Home Felting FAQ
Felting frequently asked questions
GENERAL INFORMATION OF FELTING AND FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
1 Why wool fibers make felt?The structure of wool fiber is like a cone and this gives fibers the ability to felt. When felting, the fibers move and entangle together. The structure and coarseness of fibers are crusial to felting. Thin, soft fibers fasten easier and quicklier in to each other than coarse and thick fibers.
Dampness is also necessary in felting. You do not need too much water in order to get the felting and fulling started. The water temperature has an effect on how quick the wool fibers felt.
To get the felting started you shape the fibers by moving and pressing them. By pressing yu get the air out of the fiber layers and the fibers get closer to each other. At first gentle rubbing and light twirling motion makes the fibers move and you get thin, elastic felt. This is the real felting phase. When fulling, you push the fibers stronger by rubbing and rolling them to make the felt more firm. The phase makes the felt shrink and get its shape. When rolling you combine both of these phases: felting and fulling.
2 What are felting needles?Felting needles are tools for felting; you apply decorations on the base felt or tighten the felt into the shape you want.
The felting needles have tiny barbs which when punching push fibers together and attach felted parts to each other. There are several different kinds of felting needles: fine, extra thin needles and those which tear the fibers. When you choose the correct needle, you work considerably faster.
3 Why do the felting needles break?You use needles of very poor quality (e.g. Chinese needles) or you have chosen a wrong type of needle for your work. Also take care that Your needle base is not too thin.
The best base for needling is a hard and sturdy foam rubber which is about 6 – 10 cms thick.
Also the instructions where you punch the wool fibers inside metallic cookie forms are harmful for needles and poorly planned instructions.
If you use needles on wet felt or push the needle at an angle, you will break the needle quicker.
4 What is dryfelting?PLEASE HELP ME! Now I might make some people angry by claiming that such a thing as DRYFELTING (needle felting) does not exist! The terms are completely wrong!
Wool fibers DO NOT felt merely by needling! Fibers are fibers and felt is felt. When you are making felt, the fibers require water and soap in order to felt. There are exception of using soap; it is up to the feltmaker and also depends onthe quality of fibers.
If you make wall pieces and sculptures of wool fibers merely needling them, you will not get the same useful life and durability as you get on items which are well felted. Thoroughly made felt endures wear and tear.
I use felting needles when applying decorations on prefelt base and building of hats and accessories, but I do not make any items by merely needling. I always felt my products properly.
5 What kind of soap is suitable for felting?I use Marseilles (Le chat) –soap but you can also use pine soap. Marseilles is more gentle for your hands. Also I prefer to use bar soap rather than liquad soap. When using liquid soap, the slippery bottle is difficult to handle and you tend to use too much soap. Of the bar soap, you easily get the correct amount of soap and lather for your felt work.
6 What is the difference of felting and fulling?The feltmakers use the word felting; the felt factories use the word fulling. Actually you are talking about the same process.
I use the word felting when I make products by hand from start to finish, and the word fulling, when I use e.g. washing machine to speed the process.
7 Is there a difference with prefelt and needlefelt (needlepunched felt)?
Needlefelts are industrially needled felting bases. They are wool or wool mixes even though they look like plain soft fabric. Needlefelt is also called prefelt, because it is not finished felt, it has to be finished by felting. When prefelt is felted, it shrinks and becomes more firm.
There are also prefelts, which are not manufactured by needling. These are made by pressing the wool fibers with hot steam and an industrial flat iron.
8 Do You use machines or equipment when needling?
I have not experienced that the use of tools with several needles or other kinds of handtools would be necessary for me. These equipments are often clumsy and heavy to use and they are difficult to control.
I use one needle at the time, but I urge my student to build a needling tool for themselves ( you attach 5 – 6 needles firmly around a pencil by using masking/duct tape). This is a handy and light tool to use, already familiar to your hand and easy to control.
