What is felt? Felt is a nonwoven material produced by matting, condensing, and pressing fibers together. Pictured above is National Nonwovens' 100% wool WoolFelt (Style WCF006) made by a needlepunch nonwoven manufacturing process.
From our FeltNews Special Issue
National Nonwovens' FeltNews Felt:FYI Special Issue featured information from some of our most popular Educational Series newsletter articles on a variety of felt topics including various fibers, types of wool, nonwoven terminology, and the history of felt. For your convenience, all the information from these articles are available here (see below) and as printable documents for you to download and share with your friends and customers.
Folklore, Fiber Facts, and More!
- Folklore - Felt Making Legends and Ancient Felt History
- Information Sheets - Download and print articles from the Felt: FYI Special Issue
- Nonwovens - What is a nonwoven?
- Fiber - natural, manufactured from natural materials, or synthetic
- Wool Varieties - Why Merino Wool is the best
Felt making is an ancient tradition and the oldest form of fabric known to humankind, predating weaving and knitting. In Turkey, the remains of felt have been found dating back at least to 6,500 B.C.E. (1) The exact origin of felting is unknown, but different cultures have their own folklores and history.
These felt legends all tell a story of the discover of a basic "wet-felting" technique where wool fibers were exposed to friction and moisture:
Noah's Ark Legend. This is a favorite with children. Sheep, goats, camels and other animals herded together in the Ark and shed their fleece during the voyage. The “moisture” from the animals combined with their fleece and it became compressed when trampled underfoot. After the animals left the Ark, Noah discovered the floor carpeted in felt.
Sumerian Legend. This legend claims that Urnamman of Lagash discovered the secret of felt making. Sumer was one of the early civilizations of the Ancient Near East. (1)
Story of Saint Clement. St. Clement was a monk who became the fourth bishop of Rome. Legend has it that he placed wool in his sandals and discovered that the fibers became matted together to produce felt. According to Anglican Church of St Clements in the Archdiocese of York (England), felt makers and hatters have St. Clement as their patron saint for perfecting the process and manufacturing of felt. (2)
The Yurt. Felt has been a vital part of civilization since the earliest of times. Around 10,000 BC nomadic life began in Central Asia when animals, including sheep, were domesticated and required shelter. The nomads built large round felt-covered portable structures called yurts to protect from predators. The yurts housed both families and livestock as nomads migrated across the countryside of Mongolia, Siberia, and Turkey. Traditional and modern yurts are still widely used today.
Download Information Sheets on Felt:FYI Special Issue articles to save, print, and share.
Downlaod, Save and Print
- Felt: Folkore: Felt:FYI Special Issue, Folklore
- Felt: Fiber (page 1): Felt:FYI Fiber and table
- Felt: Fiber (page 2): Felt:FYI Wool, Nonwovens?
Technical Nonwoven Production Line
A textile is any cloth or goods produced by weaving, knitting, or felting. Nonwovens are textiles most easily defined by how they are NOT MADE. They are not made by weaving or knitting and do not require converting the fibers to yarn.
Nonwoven fabrics are sheet or web structures bonded together by entangling fiber or filaments mechanically, thermally, or chemically. Felt is classified as a nonwoven, but so are many other high-tech, engineered materials used across a wide range of applications from medical to aerospace.
Pictured right is a technical nonwoven being manufactured on a nonwoven production line at National Nonwovens. Total processing capacity at National Nonwovens is in excess of 15 million pounds per year. Manufacturing and technical capabilities include both air-laid and carded cross-laid web forming with chemical bond, felted wool, needlepunch, lamination, and thermo-bond constructions.
Pictured here is part of National Nonwovens' fiber library that has over 100 different types of fiber samples
Fiber is the foundation of all textiles and National Nonwovens has hundreds of different nonwoven textile products. Many of these products are in highly engineered technical markets that require unique fiber constructions. To be successful, an expansive and diverse fiber inventory (see picture right) is crucial.
So... what is fiber? Dietary fiber helps our digestion. Optical fibers transmit light. If we touch, our nerve fibers are stimulated. However, in textiles, a fiber is a strand of material that can be natural, manufactured from natural materials, or synthetic.
Natural Fibers. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) states that a “natural fiber” refers to any fiber that exists as such in the natural state. That includes fibers from plant sources and animal sources, of which wool is the most popular. National Nonwovens uses wool from the Merino breed of sheep in all its WoolFelt® product lines. Merino wool is regarded the finest according to strict industry standards because it has a luxurious softness compared to coarser grades of wool.
Manufactured Fibers from Natural Materials. These fibers are plant-based or cellulosic. This category is complex and often confusing to consumers because of the “natural” and “manufactured” classifications. National Nonwovens manufactures felt using two types of manufactured fibers that derive from natural materials: rayon and bamboo.
Rayon, primarily made from wood pulp, was the first manufactured fiber and the textile industry adapted it as the term for all organic viscous fibers. It has many appealing properties such as superb softness and drape. When National Nonwovens blend rayon and wool together, the best characteristics of both fibers are utilized. As a result, our WoolFelt® blends are enormously popular and are typically preferred over other felts because of their versatility and value.
Bamboo fibers are made from the pulp of bamboo plants. This specialty cellulosic fiber is classified as rayon by the FTC. Bamboo fibers are extremely smooth and soft. National Nonwovens’ XoticFelt®, made from bamboo fibers is noticeably softer than other felts. It also uniquely absorbs dyes for luxuriously rich and vibrant colors.
Synthetic Fibers made from Polymers. Felt in this category typically include acrylic, polyester, or nylon fibers. Acrylic is the highest quality of all the fibers in this class and is what National Nonwovens uses in its FiestaFelt® and GlitzyFelt product lines. Acrylic fabric is lightweight, washable, and inexpensive compared to felt products made from natural materials.
Although National Nonwovens has an expansive fiber inventory because of its multitude of diverse products, four different fibers are used in felt products for the Arts & Education Industry.
The chart on the right demonstrates these fibers and their classifications. These fibers include:
- Bamboo rayon
Merino wool fiber stored in National Nonwovens warehouse. This high-end fiber is used to make products in multiple industries, including Craft & Hobby and Medical.
We are all wild about wool, and with good reason. Wool is a natural, environmentally-friendly fiber that can absorb up to 30% of its weight without feeling heavy or damp. It is a durable, natural insulator that resists mildew and mold while being hypo-allergenic. What’s more, it’s wrinkle resistant and fire retardant while resisting static, dirt and dust.
Although wool is obtained from a variety of animals, wool from Merino sheep is considered the best. According to Australian Wool Innovation (AWI), a not-for-profit company, Australian Merino wool is soft and sensuous with unsurpassed natural drape, elasticity and breathability. It is much finer than other types of wool, with 50% of the clip 20 micron or finer. Such fineness means Australian Merino wool is flexible and softer than other types of wool. (3)
At National Nonwovens, we use only Merino fiber in our wool products. In addition to our popular felt product lines for the Arts, Crafts, Quilting, Home Decor, and Education Industries, we have a comprehensive line of medical, aerospace and industrial products lines. The products require the highest quality wool and medical-grade rayon available. We use the same high-grade fiber in all our WoolFelt® lines.
National Nonwovens has a variety of Merino wool felts to fit any budget, with a range spanning from 100% wool to 20% wool/80% rayon. We have spent decades formulating our unique wool-rayon blends to precisely run on our top-of-the-line specialized equipment so the strengths of both the wool fibers and rayon fibers can be fully realized. The result is a luxurious hand and unique shades, some with heathered hues, that simply can’t be duplicated by competitive products.