Felt is a textile material that is produced by matting, condensing and pressing fibers together. Felt can be made of natural fibers such as wool or animal fur, or from synthetic fibers such as petroleum-based acrylic or acrylonitrile or wood pulp-based rayon. Blended fibers are also common.

The material that commonly composes it is the carded wool of sheep, but you can use any other type of hair like that of hare, rabbit, beaver, otter, goat and camel.It is also characterized by being warm, light and waterproof.

The fibers are soaked in hot water, soaked in soap and manipulated (beaten, rubbed, pressed) to obtain, with mechanical and chemical processes, felting. Their ligation is given by the interpenetration of the microscopic cortical scales that cover the surface of the hairs. The process is progressive and irreversible.

The traditional felt is the color of the hairs used, but you can produce using colored wool dyed staple.

Felt from wool is considered to be the oldest known textile. Many cultures have legends as to the origins of felt making. Sumerian legend claims that the secret of feltmaking was discovered by Urnamman of Lagash. The story of Saint Clement and Saint Christopher relates that the men packed their sandals with wool to prevent blisters while fleeing from persecution. At the end of their journey, the movement and sweat had turned the wool into felt socks.

The oldest traces of felt date back to the third millennium BC, was used by the Greeks and Romans for the packaging of clothes, hats and cloaks. The oldest finds are found in Siberia, equally there are important traces of prehistoric felts in Turkey, but no finds.

It is often thought to be the first fabric produced by man, without taking into account the fact that the interweaving of vegetable fibers (found in nature in a filamentary form) is probably much older than the processing of wool. In fact the sheep, a tame animal already in prehistoric times, has a fleece made up of both wool and giarre, or robust and bristly hairs that serve the animal to protect itself. The wool (down to near skin contact) in many animals is one of the components of the fleece, not the main. In the camel or in the Cashmere goat, for example, wool is present in a very small percentage. The same happened in sheep. Animals that produced large quantities of wool and scarce jars already existed at the time of Mesopotamian civilizations, who classified the flocks in relation to the different uses. In the most ancient times it is believed that the sheep had a brownish fleece and many bristly hairs to protect them from rain and weeds, like goats. The wool production is a character induced and stimulated by the selection and breeding work. This is why it is unlikely that the felt precedes the interweaving of vegetable fibers.

Each people adapted it to its needs, the Russians to make the Valenki, the typical boots; the nomadic peoples of Central Asia, who were skilled producers, as well as for the clothing used it to protect themselves from the elements. The tents of the Mongols, the yurts, are built with a framework of poles covered with felt sheets.

The lenci cloth is a type of felt very soft, thin and cheerfully colored patented by the firm Lenci (acronym of “Ludus Est Nobis Costanter Industria”) of Turin in 1922 to pack the homonymous dolls, it is still on the market for small hobbyist jobs. In the twenties and thirties of the twentieth century, however, the most important Italian, and perhaps European, factory of felt is the Società Anonima Bonavita of Forlì. For what concerns the rabbit fur felt for the production of fine men’s hats, the Borsalino di Alessandria was distinguished. Italy conquered an undoubted position of prestige, now tarnished while in the rest of the world felt is the material of choice for the creation of hats.

It should not be confused with the cloth (Casentino cloth, orbace, loden) which is a fabric made of loom that is shoved to close the interstices between the threads, the felt is a non-woven fabric.

Today, felt objects are handcrafted, not just hats but also bags, jewels, finishes for dresses on silk, shoes, which become fashion items with the use of modern colors and designs.

Feltmaking is still practised by nomadic peoples (Altaic people: Mongols; Turkic people) in Central Asia, where rugs, tents and clothing are regularly made. Some of these are traditional items, such as the classic yurt (Gers), while others are designed for the tourist market, such as decorated slippers. In the Western world, felt is widely used as a medium for expression in both textile art and contemporary art and design, where it has significance as an ecologically responsible textile and building material.

