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Most fabrics are woven, meaning they are constructed on a loom and have interlocking warp (the thread or fiber that is strung lengthwise on the loom) and weft (the thread that cuts across the warp fiber and interlocks with it) fibers that create a flat piece of fabric. Felt is a dense, non-woven fabric and without any warp or weft. Instead, felted fabric is made from matted and compressed fibers or fur with no apparent system of threads. Felt is produced as these fibers and/or fur are pressed together using heat, moisture, and pressure. Felt is generally composed of wool that is mixed with a synthetic in order to create sturdy, resilient felt for craft or industrial use. However, some felt is made wholly from synthetic fibers.

Felt may vary in width, length, color, or thickness depending on its intended application. This matted material is particularly useful for padding and lining as it is dense and can be very thick. Furthermore, since the fabric is not woven the edges may be cut without fear of threads becoming loose and the fiber unraveling. Felted fibers generally take dye well and craft felt is available in a multitude of colors while industrial-grade felt is generally left in its natural state. In fact, felt is used in a wide variety of applications both within the residential and industrial contexts. Felt is used in air fresheners, children's bulletin boards, craft kits, holiday costumes and decorations, stamp pads, within appliances, gaskets, as a clothing stiffener or liner, and it can be used as a cushion, to provide pads for polishing apparatus, or as a sealant in industrial machinery.


Felt may be the oldest fabric known to man, 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 man made it rather easily. 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 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.

Today, hats are associated with felt, but it is generally presumed that all felt is made of wool. Originally, early hat-making felt was produced using animal fur (generally beaver fur). The fur was matted with other fibers—including wool—using heat, pressure, and moisture. The finest hats were of beaver, and men's fine hats were often referred to as beavers. Beaver felt hats were made in the late Middle Ages and were much coveted. However, by the end of the fourteenth century many hatmakers produced them in the Low Countries thus driving down the price.

The North American continent was home to many of the beaver skins used in European hatmakers' creations in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. North American Indians' second-hand skins, replete with perspiration, felted most successfully and were in extraordinary demand for hatmaking in both the New and Old Worlds. The beaver hat was surpassed in popularity in the second half of the nineteenth century by the black silk hat, sometimes finished to resemble beaver and referred to as beaver-finished silk.

The steps included in making felt have changed little over time. Felted fabric is produced using heat, moisture, and pressure to mat and interlock the fibers. In the Middle Ages the hatmaker separated the fur from the hide by hand and applied pressure and warm water to the fabric to shrink it manually. While machinery is used today to accomplish many of these tasks, the processing requirements remain unchanged. One exception is that until the late nineteenth century mercury was used in the processing of felt for hatmaking. Mercury was discovered to have debilitating effects on the hatter causing a type of poisoning that led to tremors, hallucinations, and other psychotic symptoms. The term mad hatter is associated with the hatmaker because of the psychosis that stemmed from the mercury poisoning. Hats of wool felt remain quite popular and are primarily worn in the winter months.

The use of felt has enlarged over the past century. Crafts enthusiasts use it for all types of projects. Many teachers find it to be an easy fabric for children to handle because once it is cut the edges do not unravel as do woven fabrics. Industrial applications for felt have burgeoned, and felt is found in cars as well as production machinery.

Raw Materials

Felt is produced from wool, which grips and mats easily, and a synthetic fiber that gives the felt some resilience and longevity. Typical fiber combinations for felt include wool and polyester or wool and nylon. Synthetics cannot be turned into felt by themselves but can be felted if they combine with wool.

Other raw materials used in the production of wool include steam, utilized during the stage in which the material is reduced in width and length and made thicker. Also, a weak sulfuric acid mixture is used in the thickening process. Soda ash (sodium chloride) is utilized to neutralize the sulfuric acid.

