|Hot soapy water & left over wool from the fox|
|After rolling them in our hands for about 10 minutes, we had these nice little hard balls - great for making people or animals or even stringing into jewelry!|
Felt is the oldest textile fabric dating as far back as 6300 BC. It is created from wool or other animal fibers that are densely matted together. Felting predates spinning, weaving or knitting and for centuries, this non-woven fabric has been used for yurts, blankets, rugs, hats, boots and clothing. Felt has the ability to protect against cold and insulate against heat, and can absorb and hold moisture, and can be cut without fraying.
The creation of felt using traditional techniques simply requires wool, water, soap and two hands. A few other items can aid in the creation of felt - but no machinery is required to create this amazing fabric.
Wool may be used in it's natural state, or processed, dyed and carded.
Wool is layed out in layers with each layer going in a different direction. Hot water and soap is added, gentle agitation begins. The process of agitation varies depending on the methods of the felter and the piece being created, but the result is the same. The more agitation, the tighter the resuting fabric. Wool fibers have scales -- the process of felting causes these scales to grab onto neighboring fibers and interlock.
To emulate what people created with wet felting, industry created the felting needle. Thousands of these needles were used together to "needle punch" wool into a fabric and allow the creation of felt without soap or water. The felting needles have small, downward barbs that entangle the wool fibers together. It is from this process that industrial felt is made - the kind you find in the craft store, in your car's air filter, etc.
"Needle felting" is a term for using one or more felting needles by hand to create flat felt or felt sculpture. The first use of felting needles in this manner that we know of was in the early 1980's by artisans David & Eleanor Stanwood who took a tool from the woolen mill industry to use on a small scale and began needle felting by hand. David & Eleanor taught Ayala Talpai who then created some fun books and shared needle felting with others in the quest to promote the craft. Needle felting is currently less practiced than wet felting, but it is gaining popularity amongst crafters, doll makers, bear artists, and artisans.