Felting fabric | properties, manufacturing process | uses


Felting fabric

Felting fabric

Felting fabric is the aggregation of specific fibrous matter by the application of heat, moisture, and mechanical action, resulting in the interlocking or matting of the fibers possessing felt properties. These types of fibers include wool, fur, and some hair fibers that combine well under suitable conditions due to their unusual structure and high levels of crimp. Wool can be felt even when mixed with other fibers. Unlike bonded fabrics, adhesives are not required for the production of felt.

Felting fabric hat

Woven fabrics made of cotton or wool can be felted that is making them thicker and more compact. This type of fabric sometimes called woven felt, is truly similar and serves many of the same purposes. Felt is widely used in the hat industry. It is also used to make slippers and as a fancy fabric for clothing and draperies. Felt padding is employed on both clothing and furniture. Industrial applications include insulation, packaging, and polishing materials. A specially woven felt designed for use in the paper industry serves as a carrying belt for moist paper.

History of felting fabric

One of the oldest known textiles felt from wool. There are many cultural legends about the origin of felting. Probably the source of the feeling can be found in Central Asia, where evidence of the formation of felt is found in Siberia in northern Mongolia, and more recent evidence is found in Mongolia from the first century AD. Siberian tombs show the widespread use of felt in cultures that include clothing, jewelry, wall hangings, and elaborate horse blankets. By employing careful color use, sewing, and other techniques, these felt makers were able to use felt as a pictorial and decorative medium on which they could skillfully depict abstract designs and realistic scenes. Over time, these creators became known for their beautiful abstract patterns from plants, animals, and other symbolic designs.

History of felting fabric

Felted fabric properties

i. Felting fabric is incredibly resilient, able to be compressed and released thousands of times without deformity.

ii. It can be cut to any size, shape, or thickness with no need to finish edges.

iii. It is wear-resistant.

iv. It cuts with a clean edge.

v. It does not ravel or fray.

vi. It can be hard enough to turn on a lathe or soft enough to be sewn.

vii. It can be exposed to the elements.

viii. Wool Felt is highly resilient, retaining its strength and unique properties for decades.

ix. It is chemical resistant.

x. It is flame-retardant and self-extinguishing.

xi. Synthetic Felt and Blended Felt can be treated for flame resistance.

xii. Felting fabric maintains its physical properties as it wears, making it an excellent choice for polishing.

xiii. It is an excellent sound insulator.

xiv. It has superb vibration-damping qualities.

xv. It has superior thermal insulating properties.

xvi. It has extraordinary wicking capabilities delivering consistent fluid flow without deterioration.

xvii. It can be highly absorbent and can retain many times its weight in fluids.

xviii. It can be made water repellant.

xix. Wool felt is a renewable and environmentally friendly resource.

Felting fabric manufacturing process

A. Wet felting 

This process uses the inherent nature of fur and other animal hairs, as there are scales on the fibers that are directional and have tangles in the hair. It is a combination of these properties that responds to friction stimuli and causes phenomena known as felting. It works well with wool fibers as their fibers, when stimulated, curl and bond together to form fabrics.

In the wet felting process, hot water is applied to the layers of the animal's hair, while repeated movements and compressions result in the fibers coming together or weaving together into a single piece of cloth. A strong, textured material, such as a properly arranged fiber wrap in a bamboo mat or burlap, will speed up the felt process. The felted material can be finished by perfection.

Wet felting

Only certain types of fiber can be successfully wet-felted. Most types of fur, such as those from alpaca or merino sheep, can be kept through a wet felting process. One can use mohair (goat), angora (rabbit), or rat hair such as beaver and muskrats. These types of fibers are wrapped in tiny fibers similar to those found in human hair strands. The scales open due to the heat, speed, and moisture of the hair, when they are stimulated they stick to each other, creating a felting. There is an alternative theory that the fibers air around each other when felt. Plant fibers and synthetic fibers will not feel wet.

To create multi-color designs, filters conduct a two-step process so that they create pre-felts of a particular color - these semi-complete sheets of colored felt can then be cut with a sharp knife or scissors and kept in a different color next to each other like making mosaics. The felting process starts again and the edges of the fabric are joined to each other as soon as the felting process is completed. Shradak Carpet (Turkmenistan) uses a form of this method where two pieces of contrasting color with the same pattern are cut, then the cut-outs are changed, and one is fitted with another, creating a sharply defined and colorful patterned piece. To strengthen the felt mosaic-style joints, felt makers often add a backing layer of fur that is felt along with other elements. Felt makers can vary their adaptation to this added layer where some will place it on top of the design before felt and others will place the design above the reinforcement level.

B. Needle felting (dry)

Needle felting is a method of making felt objects without the use of water. Special needles used to make 3D sculptures, jewelry, ornaments, and 2D art have grooves along the needle shaft that holds the fiber together with other fibers to create the feel. These grooves are sometimes mistakenly called barbs, but barbs are very difficult to push between protrusions and wool and almost impossible to pull out. There are many sizes and grooved needles for different uses at work. Needle felting is used in industrial processes as well as in individual crafts.

Needle felting (dry)

The needles used for felting are usually quite thin and are sometimes fitted into containers that allow the user to use 2 or more needles at a time to sculpt wool objects and shapes. Single thin needles are used for detailing and multiple needles that are attached together are used for large areas or to form the basis of a project. Different types of fiber dyes can be added at any time for details and uniqueness, using needles that are included in the project.

Felting fabric uses

i. Felting fabrics are used in a variety of industries and manufacturing processes, ranging from automotive industries and casinos to musical instruments and home construction, as well as gun weddings, pushed inside cartridges or under the barrel of a muzzleloader.

ii. It is often used in industry as a sound or vibration damper, as a non-woven fabric for air filtration, and in machinery for cushioning and padding moving parts.

iii. It is used in footwear as boot liners, with the Russian valenki being an example.

iv. It is used as a damper, wraps bass drum strikers, and extensively in pianos.

v. It is used for framing paintings.

vi. It is widely used to protect paintings performed on various surfaces, including canvas, wood panels, and copper plates.


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