Properties of felt
Elasticity: Felt is stretchy, pressure-elastic and resistant, so that hardly any wrinkles occur.
Isolation: On the one hand, felt is soundproof, on the other hand it insulates against heat and cold. The material has a moisture-repellent component, but also a high absorbency, which allows the substance to absorb liquids and release them again. In addition, the given padding provides protection against mechanical stress.
Heavy flammability: Felt is usually not flammable. Even with direct fire, the fabric will only char from about 320 degrees.

Manufacturing methods
Wet felts of unbound fleece with warm water (steam) and soap (alkaline felt aid) is the traditional artisanal processing of wool or animal hair. In combination with warm water and soap, the scales in the uppermost cuticle of the hair (cuticle) on. At the same time performed walking causes a mutual penetration of the individual fibers. The erected scales are wedged together so much that they can no longer be loosened. The workpiece shrinks strongly and it results in a solid textile fabric. The final shape can be worked out seamlessly from one piece. Since felted felts are made of animal fibers, some of which are mixed with spun rayon, this is a natural product that is biodegradable.

In dry felting, the dry wool is brought into shape using special felting needles. This method is the precursor of needling with a needle bar. Needle felt is made mechanically with numerous barbed needles. Here, the barbs are the reverse of a harpoonarranged so that the fibers are pressed into the felt and the needle easily goes out again. Repeated grooving entangles the fibers with each other and may subsequently be aftertreated chemically or with steam. Such needled nonwovens can be made not only from wool, but from virtually all other fibers. Needle felt is today’s industrially produced felt. In addition, there is still the entanglement with a pulsed water jet. Here also fibers without scale structure can be used, such as polyamide and polyester.

The artisanal tradition of felting has recently been rediscovered by many people and small businesses. The result is a utility art, which includes especially robust and warming garments, for example, scarves, jackets, vests, hats, slippers and slippers, but also includes figurative work.

Wet felting
In the wet felting process, hot water is applied to layers of animal hairs, while repeated agitation and compression causes the fibers to hook together or weave together into a single piece of fabric. Wrapping the properly arranged fiber in a sturdy, textured material, such as a bamboo mat or burlap, will speed up the felting process. The felted material may be finished by fulling.

Only certain types of fiber can be wet felted successfully. Most types of fleece, such as those taken from the alpaca or the Merino sheep, can be put through the wet felting process. One may also use mohair (goat), angora (rabbit), or hair from rodents such as beavers and muskrats. These types of fiber are covered in tiny scales, similar to the scales found on a strand of human hair. Heat, motion, and moisture of the fleece causes the scales to open, while agitating them causes them to latch onto each other, creating felt. There is an alternative theory that the fibers wind around each other during felting. Plant fibers and synthetic fibers will not wet felt.

Needle felting
Needle felting is a method of creating felted objects without using water. The special needles used to make 3D sculpture, jewelry, adornments and 2D art have notches along the shaft of the needle that catch fibers and tangle them with other fibers to produce felt. These notches are sometimes erroneously called “barbs”, but barbs are protrusions (like barbed wire) and would be too difficult to thrust into the wool and nearly impossible to pull out. There are many sizes and types of notched needles for different uses while working. Needle felting is used in industrial processes as well as in individual crafting.

Needles used for crafting are often very thin needles, sometimes fitted in holders that allow the user to utilize 2 or more needles at one time to sculpt wool objects and shapes. The single thin needles are used for detail and the multiple needles that are paired together are used for larger areas or to form the base of the project. At any point in time a variety of fiber colors may be added for detail and individuality, using needles to incorporate them into the project.

The kawaii style of needle felting was made popular by the Japanese culture. Kawaii means cute in Japanese and to felt in the kawaii style just means to make the object cute. Most kawaii needle felt sculptures have small, minimal detail, faces and are brightly colored. They are more cute and playful compared to the more traditional needle felt which is more rustic and earthy. Ikuyo Fujita(藤田育代)is a Japanese artist who works primarily in needle felt painting and mogol (pipe cleaner) art.