The Manufacturing

  1. Since some felts use more than one type of fiber, the fibers must be mixed and blended together before any processing begins. To do this, the raw fibers are put into an opener with a big cylinder studded with steel nails that combine the fibers into a mass.
  2. Next, these blended fibers must be carded. Carding machines are huge cylinders that mat the fibers into a web. Hopper-feeders allow a specific weight of fiber to pass into the cylinder in order to create a standardized web. The fibers in the web are pulled by the wires, or carded, so that they are parallel to one another.
  3. Generally, at least two carding machines are used in the manufacturing process, each refining the web as it creates a new one. A transporter moves one web from the first carding machine to a second. The web is then fed into the second machine. This second carder generates a new web that is thicker and fully carded.
  4. At the end of the second carding, a comb removes the carded web from the machine and rolls it up. There are two ways to remove the web from the machine: a cross-lapper may be used in which the web is perpendicularly rolled up, or across the direction of the fibers; or a vlamir may be utilized, in which the web is rolled parallel to the direction of the fibers.
  5. Next, several different webs are combined to create one thick web. Four rolls of web are rolled up but are layered so that their fibers alternate in direction based on the way the webs were rolled, either cross-lapped or rolled using a vlamir. These four rolls are considered a standard single roll, sometimes referred to as a batt. This batt is considered a standard roll of material. Batts are layered in order to create different thicknesses of felt.
  6. The batts of felted material must be hardened or matted together in order to create thick, densely-felted material. The first step in this process is subjecting the batts to heat and moisture. In order to do so, the batts are passed through a steam table.
  7. Now, the separate batts must be matted together and shrunk in length and width in order to create a dense felt. These batts must be subjected to heat, moisture, and pressure in order to be matted densely. First, the wetted batts are fed into a plate-hardener that shrinks the width of the fabric. The plate-hardener consists of a large, square flat bed with a large plate that drops down over the batts of wet, hot batts, exerting pressure on the material and compressing it. At the same time, the plate-hardener oscillates from edge to edge, further matting the fiber to a specific width.
  8. Next, the batts are fed into a fuller or fulling machine, which shrinks the length to a specific measurement. As it shrinks, the felt becomes more dense. The batts are fed through a set of upper and lower steel rollers that are covered with hard rubber or plastic and are molded with treads much like a car tire, enabling them to move across the batts. The felt is continuously wetted with a hot water and sulfuric-acid solution. The upper rollers remain stationary as the lower rollers are moved upwards to put pressure on the fabric and push it against the upper rollers. All of the rollers, both upper and lower, move together forward and backward. The pressure, the acid, the hot water, and the movement causes the batts to shrink in length, making the felt even more dense. For example, a single piece of felt that is 38 yd (34.7 m) long may come out of the fuller at only 30 yd (27.4 m) in length.
  9. The wet felt has sulfuric acid residue and must be neutralized. To do so, the felt is run through neutralizing tanks filled with a soda ash and warm water solution. This process is carefully timed so that specific yard lengths and widths are in for an exact amount of time.
  10. The neutralized felt is then run through a refulling machine in which heavy rollers run over the surface of the fabric one last time to smooth out any irregularities.
  11. If felts are to be dyed, the wet pieces are taken to a dye vat. Some industrial grades are not dyed but go directly to drying.
  12. Some companies simply roll up the wet felt and send it to a centrifugal dryer that spins out the water. Others have huge dryers in which the felt is pinned in place on a dryer bed. Felt can also be open-air dried by either being hung or stretched out on a floor in a drying room.
  13. Once dry, some companies press or iron the felt to ensure consistent thickness. Some manufacturers use this ironing to make dense felts even more dense as ironing can shrink it slightly.
  14. The finishing step includes placing the felt on a gaging table in which the edges of the felt are neatly trimmed. The piece is now ready for packing, labeling, and shipping.

