What is felt?
Felt is a non-woven fabric composed of tightly compressed wool fibres. It is produced by matting, condensing and pressing fibres together using several different processes. The most simple of these is to apply heat and moisture to the blended fibres which cause them to bind together. Felt can be made with natural fibres such as wool (which generally produces the best quality felts) or synthetic fibres, such as acrylic, or a mixture of the two. Felting is one of the oldest known methods of making a fabric, it is thought to have originated in Asia around 5000 years ago, and is used in many different cultures throughout the world.
Properties and qualities
100% wool felt is a natural fabric that is a wonderful insulator, is resilient to general wear and tear and can absorb moisture whilst retaining its shape. Pure wool felt is dense and strong. It is also easy to cut and won’t fray along the edges as many other fabrics have a tendency to do. As a result, felt can be used to create a range of products, from slippers to home decorations. Felt blends tend to be cheaper, but its qualities will vary depending on the fibres used.
How does it feel?
The softness of felt will change according to whether it is blended or 100% wool. Adding a percentage of synthetic fibres before felting can, for example, increase pliability. In the case of rayon (a fibre often blended with wool to make felt), it will remove the prickly feeling against the skin that pure wool felt can have and provide an added softness.
As felt is a handmade product, it needs some care when cleaning. Felt takes simple but careful handling to maintain its longevity. Hand wash separately in lukewarm water with a small amount of dissolved pure and natural soap, shampoo or dedicated wool wash. Massage the item gently when washing, because vigorous washing will ruin the structural integrity of the material. Ensure the washing and rinsing water are the same temperature. To dry, gently wring out the standing water and use a towel to gently dab the fabric dry, but be aware that the dye can run very easily from felt, so the more you wash, the more the colours will fade. For best results, refer to the care instructions on your felt product.