Last week we were smitten with Gail's felt Valentines. Today, we are happy to have Janet from Felt on the Fly to tell us about the beauty of 100% wool felt. It may not be something you've given much thought to, but handle a pure wool felt next to a wool blend product and you'll understand the difference. I think Janet will make converts of us all. Be sure to check out the incredible array of colors of felt in Janet's Etsy shop and be sure to bookmark it for your next project. She also sells kits and other handmade items. For some additional inspiration, we've included below some photos of projects made by others with Janet's felt.
Greetings, Clever Charlotte Readers!
Way back in 2000, I had the pleasure and good fortune to meet some ladies from Europe who were stitching tiny little stuffed animals for their children from an amazing fabric the likes of which I’d never seen before. To this day I still recall, with great clarity, my ‘AHA!’ moment upon discovering the type and quality of the felt they were using. Pure merino wool felt – yes! 100% merino wool! Oh my goodness. It was simply….well…delicious! Eye candy for sure. The color. The texture. The weight and the hand.
The European ladies laughed as I exclaimed my enthusiasm and curiosity and peppered them with questions. I had to know where it came from. I wanted to know why I’d never seen such a fabulous felt. I wanted to know why it wasn’t being sold here in the USA. And I wanted that felt to be mine. Every last color of it!
That simple little discovery that day led to quite an interesting quest for me. I began researching wool felt. I researched the historical and cultural impact of wool felt. I collected and compared wool felt from all over the world. I made amazing connections with people in countries I’ll most likely never visit. It’s been an amazing journey with lots of humbling life lessons along the way.
Researching the history of wool felt led to a greater understanding of art and craft in other parts of the world. It led to an enlightening realization about just how young our USA really is in comparison to Europe and Asia and how our own culture is largely driven by manufacturing and ready-made. It is inspiring for me, personally, to make available this fabulous, pure wool felt that simply cries out to be touched and crafted into something wonderful. I often feel that selling this beautiful felt is similar to a performing a public service!
What is Felt?
“Felt” is one of the current buzzwords in the world of crafting, trending as one of the most popular mediums with crafters of all types. While it’s the oldest fabric known to man, here in the USA it’s certainly gained huge popularity in just the last few years. A quick search of the term ‘felt’ on popular crafting websites will reveal a staggering display of items crafted from felt.
Felt, by definition, is a non-woven fabric traditionally made from natural wool fiber. From a historical perspective, Asian people first discovered that the wooly coat of a sheep could be easily transformed into a fabric that was waterproof, insulating to both heat and cold and fire retardant. Throughout the centuries felt has had a major cultural impact and has been used for everything from basic survival from natural elements to manufacturing to fine art.
Read the Label!
Crafters today have many types of felt to choose from. Depending on your needs and preferences you’re sure to be able to find just the right felt to suit your project. Modern manufacturing techniques have produced inexpensive and easy-to-find synthetic, re-cycled and wool-blend felts. One of the more elusive types of felt is ‘wool felt’.
Here in the USA, the term ‘wool felt’ is often tossed about loosely. Reading the fine print on a label will often reveal that, while the name seems to imply that the felt is 100% wool, it’s actually just a blend – with the smaller percentage of blend being wool. Technically speaking, this type of felt should be called ‘wool-BLEND felt’. If it’s pure wool felt you’re looking for, be sure to read labels carefully or ask questions. Your crafting experience with wool-blend felt will be much different than with pure wool felt.
Not All Sheep Are Created Equal
Did you know there are hundreds of different breeds of sheep? While each breed produces a wool fiber (cuz that’s what sheep do!), the fiber can be thick, thin, long, short, wiry, curly, coarse, soft, etc. Depending on the type of fiber used, the way it’s processed into felt and the type of dye used, the end result can be very, very different.
The term ‘wool felt’ is a very generic term and does not imply ‘sameness’. For example, consider the term ‘ladies shoe’. Immediately, you ask yourself, what kind of shoe? Are we talking about sandal, sneaker, boot or pump? Open-toe? Wedge? Buckle, tie or slip-on? So many needs – so many choices. And the same applies to the subject of felt. Many uses, needs and choices.
While I could have offered many different types of felt in my shop, I chose my merino wool felt for several reasons. The quality is simply the best overall. It’s a luxury-class pure wool felt. Merino is a fine, soft, strong fiber; natural and renewable. From loose roving it felts easily requiring little energy and no toxic chemicals, making it an ethical environmental choice. From a crafting perspective, the fact that it cuts cleanly, holds stitches beautifully and comes in an amazing variety of colors makes it a fabulous choice for creative inspiration.