Felt 4 You!

What is felt?

“Felt” is a term that can be used to describe a variety of different textiles included felted woven wools, synthetics, and industrial felts.

Traditionally, felt is a nonwoven textile composed of loose fibers which are matted together to form a coherent material.
There are two types of preparation, the needle felting and the wet felting.

Needle felting

A woven textile that is felted with barbed felting needles. It could be prepared from wool, polyester, acrylic or mixture of them.

Wet felting

The wool fibers have a biological feature to become felt with added water, steam and rubbing process.

With this traditional technology only the pure wool can be felted, or a mixture with high wool content. In this technology the polyester and other plastic materials are not applicable, because these fibres are not heat resistent. The mixtures we use contain other animal fure or viscose, which is a natural product made from wood.

Multifelt Factory uses the wet felting technology only and produces 100% wool and wool-viscose mixture felts.

Features of our wool felt

Wool felt is one of the oldest man-made textiles. To produce felt, raw wool undergoes a wet felting process that involves matting, condensing and pressing the fibers. Felting is the natural characteristic of most animal fur to entangle and form matts.

Wool is particularly well suited for felting and is superior to synthetic fibers. Characteristics include an inherent durability and resilience as the crimp or bend in the fibers give it a natural elasticity. Such flexibility makes it durable and the outer skin of the fiber acts as a protective film, providing abrasion resistance. Lanolin, the thin waxy coating on wool fibers, makes wool naturally resistant to water and soil. Wool readily accepts natural dyes as they can penetrate the core of the fiber and undergo a chemical reaction making the color change permanent and intensely saturated. Plus, because wool retains moisture in every fiber, it resists flame without chemical treatment. Instead of burning when touched by flame, wool chars and self-extinguishes when removed.

Due to these natural characteristics of wool, Wool Design Felt is high quality, sustainable, comes in highly saturated colors, and is perfect for demanding design applications.

This nonwoven textile has unique characteristics that include:

  • The felt is non-directional, has no right side or wrong side, and the color is consistent throughout
  • The widths can be up to 180cm
  • Highly saturated colors that are sun-proof
  • Naturally repels soiling and moisture
  • Since it is nonwoven, it can be cut with the edges left raw. No fraying!
  • The felt’s thickness and density also give it a structural quality that allow for hanging installations that do not require any additional support
  • Self-extinguishing and inherently flame retardant
  • It has outstanding thermal and acoustic insulating properties
  • And most importantly it is an environment friendly and renewable resource

How do we make the felt?

Carbonizing: The wool arrives at the factory in bales, which we have to carbonize, burning out the natural vegetable waste on high temperature to clean the wool for the decoration usage. It can be done because the wool is not hurt on high temperature while the vegetable waste burns out as powder. We don’t carbonize the wool used for the industrial felts.

Willowing and dustering: The next step in the process of making felt is to mix, loosen, and separate the fibers from the clumps they form naturally. The willowing machine combs the wool pulling the fibers apart and beginning to align them. Dustering helps to clean the wool of the burned vegetable powder. In this phase we mix the wool with viscose if it is necessary.

Carding: Carding is the act of combing and untangling the wool. Feeders allow a specific weight of fibers to pass into the cylinder to form a standardized web and the fibers are combed (or carded) so that they are parallel to each other. Several layers of this fluffy, even sheet of wool are combined (with the fibers alternating in direction) to create a batt. These batts are then rolled up and stored in preparation for felting.

Felting: Multiple layers of batts are laid out on a steamy conveyor belt, adding moisture to the wool and preparing it for the felting process. The sheet is then moved below a plate-hardener that lowers a large 2.5 ton plate onto the batts and oscillates, compressing and matting the material.

As shown under a microscope, wool fibers have scales like a fish. The outer skeleton of each fiber is made up of the overlapping scales. When heat and moisture is introduced, the scales on the fibers raise and open up. The agitation then interlocks the fibers as the scales hook into one another to form a strong, resilient bond.

Merino wool is typically the finest wool fiber and unlike synthetic fibers, it has scales that allow for natural felting. Natural felting is only possible with fibers with such scales.

Fulling: When the felt has bound together significantly, added density is needed to provide the durability needed. The batts are fed through upper and lower steel rollers that are covered by hard rubber molded with treads like a tire. The pressure, heat, moisture, and movement cause the batts to shrink in length, making it denser. The more the wool is manipulated and hammered, the tighter the fibers engage and lock together.

Dyeing: 25 meter bolts are hand-sewn together to create one dye lot. Dye lot sizes vary based on thickness and weight and are typically 100 meters (109 yards) for 2mm, 75 meters (82 yards) for 3mm, and 50 meters (55 yards) for 5mm, 8mm, and 10mm. Plant-based textile dyes are introduced in a dye vat and heat is added to set the dyes. The process can take up to six hours and the color is matched to a control sample to ensure a suitable color has been achieved.

Drying, ironing, shaving, and press: The end product should be ironed, shaved from the unfelten fibres and pressed in the case of industrial felts. The product goes into the finished goods warehouse where we cut and pack them as required.

As per unique request we can manage to cut the felt in any form, sew it and we are ready to fulfill any special needs.

The wool

Wool is a natural fiber harvested from sheep. Sheep’s wool is highly regarded for its crimped, elastic fibers that are easily felted to form a fabric that cannot be pulled apart. This translates into durability, excellent dye ability, resistance to flame and compression, and thermal and sound insulation. Plus, this natural fiber is a rapidly renewable resource (it grows back) and is 100% biodegradable.

Our felts are manufactured from Merino wool that is typically sourced primarily from Hungary, EU and Australia.

Most sheep are sheared once a year (in spring or early summer) and the fur is completely back in one year.

Renewable and sustainable resource

Yes! All of the above. Wool felt is a natural product, made with a totally natural process with minimal chemical additives wich make this product biodegradable and environment friendly. It is recyclable, too! The processing of wool requires very little environmental impact compared to other natural fibers or man-made fibers. And since wool felt is made of sheep’s wool and viscous staple fibers, this means that after the felt product has been used or become worn out, it can be disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner.

Our felts have tested and certified to meet the human-ecological requirements of the standard presently established for products with direct contact to skin according to Product Class II of Oeko-Tex® Standard 100.

Sheep are free range animals and thus vegetable residues can be picked up by their fleece. Washing and carbonizing removes some of this debris, however, minor changes and slight inclusions of natural fiber on the surface are evidence of 100% natural origin of the material.

In addition, sheep may be marked with pigment for various reasons including isolation for illness or breeding. Colors that include any non-carbonized (washed) wool content may retain these pigments as pink or blue dots. This condition is most apparent in natural colors however it may be visible in uni and melange colors where the felt may appear lighter or darker.

The story of felt

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 while fleeing from persecution, the men packed their sandals with wool to prevent blisters. At the end of their journey, the movement and sweat had turned the wool into felt socks.

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 textile art as well as design, where it has significance as an ecological textile.

Today felt becomes very popular again. The Do It Yourself activities are very trendy and excercised by many people. Lot of them prepare hand made felts, but the machine felted materials are also popular. Felt is a versatile textile, it is used by industrial, home decoration and fashion designers, too. Use felt for everything you can imagine!