With (mostly) gentle coaxing and a soapy water assist, a dense sculptural material is formed from soft wool fibers. With the same process, the lightest of fabrics that incorporate silks or plant fibers emerges…
It's magic. It's renewable and reactive.
The process of creating felt from wool involves water, soap, and energy (movement). Wool fibers are covered in scales that react to the alkaline environment of warm soapy water by opening from the core of the wool staple. With agitation, these scales become locked together into a dense material, WOOL FELT.
All breeds of sheep produce wool of varying qualities of coarseness/softness and felt-ability. These qualities allow the artist to create an incredible range of felted goods; from the lightest garments to dense, durable, sculptural forms.
Although the concept of creating felt is quite simple and requires very little equipment, it involves a great deal of patience, physical control, and strength from the artist. When dry wool is assembled into a layout, it must be designed for the shrinkage that occurs from the tight locking of the wool (this is called fulling). Shrinkage is anywhere from 15% to 50% depending on the specific wool and how the wet process is executed.
When the dry layout is complete and ready for processing, wetting may include several gallons of water depending of the size of the work. Each area of the layout must now be carefully worked by hand to ensure proper mingling of fibers, a process that can take several days. The final processing will become even more physical, as the fibers must be agitated and forced into the tightest locked position, resulting in properly felted wool.
Adding Fibers for Effects
Due to the nature and composition of wool fibers, it is unique in it's ability to felt. Fibers from plants, silk fibers and fabrics will not react to the felting process in the same way as wool; however, wool fibers have the ability to grab these other materials and lock them into the finished felt.