Quality Control

Quality control begins with the arrival of the materials. Materials are checked for quality and weight. Some companies purchase wool that has been scoured and baled; the purity of the bales is examined upon entry. Other important quality control checks include continuous monitoring of the carded webs, since the web sizes are important first steps in producing the desired length and width of the felt. Once the batts are shrunk in width and length, the company checks the weight, density, width, length, and evenness of the batts. When production is complete, visual checks may reveal that the surface of a batt is slightly uneven and additional pressing may occur to even out the surface. The acid baths are also very carefully monitored. The amount of time the fabric is in the acid bath is precisely calculated by weight and length of yard good, lest the piece is ruined. Finally, the company producing industrial felt has to check its goods against a governmental standard for the product. The government has determined that 16 lb (7.3 kg) density felt must be 1 in (2.5 cm) thick, 36 in (91.4 cm) wide, 36 in (91.4 cm) long, and weigh 16 lb (7.3 kg). If the felt weighs less than this, the fabric is not dense enough and does not meet government expectations for that grade of felt.


There is some waste generated in felt production. When the edges are trimmed, small pieces are cut off. These small pieces are often impregnated with oil and grease from the machinery and are unusable for other purposes. These materials are then sent to a landfill.

The Future

Due to its extreme versatility, the demand for felt is consistent. It is used in military applications for helmets, boots, small ammunitions, and rockets. The civilian uses of felt are too numerous to count. A unique use has been found for the excess white felt ground that is relatively clean and clear of oil and grease. It is ground up, colored, and put into an aerosol can. It is then sold as a spray to cover bald spots and has been somewhat successful in recent years.

Where to Learn More


Gioello, Debbie Ann. Profiling Fabrics. New York: Fairchild Publications, 1981.

McDowell, Colin. Hats: Status, Style and Glamour. New York: Rizzoli, 1993.


Design Arcade Web Page. November 2001. <>.

Interview with Dick Pursell. Director of Sales, U. S. Felt. Sanford, ME. August 2001.

Sutherland Felt Company. Manufacturing of Wool Felts Wet Process. Troy, MI.


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felt, fabric made by matting or felting together wool, hair, or fur, most of which have a natural tendency to snarl or cling together owing to their notched or scaly surfaces. Processes of manufacture vary according to fibers used and purpose intended. Woven felt is first made into coarse cloth, given a heavy nap by teaseling, then ironed down. True felt is made by placing the cleaned fibers in the shape or mass desired, then beating, steaming, pressing, fulling, or otherwise compacting them to the required thickness. Impregnated felts, designed for industrial uses such as roofing and sheathing, are made from waste and sometimes from paper treated with a stiffening or waterproofing substance. As an art, felt making probably preceded spinning. Felt was used in N Asia for clothing and tents, and the felt hat was known in ancient Greece and Rome. The invention (1846) of a machine for making felt first brought about the great popularity of the felt hat for men.

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felt1 / felt/ • n. a kind of cloth made by rolling and pressing wool or another textile accompanied by the application of moisture or heat, which causes the fibers to mat together to create a smooth surface. • v. [tr.] make into felt; mat together: the wood fibers are shredded and felted together. ∎  [intr.] become matted: care must be taken in washing, or the wool will shrink and felt. felt2 • past and past participle of feel.

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felt stuff of rolled and pressed wool, etc. OE. felt, corr. to OS. filt (Du. vilt), (O)HG. filz :- WGmc. *felta, *felti, app. f. IE. *pel- strike, drive (cf. L. pulsus PULSE1).

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Rock group

For the Record

Selected discography


Originally an experimental pop music project headed by Lawrence Hayward, Felt became a group in 1980 with the addition of Maurice Deebank on guitar and Nick Gilbert on drums. Felts initial success was achieved though Haywards efforts alone with the release of Index,a noisy, guitar-driven track, in 1979. The single earned favorable critical reviews, and with his band now in place, Hayward set the goal of releasing ten singles and ten albums in ten years, then pulling the plug on the group. During the 1980s, Felt was on the top of indie charts and college radio play lists. However, the groups success never translated into true commercial success.

