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Types Of Felting Explained

  • 7 min read
Ashford Alpaca Merino Sliver
Ashford Alpaca Merino Sliver (Photographer: Ashford Handicrafts Ltd)

Felting is a sophisticated and artistic craft practised for many years. Felting can be done in a number of ways, each with its own special qualities and advantages. This article will delve into the fascinating world of felting and discuss the three types of felting techniques: Nuno, wet, and needle felting.

The versatility of felting is truly remarkable. The only limit is one's imagination. Felting allows artists to sculpt and shape fibres into any desired form, making it an excellent medium for both realistic and abstract creations.

What is Felting?

The process of felting involves transforming loose fibres, such as wool, into a dense fabric-like material for various purposes. This transformation is achieved by applying moisture, heat, and pressure, which cause the fibres' scales to interlock and bind together. No machine is needed to start a felting project. You can do felting projects using natural or synthetic fibres and just a few special felting tools, making it a fun and easy craft for all ages.

What are the Different Types of Felting

Felting opens up a world of possibilities for creative expression. As mentioned, the three main types of felting techniques are Nuno felting, wet felting, and needle felting. While these techniques aim to create felted textiles, their approach, materials used, and the resulting textures and designs differ. Understanding the distinctions between these techniques is crucial for artists, crafters, and anyone interested in exploring the world of felting.

Nuno Felting

Nuno felting is a specialised felting technique that combines loose fibres, usually wool, with a lightweight fabric, such as silk or muslin. The term "Nuno" is derived from the Japanese word for cloth. The process involves laying out the fibres onto the fabric and then agitating them together using moisture and friction. The result is a beautifully textured fabric that incorporates the fabric's qualities with the softness and warmth of the wool fibres.

Nuno felting scarfs
Nuno-felted scarves (Photographer: Ashford Handicrafts Ltd)

Nuno felting is often used to create scarves, shawls, and other wearable art pieces that enable you to play around with wool and produce a variety of textures and thicknesses to produce a unique end product every time.

Nuno felting can create delicate textures that may be more prone to damage than traditional felted fabrics.

Wet Felting

Wet felting is a traditional felting technique that involves wetting the felting fibres with warm soapy water and agitating them to interlock and bind together. This process is done using tools like a felting mat, bubble wrap, or a washboard. It creates a solid piece of fabric with variable degrees of thickness and texture, depending on the type of fibres used and the amount of agitation exerted during the felting process. Wet felting can produce both smooth and textured surfaces and offers a wide range of felting design options.

Preparing fibre for wet felting
Preparing fibre for wet felting (Photo credit: vvoennyy on VistaCreate)

Accessories, home decor, and a variety of clothing items are frequently made with wet felting techniques. Wet felting is also best suited for creating garments like hats, purses, slippers, and even bigger items like blankets and rugs.

Once the wet felted fabric is completed it can be further embellished, cut, sewn, or used for various applications such as clothing, home decor, accessories, and more. The wet felting process allows for creative exploration and the creation of unique and textured fabrics.

Needle Felting

Needle felting involves using a barbed felting needle to poke and push the loose fibres together repeatedly. The felting needle's barbs catch and entangle the fibres, creating a firm and sculpted shape. Needle felting allows for intricate detailing and precise control over the shape and texture of the final piece. It can create three-dimensional sculptures, decorative objects, and even flat designs with intricate patterns.

Ashford needle felting kits
Needle felting kits (Photographer: Ashford Handicrafts Ltd)

Needle felting is commonly used for creating sculptures, figurines, ornaments, and jewellery pieces. It is a versatile technique that offers artists the ability to create highly detailed and lifelike designs, and rewards patience and attention to detail, providing the ability to bring unique and intricate designs to life using just fibres and a barbed needle.

What Can You Do With Felting?

In felting, wool fibre is one of the common types of fibre frequently used to make a variety of felted products, including toys, accessories, home decor, and so much more. With the methods of Nuno felting, wet felting, and needle felting, you can transform fibres into your own felted creations.

