Felt from wool is considered to be the oldest known textile.
Traditional Feltmaking is still practiced by many of the nomatic tribes in Central Asia. The Mongolians use it to make their dwellings, called Gers (Yurts). In the Western world, felt is widely used as a medium for expression in both art and design, where it has significance as an ecologically responsible textile.
There are two types of felting, wet felting and needle felting. We teach classes in both wet felting and needle felting here at Lasso the Moon Alpaca Farm/Lardworks Studio. Only certain types of fiber can be wet felted successfully. Animal fiber or fur that has scales on the individual hairs are feltable, cellulose (plant) and synthetic fibers are not able to be wet felted due to lack of scales.
Heat, motion, and moisture on the fibers causes the scales to open, while agitating them causes them to latch onto each other, creating felt or fabric.
Special strong needles with barbs on them are used to sculpt and paint with fiber. Technically they are not ‘barbs’ put instead notches cut out of the needles, but many fiber artists will refer to them as barbs. Needle felting allows for extreme detail, while wet felting is more organic. You can needle felt with synthetic fibers as well as wools.