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Felting Overview

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Have you come across a beautiful felted project or textile and can't get that image out of your memory? Do you feel compelled by a small voice in your mind that's says "Must.. learn... to ... felt... "? Is this voice getting LOUDER? 

You've contracted a Maker's disease we call "Felting"! Your love for fibers of all types and their use is bound to grow so fast we can't keep track of all your projects.

Here's a beginner's Felting Overview to help you grow in to your felting destiny. You'll become familiar with each type of felting, it's uses, and tools. 

WHAT IS FELT? Simply put, felt is matted/tangled fibers. Felting is the act of matting these fibers together either by hand or with tools to create a dense fabric which can range from milimeters to inches thick. It is said to have been discovered thousands of years ago when a traveler put wool in his shoes to cushion his feet, finding that the fiber had felted once he reached his destination due to heat, moisture, and agitation.

Wool is well suited to felting, since it's fiber structure has microscopic barbs that hook together when rubbed, agitated, pushed, or pulled. But commercial machines have created felt out of synthetic fibers, and we now even have access to recycled commercial poly felt, known as ECOfelt. You'll find that you can combine many methods of felting in to one finished project. 

WET FELTING:

  • Created by: Shocking wool fibers from warm to cold with slighty soapy water, and alternately agitating the fibers by hand until a dense matted fabric is formed.
  • Tools: Hands, a dowel, bubble wrap to agitate fibers as they're rubbed, bowls of warm & cold water.
  • Makes: A colorful sheet of material that may be left as-is, cut into pieces that do not require hemming on the edges, or formed into a garment such as a hat while agitating. 
  • Uses: Great for use as an art material/textile, or as a finished product such as a scarf, hat, bag, or even shoes. Wet felt is generally heavier than other types and is great for rugged use or shapes that need to hold a form. 

NUNO FELTING:

  • Created by: The wet felting method above, bonding loose fiber, usually wool, into and through a sheer fabric such as silk gauze, creating a lightweight felt. The gauze creates a substrate, providing strength and form to fine lightweight fibers. Nuno is the Japanese word for "Cloth". 
  • Tools: Hands, a dowel, bubble wrap to agitate fibers as they're rubbed, bowls of warm & cold water, and a piece of silk gauze or lightweight fabric that fibers can felt through.
  • Makes: A lightweight, sometimes see-through textile useable as a material for projects or a finished garment on it's own.
  • Uses: Whole sewn garments, scarves, fine art textiles and wall hangings. 

NEEDLE FELTING:

  • Created By: Poking wool and other fibers with a thin steel, barbed Felting Needle. This pushes the fibers one way and pulls them the other until a dense base is formed for a 3D sculpture. The needles then add other colored pieces of fiber to the base to create detail, color, or sculpture appendages. Felting needles are also used add wool fiber designs to Wet and Nuno pieces and/or Knit/Crochet Felt projects after they're dry. 
  • Tools: Felting Needles, Felting Mat (brush or sponge style), and fibers. We suggest a low cost Core Wool for sculpture bases and large projects, then colored fibers for detail. Felting Needles are semi-disposable by nature and will eventually dull and break.
  • Makes: 3D Sculpture, toys, or embellishments on other sheets of felt, both commercial and hand-made. 
  • Uses: Toys, fine art, craft items, and wearables, and as a repair tool for thin spots in Wet Felted panels.

COMMERCIAL FELT:

  • Created By: Industrial needle machines for large yardage production of thin to thick dense felt for use as a textile or craft material. 
  • Tools: Commercial production only
  • Makes: Sheets of fiber felt, most commonly found in poly-acrylic blends, but available at Mondaes Maker Space in 100% Wool and Wool/Rayon blends, made in the U.S.
  • Uses: Quick projects and kids crafts, easy to hand sew without need for hemmed edges. Our 100% 100 Felt and blends are used for Waldorf Dolls and other eco-toys, as well as heirloom penny rugs and more. These felts may be needle felted into, wet felted on, or machine washed to create an mottled-organic looking dense felt. 

ART FELT: 

  • Created By: Tacking wool roving to a pre-formed sheet of Art Felt paper with a felting needle, then boiling the paper off to release a finished project. The Art Felt system allows for greater detail and design control with a wet-felted look. 
  • Tools: Art Felt Paper, Felting Needles, plastic, tack board, rubber bands, boiling water, and colored fibers/pencil roving. For a complete list of Art Felt tools & Instructions, download the PDF HERE.
  • Makes: A felted material that can be thick or thin, precise or abstract, and it can all be accomplished with very little experience and in a minimal amount of time.
  • Uses: Great for detailed fine art tapestries, quick projects kits for gift giving, or learning the concept of wet felting without an instructor.

 

Overview written by Keren Brown, Maker Enabler and owner of Puffy Mondaes Maker Space.