Cool Wool felting is one of several methods used to produce felt from wool and other animal fibers. In this class, students will create unique pieces by applying warm soapy water to layers of carded wool placed at 90-degree angles to one another. Through a process of agitation and compression, the fibers hook together to form a single piece of fabric.
Felt may be the oldest material known, and there are many references to felt in ancient writings. Since felt is not woven and does not require a loom for its production, ancient civilizations could easily manufacture it. Some of the earliest felt remains were found in the frozen tombs of nomadic horsemen in the Siberian Tlai mountains and date to around 700 b.c. These tribes made clothing, saddles, and tents from felt because it was strong and resistant to wet and snowy weather. Legend has it that during the Middle Ages St. Clement, who was to become the fourth bishop of Rome, was a wandering monk who happened upon the process of making felt by accident. It is said he stuffed his sandals with tow (short flax or linen fibers) in order to make them more comfortable. St. Clement discovered that the combination of moisture from perspiration and ground dampness coupled with pressure from his feet matted these tow fibers together and produced a cloth. After becoming a bishop, he set up groups of workers to develop felting operations. St. Clement became the patron saint for hatmakers, who extensively utilize felt to this day.