A non-woven cloth traditionally made from the short wool staple, those fibres that are unsuitable for weaving. These are exposed to moisture and heat until that have shrunk into a matted, felted cloth. These two mediums effectively agitate the tiny scales on the outside of each fibre so that they open out, then overlap and lock into each other, forming a lumpy cloth which then needs to be flattened.
This same principle can be witnessed in our own hair, which may feel rough and easily tangle until we add conditioner, which smooths the scales so that they overlap neatly and our hair feels, and is, soft and shiny.
Felting is an ancient technique, pre-dating weaving – the short ends of yarn, the residue from spinning and carding, even the fleece itself will naturally felt when left in heat and humidity. Felted yurt hangings, blankets, rugs, jackets, coats, tent straps,cummerbunds, belts, waistcoats, shoes and boots can be found in any culture where there is wool fibre of any type.
Felt as a finished material is possibly under- used in furnishings, the characteristics are ideal and the possibilities are many and varied:
* The level of rigidity, or drape, is controlled and governed by the content – the actual material and the amount used.
* Most commercially produced felt is single coloured and of even thickness which makes it ideal for most furnishings.
* Thick, stiff felt can be made into carpet or floor rugs that are soft to walk on, sound deadening and insulate the floor beneath.
* Felt is an ideal material for upholstering onto walls and the backs of doors to make them soft and soundproof.
* Felt pads under the bottoms of place mats, vases, lamp bases and chair legs protect whatever surface lies beneath.
* Very fine felt makes into luxurious drapes for beds, curtains and blinds.
* Felted wool, cotton and various re-cycled fibres make the best carpet underlays
* Wool felt makes the best snooker table baize.
* One of the most interesting potentials for felt is that during the felting process it can be pre-formed into sculptural permanent shapes. Or pleated. For shoes, scarves skirts and jackets.
* The material itself makes it great to work with – the edges need no finishing and it tends to stay where it’s put.
* Reasonable quality furnishings can be made by hand, and by a beginner – no machine.