When Hayward decided he needed to form a band, he enlisted friends Deebank and Gilbert. They knew each other from having practiced together in the village of Water Orton outside of Birmingham, England. A classically trained guitarist, Deebank was a seemingly odd addition to the band. Hayward was just beginning to grasp the song writing craft, but what he lacked in experience he more than made up for in lyrical skill and creative talent. Hayward and Deebank made a few tapes of instrumental songs they wrote together in 1978, which eventually lead to a four-song demo tape they shopped to record companies after Hayward released Index. The demo contained the songs Something Sends Me to Sleep, Cathedral, and Birdmen.

Hayward wrote, played, recorded, and produced Index alone in his bedroom on a bulky cassette recorder. Atypical of the groups later sound, Index was rooted in a cacophony of guitar noise. To get the single released on vinyl, Hayward responded to an advertisement from a self-starter record production company in Melody Maker which offered to do everything from mastering to pressing. Hayward self-financed the production of the first 500 copies of Index for distribution. The tiny independent label Shanghai agreed to distribute the album in September 1979, though it provided very little support. Hayward and Gilbert enlisted their friends in the group Scritti Politti to help promote the album to Rough Trade. With the extra push, Rough Trade agreed to purchase an initial 100 copies.

The bands second big break came when Mark E. Smith of The Fall invited Felt to support them at a show in Manchester, England. Smith had become a fan of Gilbert after hearing Newtrition in 1980. Newtrition was a project Gilbert had completed just prior to Felts formation as a multi-member band. Felt played their first concert with The Fall at the Cyprus Tavern in Manchester. Smith was pleased enough to invite them to open for The Fall at the Marquee in London. It was the London show that help land Felts first recording contract with Cherry Red. Mike Always of the Cherry Red label had already read the review of Index in Sounds and signed the band shortly after the London show.

Something Sends Me to Sleep from the original four-track demo was Felts first release on the Cherry Red label in 1981. The A-side version of the song was recorded in Rochdale, England, at a recording studio called Cargo. The second version was pulled from the original which featured Hayward, Deebank, and Tony Race on drums. Hayward decided to provide both versions because he thought the original demo version of the song was better than the Cargo session.

In March of 1982, Cherry Red released Felts debut full-length album Crumbling The Antiseptic Beauty. While the album received little notice commercially, it received high marks from the independent music press. Despite the critical success, the band underwent personnel changes. Tony Race, who had joined the group after it signed with Cherry Red, left Felt and was replaced by Gary Ainge. Also, Gilbert walked out during the recording sessions for Crumbling The Antiseptic Beauty and was replaced by bassist Mick Lloyd. Gilberts departure was caused by a row with Hayward about his control over songwriting.

Felt kept busy for the next year releasing two singles, My Face Is On Fire followed by Penelope Tree in June of 1983. Penelope Tree, the name borrowed from a 1960s fashion model, climbed the indie charts and helped get the band more exposure. Hayward had always been fascinated by the New York of the 1960s and 1970s, including figures and groups like Andy Warhol, The New York Dolls, The Velvet Underground, and Televisions Tom Verlaine. Hayward wanted to

For the Record

Members include Gary Ainge (group member c. 1981-89), drums; Maurcie Dcebank (group member 1980-85), lead guitar; Nick Gilbert (group member 1980-82), bass guitar, drums; Lawrence Hayward (group member 1979-89), guitar, keyboards, vocals; Mick Lloyd (group member 1982-83), bass guitar; John Mohan (group member 1989), lead guitar; Tony Race (group member c. 1981), drums.

