Felt Making

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Making felt is both a tactile and physical activity providing opportunities for organic creativity. Wet felt making is a simple, satisfying technique and the basics for making a flat piece of dense felted fabric can be mastered from the instructions included in the Felt Making Explorer Pack below.

3-dimensional objects can also be created if the wool fibres are felted around a former such as bubble wrap or a hat block.

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Objects, such as flowers, dolls or animals, can be made using a felting needle. The sharp felting needle has barbs along its length which hook onto fibres as it is pulled out of the fibre mass. When the needle is poked into a different place within the fibres the previously hooked fibres are pushed off the barbs to be replaced by others. Repetition of this process permanently knots the fibres together allowing detailed shaping. Non-wool fibres, such as silk or cotton, can also be incorporated into the design using a felting needle and modelling wire can also be covered with wool so that the limbs of felted creatures can be made poseable.

The best wool for feltmaking comes from the Merino sheep. It felts with little effort and is available in a large choice of colours plus natural off white. The different colours of Merino wool tops are available in 100g or 1kg bags from Crafts > Felt Making >

Wool fibre is unique in its construction. Each hair contains scales which run along the length of the shaft. While the fleece is still on the sheep, the scales all point in the same direction and are conditioned by lanolin which is secreted from its sebaceous glands. When the sheep is shorn, the fleece is carefully cleaned and combed before the wool fibre is carded into tops. This process maintains the direction of the scales.

In felt making, the direction of the hairs is disturbed because they are laid out perpendicular to each other. Simply rubbing these together will begin the felting process while adding hot water and soap will encourage the scales to open slightly and speed up the felt production. The wool fibres hook onto each other and become entangled as dense unwoven fabric.

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