What is felting?
Felting is an ancient tradition of creating a strong and sturdy, non-woven fabric from wool.
This process treats wool to hot soapy water and lots of agitation. You have probably all had the experience of retrieving your fine woollen garments from the wash, half the size and thoroughly felted, because it had been through a hot wash cycle.
Why does that happen?
The fibres of wool are made up of a protein called keratin and covered in tiny scales. When hot soapy water is poured over it, the heat and the alkaline in the soap causes these tiny little scales to open up like fish hooks and lock onto the scales on the other fibres.
When it is further agitated (such as in a washing machine cycle), the protein from one fibre binds to the protein in another fibre and the result is a matted fabric which can be easily cut without fraying.
when you put a woollen garment into the washing machine on a hot wash cycle. The resulting fabric is perfect to cut squares for a blanket.
Today many people are using this technique very creatively to make beautiful garments by fusing combed wool that has not been woven. Fine sections of fibres are laid one over the other at right angles until a certain thickness has been achieved and then hot soapy water is added.
The fibres are then 'fulled', which is the process of rolling, beating and dropping the fabric until there has been enough friction to cause the fabric to bind and mat.
Nuno-felting is layering very fine fabrics, silks, pieces of lace, silk fibre and cottons and some acrylic fabrics one over the other on a base fabric of silk or silk cotton, using fine strands of wool fibre which will act as the glue. The 'fulling' process makes the fibres hook and bind through the overlaid fabric, and creates a rich textured piece of cloth about two thirds the size of the original design.
These pieces of fabric can then be stitched together to form scarves, coats or added to plain fabric to form other designer garments.
Whether you make squares using felting or by knitting, please make and send an 8 x 8" (20 x 20cms) square or more to Africa to help make blankets for children and orphans affected by HIV AIDS.
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