It was love at first sight for me, because of its density and thickness and its vibrant colours, but a number of the reasons to love this beautiful, non-woven wool fabric are invisible.
- It’s a renewable resource. Sheep continually grow their wonderful woolly coats which are sheared each spring.
- It’s naturally fire resistant and is self extinguishing. If you hold a match to genuine, 100% wool felt it will start to burn — but if you take the lit match away the fire on the felt will smoulder and go out on its own.
- It has high thermal insulating properties and this is what makes wool felt brilliant for a tea cosy. (It is also extremely sound absorbing but that doesn’t generally matter for tea cosies.)
- It’s naturally water repellent — spilt tea, for instance, will first bead on the surface of wool felt giving one the opportunity to quickly blot it up.
- However it can absorb liquid four times its weight which make me think it would make a good door mat — if it wasn’t so pricey. It also means wool felt makes great shoe inserts — insulating and absorbing the sweat or dampness. Unlike anything polyester (plastic).
- The European 100% wool felt that FoTC uses is the best in the world. Unlike made-in-you-know-where felt which, in my experience, can be easily shredded, this European felt is manufactured to the very highest quality and they’ve been making it for over a century.
- It’s manufactured in an eco friendly manner. The thick, colourful European felt is made to Oeko-Tex 100 standards which mean its manufacturing creates no toxic waste. Children could chew on it and live to tell — although not recommended!
- Frankly it just feels great. It has a wonderful soft yet sturdy hand-feel which is an important quality for items we touch on a daily basis.
Some interesting things that are (or were before being replaced by a plastic fabric) made of 100% wool felt are:
- shoe inserts
- piano hammers, bass drum strikers and timpani mallets
- chalk board erasers
- music cassette tapes — a tiny cube held the tape to the sound head
- roofing felt
- shoulder pads
- Valenki — a type of traditional Russian footwear which are warm and dry and with good traction for walking on dry snow when the weather is frosty.
- In the automotive industry it has been used to dampen the vibrations between interior panels and also to stop dirt entering into some ball/cup joints
- for framing paintings — laid between the slip mount and picture as a protective measure to avoid damage from rubbing to the edge of the painting.
- in millinary — many hats including fedoras
- horse saddle felt
- house and sound insulation batting — still being done
When I was in England a few years ago I came across a fascinating book on the felt industry there. The industry, like so many, is now pretty much gone. While some of the reasons the industry disappeared may be considered short-sighted it is certainly true that most industry has a finite life-span before something new — sometimes something wonderful — comes along and replaces it, changing the labour demographics and economies of towns and even nations. Plus ça change…n’est-ce que pas?
But wool felt has experienced a recent resurgence in the design and DIY fields. Beautiful furniture and household wares — including tea cosies, french press coffee cosies, mug warmers (!) — as well as fashion items are available and can be found through quick, easy internet searches. (Try duckduckgo.com for non-tracked searches.) For a great collection of contemporary wool felt pieces by designers and artists (ahem, including flockofteacosy.com) you might be interested in this Sydney Morning Herald piece from a few years ago.