Wool felt, which is also known simply as felt, is a unique
fabric that is formed when a sheep’s wool or another animal fur is exposed to
heat and moisture. The entire process is hastened by the presence of an alkaline
such as soap. The heat and moisture is applied on the wool to open the outer
scales of its fibers. The soap serves as a lubricating agent that causes the
fibers to slide over one another in a fairly easy manner. This sort of natural entanglement
eventually becomes permanent and irreversible because of the chemical bonding
that takes place amongst the keratin proteins present on the fibers that are
responsible for forming the fabric.
As you can clearly see, the process is quite simple. This is
ones of the main reasons why craft workers prefer felt making over other
textile making techniques. In addition, the finished product is achieved within
a very short period.
Humans are believed to have discovered this simple process
by studying the effects of natural elements on the wool and fur of different
animals. There is also evidence that shows early humans used wool to keep their
feet warm during the night and cold seasons. After years of walking and
stomping, the wool became stiff and eventually turned into felt.
The oldest archeological evidences that show the use of wool
felt were found in Turkey. Researchers discovered different wall paintings that
went back as far as 6500 BC. They depicted some form of felt making process. In
ancient times, the Greeks and Romans knew how to use felt. In fact, some Roman
soldiers were known to have worn felt breastplates, boots, tunics and even socks
for protection purposes against things like arrows.
Over the years, the felt making process has remained
relatively the same. Different discoveries have been made during our time,
which endorse this fact. For instance archeologists found the burial grounds of
a nomadic tribal chief in Siberia, who was a true warrior of the Iron Age in
Scandinavia. They also uncovered an old tomb in Norway. All these findings exhibited
marks of wool felt usage.
Felt is currently used in different parts of the world,
especially in regions that experience harsh and very cold climates. In
Mongolia, nomads use it to make tents known as gets or yurts. In Turkey, felt
is used to make hats, rugs and other similar items. The nomadic tribes of South
Central Asia also use it to make blankets, rugs and tents. In Russia and
Scandinavia, felt is mainly used for making boots and cloaks known as kepeneks.
They offer protection against the rough climate.