Felt is a kind of textile that is not woven however produced by means of matting, condensing and pressing fibres together. It can be made of natural or artificial fibres. Felt making is older than spinning and weaving and many cultures have legends about how of felt making was once invented.
Sumerians claim that the secret of felt making was once discovered by Urnamman of Lagash, a traveller and a Sumerian a legendary warrior hero. Christians have legends that felt is an invention of Saint Clement or Saint Christopher. They each had been fleeing from prosecution and they packed their sandals with wool to prevent blisters and make footwear more comfortable however at the top of their journey the wool turned into felt socks from the movement and sweat.
National Museum in Copenhagen has preserved caps made of strong felt from the early Bronze Age. They were observed in the pre-historic burial mounds of Jutland and North Slesvig and date back some 3500 years. Specialized workshops for making felt hats and felt gloves were located in Pompeii.
Nomadic peoples still practice felt making and make rugs, tents and apparel out of felt for daily use and for selling to tourists. There are many distinctive techniques of felting – wet, needle, nuno, carroting. Wet felting is method interlocking and compacting of wool fibres which are first drenched in cleaning soap water and then rubbed till material has the same thickness. Individual wool fibres are covered with small scales. When water and stress from rubbing are utilized the scales open up and the fibres tangle together. When the felt dries fibres stay tangled.
Needle felting is the approach of making felt without the water. Felt is made by interlocking wool fibres by stabbing then with a barbed needle. The barbs of the needle catch the scales on the fibre and cause them to tangle and bind together. This is a popular arts craft used by hobbyist and artists.
Felt has many uses, from clothing and tents to automotive industry, musical instruments and home construction. When used in the automotive industry it damps the vibrations between interior panels and stops dirt from entering into some ball/cup joints. In musical instruments felt is also used to dampen vibrations. It is used on drum cymbal stands, on bass drum and timpani mallets as well as piano mallets which are made of wool felt around a wooden core.
When paintings are framed, felt is placed between the painting and the frame so a frame couldn’t damage the painting. In fashion felt is used for hats, jackets, for details and decorations, pillows, bags and other clothing items.
Felt is produced as these fibres and/or fur are pressed together using heat, moisture, and pressure. Felt is generally composed of wool that is mixed with a synthetic in order to create sturdy, resilient felt for craft or industrial use. However, some felt is made wholly from synthetic fibres.