Today, most fabrics are either knitted or woven.
Woven fabrics take almost 60% of the total apparel and textile. However, textile goes beyond knitted and woven
fabrics in reality. Everything actually begins from felt. Felt is a special material that needs neither
the sophisticated knitting technology nor the weaving technology.
The history of Felt
Felt is probably the oldest fabric known by man. It came before weaving and knitting. Felt was made very easily by the ancient man because
it did not require weaving or knitting for its production. Some ancient felt
was found in one of the frozen tombs that belonged to the nomadic horsemen that
lived close to the Siberia Tiai Mountains. The felt is dated back to around
700BC. The tribes that were associated with
this felt used it to make saddles, clothing and tents. According to the
Legends, St. Clement who was supposed to become the 4 th bishop of
Rome during the middle ages was the one who discovered the process of making
felt by accident. It is said that he
decided to stuff his sandals using tow (linen fibers or short flax) with the aim
of making them more comfortable. St. Clement later discovered that the pressure
from his feet and the moisture from ground dampness and perspiration matted
these fibers together to produce cloth. When
he became a bishop, he decided to find workers who will help hi develop his felting
operations. He later became the patron saint
for the hat makers. This people extensively utilize felt up to today.
Methods used to manufacture felt
There arebasically two methods used to manufacture felt fabrics:
1. Wet Felting
(also known as traditional felting)
2. Needle- felting (also known as dry felting)
This process utilizes the inherent nature of animal hairs such as wool. This is because
these fibers have scales that are directional in nature and have knocks in them
too. When exposed to friction, their properties
make them react. This phenomenon is referred to as felting. This tends to work very well with wool fibers because
their scales easily curl and bond to form cloth when aggravated.
The raw materials used
Wool is the main raw material used to produce wet fitted fabrics because it grips and mats
easily. A synthetic fiber is also used
in the process to give the felt some resilience. It is not possible to turn synthetics into
felt using wet felting. However, they can
be felted when they are combined with wool. Typical combinations of fibers
include wool and nylon and wool and polyester.
Cheaper felt (also know as artificial felt) that is produced using the wet method usually has
30% wool combined with artificial fibers. This is the minimum amount of wool need to
hold a given fabric together. Other raw materials that are used in this process
include sulphuric acid, steam and soda ash. Sulphuric acid helps in thickening while soda
ash is used to neutralize the sulphuric acid.