9 Why my felt products are soft and loose?Unfortunately the poor end result on felt products is almost always the feltmaker’s fault, extremely rarely you can put the blame on materials. It is merely the question of the feltmaker’s perseverance. If you want make felt quickly, the question is “why make felt at all”? Felting is never a quick job. Even though the fibers felt quickly, the finalizing, shaping the product will take time.
If you try to felt a hat by hand within a couple of hours, it does not work, at least you will not get a proper result.
I have made thousands of hats and one would think that the work gets faster and easier when you master the technique. The fact is that I shape my hats all the way to perfection and I am always developing something new. The felt lace hat takes about 15 – 20 hours to make in a sauna in order to keep the work warm. The following day you will not be able to make a hat because your hands require a rest. That´s when I do some wool dying.
Felting is physical work!
10 Is dyeing of wool fibers difficult? What kind of dye to use?I don’t feel dyeing fibers is difficult, it is time-consuming though. The most important factor in dyeing is to reach the final result, where the colour remains and the shades are just as I want them to be.
I dye still with the same method as when I started (why to change the concept that works) i.e. I use an outside wood-heated fireplace all year around. When the weather very cold, the glass jars tend to break due to frost. Sometimes it seems that the Master of the weather throws down wind and rain just when it is my day for making dye baths. Otherwise the process works wonderfully.
I dye with industrial dyes, because unfortunately natural dyes do not have as good light resistance (they fade and you should not have your natural dyed product in direct sunlight). In Finland you can order dyes for wool at Wetterhoff in Hämeenlinna.
When dyeing, always use protective gloves.
If you do your dyeing indoors, remember to take care of the ventilation.
11 Why don’t You felt clothes of Finnsheep wool?
I prefer to use merino (prefelts, Hanki -felt), because merino is softer, it falls down better and it is nicer against your skin than Finnsheep wool.
Finnsheep wool is wonderful material to use for 3-dimentional products (see handmade hats) but at the same time it, when used for accessories, it is rather stiff. Sometimes you see vests made of Finnsheep wool and so that they would be softer and would fall down better, they have not been felted thoroughly. These kinds of products have not good durability.
12 What is nuno-felt?In nunofelt one builds a new surface on top of wool or prefelted base by felting various kinds of silks, chiffons and other thin, veil-like fabrics. The fabrics are not needled together; they actually felt together.
Finished nuno-felt has an excitig surface structure because some fabrics stick together like glue and others felt together maintaining a 3-dimentional, wrinkled surface.
The actual nuno-felting is challenging because an experimental/enthusiastic feltmaker felts all sorts of left-over materials, which you can find in your house; lace curtains, old dresses, scarves etc... the fabrics of course tend to have their own mind and they are not always willing to be cooperative.
Nuno-felting is easiest to start by setting a prefelt on top of a plastic or a polyester fabric. Leave some space to the edge of plastic/polyester because to whole work is going to be rolled together with a wet towel. Set chiffon or silk or other fabric on the prefelt and dampen the the work totally with soap and warm water.
Roll a towel into a tight roll, then wet it in hot water. Then roll the prefelt + fabric +towel + plastic or polyester into one roll.Tie the roll at both ends and several places in the middle. This is to avoid the insides from moving.
Felt your work by throwing the roll in the air, up and down. You can handle the throwing rather hard; continue this about 15 – 20 minutes, The roll can be thrown ever which way so that the work is felted from each direction. Open the roll and check the result.
If fabrics have already felted into the prefelt base, throw the work as it is about 5 – 10 minutes again turning the bundle while throwing. Open the roll. If the fabrics are still not felted together, make the roll once more with the plastic. Keep in mind that the fabric you have chosen, might not work at all.
The fabrics can be finalized by fulling them in the washing machine. Please be careful, the result can be suprising, shrunk to a size of a stamp.
13 What is filtti?FILTTI, the Finnish Felt Association has the purpose to unite Finnish feltmakers, felt artists, handicraftsmen, teachers, tutors and wool producers.
FILTTI promotes the cooperation between members, professional skills and common advantages, supports exhibition activities and gives information of both domestic and international events, exhibitions and contests.