Felt is a non-woven cloth that is produced by matting, condensing and pressing woolen fibres. While some types of felt are very soft, some are tough enough to form construction materials. Felt can be of any colour, and made into any shape or size.
Many cultures have legends as to the origins of feltmaking. Sumerian legend claims that the secret of feltmaking was discovered by Urnamman of Lagash. The story of Saint Clement and Saint Christopherrelates that while fleeing from persecution, the men packed their sandals with wool to prevent blisters. At the end of their journey, the movement and sweat had turned the wool into felt socks.
Feltmaking is still practised by nomadic peoples in Central Asia and northern parts of East Asia, where rugs,tents and clothing are regularly made. Some of these are traditional items, such as the classic yurt, while others are designed for the tourist market, such as decorated slippers. In the Western world, felt is widely used as a medium for expression in textile art as well as design, where it has significance as an ecological textile.
Felt is made by a process called wet felting, where the natural wool fibre is stimulated by friction and lubricated by moisture (usually soapy water), and the fibres move at a 90 degree angle towards the friction source and then away again, in effect making little "tacking" stitches. Only 5% of the fibres are active at any one moment, but the process is continual, and so different 'sets' of fibres become activated and then deactivated in the continual process.