Here are some popular applications of felting:

  1. Clothing and Accessories: Felting can be used to make unique garments, such as wool hats, cosy wool scarves, winter gloves, and even wool slippers. The felted fabric's warmth and natural insulating properties make it perfect for cosy winter wear.
  2. Home Decor:Add a touch of warmth and texture to your home with felted items like pillows, blankets, rugs, and wall hangings. Felting allows for endless customisation, allowing you to create personalised decorative items for your home and unique keepsakes, gifts, and toys.
  3. Jewellery and Accessories: Felting can be used to make a wide variety of beautiful and distinctive pieces like necklaces, earrings, brooches, or even needle-felted patches to disguise holes or thin areas in clothing. The versatility of felting techniques allows for endless design options.
  4. Sculptures and Art Pieces:Needle felting allows artists to sculpt detailed and lifelike figures and objects. From felted animal figures like penguins, butterflies, and pandas to intricate flat-felted landscapes and felted bowls, the possibilities are only limited by one's imagination.

Overall, felting allows for a creative outlet for adults and children to enjoy. Apart from wool, you also have the option to use discarded animal fur or human hair to practice felting as a beginner. Needle felting kits are also available with everything needed to get started.

Why is Wool Fibre Ideal for Felting?

Wool fibre is ideal for felting due to its unique structural properties. When wool is subjected to felting, it undergoes a process called matting, where the individual fibres interlock and bond together to form a dense and cohesive fabric.

Ashford Merino Fibre
Ashford Corriedale Wool (Photographer: Ashford Handicrafts Ltd)

There are several types of wool to use for felting, including merino wool, Corriedale wool, and alpaca wool. These are great fibres to needle felt with. If you have noticed, needle felting kits usually come with 100% wool fibres or wool blends.

Here are a few reasons why wool is the ideal fibre for felting:

  1. Structure and Texture:Wool fibres are perfect for felting because of their distinctive structure. They have tiny scales along their surface, which can interlock and bind together when subjected to moisture, heat, and agitation. This property allows the fibres to mat and form a cohesive fabric during the felting process.
  2. Felting Properties:The strong natural crimp of wool gives the fibre more surface area to entangle and lock together. This crimp, along with the scales on the wool fibres, enhances their felting ability and makes them more receptive to the felting process.
  3. Moisture Absorption:Excellent moisture-absorbing qualities are found in wool. The fibres within wool absorb moisture and slightly swell when combined with warm water and soap during the felting process. This swelling makes it possible for the scales on the wool fibres to unfold and interlock, speeding up the process and forming a strong bond.
  4. Versatility:Wool comes in various types and preparations, such as wool roving, batting wool, or carded wool, which offer different textures and characteristics. Wool is a great fibre to use for needle felt and wet felt crafts because its versatility allows artists and crafters to choose the type of wool that best suits their project and desired felting outcome.
  5. Softness and Warmth: Wool fibres offer inherent softness and warmth, making felted wool textiles comfortable to wear and cozy in various applications like clothing, accessories, and home decor.
  6. Natural and Sustainable:Wool is an animal fibre, natural and renewable fibre. It is obtained from sheep and other animals like alpacas, goats, and llamas. It is a sustainable choice, as it can be harvested without causing harm to the animals. Plus, wool textile material is biodegradable.

Due to its unique properties and characteristics, wool has been used for felting for centuries. Its ability to interlock, shrink, and create strong bonds makes it the preferred fibre for both wet felting and needle felting techniques, allowing artists and crafters to create a wide range of wool-felted creations with intricate designs and textures. Browse our felting wool collection to see different types of wool options.

Felting can also be achieved with other fibres, such as plant-based fibres like bamboo or hemp. Additionally, synthetic fibres like acrylic or polyester can be blended with natural fibres to create unique textures and effects.

What You Need to Know Before Starting a Felting Project

A few factors to be considered when starting a felting project to ensure a successful and enjoyable experience.

First, decide which felting technique you want to try - Nuno, wet, or needle felting. Next, choose a project that matches your skill level and interests. Consider starting with a needle felting kit that includes all the necessary supplies, felting patterns, and detailed instructions, just like the Ashford Needle Felting Starter Kit. It's also important to practice basic shapes before moving on to more complex designs. Finally, invest in good quality felting tools and equipment to make the felting process easier and more enjoyable.

Whether creating practical items or intricate sculptures, felting allows you to breathe life into fibres, turning them into unique and expressive works of art. So, pick up some wool, grab a felting needle, and let your creativity flow as you dive into the enchanting world of felting. Remember to have fun and don't be too hard on yourself if it takes a few tries to get the hang of it!

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