Hayward released Index under Felt name, 1979; formed group Felt near Birmingham, England, 1980; signed with Cherry Red Records, c. 1981; released first single on Cherry Red, Something Sends Me to Sleep, 1981; released debut full-length album, Crumbling the Antiseptic Beauty, 1982; signed with Creation Records, 1985; released Let the Snakes Crinkle Their Heads to Death, 1986; band broke up with the issue of Me and the Monkey on the Moon, 1989.

create pop art and become a rock star. Penelope Tree became the formula for later Felt songs which combined a clean guitar sound with Haywards odd vocal rhythm. Hayward described some of his influences to A. J. Norman in a May 1993 interview with Record Collector. Bob Dylan hit me in 1983 when I heard a song called I Threw It All Away off Nashville Skyline. I changed the way I wrote after that. It said to me you can use poetic images in a direct waythey dont have to be abstractand within a pop tune as well, which set me off on a different road.

The Splendour Of Fear followed in November of 1983. The album featured beautifully simple melodic pop songs with Haywards new direction in pop music poetry. The album helped put Felt into the indie spotlight again by reaching number six on the indie charts in 1984. The tracks Red Indians, The World is as Soft as Lace, and Mexican Bandits made the frequent play lists on college radio.

In 1984, Maurice Deebank released a full-length solo album titled Inner Thought Zone also released on the Cherry Red label. Deebank, like Gilbert, did not like to be directed by Hayward. Their relationship as Felt group members had always been difficult because of their musical differences. Deebank decided to produce the solo effort to allow an outlet for some of the music he was forced to hold back while with Felt. Hayward had developed a formula which spawned beautiful pop pieces seemingly with ease, but Deebank sought a more singular musical voice.

For the next release, Hayward broke his previous single and LP formula of two singles followed by a six-song LP. Hayward intended the LP to be reflective interludes between singles. The idea was similar to Warhols mass production pop art pieces. With the LP The Strange Idols Pattern And Other Short Stories released in October of 1984 by Cherry Records, the formula had forever changed. Along with a full-length LP of ten tracks, the music between the tracks had evolved from simple two-chord songs with a depressed mood to a slightly more open and complex pop sound.

In 1984, Felt toured with The Cocteau Twins, then stars of the ultra hip 4AD label. While touring, Felt was approached by Robin Guthrie who wanted to produce their next record. Deebank had two songs he wanted Felt to release. Hayward added rhythm guitar and lyrics over Deebanks songs and Guthrie handled production. The result was Felts biggest single success of their career. Elizabeth Fraser also joined in the effort and sang on both of the singles tracks. Primitive Painters was released in August of 1985 with Cathedral as the B-side track. Much of the success of Primitive Painters was due to Frasers powerful vocals.

Ignite the Seven Cannons was the follow-up LP to Primitive Painters. The full-length LP was released in September of 1985. Guthrie produced the album with the 4AD formula, and The Cocteau Twins were at the controls. Hardcore Felt fans were not at all pleased with the album. The pop trash sound of the bands previous work was now replaced by an album that reached the number one spot on the indie charts with a pretentious 4AD star at the controls. Primitive Painters was a brilliant pop song that might have crossed over into commercial success, but Cherry Red seemed to lack the marketing strength necessary to give the single or the album the support it needed to be heard.

After Ignite the Seven Cannons, Deebank left the group, but Hayward found another skilled musician to replace him. Martin Duffy had filled in on keyboards for the album and joined Felt full time in 1985. While Felt played a few shows in support of Ignite the Seven Cannons, Cherry Red was busy releasing a compilation album. Felts next album, Let the Snakes Crinkle Their Heads to Death, was issued in September of 1986 on the Creation label. Duffys organ added a 60s sound that worked well with Haywards songs. Haywards decision to follow Ignite the Seven Cannons with a ten-song instrumental album was certainly not inspired by any drive of commercial success. With the fans Felt may have gained when Guthrie served as the groups producer, they were certainly off with the release of Let the Snakes Crinkle Their Heads. The album features ten short instrumentals that are under two minutes each.