Invented in the mid 17th century and used until the mid-20th centuries, a process called “carroting” was used in the manufacture of good quality felt for making men’s hats. Beaver, rabbit or hare skins were treated with a dilute solution of the mercury compound mercuric nitrate. The skins were dried in an oven where the thin fur at the sides turned orange, the color of carrots. Pelts were stretched over a bar in a cutting machine, and the skin was sliced off in thin shreds, with the fleece coming away entirely. The fur was blown onto a cone-shaped colander and then treated with hot water to consolidate it. The cone then peeled off and passed through wet rollers to cause the fur to felt. These ‘hoods’ were then dyed and blocked to make hats. The toxic solutions from the carrot and the vapours it produced resulted in widespread cases of mercury poisoning among hatters. This may be the origin of the phrase “mad as a hatter” which was used to humorous effect by Lewis Carroll in the chapter “A Mad Tea Party” of the novel Alice in Wonderland.

Felt is used in a wide range of industries and manufacturing processes, from the automotive industry and casinos to musical instruments and home construction, as well as in gun wads, either inside cartridges or pushed down the barrel of a muzzleloader.

Felt in musical instruments
Many musical instruments use felt. It is often used as a damper. On drum cymbal stands, it protects the cymbal from cracking and ensures a clean sound. It is used to wrap bass drum strikers and timpani mallets. Felt is used extensively in pianos; for example, piano hammers are made of wool felt around a wooden core. The density and springiness of the felt is a major part of what creates a piano’s tone. As the felt becomes grooved and “packed” with use and age, the tone suffers. Felt is placed under the piano keys on accordions to control touch and key noise; it is also used on the pallets to silence notes not sounded by preventing air flow.

Industrial uses
Felt is frequently used in industry as a sound or vibration damper, and in machinery for cushioning and padding moving parts.

Felt in arts and crafts
Felt is used for framing paintings. It is laid between the slip mount and picture as a protective measure to avoid damage from rubbing to the edge of the painting. This is commonly found as a preventive measure on paintings which have already been restored or professionally framed. It is widely used to protect paintings executed on various surfaces including canvas, wood panel and copper plate.

A felt-covered board can be used in storytelling to small children. Small felt cutouts or figures of animals, people, or other objects will adhere to a felt board, and in the process of telling the story, the storyteller also acts it out on the board with the animals or people. Puppets can also be made with felt. Felt pressed dolls, such as Lenci dolls, were very popular in the nineteenth century and just after the first world war.

Felt in art and design
German artist Josef Beuys, among others, used felt prominently in a number of works.

Felt in fashion
During the 18th and 19th centuries gentlemen’s top hats made from beaver felt were popular. In the early part of the 20th century, cloth felt hats, such as fedoras, trilbies and homburgs, were worn by many men in the western world. Felt is often used in footwear as boot liners, with the Russian valenki being an example.

Application Areas


Felt hat, Qeleshe
Janker (Austrian costume, similar to a sports jacket)

Seals (eg: roller bearings, felt rings and felt strips according to DIN5419)
Cleanable filter media for gas filtration (usually surface-treated needle felt)
Scrapers for steel and aluminum cold rolling
Pianos and musical instruments
sound insulation
Polishing felt for glass, ceramics, metal
Dry felts in papermaking
Furniture glides (felt glides)

Contemporary art, such as Joseph Beuys and Robert Morris


Home accessories
Placemats, table runners, curtains, cushions, rugs

Natural fiber reinforced plastics (needle felt made of natural and polypropylene fibers for compression molding)

The cause of holes in the felt can be moths.

With superficial dirt, it is sufficient to pick up a brush or to vacuum off the felt. A hand wash is also possible. For this, the felt should first be wetted, then rubbed in with shampoo or heavy-duty detergent and then rinsed out. After drying, the felt can be repainted, if that does not work, an iron with light steaming can help.

Transferred meaning
The barely separable felt fibers provide the linguistic image for the meaning felt in the figurative sense. By this it is meant that a group of persons is connected by – above all financial – dependencies in an inscrutable and manifold way. Similarly, the linguistic image is used as an adjective and refers to a system as “matted”.

Source from Wikipedia