Felting: the production of a nonwoven fabric of wool, fur, or hair, matted together by heat, moisture, and great pressure. Felt is the oldest textile technique, and is believed to have originated in Mongolia. 

Traditionally, a piece of old felt, known as the mother, was laid out, and the new wool was laid on top of it, then the two were rolled tightly together around a pole, with the mother on the outside, then wrapped in animal hides. Finally, the pole was fitted with ropes, and dragged behind the horse or camel. As the bundle rolled along the ground, it shrank in length and width, became thicker and firmer. I have used modern materials with the wool(pool noodle, tulle fabric, and shelf liner), and achieved very nice felt. It's a fun outdoor project for late spring-early fall, because you get wet.

Felt can be formed around a pattern or resist to make a one piece item, like a hat or boot, or it can be made into sheets that are cut and sewn like any other fabric. Designs can be inlaid as the felt is being prepared, or embellished with applique, embroidery, and beading.

To the left you can see four pieces of wool felt that I made in a class with Mistress Virag (SCA name) - the entire class worked together to make one large sheet of felt, then each person cut pieces which we then took with us to be sewn together to make a hat. Mine is sewn with blue wool yarn, handspun by me. I've been wearing it in various stages of progress, it's my favorite winter hat. Maybe someday I'll decide the embroidery is complete. The blanket stitching I used to sew the pieces together broke in one place after awhile, so I removed the stitching on that side, which gives better access to the panels for embroidery. I haven't worked on it recently, but with me revisiting this blog, I'll add it to my mental list of projects to finish.

Fulling: manipulating woven, knitted, or crocheted fabric so that it shrinks in length and width, but becomes thicker and more firm. This is what happens to hand-knit and crocheted sweaters and socks that end up in the washing machine. 

In the television show Outlander, there is a scene where the women of a village are waulking the freshly woven woolen fabric, with hot urine to set the dye in the wool. They sit around the table, rubbing, pounding, and rolling the fabric, so it creates a warmer, thicker fabric which is more wind- and water-resistant than it would be fresh from the loom. Often one woman would lead the activity, and there are several rhythmic songs that were sung to pass the time and keep everyone working together. More information on waulking can be found here.

A few years ago it became a big fad to intentionally knit or crochet items extra large, especially bags or purses, and then run them through a few cycles of the washing machine. I have heard that if you do this a lot, you can create quite a buildup of fiber in your washing machine, which can damage it, so it's best to put the items to be felted in a pillowcase which is then tied shut.

I crocheted a golf style cap out of wool yarn, and when it was a bit loose and floppy, I fulled it and now it fits great. It was originally intended as a gift for my dad, but he didn't care for it, so I wear it!

Needle-felting: a modern technique of mechanically manipulating fibers, often with barbed needles (hence the name), into a fabric resembling wet felt. Needle felting produces a pre-felt state, but one of the advantages is that it's easier to incorporate fibers and fabrics which would not adhere by traditional wet felting methods.