Monday, 15 August 2011

Merino Wool Tops for Felt Making

Felt making is most effective using wool fibres.  The best to use is wool that has been cleaned and combed.  The treated wool is known as wool tops, or wool roving.

Fibre with a Bradford count of 60 or higher (find out more about wool classification), will felt readily when combined with water, heat and alkali, such as soap (plus a degree of elbow grease!).  The Merino sheep produces a super fine wool which can have a Bradford count as high as 110. 

The George Weil range of Merino wool tops have a Bradford count of 64 and are available in 28 colours.  To extend the palette further, it is possible to blend the colours together using a pair of hand carders. 

The different colours are laid evenly across the fine teeth of one carder and the other carder is placed on top.  As the carders pass across each other, the fibres begin to blend.  The process is repeated until you are happy with the integration.

Felting wool fibres together creates a warm, dense fabric.  The wool can be felted on a flat surface, or it can be shaped round a former such as a Hat Shaper.  The former needs to be smooth, non-porous and able to withstand heat and water.  A plastic bag or bubble wrap can be used between layers of fibre to stop it from felting and to create hollow forms.  Linda Chapman's bag, pictured below, was made using this method.

There are numberous techniques for felt making and many of them are covered in the Fact File pages on our website.  Our page Making Felt by Hand will help get you started and our selection of fibres and tools can be found in the Felt Making section.

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