What is handmade felt? We all know about the felt we used in craft projects as kids, but that is not what I make or what my products are made from.
Felt is a non-woven fabric that is basically a knotted mess of fiber that in large scale becomes fabric. Felting is the term for this process. The process can be done using water and soap, wet felting, or with a barbed needle, dry or needle felting. Felt is made from animal fibers that come from animals such as sheep, alpaca, bison, llamas, and even cats or dogs.
The science of making felt via wet felting is pretty nifty. Basically, wool has scales on it when you look at it up close, just like our hair.
|Picture from The Project Gutenberg|
When the wool is heated and the pH changes, the scales on the wool open up like in the picture on the left. This allows the wool to "stick" to itself. When the fibers start to rub against each other, they knot up and start to shrink. Have you ever shrunk a wool sweater before? If the answer is yes, you have done this process.
Needle felting takes advantage of this process via dry means. A thick, barbed needle is pushed in and out of the wool to tangle the fibers. In industry, huge machines with hundreds of needles do this process. When done by hand, usually one to eight needles are used and punched by hand or small sewing like machines.