Making Felt: A Timeless Textile Which Is Easy to Create

Making felt is an ancient art, possibly the oldest method of creating fabric on record. Some pieces of felt clothing and other household objects have been dated at over 6,000 years old. Felt has stood the test of time. Why does felt still appeal to the modern crafter? The answer lies in felt’s versatility, ease of creation, and timeless style.

Felting is the perfect textile technique to use when you need a garment or accessory that has structure, warmth, and durability. Winter slippers fit all of these categories perfectly. By creating an oversized piece of fabric (in our case handknitted) made from sheep’s wool and using heat, moisture, and agitation to compress and mat the fibers, the material is transformed. It is nearly unrecognizable at the end of the process. It is possible to felt your slippers so thoroughly that no knitted stitches are left visible.

making felt

Eileeen Lee’s “Peacock Slippers to Knit, Felt, and Embroider” from the September/October 2017 issue of PieceWork. Photos by George Boe.

Most felted projects work up fairly quickly, using simple stitches and a large gauge. After all, any fine details will be lost in the final felting process. The most difficult part of felting is achieving the size you sought to create at the beginning of the project. Felting sometimes happens slowly at first and then all at once. It is necessary to keep a close eye on projects that are agitating in your top-load washing machine (front-load washing machines don’t usually offer enough friction for felting), removing them for examination and measurement every few minutes. [Learn more about making felt with our free guide.]

One of the best things about felted fabric is its ability to become a “blank slate” for other types of embellishment, such as beading, embroidery, and needle felting. A plain pair of slippers or a bag can become extraordinary when decoration is added. The smooth, even texture of felted wool fabric lends itself to hand embroidery and many other techniques more easily than other fabrics, such as knitting or crochet.

making felt

Detail of the Peacock Slippers by Eileen Lee.

To try your hand at this fascinating technique, the Peacock Felted Slippers Kit make a great first project. These slippers by Eileen Lee, featured on the cover of the September/October 2017 issue of PieceWork, has everything you need to create beautiful, embellished slippers that are sure to become your new favorites.

Happy felting!
Lindsay

Featured Image: Try felting with the Peacock Slippers.

RESOURCES

Hagen, Chad Alice. “Introduction.” In Fabulous Felt Hats: Dazzling Designs from Handmade Felt. New York: Lark Books, 2005.


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