also widely used in the construction of yurts or tents.
Types of felting:
Needle felting, which us using needles to create more solid felted structures, is hugely popular. As you can see from the pictures, needle-felted dogs and other animals are extraordinarily cute and it can be great fun to recreate your favourite pet or animal in felt.
Needle felting requires a felting needle, a hard piece of foam for working on, and a piece of wool. The technique is to push the needle in and out of the wool, fixing shapes and designs by ‘sewing without thread’. The design and shape of the needle (which is barbed on one side) means that when pushed in, the needle brings about the matting together of the fibres. Needle felting allows for very intricate designs and can be used very effectively to embellish felt pieces (bags, slippers etc).
There are needle-felting courses all across the UK to help get your started!
The technique of 'cobweb' or nuno felting are used to create beautiful flowing fabrics such as scarves.
Felting courses and workshops are great fun and a wonderful way to meet people and develop your creative potential at the same time. The techniques used in carding and felting wool are simple, yet difficult to get right.
Materials for making felt
You can use just about any wool; alpaca and lambs wool are popular as is merino wool, which takes dye particularly finely, producing wonderfully vibrant and unique felt.
Sheet of bubble wrap
Sheet of gauze
Jug of warm water
Bar of soap
Plastic pattern (if making an object such as bag or tea-cosy or slippers)
A felting needle
A hard piece of foam