For as odd a stop Let The Snakes Crinkle Their Heads was for most Felt fans, the groups LP Forever Breathes The Lonely Word found Hayward back at writing lyrics and crafting some of his best Felt songs. The albumwas released in October 1986 on the Creation label. The song All the People I Like Are Those That Are Dead became a favorite on college radio and is now considered a classic to Felt fans. Felt followed with two more LPs in 1998 on the Creation label: The Pictorial Jackson Review released in March, and Train Above The City in July. Dont Die On My Doorstep and Until The Fools Get Wise were released as a single to support the album.

Felts swan song was the full length LP Me and a Monkey on the Moon released in November of 1989 on the El label. Hayward had to move to Mike Always El label because Creation was not able to release the album before Haywards self-imposed deadline of ten years, ten albums, and ten singles. While the record companies spoiled his plans for the perfect ten singles by issuing additional singles, he did manage to keep it to ten albums in ten years of existence, excluding compilations. John Mohan of the Servants joined Felt on lead guitar for the final Felt album. The combination of Mohan on lead guitar, Duffy, Ainge, and Hayward provided the perfect blend lacking in previous lineups. The first half of Felts existence had been directed by Deebanks lead guitar, but it was Duffys solid organ playing the propelled the groups sound in later years. With both Mohan and Duffy, Felt created their final and most musically-balanced album.

Selected discography

Singles and EPs

Index, Cherry Red, 1979.

Something Sends Me to Sleep, Cherry Red, 1981.

My Face Is on Fire, Cherry Red, 1982.

Penelope Tree, Cherry Red, 1983.

Mexican Bandits, Cherry Red, 1984.

Sunlight Bathed the Golden Glow, Cherry Red, 1984.

Primitive Painters, Cherry Red, 1985.

Ballad of the Band (EP), Creation, 1986.

Rain of Crystal Spires (EP), Creation, 1986.

The Final Resting of the Ark (EP), Creation, 1987.

Space Blues, Creation, 1988.

Get Out of My Mirror, El, 1989.


Crumbling the Antiseptic Beauty, Cherry Red, 1982.

The Splendour of Fear, Cherry Red, 1983.

The Strange Idols Pattern and Other Short Stories, Cherry Red, 1984.

Ignite the Seven Cannons, Cherry Red, 1985.

Let the Snakes Crinkle Their Heads to Death, Creation, 1986.

Forever Breathes the Lonely Word, Creation, 1986.

Poem of The River, Creation, 1987.

The Pictorial Jackson Review, Creation, 1988.

Train Above the City, Creation, 1988.

Me and the Monkey on the Moon, El, 1989.


Gold Mine Trash, Cherry Red, 1987.

Bubble Gum Perfume, Creation, 1990.

Felt Box 1, Cherry Red, 1993.

Absolute Classic Masterpieces, Cherry Red, 1999.



Record Collector, May 1993.


All Music Guide, (April 4, 2001).

Cherry Red Records, (January 13, 2001).

Felt, Excite Music, (April 4, 2001).

Felt and Denim Home Page, (January 13, 2001).

Tangents, (January 13, 2001).

Twee Kitten, (January 13, 2001).

Tiger Cosmos

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felt •gestalt • asphalt •belt, Celt, dealt, dwelt, felt, gelt, knelt, melt, misdealt, pelt, Scheldt, smelt, spelt, svelte, veld, welt •fan belt • seat belt • lifebelt • sunbelt •rust belt • Copperbelt • heartfelt •underfelt • backveld • bushveld •Roosevelt •atilt, built, gilt, guilt, hilt, jilt, kilt, lilt, quilt, silt, spilt, stilt, tilt, upbuilt, wilt •Vanderbilt • volte •assault, Balt, exalt, fault, halt, malt, salt, smalt, vault •cobalt • stringhalt • basalt •somersault • polevault •bolt, colt, dolt, holt, jolt, moult (US molt), poult, smolt, volt •deadbolt • Humboldt • thunderbolt •megavolt • spoilt • Iseult •consult, cult, exult, indult, insult, penult, result, ult •adult • occult • tumult • catapult •difficult • Hasselt

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