Felt, its composition, history and applications

Felt, its composition, history and applications

Basic Stuff What is Felt ? (this is the boring technical version)

“Felt is a textile structure composed entirely of fibres physically interlocked and consolidated by the utilisation of mechanical work, chemical action, heat and moisture, without the use of weaving, knitting, stitching, thermal bonding or adhesives.”

Wow! that was a mouthful to say the least and to many outside the industry it could be perceived as slightly “high-brow” or pompous. In a way it is and to be honest it’s a little old fashioned.

What is Felt ? (A modern straight forward version)

Felt is a fabric, normally manufactured from wool, derived from sheep. By using steam combined with pressing machines the wool fibres naturally tangle together and lock to form a continuous mat of fabric. (simple)

A Brief History “Pressed Felt”. Possible the oldest textile structure known to man (impossible to prove for obvious reasons!)

Potentially it could have been first produced, completely by accident by nomadic tribes.

They may have used clumps of wool (not necessarily sheep wool) to cushion the insoles and toe areas of their simple shoes or sandals as they roamed.

Over a relatively short period of time the gentle action of movement of the feet and toes against the wool combined with natural sweat would cause the wool to knit together (or Felt together) and the soft pad would become firmer.

When the original wadding was removed they would have noticed that it came out en-mass, as one piece of fabric with a great deal more strength than when it went in.

There must have been a “light-bulb” moment when someone connected their this new material. with what was going on in their sandals to a fabric that had use elsewhere either as clothing or hats.

Once again this can’t possibly be proved, but at some point some bright spark made the connection and the world first mechanically manufactured fabric was born.

Of course this is somewhat a fairy story and a nice fanciful way to imagine how the product was invented and developed, but in a way it makes it’s emergence easier to handle.

The next step Once it was discovered that this material could be manufactured by hand, simply by agitation and warm soapy water, making a very simple fabric structure, then the potential uses become vast.

The nomadic tribes (who may of been the accidental inventors) welcomed the material for its softness and insulating properties and would use it for clothing, flooring and also tent covering (Yurts)

wool felt felt yurt

Felt would have been manufactured locally by hand all the way through Roman times and well into the middle ages and would have been used in the majority of cases for clothing, armour, hats, gloves, flooring and rudimentary bedding until right up to the times just after the Industrial Revolution.

As with all things in our modern world the single biggest movement that changed history in the last 300 years was the Industrial Revolution.

Machinery inventors were building for emerging industries such as Steel making, Mining, Woodworking, Textile weaving and printing.

At this time Felt emerged as a product that many of these machines and associated industries could function without either incorporating it or using it and suddenly almost out of nowhere the manufacture of Industrial Felt was born

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