Welcome to Wool Felt Week

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This week on True Up is dedicated to wonderful wool felt. We have interviews, a source list, book reviews and roundups, and of course, a giveaway. But first off, let me introduce you to this fabric in case you’re not already acquainted, and demystify some terminology.

What is felt? Felt is a nonwoven, non-knitted textile, produced by mushing loose fibers together. It can be made from animal fibers (usually sheep’s wool), a blend of animal and other fibers (usually rayon), or 100% acrylic. Wool fibers felt because they are covered with microscopic scales that tangle and interlock when that magic combination of heat, pressure, moisture, and friction is applied. Wikipedia compares the structure of wool fibers to pinecones, which was helpful in helping me understand how the fibers become permanently interlocked.

I’m not quite sure how the acrylic fibers stick together. If you’ve ever had an acrylic felt project fall apart, you might argue that they don’t stick together!

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What’s up with “fulling” vs. “felting”? Especially if you’re from the knitting world, you’ve probably heard people getting uppity about usage of the terms “fulled” and “felted.” The difference is simply this: fulled textiles start out life as woven or knitted fabric, to which the matting process is then applied. Just think of weaves and knits having tiny spaces between the yarns, and the heat/moisture/friction combo causes those spaces to be filled. Since the process and end result is so similar, I grant you permission to use the terms interchangeably around here! Fuzzy Galore has a thorough account of fulling vs. felting here.

Several types of wool fabric are fulled: blanket cloth, boiled wool, coating, loden, and melton. These would all work for most projects calling for wool felt. They vary in thickness, drape, nap, and weave of the pre-fulled cloth, but are similar enough in texture and durability.

Wool felt is expensive, but so are all wool fabrics. But a little goes a long way, and once you try it you’ll never go back to the cheapo craft store stuff. It is soft, super sturdy, comes in tons of gorgeous colors, and is incredibly easy to cut and stitch. It doesn’t fray and there is no nap or wrong side. Since it is so pricey, most people use it for small things: stuffed toys, pincushions, and other crafts.

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American Felt & Craft wrote up a great “felt smackdown” comparing acrylic and eco-felt, wool blend felt, and 100% wool felt on several factors. No shocker here, but wool felt wins, with wool-rayon blends coming in a close second.

Any questions? We’ll answer them by the end of the week!

16 Comments

  1. SewLindaAnn says:

    That is really good information. I’m going to keep it unread so I can study it more. I also plan on going to the sites listed. I have started getting some wool from thrift stores to supplement since it is so expensive and I usually just buy the $1.00 scraps. Thanks for putting out such useful information.

  2. Amber says:

    What a great topic – can’t wait to hear all about it!

  3. Susan says:

    Perfect timing! I’m making stuff out of wool felt for the holidays and and eager to learn what you have to share.

  4. Melissa says:

    Wow what a lot of great info!
    I’ve felted my knitting before and wasn’t pleased with the result, maybe that’s a little reason why I never tried using real felt in my felt jewelry. Plus, recycled “eco-felt” seemed like a good selling point. But after reading this, I’m all about trying the real stuff!

  5. Janet W says:

    Interesting article! There’s so much to know about felt. It’s a fascinating fabric, and the inspiration for all of my sewing and pattern designing. Thanks for helping to “de-mystify” this great fiber.

    Janet W., FeltOnTheFly

  6. Alyson Button Stone says:

    Oh, wow, wool felt porn!

  7. Katie says:

    I look forward to reading more of what you have to say about felt- I am usually a crafting cheapskate, but my sister naturally dyes wool felt and generously shares it with me- you are right- I will never consider using acrylic felt again! We just posted a tutorial for a sewn-felt rainbow ball on our blog. Hooray felt!

  8. Well, this is RIGHT UP my alley. I’m not braggin’ or anything, but I’ve been called “the felt whisperer.” ;-)

  9. [...] Wool felt is the fabric of choice for many sewers due to its durability, ease of use (no hemming required), and flexibility.+ Kim from True Up kicks off her Wool Felt Week series with a short article describing the different forms this fabric can take and explaining some of the terminology used with describing wool felt.+ Read about wool felt at True Up. [...]

  10. Sally says:

    I’m looking for a good online source to buy bright wool felt. All my local stores sell dark colored wool felt.

  11. devon says:

    What about (durable) printing on wool felt? Know of any examples of this being done? I’ve been thinking about it lately as it would bring together two worlds I’m obsessed with :o )

  12. jen says:

    felt smackdown – that is hilarious!

    i’m getting into felt projects recently myself. i just love how you don’t have to worry about raveling edges!

  13. Charlene says:

    I second Sally’s request , can anyone suggest online sources for an array of felt colors?

  14. Barbara says:

    Ah wool felt. It’s really fun to work with using the Valdani perle cotton threads. Be sure to keep all your scraps, they come in handy.

    Here are some great sources online for wool felt:

    http://www.colonialcrafts.com/
    http://www.primitivegatherings.us/shop/ (their black wool is fabulous)
    http://www.purlsoho.com/purl
    http://www.woolylady.com/wool.htm

    Barbara

  15. Katee says:

    What about American Felt and Craft the people who write the felt smackdown article also have an online store I have ordered from before, the address is http://www.americanfeltandcraft.com
    Hope this helps.

  16. Shelly Pedretti says:

    I am looking for good quality melton wool with a varied color selection (not the usual military colors). I have found a few sources but they are each limited in colors suitable for apparel (specifically for and unstructured jacket). Can you supply me with a list of resources? thank you